Monday, January 15, 2018

Whole Duck Cassoulet a la Bittman #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


I've made cassoulet before. Well, I've used shortcuts to make cassoulet before - using canned beans and already made duck confit. Inspired by this week's Kitchen Matrix Cooking Project - read more about this here - I decided that I was going to conquer this dish once and for all. 


That and this month's French Winophiles event suggested cassoulet in honor of 'National Cassoulet Day' on January 9th. So, you can read more about the Languedoc wines I poured with my cassoulet.


Here are the other bloggers who decided to join me in making Bittman's Whole Duck Cassoulet...or, at least, their version of it. This project is pretty fast and loose; bloggers can adapt as they see fit.




Whole Duck Cassoulet a la Bittman
slightly adapted, serves 6 to 8

But, for this cassoulet, I decided I was all in. I was determined to start with a whole duck, break it down, confit the breast and legs, and make a stock with the rest of it. I did completely forget the slab bacon, but - really - there was so much meat in this dish, we didn't miss it. I also skipped the cloves, but added juniper berries to my stock. This was ridiculously time-consuming, but it was well-worth the effort. And I think my dinner guests agreed.

Ingredients

Duck Stock and Confit makes 8 C stock + confit of 2 legs and 2 breasts
  • 1 whole duck
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 to 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 to 5 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole juniper berries
  • parsley sprigs
  • black pepper
  • duck fat, as needed
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 10 C water

Whole Duck Cassoulet
  •  4 C dried cannellini beans
  • small bunch parsley, chopped, approximately 1 C
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound lamb, cubed
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced, approximately 2 C
  • 1 C diced celery
  • duck confit (2 legs + 2 breasts)
  • 3 C duck stock + more if needed
  • 2 C tomato sauce
  • 3 T minced garlic
  • 4 links garlicky sausage, cut into thick coins
  • duck fat, as needed
  • 2 C bread crumbs


Procedure

Duck Stock and Confit 
Set the whole duck on the cutting board, breast-side up. Use a knife to cut along one side of the breastbone. Follow the curve with your knife and pull the meat back as you go. You'll end up with one duck breast. Repeat on the other side. Now you have two breasts. Once you've removed the breasts, the legs are easy to see. Remove the thigh and drumstick, cutting through the joint that attaches the leg to the body. Remove as much skin and fat as you can from the duck and place that in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, render as much duck fat at you can. I got about 1 C from mine and added 2 C of pre-rendered duck fat to do the confit.

Lightly score the skin of the breast in a diamond pattern. Sprinkle with salt and reserve. Toss the duck legs with garlic, thyme, shallots, and salt. Refrigerate and marinate overnight.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Place your duck breasts, legs, and garlic in a roasting pan. Add the duck fat (I used 3 C) and olive oil to the pan until the meat is almost completely submerged. Cook in the oven for at least 90 minutes.

For the stock, place the duck carcass, celery, carrots, green onions, juniper, bay leaves, and parsley sprigs in a large stock pot. Pour in 10 C water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 2 hours, skimming any foam that forms on the top. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.


Whole Duck Cassoulet
In a large pot, place the beans. Cover them with water by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the liquid out and replace the water, covering the soaked beans, again, by about 3" water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, approximately 90 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, saute onions and celery in 1 to 2 T duck fat. Cook until the onions soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add in the lamb and brown on all sides. Stir in the sausages. Pour in 2 C duck stock and bring to a boil. cover and place pot in the oven. Braise to 90 minutes. In the meantime, slice the duck breasts into thick slices and bring the legs to room temperature.


After 90 minutes remove the pot from the oven. Pour in the tomato sauce and ladle in the beans. Stir in the minced garlic. Nestle the duck legs, breast slices, and bay leaves into the beans. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and 1/2 C chopped parsley. Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Cover and return to the oven for another 90 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and sprinkle in the remaining parsley. Cover the top with breadcrumbs. Cover and return to the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and bake for a final 15 to 20 minutes. The top should be dried and a crisp crust covering the entire dish.


