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.
Pot roast, as the name might suggest, is a roast cooked in a pot usually seared then simmered in liquid with herbs and spices. The actual process has been around for centuries, an invention of one part ingenuity and two parts thrift. As the idea evolved, it was realized that careful browning of the meat, in the beginning, would result in deeply rich, savory gravy. Less than prime cuts of meat that were tough, gristly and full of fat, would become tender by the long, gentle cooking process. In the final stage of cooking, the addition of some vegetables contributes to the flavor of this hearty meal as well.
There are endless ways to make pot roast. Everyone seems to have their own ‘ultimate recipe’. Brion & I don’t eat a lot of beef so when we do, having it come out nice a tender is the name of the game. I saw this 5-ingredient version of tender pot roast on Pinterest so I thought I’d give it a try. Certainly sounds like fool-proof.
I recall the smell of my mother’s pot roast cooking. Like I’ve mentioned before, a scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood memory. Smells detonate softly in our memory like land mines hidden under a ‘weedy’ mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once with a complex vision leaping out of the undergrowth. So today I’m trying to create that wonderful smell and a taste of a memory.
Tender Pot Roast
In a small bowl, mix together the 3 dry mixes. Rub mixture over entire surface of roast.
Place roast in a small roaster & pour water around meat. Cover with the lid & roast for 3 hours.
If you prefer, during the last couple of hours, add a chopped onion, 5-6 carrots & 4-5 small potatoes.
Though they come in all shapes and sizes, dumplings are a near-universal culinary constant as almost every culture has one. So naturally, dumpling recipes are incredibly versatile, coming with a wide array of fillings, wrappers, shapes and sizes. Eaten as an appetizer, dessert, side dish or for the main meal, they might just be the ultimate comfort food.
Chicken and shrimp go together surprisingly well, and this dish is no exception. In March of this year (2021), I posted a blog about Russian Pelmeni. Since then, Brion & I have had ‘pelmeni’ numerous times in which I’ve experimented with various fillings. In case you’re not familiar with these dumplings, traditional Russian pelmeni consist of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. The word “pelmeni” describes the ear-shaped appearance of these dumplings.
When I made them for the March blog, I used a different technique for preparing them. Instead of making them into the traditional ear shape, I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle. I then spread the raw meat filling over it very thinly and rolled it up in a jelly roll fashion. After slicing the roll into 2-inch pieces, they were steam cooked in broth in a skillet. It’s a quick and easy take on authentic pelmeni.
Since Brion & I eat a lot of chicken and shrimp, I could see no reason to ‘develop’ a new version with an almost oriental twist on it.
Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni
Broth for Steaming Pelmeni
Broth for Steaming Pelmeni
In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap & set aside to rest until your filling is prepared.
Chop mushrooms & mince garlic. In a skillet, heat butter & add garlic. When aromatic & light golden, add mushrooms & a light sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, soft & roughly a third of the original volume. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Chop shrimp into pieces the size of large peas. Add to the mushrooms with the chicken, green onion, water chestnuts & ginger. Combine with a fork.
Stir together salt & white pepper, sugar, soy sauce & water. Pour over the filling; stir to mix & firm up. Cover & set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large, THIN rectangle. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
Tightly roll dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add grated carrot; cook about 1-2 minutes more.
Place pelmeni rolls on top of veggies, add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Cover with a lid & simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is still some broth in the skillet. Add more broth if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with extra sliced green onions if desired. Serve.
- A nice condiment for these dumplings would be a sweet chili sauce.
Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was originally to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became king, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Since then, its become a decadent celebration of fall flavors and fine beers worldwide. This 16-day festival is a celebration of German culture, music, bratwurst, beer, pretzels and much more.
In keeping with Oktoberfest, I thought I would try my hand at making some pretzels this year.
Traditionally, pretzels are a baked bread product made from yeast dough and shaped into a twisted knot. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels but various sweet and savory options are now being used. The soft pretzels are eaten soon after they are baked while the hard pretzels have a longer shelf life.
The characteristic flavor and crust of a pretzel comes from the soda treatment. After being shaped, the dough is dipped in boiling water to which soda has been added and then baked. This treatment helps what is known as the Maillard reaction. The process of boiling the pretzels in soda water breaks the protein and increases the amino acid content in the dough, giving it an amazing crust.
Just for a bit of extra flavor, I am stuffing our pretzels. Should be good!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of salt; allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt & sugar. Add the frothy yeast mixture along with the melted butter; stir to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes & shape into a ball. Lightly butter the bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 45 minutes in a draft-free place.
Prepare fillings. This can be done ahead of time which will make the process easier, if you wish.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet, blot on a paper towel & crumble. Place in a bowl & combine with cooked chicken, cheese & ranch dressing; toss until well mixed. Set aside.
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a bowl, add pork filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Filling
In a skillet, sauté bratwurst until browned & cooked through. Drain on paper towel; place in a bowl with other bratwurst filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
After dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces & form each one into a 14-inch strand. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, lengthwise then roll it out a bit widthwise.
Divide each of your fillings into 4. Lay a line of filling down the center of each flattened pretzel. You will have 4 of each kind. Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Roll each strand back & forth to fully seal it up.
Shape into a pretzel by twisting the two ends around each other then bring it back down over the body of the pretzel.
