Chocolate Cream Puff Trio

Recently, I read about this contest to come up with a recipe using chocolate and at least one from a list of “adventure ingredients”. This is my second trial recipe – the first one needs a bit more finesse before I can post it. Among the adventure ingredients are black sesame seeds, matcha (green tea) powder, and coconut milk. These cream puffs use chocolate choux with one of three fillings: black sesame cream, green tea and coconut.

chocolate cream puffs

Chocolate Cream Puff Trio
Chocolate Choux
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c water
6 tbs unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and flour. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the milk, water, butter and salt. Bring to a full boil. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat, add all of the flour-cocoa mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. This may require some powerful stirring. Return the pan to medium heat and continue to stir until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from the heat and let cool 3-4 mins, or to 140o on an instant-read thermometer.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk one of the eggs. Pour this into the cooled batter and beat with the spoon until it is incorporated. After the egg is added, the mixture will separate but it will come back to a smooth consistency after some beating. Repeat this process for the remaining 3 eggs. Let the paste cool for another 10 mins before piping it.
3. Preheat the oven to 425oF and line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a 5/16″ tip and fill with the paste. Pipe about 1 tbs of the paste onto a pan, forming a mound about 2″ in diameter Space the mounts at least 2″ apart so that they have room to puff.
4. Bake for 15 mins, then reduce heat to 375oF and continue to bake until the puffs turn golden brown, about 15 mins more.
5. Remove from the oven and immediately prick the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Return to the oven, leave the door open and let the pastries dry for 10-15 mins. Move to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before filling.

Creme Patisserie
1/3 c black sesame seeds [Sesame Filling only]
1/3 c unsweetened coconut [Coconut Filling only]
1 c unsweetened coconut milk [Coconut Filling only – and use 1/2 c whole milk only]
4 tsp matcha powder [Green Tea Filling only]
1 1/2 c whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs unsalted butter

1. [SF: Preheat the oven to 375oF. Spread the sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast 7-8 mins.] In a medium saucepan, heat the milk [CF: and coconut milk] with the [SF: toasted sesame seeds][GTF: matcha powder] until just before it boils. Remove from heat [SF: and strain out the sesame seeds].
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar until smooth. Slowly whisk the hot milk into this mixture until well-blended, then return the entire mixture back to the sauce pan.
3. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly to prevent curdling or uneven cooking, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 3 mins. Continue to whisk and cook for about another minute. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter until it is melted and smooth, [SF: then stir in the sesame seeds from earlier][CF: add in the unsweetened coconut].
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until well chilled.
5. Fit a pasty bag with a small tip (but large enough to allow the sesame seeds through) and fill the back with the chilled creme patissiere. Make a small incision in a puff and fill with the cream. Repeat until all puffs are complete.

Chocolate Mint Rounds

It’s…ANOTHER THUMBPRINT COOKIE! Why? Oh, well, they are rather fun to make, plus they look attractive. This is based off of a recipe from Food & Wine (don’t know the issue, but it is online). I was so excited because the issue was about Christmas cookies, and I LOVE CHRISTMAS COOKIE SEASON. It is basically an excuse to see how many cookies I can turn out in a week – last year, I think it was something like 500.

Anyway, these have a chocolate mint base and are filled with a white-chocolate mint ganache. They are really quite rich, so you cannot eat too many of them (I overdosed myself on white chocolate-mint truffles a few years back – I advise you to avoid this!).

chocolate mint cookies

Chocolate Mint Rounds
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz mint chocolates, chopped (like Andes mints)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c granulated sugar
2 tbs brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c coarse sugar, for rolling
4 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract

1. Melt together the bittersweet and mint chocolates in a double boiler. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars, and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla until well-blended, then beat in the chocolate until just mixed. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Pour the coarse sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop up tablespoons of the dough and roll them into balls, then roll in the coarse sugar and place on the baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the centre of each ball. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes; remove the cookie sheets from the oven. Using your thumb, press into the cookies again. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer. Transfer the cookies on the sheets to wire racks to cook completely.
4. In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream and mint extract. Pour some ganache in the centre of each cookie and transfer to the refrigerator to set.