Serve with sliced bread and nice red wine.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Za'atar-Crusted Rib-Eyes with 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cab #WinePW #SonomaStrong #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the January #WinePW event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links

Welcome to the first Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) event of the new year. Happy 2018, all!! Jill at L'Occasion is hosting and invited the group to focus on wines from Sonoma. Read her preview post: here.

#SonomaStrong
This Autumn, fires ravaged California and threatened the cities of Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga. Friends and family were evacuated, but mercifully no one we personally know lost their homes or businesses. However, wineries burnt to the ground and many more were damaged. Vines were singed; we won't know the extent of the wildfires' effects on the grapes until next year - or later. It turns out that some of those vines served as firebreaks, protecting the wineries from the flames. Still, it was devastating to those communities.

Jill asked the WinePW bloggers to support a reputable fire relief resource and promote #SonomaStrong awareness. I first went to SonomaStrong.org, but, by January 2nd, they had exceeded their goal of $500,00 and were focused on disbursing the funds they had collected. That website pointed me towards Rotary 5130 Fire Relief Fund and Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief. I opted to support the former as my dad is a member of a local-to-us rotary club.

If you are so inclined, the relief is much-needed and much-appreciated. Thanks in advance!


As the hostess with the mostest, Jill even arranged for some Sonoma wineries to provide us with samples to taste, pair, and highlight. I received wines from Geyser Peak Winery and Balletto Vineyards.

The Line-Up


In the Glass
Though I received four bottles of wine for this event - don't worry, I will be sharing pairings with all of them in the coming weeks - I have decided to focus on the 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley for this post.


The 2014 Walking Tree Cabernet looks inky and rich in the glass and features rich aromas of dark stone fruits, wild herbs, and a tinge of something sweet. Supple tannins entice you and finish with a sumptuous mouthfeel. Slightly savory, mildly earthy, I peeled back the layers and imagined a meaty dish alongside.


On the Plate
To mirror the wine's complexity, I opted for rib-eye steaks encrusted with za'atar and topped with butter-crisped mushrooms. The effect was as I had hoped: divine!

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that I always have on hand. It's a breeze to make and adds something fabulous to olive oil for dipping and - I've just discovered - as a spice rub on any kind of meat! My za'atar recipe makes about 5 tablespoons. If you have any leftover (you will), keep it in a sealed jar for future use.

Ingredients serves 4 (sharing 1 rib-eye for 2 people)

Za'atar
  • 2 T fresh thyme, pulled off the stem and minced
  • 2 T sesame seeds, toasted (I use both white and black sesame seeds)
  • 2 t ground sumac
  • 1/2 t flake salt

Meat
  • 2 rib-eye steaks, about an inch thick
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • Also needed: a griddle or grill pan

Crisped Mushrooms
  • 1 to 2 C mushrooms (I used crimini)
  • 1 T butter
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Procedure
  
Za'atar 
In batches, blend and crush the spices with a mortar and pestle. Leave some sesame seeds whole.

Crisped Mushrooms
Melt butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. When the butter begins to brown, lay your mushrooms in the pan. Let the mushrooms brown and crisp. Flip the mushrooms and crisp them on the other side. Only after they are crisp should you season them. Adding salt when they are cooking will lead to soggy mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meat
Let steaks rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking - and up to an hour. Sprinkle both sides with za'atar, salt, and pepper.

Melt 1 T butter in 1 T olive oil on a griddle or grill pan. Heat the point that it is almost smoking. Sprinkle another layer of za'atar over the meat, pressing the spices into the meat.

Place your steak - newly sprinkled za'atar side down - in the pan. Depending on thickness, you will want to cook the steak for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle the top side with za'atar before flipping. You should have a nice crust formed with an internal temperature of about 130 degrees F for medium. Remove from pan and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Slice and top steak with crisped mushrooms. Serve immediately.


