Tag Archives: desserts

PMAT Live! Episode 7: Pâte à Who? Pâte à Choux! as Part of a Multi-Media U-PMAT Class of the Same Name

20 Oct
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

That's what it does. That's all it does.

Have you guys seen that spot remover machine Thing that you just put down on a stain on your carpet, push a button and walk away?  It’s magical.  No, I don’t have one, but I’ve seen it on Television, and I’m sure that all the claims are true.  It’s called a SpotBot, and that’s exactly what it is.  It’s kind of a robot-ish Item that removes spots.  It’s what it does.  It’s All It Does!!!!  Sorry, Terminator moment.

You just put him down on top of a stain, flip the On Switch and wander off to eat Bon Bons or whatever while the little dude fulfills his raison d’etre.  For Six Minutes, it squirts solution, scrubs and then sucks up the dirty water.  ‘Cause that’s what it does.  You don’t have to keep scampering over between every bon bon to check that it’s doing its Designated Task.  It just does it, because that’s what it’s designed to do.  I bet SpotBot is great friends with The Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator.  They just get each other, you know?

I’d like to propose another entrant into the Made To Do One Thing Very Well Without Any Monitoring By You category:  pâte à choux. Pâte à Who?  Pâte à Choux.  I won’t repeat that, because I don’t want you to smack your monitor, but that term is French for choux paste.  And that’s part-French for cabbage paste.  Now it all becomes clear, right?

Wait a minute, ain’t them cabbages vegetables?

Oh, good remembering!cream puff shells

Bless the French.  They do like a Descriptive Turn of Phrase.  The choux paste, when baked, puffs up and looks a bit like heads of cabbage.  If you cock your head to one side.  And squint.  Regardless of whether it looks like cabbages or cotton balls, the fact remains, the stuff Does puff up.  Because that’s what it does.  That’s All It Does!!!!

If you, as The Thumb, use the right proportion of water to flour and beat in some eggs to get the Proper Consistency, you can then know that your paste will become all Cabbage-Like in the oven.  Because, say it with me, “That’s what it does.”  And you can go eat some bon bons.  Or clean your carpet.

I now give you (one of) the SpotBot(s) of the pastry world:  pâte à choux.


A couple of Items before I let you go:

  1. Per 4 oz flour, you will need 4 oz butter, 8 oz water and 8 oz egg (about 4 large).  If you find that the consistency of the dough is still a little too Stodgy after the 4th egg, add in another yolk or half of a white.
  2. pate a choux can be sweet or savory.  For sweet ones, keep the salt down to about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour and the sugar up at about 1 Tablespoons per cup of flour.  For savory, use 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of flour and just a heavy pinch of sugar.
  3. Don’t be afraid to add herbs and/or spices to your dough.
  4. You don’t have to bake pâte à choux.  Poach them to make light and yummy dumplings.  Deep fry them to make churro-type deals (roll them in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar or Whatever).  Oooh, I bet you could even coat a wee candy bar bite in pâte à choux and then deep fry them!  State fair, here I come!
  5. Add grated cheese to the mix and then bake it with more cheese on top to make gougeres, swanky little cheese puff dudes.
  6. You can fill your sweet or savory puffs with anything you like.  Heck, you can squirt Cheez Whiz up there, if you want, but that’s sort of going from the Sublime to the Ridiculous.  But who am I to judge?
  7. If your filling is too chunky to squirt (ew), slice off the top 1/3 of your puff, scoop in your filling, and set the top back on at a Jaunty Angle.
  8. You can pipe pâte à choux in any shape you want, freeze them, and then bake them off later.
  9. You can also freeze baked puffs, then crisp them up in the oven for a couple of minutes at 350F before using.

And I think that’s pretty much it.  Oh, don’t forget your Certificate of Pate a Choux Prowess!  You’ve earned it!

My Must-Have Treat After Being Killed in the Park Multiple Times by Multiple Imaginary Creatures

20 Feb
mocha pudding

I meant to put some coffee beans artfully atop the creamy goodness. Please just pretend that they're there. Thank you.

First, I’m not really dead.  But I was killed yesterday–many, many times–by an 8-year-old with an Incredible Imagination.  His mother, lovely Neighbor Roberta, invited me to go to the park with them yesterday, and I, without realizing what this Outing would Entail, said yes.  It turns out that “going to the park” is a euphemism in their family for “getting killed by the creatures of Jackson’s imagination.”