Makes about 30 cookies

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

I was looking at my roommate’s instant oatmeal flavours over the weekend, and it struck me that maple and oatmeal might combine well into a cookie, so that is what I set out to do this week. I think that using a grade B syrup may be better in this case, because it will give the cookies a heartier flavours; unfortunately, I was not able to find this at my local grocery store, and I did not feel like walking to Whole Foods because I was in my pajamas, and it was cold. I was also unsuccessfully looking for maple extract. I thought that maybe if I cooked some syrup down, it would thicken and I could add that. This was a bad idea. It made maple candy, which then temporarily glued my jaws shut.

The final product was quite pleasing. It is crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside. I used spiced pecans, which I made myself, but as long as you toast whatever nuts you use (if you choose to use them), these will be tasty!

maple oatmeal cookies

Maple Oatmeal Cookies
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, at room temperature
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c maple syrup, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c coarsely chopped nuts (see recipe for spiced nuts below)

1. Preheat oven to 375oF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the maple syrup and egg and beat until well mixed. (This will create a slightly soupy mixture).
3. Slowly beat in the dry-ingredient mixture until just blended, then stir in the nuts.
4. Drop by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1″ of space between rounds. Bake for about 10-12 mins, until golden. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheets and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Spiced Nuts
2 c nuts (you can really use any variation – I love pecans, though!)
2 tbs butter
2-3 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs water
Any combination of spices to taste (I used 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon)

1. Heat the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast until they become fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Put the butter, brown sugar, water and spices in the skillet and cook until a glaze forms, about 1 minute. Return the nuts to the skillet and stir to coat with the glaze. Cook for a further 4 to 5 minutes, until the nuts are thoroughly glazed.
3. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper and let cool for 10 minutes, or until the glaze hardens.

Mushroom Soup

Last year, I went to Russia for awhile and stayed with my friend Anna and her family in Moscow, which was a great experience for me. Moscow is an amazing place to spend time, with its plethora of museums and other cultural events. Anna has an absolutely adorable little brother, Vanya, and occasionally, we would go mushroom picking in the yard. Anna’s mother would then take our harvest and turn it into a meal, usually mushroom soup, which was so delectable that I had to recreate it when I returned to New York. So, this is my variation on Anna’s mother’s mushroom soup. I like to use imported dried mushrooms from Poland, because I think that they give the best flavour. If you cannot find these, porcini mushrooms are probably the best substitute – the Polish ones are a different type of porcini (I believe…). Usually, I supplement the dried mushrooms with some fresh ones – this time, I threw in some enokis, because I think that they are just the cutest, and some fresh porcini.

mushroom soup

Mushroom Soup
1 medium onion, sliced
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
3 celery stalks, sliced
20 g dried mushrooms
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tbs butter
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3/4″ cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream (garnish)
Dill (garnish)

1. If the dried mushrooms are whole, soak them in water for 4 hours to soften, then rinse well to remove any lingering sand and slice into strips. If they are already sliced, soak them for 1 hour and rinse.
2. Melt the butter in a stock pot. Add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes, then add the carrot, celery, mushroom, potato, salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are slightly softened.
3. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4. Top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with dill just before serving.

Green Minestrone

In an attempt to allow my friend, Cassandra, to gain exposure to cooking, we have decided to make a different soup every Thursday before watching Grey’s Anatomy. We kicked off the festivities this week with some green minestrone. For those of you living in the NYC area, this soup was inspired by the green minestrone at Supper, a fabulous little Italian restaurant on 2nd Street and Avenue A. I recommend the Caesar salad with black sea salt and fried sweetbreads – it is a meal in itself.  We used store-bought pesto (“All-Natural”) because all of my processing equipment has died within the past 6 months, but I’ve included my mother’s pesto recipe at the bottom in case you are feeling motivated to make your own. The brand that we used seemed the closest approximation to the real thing (Buitoni is NOT – it has too much Parmesan, but it does taste better than the canned varieties that are not fresh).


green minestrone

Green Minestrone
2 tbs olive oil
[Mirepoix – thank you, Gabriel, for this word
1 yellow onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced]
2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/4″ chunks
8 oz pesto (see recipe below – if you really love pesto, add more!!!)
2 15-oz cans of small white beans
5 quarts of water (or however much you need for your stock pot)
Soup pasta of your choice (dittalini work well in this soup, we used miniature shells)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the olive oil in a stock pot, and add the onion when the oil is hot. Saute for about 2 minutes, then add the carrot, celery and zucchini. Saute the vegetables together for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly softened. Stir in the pesto and saute for about 5 more minutes.
2. Add the water followed by the white beans, then add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
3. Just before serving, cook pasta according to directions and add to the soup.