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*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sweets Craving Averted: No-Sugar-Added Hot Chocolate

Let me say this: I despise diets. I'm notoriously bad at following them. But, really, I'm more interested in understanding why I shouldn't eat certain things and eliminating them forever because of a lifestyle choice. That said, Jake and I agreed to eliminate added sugar from our menu for a month. And we'll see how it goes from there. It's tough to be restrictive, but everything I'd read says that cutting out sugar will reset your cravings.

So, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but Jake does. So, when he wanted hot chocolate last night, he asked if I could manage something without sugar...or honey...or anything like that. I told him I'd try.


You know what? This wasn't bad...and it answered his craving. Success! Just make sure you use as good a quality of chocolate as you can find for this amazing hot chocolate.

No-Sugar-Added Hot Chocolate  

Ingredients makes 4 demitasse servings or 2 large servings
Hot Chocolate
  • 2 C milk (you can use whatever milk you want, I used whole milk)
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise down the center
  • 1 t coconut oil
  • 1/2 C cacao powder (I used Dagoba organic cacao powder)
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon

Serving
  • 1 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon for garnish


Procedure
Pour milk into a medium saucepan and float the vanilla bean. Heat the milk till it's steaming. Remove the bean and scrape the seeds into the milk.

Remove from heat and whisk in the cacao powder, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and coconut oil.

Return the pot to the heat and cook at a very low boil, whisking constantly. It should start to thicken after 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and prepare the whipped cream. Pour the whipping cream and vanilla extract into a clean mixing bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks form.

To serve, pour hot chocolate into small cups and top with dollops of cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Red Walnut, Roasted Cauliflower, and Crisped Shiitake Soft Tacos #FNTest Kitchen


This is my first time making a recipe from the Food & Nutrition Magazine Test Kitchen. They levy challenges with a 'recipe of the month,' asking for feedback on the recipe and how you adapted it to your household. This month the chosen recipe was Roasted Walnut and Cauliflower "Meat"; recipe here.


I was intrigued by the combination of nuts and cruciferous and decided to give it a go. And, for a quick weeknight meal, after robotics meetings and music lessons, I assembled soft tacos for the family.

According to a survey conducted by the California Walnut Board, flavor and texture are the top reasons people choose meat-centric dishes over plant-based alternatives. This dish mirrors the meatiness with a hearty vegetable and a toothy nut.

Red Walnut, Roasted Cauliflower, and 
Crisped Shiitake Soft Tacos 
original recipe serves 6

Ingredients
walnut-cauliflower "meat"

  • 1 pound cauliflower florets
  • 1 C walnut pieces, chopped (I used raw red walnuts)
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • ½ C chicken stock (or water)
  • ¼ C tomato paste
  • 2 t chili powder
  • 1 t cumin, ground
  • 1 t fresh oregano 
  • Also needed: food processor, baking sheets

crisped shiitakes

  • 2 C shiitakes, desteemed and sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

for serving

  • corn or flour tortillas
  • shredded cheese
  • guacamole
  • salsa
  • fresh cilantro


Procedure
walnut-cauliflower "meat"
Preheat oven to 475ºF. Place cauliflower florets in a mixing bowl and toss with 1 T olive oil and 1 T lemon juice. Spoon cauliflower out onto a silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF and sprinkle walnuts on top of the cauliflower. Return sheet to the oven and roast for an additional 5 minutes.

In batches, pulse the walnut-cauliflower mixture until it resembles the texture of cooked ground meat.

Heat remaining (1 T) olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots are softened, approximately 5 minutes.

Stir in stock or water, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Stir in the cauliflower mixture. Cook until mixture is thick and liquid has reduced.

crisped shiitakes
Melt butter in olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. When the butter begins to brown, lay your mushrooms in the pan. Make sure that you can see the bottom between the mushrooms and that the mushrooms aren't touching.

Let the mushrooms brown and crisp. Flip the mushrooms and crisp them on the other side. Only after they are crisp should you season them. Adding salt when they are cooking will lead to soggy mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

for serving
Warm your tortillas and melt a handful of cheese onto the tortillas. Spoon the meat into the tortilla. Top with crisped mushrooms and fresh cilantro. Let diners add guacamole and salsa if desired.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter Raw Beet Salad #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


Today we're moving ahead with our year-long project that I'm calling the Kitchen Matrix Project, after Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix cookbook. You can read about it: here. I'm very excited about the dishes and the bloggers who are joining me.

