Friday, August 31, 2012

Banana Pudding Trifle

I can't believe that tomorrow it will be September.  Where has the time gone?  Labor Day weekend is here and summer may be nearly over, but I'm sure we'll keep experiencing the heat of summer for quite a bit longer.   I also cannot believe that I have not made (or eaten) any banana pudding this summer!  We had mini banana puddin' at our wedding, but since none since then.

Banana Pudding is a dessert I first experienced while on a trip to SC a few years ago.  Don't worry, I completely fell in love with it!  Despite how delicious banana pudding is, it's rare to encounter it in the upper midwest (or at least in the area I grew up).  What a shame!

The banana pudding I first encountered featured the classic components of sliced bananas, cook and serve vanilla Jell-o pudding, Nilla Wafers, and cool-whip.  Do not get me wrong, I have a soft spot in my heart for all those ingredients, but I also like to mix things up.

I find that cooking the vanilla pudding mix on the stove is much more time consuming than simply making a batch of vanilla pastry cream.  Sometimes you just need the therapy & satisfaction that only comes from the exertion of hand whisking whipped cream.   That well-used 9x13 Pyrex pan is very practical for layering the pudding, but the beautiful trifle bowl you received at a wedding shower has been begging for a shot at the limelight.  And sometimes, you accidentally eat too many of the nilla wafers in the "pre assembly" stage because you have forgotten how delicious they are.  Oops!

Last week, there was a slight mishap when I was testing a batch of mini cupcakes for Small Batch.  The pan went from "not quite done" to "oh my goodness, they're almost too done" in like 2 minutes.  I frosted & used the less toasty ones & threw the remainder into the freezer to be used for another adventure.  That other adventure has come!  I cut the cake into pieces and layered them with the Nilla Wafers into this trifle.  I still feel banana pudding needs a bit of crunch.  And the cake/wafers combo will help disguise the fact that not all the wafers made it to the assembly stage of this dessert....

Even though this trifle deviates a bit from the original classic, it was still a hit! Nothing like finding a nearly empty trifle dish to attest to the greatness of the former contents :)

Vanilla Pastry Cream
32 oz Milk
7 oz granulated sugar, divided
2.5 oz corn starch
pinch of sea salt
7 ea egg yolks
1 oz butter
2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

1.  Pour the milk into a heavy sauce pan.  Sprinkle a little of the granulated sugar over the surface. Do NOT stir.  Heat the mixture to a simmer.  The sugar forms a protective barrier in the bottom of the milk & will keep it from burning.  

2.  Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining sugar, corn starch and the salt.  Whisk in the yolks.  

3.  Temper the hot milk into the yolk mixture by slowly pouring the milk in to the yolk bowl while whisking constantly.  

4.  Return the mixture to the sauce pan & heat over medium high heat until the mixture thickens and boils for a minimum of 15 seconds. The 15 seconds cooks out the cornstarch flavor. 

5.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cold butter.  Once the butter has melted, stir in the VB paste.  

6.  Cool the pastry cream at room temp with a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream.  {note: i like to cool mine by pouring the hot pastry cream onto a plastic wrap lined sheet pan & then using the excess plastic wrap to form a sort of "burrito" casing around the pastry cream.} 

Chantilly Cream
12 oz heavy cream
1 oz granulated sugar

1.  Place a metal bowl into the freezer for 20 minutes prior to making the chantilly cream.  

2.  Once the bowl has frozen, pour the cream and the sugar into it.  Whisk by hand until it forms medium to stiff peaks.  Set aside.  

1 batch pastry cream
1 batch chantilly cream
6 oz Nilla Wafers (I used mini ones) 
4.5 oz white or yellow cake, cut into cubes & toasted, if you like 
5 medium bananas, sliced   

{note: if you don't have cake scraps on hand, feel free to use an entire box of Nilla Wafers.   I wouldn't bake cake just for use in a banana puddin' ....  And if you don't have a trifle bowl, you can layer everything into a 9x13 baking dish instead} 

1.  Place the room temperature pastry cream into a large bowl.  Whisk to break it up.  Add half of the chantilly cream and beat to combine.  Place the remaining chantilly cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  

2.  In a trifle bowl, layer a little less than one third of the wafers and the yellow cake.  Top with a layer of bananas.  Add one third of the pastry cream & spread out evenly.  

3.  Repeat until all the pastry cream has been used.  Pipe rosettes of the whipped cream over the surface of the top layer of pastry cream.  Use the remaining wafers to make a border around the edge.  

