Cream puffs start with choux pastry, a heady mixture of butter, milk, water, eggs & flour. When you combine these ingredients, they become so dense and sticky that it seems impossible they’ll come together as soft, puffy, light, tender. Heat is what initiates the expansion of the dense paste. Steam from the milk and water expands the pastry’s edges, puffing up its capacity until the oven heat provides just enough crispness and structure to hold the puffs’ boundaries. A cream puff expands so dramatically in the oven that it creates a cavern inside to hold any number of things—whipped cream, pastry cream, ice cream or savory fillings.
Cream puff pastry (or choux pastry) is the base for profiteroles (smaller puffs filled with ice cream), éclairs (elongated puffs filled with pastry cream and glazed), croquembouche (a tower of cream puffs held together and drizzled with caramel) and savory appetizer puffs called gougeres with cheese and herbs.
Craquelin (pronounced kra-ke-lan) is a thin biscuit layer that can be added over choux pastries before baking them. It is used to create a crackly appearance, crunchy texture and a buttery sweet taste as well as helping the choux pastry bake evenly to form hollow rounds. This topping reminded me of a similar cookie-like topping used on Mexican sweet bread called ‘conchas’. It certainly dresses up ordinary cream puffs.
Mandarin Orange Cream Puffs w/ Craquelin Topping
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
In a food processor, process sugar & butter pieces until it forms large crumbs. Add flour, salt & vanilla; process until a dough forms. Bring the dough together to form a disk.
Roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper until 1/16-inch thickness. Place covered in the freezer for at least an hour then cut the dough into (18) 2-inch circles & keep circles in the freezer until ready to use.
In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow. In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth texture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a saucepan, combine milk, water, butter & salt; bring to boiling. Add flour, all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook & stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat & add eggs & egg white, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
Place dough in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe (18) 1 1/2-inch circles. Cover each with a frozen craquelin round circle.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden & firm. Transfer to a wire rack & allow to cool.
Carefully slice puffs. Fill a pastry bag with mandarin orange pastry cream & gently fill each puff. Place on serving platter & sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.
Parsnips are one of those vegetables that very often gets over looked as being bland and tasteless. The unassuming parsnip has neither carrots’ obvious sweetness or potatoes mashable, fryable, butter-loving appeal.
I’ve always loved their sweet, mellow, complex flavor. To me, parsnips have a taste reminiscent of hazelnuts, cardamom and a gentle peppery spice. They are at their best after a few autumn frosts, which converts the tuber’s starches into sugar. In fact, if they are left in the ground over winter and dug at the first sign of spring, parsnips are nearly as sweet as carrots.
Over the years, I have used them in many different applications. Pork with parsnips is a common savory pairing but grating them into breads and spice cakes is equally good. Making cakes with vegetables used to be a necessary economy, while today we use it as a way to improve the quality and it adds a range of flavors we’d forgotten about.
Using some fresh root veggies at this time of year seems to be a good choice. This cheesy parsnip bake makes such a flavorful meal.
Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
Peel parsnips & cut into chunks. Cook in salted boiling water until they are tender, about 20 minutes.
In saucepan, heat oil & sauté onion until tender crisp. Add the mushrooms & cook gently for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in pork & fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until lightly browned.
In a small container, combine vegetable broth with cornstarch. Carefully add to meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken. Add extra broth if needed. Stir in chopped zucchini & cover. Turn heat to low & cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.
Turn oven on to broil. When parsnips are soft, mash thoroughly. Stir in butter, milk & grated cheese. Spoon pork mixture into an ovenproof dish. Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top. Place under a broiler until the topping starts to brown. Serve immediately.
Apple season is upon us, so its a good time to make some of those ‘homey’ kind of desserts. During the summer we have an endless array of fresh fruit available in the grocery stores. Apples are often taken for granted because their kind of a staple fruit you could say. We have countless varieties to choose from for fresh eating or cooking. One that is well known is called the Granny Smith apple. Its acidity and strong flavor makes it a frequent choice for both baking and fresh eating. Consistently rated among the top ten apples in popularity, its hard to believe it wasn’t part of the North American experience until the 1970’s.