This week, I picked 'Raw Beets + 3 Ways' for the group which means we could make raw beets with sherry vinaigrette, raw beets with creamy dill dressing, and borscht salad...along with any variations or adaptations that we needed or wanted.


While all were intriguing - and I will make all of them - I opted to try Mark Bittman's Raw Beets with Sherry Vinaigrette. Here's what the crew is sharing this week. I added shaved fennel and supremed oranges for a larger, dinner-sized salad. Also, since Jake and I are currently staying away from sugar, I couldn't use the prepared mustard in our fridge. I swapped it out for ground mustard. Yum!



Ingredients

  • 1 pound organic, raw beets
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved
  • 2 organic oranges, supremed
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1/4 t ground mustard
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and a little bit of lavender) + more for garnish

Procedure

Peel and grate the beets. Place them in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground mustard, and fresh herbs.


To serve layer shaved fennel and supremed oranges on a plate. Spoon the beet salad on top of the oranges. Garnish with another sprig of fresh herbs.


Impressions
Does this tell you what we thought? I refrained from licking the plate...just barely. I love the wintery flavors of fennel, orange, and beets. And the dressing was so light and crisp. We will definitely be making this again soon.

Controversy, Cow's Milk, and Cakes in the Morning #FoodieReads


I was reminded of this book when I read Cara Nicoletti's Voracious last week, so I tracked down a copy of In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.* And we read it, as a family, over the weekend. Jake said it looked familiar, but I don't remember owning it.


Though we do have Where the Wild Things Are in about six different languages and even had a Wild Rumpus for R's 6th birthday! How I miss the days when I dressed them up as book characters...now we argue about the existence of Big Foot, discuss whether you can actually create a perfect circle mathematically, ponder how we know what we know, and they talk about programming languages that are Greek to me.


Controversy
The boys remembered that I had a DVD of In the Night Kitchen and they thought it was creepy when they were little. Maybe we only viewed it once, because I don't remember it at all. I'll have to dig it out and watch it.

In the Night Kitchen has been censored in several states - think Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Texas - because Mickey prances naked through the story. In fact the American Library Association ranked it in 21st place of "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999" and 25th place from 1990-2000. That's a whole lot of controversy for a little kid's privates...we all have private parts, right?


Cow's Milk
But that page in particular - God bless milk and God bless me! - reminded me of a conversation I was having with a friend about milk. Did I drink milk? And, if so, what kind did I drink? I thought it would be an interesting question to pose on my blog...and I'll answer, too. 

Apparently, my friend had read an article that essentially said you should never drink cow's milk; you should only drink soy milk or nut milk. So, here are my thoughts.


No one in my household except my older son really drinks milk. I use it in my cooking and, sometimes, add a splash to coffee though, for the most part, I drink my coffee black. But R likes milk. Whole milk. Whole cow's milk. So, that's what I buy. My friend asked if I buy organic milk. Usually, yes. But, if not, then I just make certain that I'm picking milk from cows that were not treated with growth hormones. "No rBST" is what I look for on the label.

Regarding soy milk...no, I avoid soy products for the most part. Regarding nut milk...again, no. Commercial nut milks use around 3 nuts per gallon. I use about 100 nuts per liter when I make it. Here's my Homemade Hazelnut Milk recipe.

Thoughts? Do you drink milk? What kind? And why??


Cakes in the Morning
I don't often serve cake in the morning - sometimes pie, but I think I justify that because there's fruit in it. But I'm getting better at pancakes! I make them with ricotta.

Ingredients
  • 2 C ricotta
  • 2 T  fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T finely grated lemon zest from an organic lemon
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1-1/2 C whole milk
  • melted unsalted butter for brushing
Procedure
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy. Continue until stiff peaks form.