4.  Chill a minimum of 1 hour before serving.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Today, I made two chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  

One was for the first official Small Batch order (woohoo!!) and the other (seen in these images) was for an event my husband had at work.  I couldn't very well cut into cakes I was making for orders (I think someone might complain if a piece was missing from their order), but I thought the outside alone allowed for some pretty shots.

  Forgive me for not posting the recipe, but I can't reveal the business secrets :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Waffle Weekend: Zucchini Bread Waffles with Maple Cream Cheese

Thank you all so very much for your interest and support of Small Batch!  I am so excited to be turning something that I love into a business, and I can't wait to see how the company evolves. 

If there's one food genre we really like at our house, it's breakfast.  Not every weekend is carefree enough to allow for a relaxing brunch (weekdays rarely are either), but we try at least a couple of times a month to make & eat brunch together on a Saturday morning.   Though, we don't discriminate against eating brunch foods for other meals too....  "Brinner" (aka "breakfast for dinner") makes an appearance in our dinner menu several times a month.

With our love of brunch (especially waffles) and our love for experimenting with new recipes, I would like to begin a new series called "Waffle Weekend."  It probably won't happen every weekend, but at least a couple times a month, I plan to chronicle our latest brunch adventures.  We'll be searching for interesting recipe options & trying to create as many fun waffle variations as possible.

At this late point in the summer, there aways seems to be a great deal of zucchini  available.  Someday, I hope to have a garden where we can grow our own, but for the time being, with our 3rd floor apartment balcony that gets full, hot Texas sun, I have to be content with store-bought zucchini.  I dearly love zucchini desserts (zucchini bread, zucchini cupcakes, zucchini scones....), and I wanted to try something new.  Thus was born zucchini bread waffles.

As if the concept of zucchini bread waffles are not decadent enough, I added a maple cream cheese spread to the waffles, just to heighten the awesomeness.  We both loved them!  It's definitely a recipe I will make again.  In the words of my husband, "Oh my gosh, these are SO AWESOME! My stomach is so happy right now." Lucky for him, we have some leftover waffles to freeze, so he can have zucchini waffles for breakfast later this week too!

I urge you, whether it's brunch time or dinner time, to make these zucchini waffles.  I promise, you and your loved ones will love them!

Zucchini Bread Waffles
makes approximately 8 waffles 
adapted from several sites, including this one and this one  

1 medium zucchini
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 1/2 c AP Flour (or replace up to 1/2 c AP flour with some whole wheat flour for additional nuttiness) 
1 Tbl Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
1/3 c Brown Sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1/4 c Vegetable Oil (plus additional for your waffle iron)
1 1/4 c Milk
1 tsp vanilla

1.  Shred the zucchini on a box grater.  Place the shredded zucchini into a strainer and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some of the moisture in the zucchini.  Note: I did this step first, and while the zucchini was draining, I measured the rest of the ingredients, started bacon cooking in the oven & mixed the Maple Cream Cheese spread.  

2.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.  Whisk to combine.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, eggs, oil, milk & vanilla.  Set aside.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients & mix half way.  Squeeze as much moisture out of the zucchini as possible.  Rinse to remove the salt & squeeze again.  Add the zucchini to the batter and mix to combine completely.

5.  Allow the batter to rest for 5 to 10 minutes while you heat your waffle iron.  Once hot, oil your waffle iron with a little vegetable oil.  Scoop batter onto the oiled iron & cook until the waffles are golden.  Hold the completed waffles in a warm (less than 200 F) oven while you repeat with the remaining batter.

6.  Serve immediately with the maple cream cheese spread & additional maple syrup.

Maple Cream Cheese Spread
Note: Because I like to add additional maple syrup to my waffles, I kept this spread a little on the "not so sweet" side.  Adjust to your taste preferences by adding additional syrup if needed. And honestly, you don't need to measure, if you don't want to :)  Just eyeball approximately 1 part butter to 2 parts cream cheese & sweeten to taste. 

50 g butter, softened
75 g cream cheese, softened
60 g maple syrup 

1.  Cream together the butter and cream cheese using a whisk or spatula.  Add the maple syrup, adjusting the amount to your taste preference.  

2.  Store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.  Any leftovers can be spread onto plastic wrap, formed into a log shape, wrapped & frozen for later use.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Announcing "Small Batch" and Peach Lavender Crêpes

When I was in culinary school, one of my favorite courses was "Jams, Jellies, Chutneys, and Tarts."  I had other favorites too, but "Jams & Jellies" is one that perhaps has had more influence over my daily life than the others did.  We learned how to make a great number of different preserves: Jelly, Jam, Preserves, Fruit Butter, Pickles, Relish, Marmalade, Conserves, Chutneys, Condiments.... and the list continues.

