Apr 28, 2013

Baked Churros filled with Mexican Hot Chocolate Pastry Cream

Happy early Cinco de Mayo!  Have you already made plans with your co-workers to meet at TGIFriday's after work on the 5th?  2 for 1 margaritas anyone?  That was really the only way I ever celebrated the holiday come to think of it.  But if your plans are a little less tequila and whole lot more fiesta, then these heated sweets are just the addition.  You may recall last year's Cinco de Mayo treat, Pastel Tres Leches with Grand Marnier...still one of my favorite cakes ever. 
Okay so these aren't really churros, but they're my version anyway.  I'm not a huge fan of fried desserts.  I'd rather get my fatty calories from frosting or filling and not from grease.  The best part, these are super simple to prepare.  In fact, I used store-bought puffed pastry.  Yeh you heard me right.  I felt a bit silly posting a recipe with anything store bought, I mean this is a learning blog AND I'm currently in pastry school, so it felt a bit like cheating...like baking a cake from a box, BUT...I was watching Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) last week and she was making cinnamon rolls from store bought puffed pastry and I thought, well heck if it's good enough for Ina, it's good enough for me.  Anyway, who really makes their own puffed pastry?!?  I think that would require fancy rolling machines or an old French artisan as a sous chef.  Well that's my excuse anyway.
This was the first time I ever tried the chili/chocolate combo.  I had expected my mouth to be on fire or smoke to puff out my ears,but that isn't the intent of the duo at all.  Chili heightens the chocolate flavor, similar to the effect coffee has when added to chocolate cake.  The heat of the chili only hits you slightly at the end and evokes your tongue to say 'wow where did that party come from??!'
Ole amigos.
Baked Churros filled with Mexican Hot Chocolate Pastry Cream
printable version
For the Mexican Hot Chocolate Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 ounces finely grated dark chocolate
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chili powder (for a more intense heat, add 1/4 teaspoon)
1 roll (400 grams) frozen puffed pastry, thawed
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
instant cocoa mix for dusting (or cocoa powder)
To prepare the pastry cream mix the sugar and egg yolks together in a medium-sized heatproof bowl.
Sift the flour and cornstarch together, whisk to combine.  
Add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up).  I accidentally added the whole bean, but it tasted fine.
Remove from heat and set beans aside.  Transfer milk to a meauring cup with a spout and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the egg mixture.
Transfer the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 to 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla extract if using instead of a vanilla bean. 

Add the grated chocolate, cinnamon, and chili powder.  Stir with spatula until fully incorporated.
*note: I used a microplane to grate the chocolate
Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.
Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
To prepare the churros, roll out puffed pastry on a lightly dusted counter to 1/8" thick.
Using a cookie cutter, cut out desired shapes.  Dough can be re-rolled and used again.
Transfer dough to a lightly greased cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Using a pastry brush, cover the top of the churros with the melted butter. 
Place the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl and mix until incorporated.  Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture liberally over the tops of the cut out dough.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the churros are nicely puffed up and golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.
Place whipping cream and sugar inside bowl of standing mixer. Beat on highest speed until peaks form.  Set aside.
Transfer pastry cream to a piping bag fitted with a #12 tip (or something similar). 
Insert the tip into the side of the puffed pastry and gently squeeze in the pastry cream.  Don't squeeze too hard or the pastry will crack.  I filled them almost totally full*
*Note: the recipe for the pastry cream makes about 1 cup.  This wasn't enough to fill all the churros from a 400 gram roll of puffed pastry.  You can double the pastry cream recipe if you want to fill them all, or adversly you can fill with less cream.  As I said I filled mine quite full.
Give each churro a dollop of whipped cream and dust with the cocoa powder.  Serve immediately!
 Pastry cream recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Apr 25, 2013

A Brownie Dressed as a Cookie & lessons learned in seized chocolate

This obviously isn't the name of these cookies (they're actually called Chocolate Truffle Cookies) but I'm sorry there was nothing Truffle about them. 

However that could be in part to the fact that I burned the chocolate and it seized like the I-5 in Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend.  Oh it was a mess.  A stiff, 1 pound chocolate mess.

I've heard the 'myths' that seized chocolate can be brought back to life.  However I've always been somewhat of a skeptic at the thought of bringing back chocolate that appears to be DOA.   I mean really how could it ever recuperate?  Chocolate is so needy and sensitive, and TEMPERAMENTAL...ohhhh I sound like I'm describing my pregnant self. 

But holy macaroons it really is possible.  I'm sorry I don't have any photos of the process to show you, I was beyond stressed while bringing it back to life.  To make matters worse I was using Schaeffer Berger which can be compared to the Dior of Chocolates, luxurious AND expensive.

I blame it on my fancy-pants French Bain Marie.  The water level indicator is broken so I think I didn't add enough water and all hell must have broken loose inside.  It is now resting peacefully in the dumpster downstairs.  Thanks a lot Frenchies, I was only able to use my 50 Euro Bain Marie three times before it busted.  I'm sticking to a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water from now on.  Lesson learned.  I got burned.  Literally.