It turns out there really was a ‘Granny Smith’. As the story goes, Maria Ann (Granny) Smith was cooking with French crab apples and discarded the remains in a compost pile near a creek flowing behind her farmhouse outside Sydney, Australia. From the pile sprouted a seedling unlike any apple she had ever encountered. She was so taken with its bright flavor and versatility, she decided to propagate the trees herself.
In the season from September through November, Granny Smith apples have become a staple of fall baking. Used extensively in seasonal pies, cakes, cobblers and crisps, it all began with a happy accident discovered by its namesake halfway around the world.
Apple Crumble w/ Vanilla Cardamom Cream
Peel, core & slice apples. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, toss the apple slices with lemon zest & juice, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats & salt with a fork until uniform. In a glass pie dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts. Pour the butter into the flour mixture & incorporate with a fork. Leaving the excess butter in the pie pan, arrange the apple slices in the pan. Top with the flour-oat mixture.
Bake until apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
Vanilla Cardamom Cream
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together 'cream' ingredients. Simmer over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until cooked & custard will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat & cover with plastic wrap, making sure to lightly press it over the custard to avoid a 'skin' forming. Serve over or with crumble.
This peach chutney galette has all the flavors of a classic peach pie, plus the pop of fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar and spice.
I love chutneys and find that just about any fruit can be made into one. Each chutney is a balance of sweet, sour, savory and spice with endless variations. When it comes to the ways you can eat or serve it, a few that come to mind are:
- Add it to a chicken sandwich
- Serve with cured meats & cheese
- Serve on the side with empanadas or meat pies
- Eat it with any cooked pork meal
- Serve with grilled sausages or roasted poultry
- Serve it with pate
- As a topping for warm Brie cheese
- Mixed into Greek yogurt
- Puree it & use as a dipping sauce
- Served on a burger
Peaches are one of those fruits that make their way into summer chutneys so why not put some in a galette and see what develops?!
Peach Chutney Galette
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, star anise, cloves, pepper, cardamom & sea salt. When mixture starts to bubble, fold in about 2 cups sliced peaches. Bring the mixture to a boil; turn down heat to a lively simmer. Cook, stirring often, 20-30 minutes, or until mixture has thickened enough to easily coat a spoon. Set aside to cool.
When chutney is cooled, preheat oven to 350 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press out chilled pastry into a 12-inch circle.
In a large bowl, stir to combine remaining peaches, cooled chutney, 1/4 cup sugar & cornstarch.
Spread mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold pastry over peach chutney filling, pleating to hold it in. Brush with egg wash (if using); sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 35-45 minutes until filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Chill at least 2 hours to prevent the filling from running out. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year.
Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Saskatoons ripen in late June or early July. They grow in many conditions from sea level to mountain peaks and are less picky about soil conditions than blueberries. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!
Throughout North America, saskatoon berries have a variety of names including: prairie berry, service berry, shadbush or juneberry.
Saskatoon berries work equally good in sweet treats as well as savory recipes. This pork tenderloin entrée is a good example of the latter.
Honeyed Saskatoon Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan, thyme, oregano, garlic & pepper.
Remove silverskin from tenderloin & 'butterfly'. Place meat between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound, making it all the same thickness. Spread mustard evenly on flattened cut side & top with 'stuffing'.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Starting with the long side, carefully roll the tenderloin as opposed to just folding it over.
Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & brush with Fig Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette or just use olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes until just a hint of pink remains.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add 1 tsp oil & sauté green onions & ginger for a couple of minutes. Add honey, water, cider vinegar, cornstarch & salt; mix well. Add saskatoons; bring to a simmer & cook until chutney thickens slightly.
Slice roast tenderloin into medallions about 1-inch thickness. Pour some chutney onto serving platter; place sliced tenderloin medallions on top & drizzle with remaining chutney.
