Daring Baker - August 2012 Challenge: Filled Pâte à Choux Swans

Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

Hello, it's Daring Baker time again! I was a bit short on this month's challenge, incredible how busy I am while everybody else seems to be on holidays. I enjoy baking pâte à choux, so this was a good excuse to make some.
But I have been making crème patissière and mousseline quite a lot these days, and I was in the mood for something lighter for a change, so my swans are a bit fruity, just like me!

Filled Pâte à Choux Swans

Pâte à Choux
115 gr Butter
240 ml Water
¼ Teaspoon Salt
140 gr all-purpose Flour
4 Large Eggs

500gr Fromage Blanc
2 Tablespoons of Honey
12 Apricots, diced
2 Teaspoons of Icing Sugar

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  2. Preheat oven to moderately hot 190°C.
  3. In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove.
  4. Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  5. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
  6. Using a ¼” (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads. You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.
  7. Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5” (40 mm) long, and about 1” (25 mm) wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
  8. Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process.
  9. Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.
  1. Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to ½.
  2. Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
  3. Make the filling by combining the honey with the fromage blanc
  4. Dollop a bit of filling into the body, add some diced apricots, insert head, and then add wings. Sprinkle some icing sugar on the wings.


Summer + Hot = Salad

Everybody is dreaming of white sand beaches, a clear blue ocean with palm trees in the background. Personnaly, right now I'm dreaming of a landscape caped in white snow with an igloo in the middle where I can "chill" (excuse me for the very bad wordplay here). I don't know how summer is where you live, but here lately, it feels like I'm the one being baked for a change.

So in order not to make it worse, here is an almost non cooking recipe, that I enjoy on a hot day. This one makes me particularly proud, not so much because of the recipe itself, which is great but not so original, but because it features my very own cherry tomatoes, that I grew on my balcony! Who knew those would be so forgiving to my not so green thumb.

With those temperatures, I'm spending time indoors instead and catch up on movies and TV shows. I also had the chance to see a documentary called "Miss Representation", that I would recommand you all to see. Even if it's very american-centered, it does show how hard it is for teenage girls to find a positiv female role model on TV or in the media, someone successful they could look up to. Geena Davis, Rachel Maddow and Katie Couric are part of it, even if they are some of the very few that made it, they are a great inspiration. Let's just hope for some more in the future!

Couscous Salad

Serves 2

200gr of Small Grains Couscous
1 Cucumber
12 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Small Red Onion
3 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Minth
1 Tablespoon of Butter
Coarse Salt
Olive Oil

Mesure the volume of the couscous by putting it in a glass, then pour the couscous into a bowl and fill up the glass with water to the height the couscous was. Heat up the water with a bit of salt, once it's boiling, pour it on the couscous and place a lid on top of the bowl, wait for about 5 minutes, for the water to be absorbed. Then using a fork and the butter, separate the grains carefully.

Wash the tomatoes, the cucumber and the herbs. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, peel the cucumber and cut them to about the same as the tomatoes. Dice the onion quite thinly, do the same with the parsley and the minth. In a bowl combine the couscous, the vegetables and the herbs (still using a fork), also add some good olive oil and coarse salt. Taste for seasoning and place in the fridge for a few hours, enjoy it when it's really cold.


The architecture of an Eggplant

As a child I wanted to be a firewoman, a race driver, a baker, a mechanic, a special agent, a tennis player... than at some point I wanted to be a teacher, which stuck, even if there has been a few detours from the original plan.
I don't remember that I ever wanted to be an architect, though I had a summer job in an architecture office. Making this recipe, I think I took the right decision, there is enough with one Pisa tower in the world.

This is a reminiscence of my summer holidays, because I've done a first version while being in the south of France. The idea fetched from a magazine, but with all the ingredients I found on a local market.
Sometimes, making a recipe from your holidays again at home is a bit dissapointing, it never tastes quite the same, or it's just the surroundings that are missing, that makes the difference. But in this case, I enjoyed it just as much, maybe watching the olympics in the background helped a little.

I really loved this dish, the cooked eggplant, the hot goat cheese, the raw tomato, fresh basil and parsley, a touch of garlic... It all works for me! I believe changing the goat cheese to mozzarella could be a nice option too, for people who prefer less strong tasting cheese. And the assembling can start, have fun with it!

Eggplant Mille-feuilles

Serves 1

1 Eggplant
1 Fresh Goat Cheese
1 Tomato, sliced
1 Shallot
2 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons of Bread Crumbs
Coarse Salt
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Wash the eggplant and cut 4 slices of about 1 cm thick, lined them in a oiled oven tray and cook them for 30 minutes, turn them around half way thru.

