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Filtering by Category: french

Cream Puffs

Patricia Reitz

Cream puffs are the perfect crowd-pleasing treat because absolutely everybody loves them. The pastry shells can be baked and frozen up to a month ahead of time, and the filling can be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead. When you’re ready to serve them, just whip up a batch of whipped cream, fold it into the pastry cream, and spoon or pipe it into the empty pastry shells. Finish with a quick sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and get ready to be the hit of the party.

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We'll start by making the pastry which is technically called pate a choux (sounds like pot-ah-shoo).

In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

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While you're waiting for the mixture to boil, have the flour and eggs ready to go.

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Okay, the milk mixture is just starting to boil - time to add the flour.

Add all the flour at once...

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And stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed.

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When all the liquid is absorbed, continue stirring constantly...

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Until a smooth paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  We're not quite there yet, but almost.

Just a few more moments and we're done.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.

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Add the eggs, mixing one at a time, until no traces of raw egg remains. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the eggs in by hand - it’ll take some time, but you can do it.

Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (like this one).  I like to use disposable bags (like these).  Using a star tip helps the pastry dough expand evenly in the oven.

I piped long skinny shapes for eclairs as well as round mounds for cream puffs, but didn’t get photos of the cream puff mounds - oops. You’ll figure it out though.

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When the mounds are done baking, allow them to cool slightly, turn each puff upside down, poke a hole in the bottom with a paring knife or skewer, and allow excess steam to escape. Allow them to cool completely before cutting the pastry shells in half and proceeding with the recipe.

Note: if you plan to freeze the puffs for use later, flash freeze the cooled, uncut pastry shells for about an hour, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container for up to a month. Thaw overnight, in the refrigerator, inside the airtight container.

cream puff recipe

To assemble, cut the pastry shell puffs in half with a serrated knife and fill with a mixture made of 50% pastry cream and 50% sweetened whipped cream. You can spoon the mixture in, or you can use a pastry bag fitted with a pasty tip as shown.

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Once filled, sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Items I used to make this recipe:


Cream Puffs

makes about 20

Ingredients

Pastry Shells:

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 large eggs

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Filling (equal parts of each):

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place rack in center position.

  2. In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

  3. Immediately add the flour and stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed by the flour and a paste forms; continue stirring constantly until the paste dries out and forms a ball that cleans the sides of the pan.

  4. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. 

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated.

  6. Transfer paste to a large disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco #826).

  7. Pipe the paste into 3-inch round by 1-inch tall mounds on a silpat lined sheet pan; dust with confectioner's sugar.

  8. Bake in 450F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more.  

  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest until they're cool enough to handle, then poke a couple of vent holes in the bottom and allow to cool completely.

  10. When completely cool, fill with a mixture of 1 part pastry cream and 1 part sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Raspberry Tarts

Patricia Reitz

One of my favorite ways to feature fresh, juicy raspberries is to use them to top decadent individually-sized chocolate tarts.  Such an impressive presentation, but so very easy to pull off.  Let me show you how easy they are to make.

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First, start with a batch of pate sucree (sweet dough) that's been chilling for about 30 minutes.  Press the pate sucree into mini tart pans (these are the ones I have).  I love individually sized desserts, and these are small enough to enjoy all by yourself, but they're not too small to share with someone special.

Now it's time to "bake them blind", which may sound really weird to someone not familiar with the technique, but basically it's partially baking the pie crust.  We do this by lining the tart crust with crumpled parchment paper (crumpling helps it easily fit the contours of the tart), then fill it with a variety of things that will 1) conduct heat, which will allow the crust to bake, and 2) keep the walls of the tart from slumping during the baking process.  

You can purchase metal or ceramic pie weights made specifically for the purpose of blind baking, but there are several substitutions you can use - dried beans, uncooked rice, or even granulated sugar.  Dried beans that have been used for this purpose can no longer be cooked for consumption, but they can be reused again and again so I let them cool completely, then store them in a jar in the pantry for next time.  Rice and sugar will toast slightly, but can be used for other recipes - they'll get slightly toasted in the oven, which imparts a lovely flavor.

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See how the crumpled parchment is able to hug the contours of the tart?  Much easier than trying to do the same thing with a piece of flat parchment, believe me!

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Fill with beans (or rice, sugar, pie weights, etc).  Chill well while the oven preheats.  Chilling the pate sucree before baking helps to keep it from shrinking during the baking process.