It was during that course that the "canning bug" truly hit, and since then, I have made many many different preserved items at home.  Some, I've made for personal consumption (a PB & J sandwich is really the best when you use homemade jam) and some, I make to give as gifts (I love giving gifts that people can "use up").  One of my favorite preserved-item to make (and eat) is Peach Lavender Preserves.  We made a batch of it when I was in "Jams & Jellies" and I have subsequently made several batches at home. I enjoy this preserve so much that once I motivated myself to get up from a nap (when all I really wanted to do was go back to sleep) with the promise of a piece of fresh baguette slathered with peach lavender jam :)  I promise it does not taste like soap or potpourri, provided that culinary lavender is used.  

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed that I've been busy canning, but, none of those jams nor preserves have made an appearance on this blog.  That lack of appearance is due to a very exciting new development in my life!  I am in the process of launching a brand new, home based baking & preserve business called "Small Batch Pastry & Preserves." Please feel free to check out the website and "like" the new Small Batch Facebook Page.  In preparation for the launch, I've been trying to build up a stockpile of preserves using as much local, fresh, in season produce as possible!  I've also been designing like crazy, working on developing a website, as well as labels (one of the law requirements for everything I sell) & packaging materials.

In the past (and in most other states) running a baking business required a state health department certified kitchen (and getting a certified kitchen is no picnic).  Under the Texas Cottage Food Law, you may operate out of your own home, so long as you meet their very detailed requirements.  The only big bummer is that you're prohibited from selling things online :(  So, if you want to buy anything, you'll have to come visit me in Texas!  I also anticipate doing a few jam give-aways on this site, so watch for those.

part of the stockpiled jams & preserves (so far) 

Later this week, I'll be handing out samples at an event my apartment complex is hosting for residents.  I'm excited, and I'll admit a bit terrified. This is a big step for me!  I'm hopeful this new venture will succeed, but only time will tell.  I plan to still keep this blog up and running, but my posting schedule may be a little less frequent, depending on how busy Small Batch gets.   


Ok, on to crêpes!  Crêpes may seem intimidating to make, but I promise they aren't as complicated as you may think.  Three of my favorite tools for crêpe making include a blender, a non-stick skillet (or an actual crêpe pan, if you have it), and a heat tempered spatula. I like to make my crêpe batter in the blender the night before I plan to actually cook the crêpes (if you don't have overnight, at least an hour will suffice), then refrigerate the batter in the blender jar.  The spout makes it easy to pour the batter right into the hot pan when you're ready to cook the crêpes.

As soon as the batter has set on the top of the cooking crêpe & the bottom of the crêpe has developed a hint of color, use the heat tempered spatula to easily flip it over.  One time, I accidentally used a regular spatula & melted it to my pan, so make sure you have a heat-tempered spatula instead :) The crêpes can be made ahead (with parchment between each crêpe so that they do not stick together) and even frozen, if needed.  Simply reheat slightly before serving.  

I love the combination of the crêpe, spread with a little of the peach lavender preserves, garnished with some additional sliced peaches and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The flavors & aroma remind me of traveling in France, mixed with culinary school, mixed with the summer classic "peaches and cream."

Dessert Crêpes
adapted from Crêpes
makes 10 to 12 crêpes 

2 large eggs
1 cup Milk
1/3 cup Water
1 cup All Purpose Flour
2 Tbl Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbl butter, melted, plus additional for the pan.

1.  Add the ingredients in the order they are listed to a blender.  Blitz until smooth.  Move the batter to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2.  Heat a nonstick crepe pan (or other large nonstick pan) over medium heat.  Grease it slightly with butter (I like to swipe a stick of cold butter over the surface of the hot pan to grease it).  If your batter has separated at all, stir it gently.

3.  Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot pan, tilting and rotating the pan until the batter covers the entire surface.   Cook until the batter has just set and the edges are lightly brown.  If necessary, use a heat tempered spatula to loosen the edges.  Flip the crepe over and cook until the second side is lightly browned.

4.  Turn finished crêpe out onto a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan between each crêpe.

5.  Serve immediately, or keep crêpes covered and warm in a low oven.  If you want to freeze them, layer parchment between each crêpe before wrapping them well.

Peach Lavender Preserves
Because this is an item that I am now selling, I won't be posting my official recipe, but Lindsay over at Love and Olive Oil has a great version.  If you don't want to do the entire jam making route, you can cook peaches with sugar and a little bit of lavender water (made by adding culinary lavender to boiling water, allowing it to steep a few minutes, then straining off the lavender buds) until the peaches are tender.  

