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.

Ginger Pear Crisp

For whatever reason, my brother has been bringing home absurd amounts of fruit from his school cafeteria. One day we found ourselves with way more pears than we could eat before they went bad. Conveniently, an issue of Sunset Magazine came with a recipe for a unique pear crisp courtesy of Campanile chef Mark Peel. Ginger, raisins, marsala? I was intrigued.

Of course when I went to make it, I ended up with several substitutions (you'll see my many parenthetical notes in the recipe below). But I was happy with the crisp. Maybe a little sweet, but that could have been the fault of my changes and inexact measurements. Anyway, it was nothing a small scoop of tart yogurt couldn't fix.

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Cranberry, Pecan and Dulce de Leche Tart


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People always seem to come up with a reason why they think they wouldn't like this tart. I don't like pecans. Dulce de leche is too sweet. Cranberries aren't my thing. But somehow, everything comes together in a way that just works. The cranberries and dulce de leche balance each other out, and the whole thing is so delicious the pecans probably won't even bother you…unless you're prone to anaphylactic shock upon contact with them.

Anyway, this is a dessert I've made several times since I saw cranberry caramel almond tartelettes on Smitten Kitchen years ago. I go to Argentina often so I always think of dulce de leche instead of caramel. And since my sister is allergic to almonds, I've started to use pecans instead. I also make one big tart instead of several smaller ones like Deb did.

What is amazing about this recipe besides the trifecta of nuts, cranberries and dulce de leche is the rich crust that tastes like a shortbread cookie. The dough comes from chef/owner of City Bakery, Mary Rubin, and it's…divine is the word that comes to mind, even though I'm not the type of person who normally says divine.

But this tart is, whether you follow the original City Bakery recipe or try my version. I'd say Valentine's Day would be a prime time to get one in the oven. It makes a nice holiday tart — I made it for Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve — but, hey, any day ending in Y is occasion enough.

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The Perfect Cookie Dough

(This is my friend Alex's first post on He Cooks, She Cooks. Let him know how much you enjoyed it.)

A brief introduction: I’m a 21 year old college student at the University of Missouri. I’m an untrained (dangerous, I know) and often confused cook. I like just about all eatable things if they’re put together in the right way—which happens to be the tricky part and what I’m generally interested in finding out.

I love snacks. They’re the practical, any-time-of-day dessert. Moreover, they’re portable and easy to eat. If you can’t eat it out of your hand, it’s not a snack. I mean, desserts are great—it’s hard to beat warm pie after a filling meal—but they’re more ceremonial and require plate and fork. Cookies bring the best of both worlds into something sweet, portable and generally circular.

If I say there are a thousand different cookies, there’s probably a thousand and one. So, universal perfection is really something impossible to achieve—or claim. Really, it’s about individual food preference: if you like cherries, make a cookie with cherries, if you like peanut butter, find a great recipe for a peanut butter cookie. If you like it, you can probably find a way to put it into a cookie.

Here's what you need, the beer is optional…and for the chef, not the cookies. If you want beer cookies see here.

So, although I’ll never believe in an “ultimate” cookie, I did believe in finding an “ultimate” cookie dough to receive any number of delicious culinary delights (for me, nuts and chocolate). Really, I was trying to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe; but what you decide to put in the dough doesn’t matter, it’s the dough itself I was concerned with. It seemed simple, but every recipe I found claiming to be the “World’s Greatest Chocolate Chip Cookie” with references to grandmothers or Eastern Europe fell flat. They were too thin, or too puffy—too dense or too light. I’ve probably made 15 different versions of the same cookie.


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What follows is the surprisingly simple, combined-from-many-cookies recipe for walnut-chocolate chip cookies. But I’d say throw in whatever you like, or whatever’s in your pantry.
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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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Sweet Cardamom Yogurt with Pistachios and Pomegranate Seeds

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Saffron, cardamom, honey, pistachios and pomegranate seeds mixed with yogurt? Yoplait is a long way from ever putting out this flavor. As I ate this for breakfast, I thought of how rarely I, and other Americans, eat sweets so…floral.

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In the Middle East and South Asia, saffron and rosewater are common in desserts. Orange blossom and lavender are also less familiar here as they are in other countries. These ingredients, along with spices like cardamom, are so much more aromatic than anything popular in the U.S. (Mashti Malone's Iranian ice cream shop in Los Angeles, aside.)

But if you'd like to taste something deliciously different, try this yogurt. It's an example of harmony in flavors you might not find often.

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