4 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 c packed fresh basil leaves, minced
1/3 c packed flat Italian parsley, minced
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
1/2 c olive oil (may need a little more)

Whir dry ingredients in a blender or crush with a mortar and pestle to a fine paste, adding the olive oil a few drops at a time. Mix the oil in well after each addition until it is completely used up and the texture of the mixture is smooth. Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for several days, covered with a thin layer of olive oil and covered. Let warm to room temperature before using.

Apple Spice Cookies

The apple butter I was making? This is where some of it went. These are sort of my variation of a recipe that I found in my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, while looking for a way to use up my extra apples (and actually inspired me to make the apple butter, really). I would describe the result as a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, but with ginger snaps instead of bread, cream cheese instead of peanut butter, and apple butter instead of jelly.

Some things that I think are good to note: before putting the apple butter on, I froze the cream cheese frosted parts to firm it up so that the cream cheese did not get messed up. I also froze the cookies until about 20 minutes before serving them to prevent the apple butter from making the cookies soggy.

apple spice cookies

Apple Spice Cookies
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Chinese five spice seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/3 c molasses
1 large egg
1/4 c apple butter
Apple Cream Cheese Filling

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the spices with the flour and baking soda and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add molasses and egg and beat to combine, about 1 minute. Slowly add the flour mixture, beating on low, until it is just combined.
3. Shape 1/2 tbs of dough at a time into balls and roll to coat in granulated sugar. Place about 1 in apart on the baking sheets, and press down to flatten slightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 mins.
4. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Let the cookies come to room temperature. Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Spread 2 tsp of filling onto the flat sides of half of the cookies. Spread 1 tsp apple butter over the filling. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, keeping flat sides down.

Apple Cream-Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c apple butter

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and apple butter on medium speed until well-combined, about 3 minutes.

Makes about 25 cookies

Apple Butter

I really wanted to make something with the apples I picked that was not a pie, because I have a lot of them, and when you have a lot of apples, you need to cook them down to make them go away.  I went to Philadelphia to visit my sister on Sunday, and I brought her some apples, plus pel’meni and churchkhela, but I still had a lot left over (say, 17 lbs or so).  I found a cookie recipe that sounded fun, but it used apple butter, not plain apples…SO.  I decided to make some apple butter, and then use what I needed to make cookies and can the rest.  I love canning things (see: Meringue Tartlets).

apple butter

Apple Butter
about 4 lbs (which is about 15) apples – I used an assortment from my picking
2 c apple cider
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c water
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 c sugar (you can use more – I didn’t want this to be too sweet, though)

1. Wash the apples and cut them into quarters. Do NOT peel or core them – much of the flavour is in the peel, and much of the pectin (a gelling agent) is in the cores – but do cut out the damaged parts. Put the apples into large pot, add the cider, vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until apples are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or a foodmill into a large bowl. Return back to the large pot, and stir in the sugar and spices.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the mixture is very thick, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning.
4. Sterilize your canning jars and lids (but not bands) by running them through short wash on the dishwasher (my method) or putting them in a pot of nearly-boiling water for about 10 minutes (my mother’s method). The jars should still be hot when the apple butter is poured in because this will prevent the jars from cracking. Pour in the apple butter, leaving about 1/4″ space at the top. Wipe down the lip of the jar and place the lid and band on. Tighten the band. Place filled and sealed jars in a hot water bath, making sure that they are covered with water. Simmer for 20 minutes to process. Turn off the heat and allow the jars to stand in the water for about 5 minutes to become acclimated to the room temperature, then remove, set upright on a towel (to prevent breakage) and allow to stand undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours to ensure a proper seal.

Makes about 4 1/2 – 5 pints