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After 10-15 minutes, the sides of the tart will be set and you can remove the parchment and its contents.  You can see how the sides have lost their shine, but the bottom of the tarts need more time in the oven so return them for another 10 minutes or so.

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You'll know they're done when they look dry and are firm to the touch.  Set aside to cool while you make the ganache filling.  

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To make the ganache, heat cream until just before it begins to boil.

Pour over your chopped chocolate and let it sit, undisturbed, for a few minutes.  Then whisk together until smooth.

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Pour the ganache into the baked tart shells.

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Chill for at least 15 minutes before adding the raspberries so they don't sink into the chocolate. 

When you're ready to serve, sprinkle the berries with a little confectioner's sugar and remove the sides of the tart pan.

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Place the tart on something elevated, yet small enough for the sides of the tart pan to fit over.  Here I'm using an egg cup.  Using gentle pressure, push the sides of the pan down.  

Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Individual Chocolate Raspberry Tarts

makes 6 mini tarts (or one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients

Pate Sucree Crust:

Filling:

Garnish:

  • 3 pints fresh raspberries

  • confectioners sugar

  • mint sprigs

Directions

To Make Pate Sucree:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade or flat paddle attachment, combine the ingredients until fully combined and no traces of dry ingredients remain.

  2. Wrap will with plastic and chill for 30-60 minutes.

  3. Divide dough equally between 6 individual tart pans with removable bottoms and press evenly across bottom and up sides; chill for at least 15 minutes (or up to several days if wrapped well with plastic).

  4. Preheat oven to 325F and line chilled tart shells with parchment paper filled with beans, rice, sugar, or pie weights.

  5. Place filled tart shells on silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the sides of the tarts are set; remove parchment and return empty shells to oven to continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the bottom crust is set.

  6. Allow tart shells to cool until while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl; set aside.

  2. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, heat cream and butter until just before it reaches the boiling point (small bubbles will form around the edges).

  3. Remove cream/butter mixture from the heat and pour over chocolate.

  4. Let the chocolate and cream steep together for 2-3 minutes.

  5. Add the espresso powder and pure vanilla extract; whisk gently until smooth and shiny.

  6. Divide filling between tart shells, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top of each shell; chill for at least 15 minutes before adding berries.

To Serve:

  1. Top with fresh raspberries and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

  2. Carefully remove sides of tart pan as shown above, and garnish with fresh mint.

Sous Vide Filet Mignon

Patricia Reitz

Sous Vide (pronounced SOO-VEED) is a French technique for cooking food under water using one of these circulators, at a very precise temperature, without fear of overcooking, resulting in foods that are cooked perfectly every single time - something which can be very difficult to achieve with traditional cooking methods, especially when cooking expensive steaks like the ones I'll be showing you today.  We're talking the kind of perfection you find at a fancy French restaurant (which happens to be where the sous vide technique was perfected), only way cheaper and you can do it yourself any time you feel like it.  Here's how. 

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Start with 12-inch thick filet mignon steaks, a couple cloves of sliced garlic, and some butter.  

Note:  I purchased a 4-pound whole beef tenderloin at Costco, which was enough to feed my husband and me for 3 meals (plus a little snacking between meals), and it cost less than what we would have spent going out for dinner at a nice steakhouse just once.  And I didn't have to worry about over cooking them at all - I knew they were going to be perfect!  

Back to the steaks, tie them around the equator with kitchen twine to help the super tender meat keep a nice shape.  Be careful when doing this - the meat is so tender that you can actually damage it if you pull the twine too tight.

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Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

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Place the prepared filet mignon steaks in a sealable bag with sliced garlic and a pat of butter (amounts listed in the recipe below).  Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible.

Sous Vide literally translated mean 'under vacuum', and a lot of things cooked via this method are placed in vacuum sealed bags, but the term can be a little misleading because you don't actually have to vacuum seal foods in order to cook sous vide.  Any food-safe bag that can be sealed, and can withstand the desired temperature water you plan to submerge it in, can be used so long as you remove as much air as possible.  Removing the air is important for two reasons.  1) so the bag will stay submerged (air would make it float), and 2) to reduce the oxygen in the bag which prohibits oxidation and the growth of many kinds of bacteria. 