In another bowl, blend together milk, egg yolk, ricotta, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Gradually add dry ingredients to the yolk mixture. Whisk until just moistened.


Add in egg white mixture; fold just to blend. 

Heat a griddle or heavy skillet over low to medium heat. Brush with melted butter. Using scant 1/3 C batter for each pancake, Scoop batter onto griddle and cook until bottom is golden brown, edges are dry, and bubbles form on top of pancake, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until browned and just cooked through, approximately another minute.


Transfer pancakes to plates. Serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Here's what everyone else read in January 2018: here.

Water in California: Crucial Resource + a H2O Challenge #MomsMeet #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Moms Meet
This page may contain affiliate links.

Water is important everywhere. But it's a crucial resource in California. In the past decade, there have only been two years for which we didn't fall under a "drought" designation. As the most populous state in the country and a major agricultural producer, lack of water can have severe economic and environmental impact.


In Our Schools
Due to its importance, studying water has been part of the boys' education almost everywhere. For R's 5th grade, all 50 kids selected a topic related to water and, after six weeks, they presented their topic during an evening symposium. R had interviewed local scientists and presented about the mechanics, benefits, and pitfalls of cloud seeding.


In R's 6th grade, they took part in The Tech Challenge through The Museum of Innovation in San Jose. They needed to design a device that could move a certain volume of water in a particular time frame. Their team, called The Test Tubes, won first place in their division for their engineering and design process. I loved that they were looking at ways to solve a real world problem.


And, then, when D was in 5th grade, the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River was being demolished. So, they spent many field trips looking at the impact that would make on the environment and wildlife, specifically the steelhead trout. That was also the first year that the Carmel River made it to the ocean in years. We drove out to the lagoon to see it spilling out into the Pacific!

While this diverges slightly from my usual posts about cooking or culinary adventures, I think water is an important topic. It’s critical that all Californians conserve water to secure a reliable water supply for present and future generations. So, when Mom's Meet asked me to participate in this campaign - about water awareness and the announcement of a challenge - I was game.

The Cal Water H20 Challenge
The Cal Water H2O Challenge is a free program that teaches kids how to care for water and encourages them to be conscious with our state's water supply. This timely initiative is comprised of two different competitions: first, the Classroom Challenge and, second, the Individual Challenge.


The Classroom Challenge is a project-based, environmentally-focused competition for classrooms, grades 4-6. Aligned with the Common Core Standards for the state and complimenting the Next Generation Science Standards, the challenge was designed in conjunction with NAAEE, the WestEd K-12 Alliance, and Cal Water

A handbook can be found at challenge.calwater.com/resources, including a guide for the flow of the project, and sample lesson plans.

Upon completion of the project, students create a final portfolio documenting their work. This portfolio, along with accompanying cover sheets, student reflections, and a teacher reflection, constitute the final submission. Sample Portfolios can be found in the resource section.

Early Registration closes Dec. 31, 2017. Final Registration closes Jan 31, 2018. Submissions are due February 28, 2018.

Winners of the Cal Water H2O Classroom Challenge will receive...
Grand Prize Class Celebration: Classroom tent-camping trip to the Santa Monica Mountains with NatureBridge 
Class Funding: $3,500 grant 
Extras: Cal Water prize packs for every student

2nd Place Class Celebration: A Pizza Party 
Class Funding: $2,500 grant 
Extras: Cal Water prize packs for every student

3rd Place Class Funding: $2,000 grant 
Extras: Cal Water prize packs for every student

4th Place Class Funding: $1,000 grant 
Extras: Cal Water prize packs for every student

All Participant Prizes Student Recognition: An official certificate of participation for every student 
Teacher Recognition: A teacher certificate 
Teacher Gift: An AMEX gift card

Learn more online
Learn more about the challenge, access the resource center, and read the FAQ section at https://challenge.calwater.com/.

The Individual Challenge is a competition in which individual students create and submit original artwork, photography, or videos focused on caring for water. This is open to students in grades 4 through 12 who live in a Cal Water service area.