Although there are many variations of this dish, Austria’s apricot growing tradition has made apricot dumplings (marillenknodel) an emblematic dish of Austrian cuisine. Each spring, some 100,000 apricot trees transform Wachau Valley into a fragrant pink-white sea of blossoms.
There are two types of dough that can be used to make apricot dumplings …. potato dough (made with cooked & mashed potatoes) and cheese dough. Topfen is the Austrian cheese traditionally used as its ‘sour’ taste gives the dough a nice ‘tang’. Other alternatives would be either Quark or cream cheese.
To prepare the apricots you need to slice them in half and remove the pit, then place a cube of sugar in the cavity. A few other alternatives for the centers of the apricots would be chocolate or a nougat cube.
Once the dough has been chilled, it is divided into balls and stuffed with the filled apricots. These dumplings are then boiled in salted water and while they are still hot, coated in cinnamon-flavored, buttered breadcrumbs.
Apricot dumplings are most often served just sprinkled with powdered sugar. Soft apricots provide enough liquid so they don’t taste too dry. If you wish, you could serve them with: vanilla ice cream, apricot coulis, whipped cream, vanilla or chocolate sauce.
Austrian Apricot Dumplings
In a bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, vanilla & salt; add the egg & cheese & whisk until combined. Add flour; stir until combined. Don't overmix, the dough should be slightly sticky but not dry. Form into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Slice each apricot in half & remove the pit. Place a sugar cube in the cavity & press the two apricot halves together until the apricot closes. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, cornstarch & vanilla; stir well until combined. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Lower heat & continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens & coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; cover with plastic wrap & chill. When sauce is cool, whisk it until it becomes smooth.
Cook & Coat Dumplings
Cook dumplings in a large amount of salted water, half of them at a time. Cook for about 12 minutes from the moment you've put them in the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low as the water should only simmer. Do not allow the dumplings to stick to the bottom. Take cooked dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain well.
Place the hot dumplings in the breadcrumb topping. Roll the dumplings around to coat completely, the place on a platter.
At serving time you can place them atop some vanilla sauce or just simply sprinkle with powdered sugar (or any of the other suggestions listed in the main article).
- Other fruit alternatives for the dumplings would be: plums, cherries or strawberries.
Fresh fruit in the summer is one of life’s simple pleasures …. juicy, sweet and/or tart …. they’re like summer jewels.
The saskatoon berry is one of North America’s great unappreciated fruits. Although its easy to confuse them with blueberries, the two fruits are quite dissimilar. The most distinctive feature of saskatoon berries is their almond-like flavor. Saskatoons are in the same branch of the rose family that includes apples, pears, hawthorn and quince.
These little gems are a truly wonderful Canadian fruit with the bulk of their natural range being in British Columbia and the prairie provinces. Come July, many of the U-Pick farms in our area have fresh saskatoons ripening on their trees.
Pairing sour cherries with saskatoons in this dessert is a perfect match. One is tart and juicy, the other is sweet and plump making a good balance.
The (sour) ‘prairie’ cherry was developed in Canada for colder climates. It was cross pollinated with a Mongolian cherry resulting in very hardy, trees producing a sweet-tart cherry.
Our little cherry tree is about 12 years old now. Since I have both of these fruits on hand right now, there is no reason to not make this galette!
Sour Cherry & Saskatoon Galette
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt & sugar. Add butter & with fingertips, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water & combine only until blended, do NOT overmix.
Divide pastry into 8 equal portions & press into mini galette pan cups. Place in refrigerator until filling is ready to use.
In a large bowl, combine berries, cherries & sugars. In a small dish, mix lemon juice with cornstarch & add to berry mixture.
Remove pastry from fridge. Mound the berry mixture in each galette cup. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown & bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
- Don't hesitate to make this into one round galette instead of individuals or to use frozen puff pastry. It will all taste just as good, believe me!