Moving on.  So just how do you fix seized chocolate.  First take a deep breath and let the curses out.  It's okay, just get them out so you can move on. With the #^*@*%$@!!!!!! over with grab the vegetable shortening and a tablespoon.  Add 1 tablespoon to your sad lump of chocolate while it's still hot and stir, massage, and love that lump till it starts to soften again.  Keep adding 1 tablespoon at a time until the chocolate is smooth and pourable.  I don't think it will ever truly be the same, but at least it's not gone to waste.  Reconstituted chocolate can be used in any recipe that calls for melted chocolate (cookies and brownies for example), except it cannot be used as a coating (to dip fruit or candies for example) nor can it be used to mold chocolate.  The shine is gone so don't waste your time.  The chocolate will now have a matte appearance, but taste-wise it's still good and will not taste burned....unless you really, REALLY burned it.  Then I say f-it and have a drink.  Bake another day.

If prepared properly with nicely tempered chocolate, these cookies will have a beautiful, shiny appearance.  They are total brownie wanna-be's by way of taste and texture. They are flaky and crisp outside, chewy and soft inside. With 6 eggs you know they have to be something spectacular.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies from Dahlia Bakery
makes approx 30 cookies
printable version


1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 pound plus 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons  unsalted butter, softened
2 1⁄4 cups granulated white sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Whisk to combine. 

Melt the chocolate in either a double broiler or the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth and melted.  Allow chocolate to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition (be careful they are slippery, these two snuck in together)

Scrap down the sides of your bowl as needed.

Add the melted chocolate and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.  

Remove bowl from mixer and add the dry ingredients.  Fold in by hand using a rubber spatula.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Line cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Start scooping the cookies as soon as you finish making the batter. The batter is very soft at first, but it starts firming up quickly as it sits, which will make it more difficult to portion. The easiest way to portion the cookies is with a 2- ounce ice cream scoop. Pack the scoop only about three- quarters full. Or use a scant 1 ⁄4 cup or 11 ⁄2 ounces of cookie dough for each cookie.
If you are baking in batches, don’t refrigerate the scooped dough, but leave them at room temperature. These cookies will not spread properly if the dough is chilled first.
Bake the cookies until they are evenly cracked all over the tops and softly set, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through the baking time. If you have 2 pans of cookies in the oven at the same time, also switch them between the racks.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheets with a metal spatula. They stick to the paper a bit, but you can scrape them off with a sturdy metal spatula easily enough.

Apr 22, 2013

2nd Birthday Treats!

If you're a follower of my blog, you may have noticed I have been MIA...I have a very decent alibi...I'm pregnant!

I had a nasty month of morning sickness (hah! what man invented that phrase, it's been all-day long sickness, thank you very much) that sentenced me to lots of downtime with little desire to bake...or even get out of bed for that matter.

But I'm back, and I'm hungry.

Before I get back into the kitchen I want to share a few treats with you that I made for my son's 2nd birthday last week.  There was no way I was going to let his special day go by without making one hell of a birthday cake, regardless of how I felt.

As you may know I pride myself on always sharing with you step-by-step photos of my creations, but I'm sorry lovely readers I just didn't have the energy with these ones to post photos along the way (except for the White Trash Monster Mix...that was pretty painless to throw together).  However thankfully I borrowed the recipes from two other amazing mom's and food bloggers who have excellent photos to show you how to get there.

Lemony Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

(covered with Smarties that I just could not get to angle properly...I should have just said I let my son decorate it!!!)

Lemony Funfetti Cupcakes (same recipe as the cake) with Marshmallow Buttercream

White Trash Monster Mix (shown lower left)
3 1/2 cups Cheerios
6 cups Chocolate Chex cereal (or any combination of your favorite Chex flavors)
16 ounces Plain M&M's
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups pretzels, broken into bite sized pieces
2 (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips *(I used 2 white chocolate bars since I only had one bag of chips)
Find the largest bowl you have. Like a HUGE one. Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the white chocolate.  

Divide the mixture onto cookie sheets lined with waxed paper.  


Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double broiler until smooth and no lumps remain. Melt slowly and stir often to avoid burning. Divide the white chocolate among the three pans, simply pour over and eye-ball the amount for each. 


 I used two spatulas, one in each hand to coat the cereal/candy mixture.

Allow to sit at room temperature until the chocolate has solidified again.  Break into pieces and try not to each the entire batch.  This stuff is deadly addictive.  A word of caution however, I stored mine in large zip-lock bags and I found on the second day it was starting to get soft.  Try storing in an air-tight container if you're not eating this right away.  Which is almost next to impossible.
I found myself nibbling on this in the mornings...I mean it's cereal, so it's okay. 
Recipe Links:
Lemony Funfetti Cake (and cupcakes) from Baked Bree
Vanilla Bean Buttercream from Glorious Treats
Marshmallow Buttercream also from Baked Bree
White Trash Monster Mix adapted from Alton Brown