Dessert Crêpes, warm
Peach Lavender Preserves (or homemade spread)
Sliced Peaches
Vanilla Ice Cream 
Culinary lavender buds optional for garnish

1.  Spread peach lavender preserves liberally over half of a warm crêpe.  Fold to make a half moon, then fold again into quarters.

2.  Garnish with sliced peaches & a scoop (or quenelle) of vanilla Ice cream.  Add a sparse sprinkling of culinary lavender buds, if desired, but note that less is more when it comes to whole buds.

3.  Enjoy immediately!  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clafoutis (for Julia)

 "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."
- Julia Child

Many, many people have done tribute posts to yesterday's 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birthday.  While I know that nearly everything has been said on the topic of Julia, I still wanted to write a few of my thoughts.  I didn't grow up watching Julia on TV (I really didn't watch much of any TV... In fact, I perhaps would have recognized this parody {start watching at 30:20}, than her actual show). Nevertheless, I have read several of her books and books about her and I do consider her to be one of my favorite food people.

Julia's quote I listed above is one of my favorites and it also is a good reminder to everyone, I think!  First of all to keep searching for things we're passionate about.  And secondly to not forget those passions.... to keep doing what we love!  I love baking & pastry (and food in general).  I love photography.  I love antiques & vintage items.  I love teaching people.  Blogging allows me an outlet for all of those things.  It is especially important to me during this transitional point in my life.  

I would have loved to create a whole "Julia" themed, multi-course meal.  But alas, I was not thinking ahead when I planned our meals for this week, & I had already used up this week's grocery budget.  Instead, I settled on dessert.  And dessert had to be a slightly less complicated item because I was already committed to a slightly more complicated dinner... 

Until yesterday, I had neither made, nor eaten Clafoutis.  Traditionally clafoutis are made with cherries (and cherries with pits in them, no less).    A thin custardy batter, somewhat similar to crepe batter, is blitzed in the blender, poured over the fruit & baked until golden.  Very simple!

I taught about clafoutis during the custards unit in one of the classes I taught at CIC.  I had seen plenty of clafoutis on blogs I follow.  Still, I had not made nor eaten one myself!  I decided that in the spirit of Julia (and her creativity & fearlessness) I should make a completely new-to-me item.  Not necessarily difficult, but something I had not done before.  Given my parameters of making a not complicated item, the clafoutis recipe won!  

Julia's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," lists several variations on the traditional cherry clafoutis, including pear, plum, apple, blueberry...  But, I had two nicely ripe peaches on my counter, just begging to be used.  Peaches & pears are somewhat similar, right?  They are in my book!  I took the pear version and created my own variation with the peaches instead.  

While I knew that clafoutis are in the custard family, I was not fully prepared for how custard-y they tasted.  Because the custard batter contained flour & because many descriptions of clafoutis liken the batter to a pancake batter, I expected them to taste more starchy.  Instead, they reminded me of a custard pie, only with a bit of the crust mixed in to the filling.  Delicious!  

We ate our clafoutis for dessert last night while watching "Julie & Julia."  I, of course, wore my pearl necklace & one of my favorite more dressy aprons. It seemed an appropriate way to commemorate what would have been Julia's 100th Birthday.  

Peach Clafoutis 
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2 medium Peaches, ripe but firm
1/3 c Granulated Sugar
1/4 c Grand Marnier
1 c Milk
3 eggs
1 Tbl Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c AP flour
Butter, for pan
confectioners sugar, for garnish 

1.  Peel and slice the peaches into a medium sized bowl.  Sprinkle the sugar and liqueur over the fruit & stir to combine.  Let stand for 1 hour.  

2.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 7 to 8 cup baking dish/pie plate/gratin dish or individual rammekins.  

3.  Pour the liquid from the peaches into the blender jar.  Add the remaining ingredients in the order in which they are listed.  Cover and blend on high speed for 1 minute.  

4.  Arrange the fruit in the bottom of the baking dish(es).  Pour the batter over the fruit, taking care not to disturb the fruit pattern too much {note, the batter will float some of the fruit, so do not waste your time arranging the fruit extremely artistically, like I did!}  

5.  Place in the oven and bake until golden brown & puffed, approximately 40 minutes to an hour for the large size.  Smaller, individual clafoutis will bake in less time.  Remove from the oven & cool slightly.  

6.  Sprinkle with confectioners sugar just before serving.  Serve slightly warm.