Dice the rest of your eggplant into small cubes. Dice the shallot, in a saucepan, heat up some olive oil and add the shallot with a bit of salt and cook for a few minutes before adding the diced eggplant. Keep stiring and maybe, add a bit more olive oil if it sticks, cook for about 10 minutes, at the very end, add the crushed garlic, the chopped parlsey and the bread crumbs, stir for a minute or two and set aside.

When cooked, take the eggplants slices out and set them aside. Slice the goat cheese in 3 parts and using the same oven tray, place the cheese in the oven for a couple of minutes.
Now starts the assembling: place a slice of cooked eggplant, place some goat cheese on top, and a tablespoon of the diced eggplant, now add a slice of the tomato and spinkle it with fresh basil. Do the same layers 2 more times and finish with a slice of eggplant with some basil.

If you have some diced eggplant left you can dress the plate with them. To finish, sprinkle some coarse salt, good olive oil and and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Now, serve it before it falls like a jenga tower!


Sugar Coma: Baklava

Remember how I told you I was craving for sweet things these days, well I found quite a remedy: Baklava! This has been on my "to-do" list for ages, even before I started this blog I think (Yes, I've been a list maker for a very long time). Phyllo pastry isn't that commum around here, so when I finally got my hand on some, I knew what I would use it for.

To me, Baklava is greek, because it's what I order in a greek restaurant for dessert. But I got to read about it a little, and it's a very commun dessert in the balkans, middle east and even in northern Africa. Obviously, there has to be as many variations as there are countries making it. The version I'm posting here is a mix and match of what I read, aswell of what I had at hand.

Beside the oh so satisfactory sugar high you'll experience with this dessert (please, nobody tells me how much calories this has), I like the fact that I feel like I'm somehow supporting Greece by making this dessert, which seems needed in those trouble times they're having.
Also while it's a very popular muslim dessert, it's also made (in it's greek version) with 33 layers of philo pastry, which represents the age of the Christ. This goes to prouve that around a good dessert, we can all get along.

Baklava (adapted from a recipe from Chef in you)

about 20 Baklavas

100gr Almonds, chopped
150gr Walnuts, chopped
75gr Pistachios, chopped
80gr of Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Ground Hazelnuts
2 Teaspoons of Ground Cinnamom
1/2 a Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
200gr of Sugar
200ml of Water
1 Stick of Cinnamom
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
1 Pack of Phyllo Pastry (250gr)
200gr of Butter

In a bowl, combine the nuts with the sugar, cinnamom and cloves and mix until everything is well blended. Set aside.

In a sauce pan, put the water, sugar, cinnamom stick with the lemon juice and bring it to the boil while whisking it, then turn the heat down a little and let it bubble for about 10 minutes. Then, turn the heat off and leave it to cool.

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Melt the butter over a medium heat or in the microwave. Using a brush, butter an oven dish (mine is 20x30cm), and start pilling up the phyllo pastry sheet: place a first one, brush it with butter, place the next one, brush it with butter... etc, make about 10 layers.

Spread now evenly the nuts, sugar and spices you have prepared in a bowl. Start again with the phyllo pastry sheet, butter each one and pile about 10 of them up. If the phyllo pastry sheet are a bit bigger than your oven dish, trim the edges, and with a sharp knife, cut the phyllo pastry in diamond shape.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour. While still hot, pour slowly the syrup you have prepared with sugar, water, cinnamom stick and lemon juice. Try to pour it slowly and evenly above the whole baklava. Now you have to wait for it to absorb the syrup, for about 6 to 8 hours.


Ricotta and Lemon Cake

I'm in a sweet tooth mood lately, not that I'm ever out of it, but I'm just finding myself looking for chocolatey/sugary things around the house these days. And the best way not to munch down everything that falls into my hand, is to have some cookies or cake in the house, so that I can reason myself with having just a slice (or at least I try...).

As we are actually having something ressembling summer these days, I thought something with lemon would be nice. I didn't have enough time on my hands to make a cheesecake, but I remembered seeing a nice italian ricotta cake a while back and thought this was the right time to try it.

I loved the result, it's a nice moist cake, that I would serve with fresh raspberries next time I bake it. I read it keeps nicely, but it didn't survive long enough here for me to confirm that. So for a nice breakfast or to go with your tea time (watching the London olympic games, obviously) I would recommend this cake.

Ricotta and Lemon Cake (based on a recipe from BBC Good Food)

175gr Butter, softened
175gr of Sugar
2 Lemons
4 Eggs
250gr of Ricotta
125gr of Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Butter a 24cm springfrom cake tin and flour it aswell. Using the stand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar for about 2-3minutes. Add the zest of both lemons, aswell as the juice of one, then the ricotta and the egg yolks.

Whisk the egg white into a soft peak and fold them in gently into the ricotta mixture. Still gently, add now the flour and baking powder.

Pour the batter in the cake tin and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Let it cool in the tin before releasing it.