Place the container of choice on a heat-proof surface.  I used a stockpot, but you can use just about any vessel that will tolerate the temperature water you'll be using.  Place the sous vide circulator in a vessel - it should be large enough to hold the circulator and enough water to fully submerge the sealed bag with room for the water to move around.  There's a minimum and maximum level indicator on the side of the circulator so fill the vessel with enough water to fall between those two levels. 

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Set the cooking time and temperature you choose.  My model is set manually, but you can also get models that can be programmed using an app on your smartphone.

I cooked my filet mignon steaks at 138F (medium-rare) for 2 hours, but I could have held them at that temperature for up to 8 hours without worrying about them overcooking.  That left me with plenty of time to set the table, arrange the flowers, and make the sides.  No stress!

A word of caution - the cooking vessel will be filled with very hot water for an extended period of time so be sure to place it on a heat-proof surface and in a safe location away from pets or children.


Beef Doneness Chart

  • 125-130F (52-55C) = Rare

  • 130-140F (55-60C) = Medium Rare

  • 140-150F (60-65C) = Medium

  • 150-155F (65-69C) = Medium Well

 

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Place the sealed bag in the vessel.

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You may not need to do this, clipping the bag to the side of the cooking vessel will keep the bag from blocking the circulator's water flow.

So what do you do if you need one medium-rare steak and one medium-well steak?  Simple - place each steak in its own sealed bag.  Cook the first steak at the higher temperature for 2 hours, then reprogram the circulator to the lower temp.  When the water reaches the lower temperature, add the 2nd steak.  After 2 hours, remove both steaks at the same time.  The first steak won't be negatively affected by hanging out in the lower temperature water while the second steak was cooking.  Love that!

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Ok, remove the bag from the hot water when the cooking time is up.  You can see the steaks don't really look like they're ready to eat, but we're going to fix that.

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Heat a skillet until it's screaming hot.  I like to use cast iron for this.  Add a drizzle of oil and a good pat of butter.

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Remove the steaks from the bag.  Pat them dry and remove any bits of garlic.  Reserve the garlic slices and any juices that have collected in the bag.  Add the steaks to the screaming hot skillet and let them sear on each side for 30-60 seconds per side.

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Oh my - I wish you could smell my house right now!

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Once the steaks have seared, place them on a plate to rest.  You can make a quick pan sauce by adding the reserved garlic and juices from the sous vide bag to the hot skillet.  Stir and scrape up any seared bits from the pan and let the mixture bubble away and reduce for a minute or two, then turn off the heat and swirl in a pat butter.  

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Seriously, just look at that, will you?  It's not gray around the edges and raw in the center.  It's cooked to absolute perfection - the entire thing - from one side to the other - perfect.  You'd never ever be able to achieve that in a skillet or on the grill.  Heck, I've worked with professional chefs who can't cook a steak that well. 

And the flavor?  Forghettaboutit - absolutely perfect in every single way you can imagine.  Super tender, juicy, buttery, garlicky, and absolutely luscious... in a word, phenomenal.  

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I kind of wish I could share this with you, but that would mean less for me so let's just say I hope you'll get a sous vide circulator and give it a try.  I promise, you won't be disappointed. 

And be sure to check back because I'll be posting a lot of sous vide recipes in the future -savory and sweet things.  I can't wait!  

Items used to make this recipe:


Sous Vide Filet MIgnon

makes 4 filet mignon steaks

Ingredients

  • 4 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks, tied

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Prepare filets by tying each around the equator with kitchen twine, being careful to not wrap it too tightly which could rip through the tender meat.

  2. Evenly sprinkle the kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides of the filets.

  3. Place filets, 1 tablespoon of butter, and sliced garlic in a sous vide or heavy duty zipper bag, being sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.

  4. Place sous vide circulator in a vessel and fill with water according to manufacturer's directions; set temperature and cooking time (I set mine for 138F for 2 hours - use temperature guide decide how you'd like your filets cooked).

  5. Place sealed bag in water, being sure bag is fully submerged and clip bag to side of container to keep it from blocking the circulator pump.

  6. When the sous vide time is done, remove sealed bag from water.

  7. Preheat cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot.

  8. Add remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the skillet and sear filets for 30-60 seconds on each side; remove to a platter.

  9. Immediately pour the juices from the sous vide bag into the hot skillet and whisk for about 1 minute; add the remaining butter and whisk until melted, then pour over steaks and enjoy!