When it comes to pie/tart making, you have two basic types of crust to choose from: pastry or crumb. The decision will ultimately come down to what you’re planning to fill your crust with.
Classic pastry crust consists of a combination of flour, shortening and liquid whereas a crumb crust is comprised of pre-existing food items such as cookies, crackers or nuts, made into crumbs, tossed/coated with melted butter and pressed into a baking dish to form a shell. Both crusts offer unique strengths, which make them especially suited for certain types of pie fillings and utterly incompatible with others.
Pastry pie crust is your best choice for pies or tarts, sweet or savory, that require a relatively long baking time. Pastry of this nature is a labor of love but none the less it gives you the opportunity to create a ‘work of art’.
The major appeal of a crumb crust is, ‘its easy’. There’s no real pastry technique required to make a crumb crust. Its simply a matter of selecting what you want to make your crust from, pulverizing it and combining the crumbs with enough melted butter to make it stick together when you press it into your baking pan.
For this glazed tropical fruit tart, I chose to use some gingersnap cookies for my crust. The colorful fruit makes such a nice presentation as well as a refreshing taste.
Glazed Tropical Fruit Tart
In a small saucepan, melt butter & stir in sugar. Add crushed gingersnap crumbs; mix well. Spread evenly into a tart pan. Press onto bottom & up the sides to form an even crust. Bake 4-5 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling.
In a small saucepan, combine juice & cornstarch; cook & stir until thick & bubbly. Cook & stir for 2 minutes more. Transfer to three bowls. Cover each with plastic wrap & cool for 30 minutes.
Fold each type of fruit (mango, papaya & kiwi) into one of the bowls of fruit juice mixture. Spoon the fruit into the tart shell, arranging it as desired; press the fruit down lightly with a rubber spatula.
Cover with plastic wrap & chill for 3-4 hours. Serve with whipped topping if desired.
- I found it necessary to drain off any excess fruit juice that came from the cut fruit before putting it in the juice/cornstarch mixture.
Chicken Katsu is simply a Japanese version of chicken cutlets. While it is great to enjoy a good dish, its worth knowing where the idea originated.
Katsu was first created in the late 1800’s by a restaurant in Tokyo that wanted to offer a European style meat cutlet. Now, katsu can be found everywhere from convenience store takeaway bento boxes to Western style Japanese food restaurants. The name ‘katsu’ comes from the English word ‘cutlet’. It is typically made from either chicken breasts or thighs coated in panko breadcrumbs.
Frying or baking chicken cutlets is simple, but its like cooking pasta, when you get it right, it changes everything. Breading helps to seal in moisture during the cooking time. Its a basic process that’s used for making everything from chicken to onion rings. Japanese panko crumbs are lighter and crispier, the secret to ultra-crunchiness which yields to the kind of crust that you can actually hear when you bite into it.
Since its ‘Saskatoon Berry‘ time here on the prairies, I wanted to make some saskatoon chutney to have with these crispy cutlets.
Chicken Katsu w/ Saskatoon Chutney
Combine all chutney ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, cook until mixture is the consistency of runny jam, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat & cool completely.
Place chicken breasts between plastic wrap & carefully pound to 1/4-inch thickness. Season with salt & pepper. Coat with flour then dip in beaten eggs & lastly coat with Panko crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap & place in fridge for 15 minutes to chill before cooking.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter & add oil. Place cutlets in a single layer in skillet & fry on both sides. When no longer pink inside & golden on the outside remove from skillet & blot on paper towel.
Serve immediately with Saskatoon Chutney.
- The standard breading technique includes three steps: dredging in flour, moistening in egg wash, then coating in crispy panko crumbs. The flour helps the egg wash adhere & the egg helps the breadcrumbs adhere.
- Once you have all the food coated, you will want to place it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will ensure the breading actually sticks to the food instead of falling off in the hot oil.
- If baking, put breaded food on a rack set over a baking sheet, drizzle with a little oil & place in the oven. Bake until golden brown & cooked through.