Boiling & Baking
Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring 3 cups of water & 1/3 cup baking soda to a low boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dip each pretzel in soda water for 20 seconds, remove, using a slotted spoon to drain excess water. Lay pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until tops turn golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Scallops are beloved by pretty much everyone who can eat them …. they’re tender, sweet and taste ever so slightly of the sea. Being not only expensive and easy to overcook, scallops are often considered restaurant only fare.
Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.
Pan-seared scallops pair well with bright, tangy flavors that contrast their meaty sweetness or in creamy dishes that emphasize their richness.
One of my go-to ‘sauces’ that I’ve used on numerous occasions on the blog, contains hot red pepper jelly. I’ve added a raspberry preserve to the jelly for a new twist on the flavor this time. The parmesan risotto brings it all together, definitely making this meal a ‘keeper’.
Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook & stir diced bacon until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the bacon & reserve.
In the skillet, melt the butter & sauté onion & garlic for about 4 minutes until soft & translucent. Add the rice & mix well until it is fully coated with the butter.
Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth & lemon/lime juice. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, turn heat to medium low. Add one cup of broth & continuously stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, one cup at a time, with the remaining broth. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water & take the pan off the heat once risotto is at your desired consistency. Add the parmesan cheese, reserved bacon & parsley; stir to combine. Add salt & pepper to taste.
In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Thaw scallops as directed on package. Rinse & pat dry with paper towels; season with salt & pepper. Add oil & butter to a non-stick skillet & heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté scallops by turning over once until browned & just cooked through, 4-6 minutes total.
Serve over a bed of parmesan risotto & drizzle with sauce.
- Of course, if you live where you have access to fresh scallops, your in a whole different class!!
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.
If you follow the blog, its no surprise to see rhubarb recipes frequently at this time of year. Its probably due to a childhood memory or maybe because its just so versatile and good.
The name of today’s pastry was inspired by the round shape of the ‘taler‘, a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in the currency called ‘dollar‘.
Taler is a German word for ‘coin’, so the name of the dessert literally translates to ‘streusel coin’. Basically, a free form tart made with a yeast dough topped with a huge amount of streusel, sometimes filled with custard and often with a sugar glaze.
A traditional German streusel (streusel meaning something ‘strewn or scattered’ in German) bakes up into shortbread balls. It makes a crunchy, cookie-like top but is soft on the bottom where it meets the cake or fruit.
Streusel was first popularized in Germany. In its simplest form, it consists of flour, sugar and butter but gets even better with the addition of oatmeal, cinnamon and nuts …. just my opinion of course!
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & allow to cool to room temperature.
In a bowl, place COLD, cubed butter, add flour, cinnamon, sugar & vanilla. With your finger tips work streusel until crumbles form. Spread out on a large tray & set aside in freezer until ready to use.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, & divide into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball & allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
Space out the balls on parchment lined baking sheet. With fingertips, press out each ball to about 4-inch diameter. Add about 1 Tbsp of rhubarb compote to each dough piece & spread leaving a border around the outside.
Divide streusel topping evenly between the pastries & allow to rise for about 15-20 minutes.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. In the meantime, you can prepare the glaze.
In a small dish, whisk powdered sugar & lemon juice to a thick glaze. When streuseltaler are cooled, drizzle with glaze.
- Being lovers of the cardamom spice, I dusted our streuseltaler with it using a wire mess strainer.
- You will probably have a little bit of rhubarb compote left over but its never too hard to find a use for at our house.
- I should mention, making the compote the day before needed will speed up your baking process.
- These streuseltaler are incredibly soft & so good!
Like many dishes, this one is a fusion of different cultures. Strudel is an Austro-Hungarian pastry made with a thin, layered dough. Originally that dough was the almost transparent sheets of Turkish phyllo. Subsequent cultures employed the much easier to use puff pastry.
The word strudel is a Germanic word for ‘whirlpool’. You can visualize someone back than saying …… ‘can I please have some of that stuff that looks like’, (and they spin their fingers) and say ‘whirlpool’.
Strudel fillings have varied over the years from savory to sweet, depending on who was making them. European immigrants brought their recipes to North America in the early 20th century, and strudel became popular in bakeries and restaurants.
Today, I’m making some individual strudels in a little different style. I guess I’ll just say I’m ‘reinterpreting the strudel’.
Mini Lemon Kiwi Strudel
Peel & dice kiwi; place in a large bowl. Gently fold in lemon juice (if using) & set aside.
Roll out half of the puff pastry until thin; cut into 3 even, long slices. Lightly brush the slices with cream.
Spread half of the drained kiwi/lemon mixture down the center on all 3 slices.
Roll the dough over the kiwi mixture from bottom to top, until you have even rolls. Pinch the sides of the rolls to seal them. Repeat with second half of puff pastry & kiwi mixture until you have 12 strudels.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin OR use silicone cups.
Cut rolls in the middle & transfer with the closed side down into a muffin tin.
In a pouring container, whisk together lemon pudding powder with 1 1/2 cups water. Pour about 2 tablespoons into each strudel. Spread egg wash over strudels.
Bake strudel for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes. Take strudels out of baking cups. Top with a dollop of lemon pudding (see NOTES below).
- You will have some lemon pudding & egg wash leftover. I added the egg to the pudding mix & cooked it until it thickened.
- I placed a dollop on top of each strudel for a nice finishing touch.
- It was a good way to use the leftovers.
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.