Chocolate Eclairs

My friends, knowing I love to cook, often ask if I want to take cooking classes with them. I’ve taken casual cooking classes before, and they’re fun and you make nice dishes, but they’re expensive. And at this point I’m comfortable trying new things in the kitchen. I’d rather just pay for ingredients and try a recipe on my own.

So when my friend Annabelle asked if I wanted to go an eclair-making class, I said no. I invited her over to make them at my house instead. I’d made choux pastry, custard and ganache before for different desserts anyway. In the spirit of cooking class, I turned to a recipe from the Culinary Institute of America.

Annabelle and I made tasty eclairs without any disasters, but I won’t be using the CIA recipe again. I didn’t like the texture of the pastry filling with all that cornstarch, and I had some issues with the choux, which baked way too thin on the bottom. (Though, maybe if I had parchment paper it wouldn’t have stuck as much.)

Anyway, I can buy ingredients to attempt eclairs a few more times before spending as much as a class would have been. And we did eat them all. When the custard ran out and we still had pastries left, I filled them with whipped cream, and I liked that even more.

I won’t post the recipe because, as I said, I wasn’t completely pleased with it. (You can find it here.) I’ll revisit the recipes I riffed off of when I made Chocolate Dulce De Leche Puffs. Or if you have a favorite eclairs recipe, pass it on.

All-From-Scratch Chicken Pot Pie

A “He Cooks” post from my friend Mike, who goes a little more traditional after sharing his Fried Beer-Battered Pickles and Five Spice Squash Soup recipes.

This is one of my absolute favorite winter meals. The hot chicken and root-vegetable filling is hearty and warming on a snowy day. There are two ways to make this pot pie:  from scratch, or with store bought stock, pie crust, and a rotisserie chicken. The latter is certainly faster and easier, but the former tastes better, and leaves you with a few quarts of homemade chicken stock for the freezer.

I made this one from scratch, and it has been a hit every time I’ve served it.  Everyone is always amazed that there aren’t any herbs or spices besides the salt and pepper. I think that’s the homemade stock, chicken fat, and rich root vegetables coming through.

If you want to make this from scratch I would recommend either starting early in the day or preparing the filling a day or two ahead and keeping it in the fridge until ready to bake.
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Potato and Roasted Corn Salad with Crème Fraiche Dressing

My mom searched and searched through old food magazines while I searched and searched the internet for a corn and potato salad with crème fraiche dressing. We had made the recipe before so I couldn't understand why it didn't exist anywhere online. Finally my mom found it in our June 1995 copy of Gourmet.

Except crème fraiche wasn't an ingredient.

We've both made this corn and potato salad with crème fraiche (or sour cream) several times, when all the while it was meant to have buttermilk instead. Well, our version is great and deserves to be known, too. Or you could make a few substitutions and call it your own.

You'll want to take the credit. This is the potato salad that changes the minds of potato-salad-haters. The corn is sweet, the dressing is tangy…it's so good, we served it New Year's Eve on a bed of baby romaine next to lobster and filet mignon.

(Also, the 70+ degree days here have me thinking out of season and posting about things like corn and potato salad and ice cream topped with blueberries. Ah, winter in Los Angeles…)

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Sour Cream Ice Cream

I first had sour cream ice cream 7 years ago at Prune in NYC. It came with a molten chocolate cake and was surprisingly delicious. So when I got an ice cream maker and started looking for flavor ideas, I didn’t hesitate to bookmark Gale Gand’s sour cream ice cream recipe. (In case you missed it, read what Michael wrote after meeting Gale Gand here.)

I didn’t have a pound of sour cream as the recipe called for, so I made up my own version on the spot. I added lemon zest and very little sugar, so it made a nice, tart ice cream perfect for serving with berries. Or molten chocolate cake,

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which Gale Gand can also help you out with (see here).

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Chocolate, Strawberries and Cream Cake

chocolate-berry-cream-cake

Sometimes you just want cake.

Last week I randomly got an intense craving for cake. Well, maybe one of the 50-or-so food blogs I read had something to do with it. Regardless, I needed get baking.

I browsed through my bookmarked recipes and saw the LA Times' Celestial Chocolate Cake — chocolate with a whipped cream center and chocolate frosting. It made me think to do a chocolate cake with whipped cream both in the center and coating the entire thing.

Then as I was walking to the store to get cream, I thought I smelled strawberry shortcake. It is unlikely there was any strawberry shortcake in the vicinity, but whether there was the faint scent of another cake in the air or just in my head, it was enough to change my plans.

chocolate-berry-cream-cake2

So chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries it was. And it absolutely hit the spot. Continue reading “Chocolate, Strawberries and Cream Cake”

Cardamom-Orange Hot Chocolate with Cardamom Whipped Cream

hot-chocolate

I wish I could call it my secret ingredient, but I've never been able to keep my own secrets. I put ground cardamom in most things I bake. Pumpkin chocolate chip cake, oatmeal cookies, carrot cake, granola…

Then I found a recipe where the cardamom would be far from hidden.

I saw something called chocolate con leche y naraja y nata al cardamomo in a book about chocolate in a Buenos Aires bookstore. I didn't buy the book, nor could I full understand the Spanish, but I got the gist of the drink and decided to improvise my own at home.

Orange and chocolate isn't typically a combination I love, but in this drink with cardamom and cream, it's very welcome. I've made this a few times already for dessert. If there's anything more comforting than hot chocolate, it's this version.

(Which was difficult to photograph, by the way. Here I let the cocoa cool first so it wouldn't melt the whipped cream, but then the cream didn't all stay at the top of the drink, and some got covered in chocolate. A whipped cream dispenser would have helped, but it's not a gadget I would ever actually need.)

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