Conserve
Whether you can enter the challenge, or not, it's important to talk about water conservation with your family and friends. You can make big changes such as switching out all your toilets, showers, and faucets. You can remove your lawn to remove irrigation from your family's water usage. But, even small changes add up. Here are a few ways that my family has learned to conserve our water resources.

I reuse leftover water from cooking or steaming vegetables. You can use it to cook pasta or as the base of  soup.

I don't have a dishwasher. But when washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. I fill one side of the sink with water and biodegradable dish soap and the other side with rinse water.

When washing hands, we turn the water off while we lather.

And, if you garden or have house plants, collect the running water from your shower - while you wait for hot water -  and use it to water the plants.

Lastly, we keep showers under 5 minutes. Actually, D and I can keep it under 3 minutes, even when I shampoo my hair and shave my legs. But R and Jake need the full 5 minutes. I still haven't figured out what they are doing for those extra minutes!

How do you and your family help 
preserve your local water resources?
                  
Disclosure: I am writing this post on behalf the Moms Meet program and the
May Media Group LLC. As a Moms Meet blogger, I may receive compensation for my time; my opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Burnt Caramel Croquembouche #BakingBloggers


Sue of Palatable Pastime invited us to bake with choux pastry for our January 2018 #BakingBloggers event. When I read the topic to the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf, he shrieked "Croquembouche!" Fine. Here's what the other bloggers are sharing for this event.


Burnt Caramel Croquembouche

First, a bit about croquembouche in case you're unfamiliar. The name comes from the French croque en bouche  and translates to "crunches in the mouth." It's composed of petits choux (choux pastry balls) piled into a cone and bound with threads of caramel. Traditionally, it's decorated with sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons.

Second, let me say that this is almost completely D's creation. I did make the burnt caramel, but that was about it! I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull off a choux pastry creation in time for the event. It helps to have an Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf in my corner!

The whipped cream is only flavored with vanilla and cinnamon as Jake and I are off sugar this month. Needless to say, we missed out on the whole caramel part of this dessert. But the puffs and cream alone were just amazing!

Ingredients

Pâte à Choux
  • 12 T unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 C water
  • 2 C flour
  • 9 eggs
Filling
  • 2 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
Burnt Caramel
  • 2 C organic granulated sugar

Procedure

Pâte à Choux
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring butter and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough and pulls away from sides of pan, approximately 3 minutes. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until dough is lightly dried, about 2 minutes more.


Transfer dough to a bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes; using a wooden spoon, beat in 8 eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Dough will come together and be thick, shiny, and smooth.


Dip two spoons in water, shake off excess, and scoop a walnut-size piece of dough with one spoon. With other spoon, scrape dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet, setting pieces 1 apart on a baking sheet.


Lightly beat remaining egg with pinch of salt and brush each piece of dough with it. 


Bake at 425°F until puffed and light brown, approximately 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, and continue to bake until well browned, approximately 15 minutes. Let cool. While the puffs cool, make your filling.


Filling
Place ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat cream until stiff peaks form.


 Place filling into a pastry bag or other decorating tool. Insert a chopstick into the bottom of the puff to open it up a bit, then fill. 


Caramel
Place sugar in medium sauce pan. Cook until smooth and amber, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. I was running back and forth, taking photos, and watching the caramel. Clearly, I didn't do a great job; the caramel burnt. Thankfully, D said, "Oh, that's even better, Mom. I love burnt caramel." Nice.

Assembly

Dip the filled puffs in the caramel and place them on a lined baking sheet to harden. You are really just sealing off the filling point with this dipping.


Dip the puffs in the caramel, again, and stack them to form a conical shape. 


Once the tower is the height you want, dip a fork in the caramel and swirl it around the tower to form the caramel threads.


He was pretty darn proud of himself! And, I'll admit, I was pretty darn proud of him, too.


When we called the family to the table, everyone just marveled at the creation. Then R dug in!



We definitely need to make this again when Jake and I can eat sugar. February can't come soon enough, right?


Thanks, Sue, for the inspiration to make this. It was a fun project!

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