First, he said he would protect us, and then he’d turn into any one of a number of Terrible Imaginary Creatures–Toofurs and Nodurs are the ones I remember–and Harm Us with pine cone hand grenades, stick swords, energy beams of various sorts and plain old ripping out of throats.  Every once in awhile, Jackson would emerge to say he really would keep us safe, and then he’d become some other Bloodthirsty Creature who wanted nothing more than to Eat Us.  It was kind of like going to the park with Sybil.

In a good way, mind you.  It was very cool to be around a kid with an incredible imagination.  It was also Rather Exhausting.  What with all the fresh air and killing and running and searching for Rings of Fate and The Book of Mysteries, not to mention the grenade throwing, Miss Jenni was surely in need of a nap before it was all over.  As soon as I got home, I grabbed myself a bowl of pudding and then curled up on the couch to nod off to Jurassic Park.  A lovely way to recover, indeed.

After the Park Mocha Pudding (based on Brenda’s Chocolate Pudding from Gooey Desserts)
This doubles nicely, so if you are in need of Lots of Pudding, go for it.

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 1 oz flour
  • 3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder (rounded as much as you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup very strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 oz. unsalted butter

Now, the Actual Rules say that you should temper the boiling starch-thickened mixture into the eggs, but I wanted to make One Bowl Pudding.  Plus, I knew that the starch in the flour would Impede Curdling of the eggs, so I whisked everything together except the vanilla and butter over high-ish heat until it thickened and came to a boil.  Then, I poured it through a fine strainer into a bowl (that’s the One Bowl I was talking about) containing the vanilla and butter.

If you’re going to cheat like I did, make sure you whisk madly the entire time you’re heating your mixture.  Mine frothed up and was quite poufy and creamy.  Whisk and whisk.  When it’s thick enough and Ready to Pour, you’ll know because all the whisked up bubbles will magically go away.  Do make sure you let it boil for at least 10 seconds or so to cook out the raw starch taste of the flour.  As long as you are whisking madly and then immediately pour the Molten Pudding through a strainer, you shouldn’t have any Curdling Issues.

Once you get all of your ingredients (minus the butter and vanilla) mixed up, taste it for seasoning and add more salt if you need to.  If you don’t find it Coffee-ish enough, add in a bit of powdered espresso or some coffee extract, if you can find some.  Trablit is an excellent one that we used to use at the restaurant.  It’s pretty expensive, but it lasts a long time ’cause you get a whole liter.

Oh–that topping?  I made it Specially to top the last bit of pudding that I had Selflessly Saved for The Beloved.  It’s just some sour cream whisked together with some sugar and a pinch of salt.  Let it sit for a few minutes so all the sugar dissolves, whisk it again, and then top whatever with it.  Very easy and very tasty.  Plus, the tang of the sour cream cuts the richness of the pudding a bit.

sour cream topping for mocha pudding

Yes, it is Girl Scout Cookie Time. For those of you not In the Know, that's a Caramel D'Lite (formerly "Samoas") and Thin Mint Cookies which aren't as good as they used to be, but still aren't bad at all.

I would have shared with Jackson, but I don’t think he’d like it.  He pretty much only likes Chicken Nuggets.

Tarte Tatin–It Ain’t Just For Apples

13 Nov
Lovely, caramelized Pear Tatin

Lovely, caramelized Pear Tatin

So, maybe the traditional Tarte Tatin, created by the Tatin sisters (seriously) uses apples.  There is no reason that you can’t use any other fairly firm fruit for this, though.  All this mysterious dish is is fruit sauted in a caramel sauce baked with a piece of blitz puff, puff pastry or pate brisee on top.  Take it out of the oven, let it set up for a few minutes, and turn it out on a plate.  Voila:  dessert is served!

And how is this gastronomic delight prepared?  Get your notepads.  Here we go:

Halve and core apples/pears/firm apricots/bananas, etc.  In a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, caramelize sugar with a pinch of salt and a little butter.  Add the fruit–earlier if the fruit is very firm; later if the fruit is a bit softer–and saute.  Really pack the fruit in; try to arrange it artfully, but it’s not imperative.  Remove from heat, fit a piece of pastry dough over the fruit, tucking it down around the fruit inside the rim of the skillet.  Bake at 375 until pastry is done and the whole thing is bubbly and beautiful.  Remove from oven; let sit a few minutes to set up.  Put a large plate over the top of the skillet and flip carefully.  Lift off the pan.  You might need to rearrange any fruit that got stuck in the pan.  Serve warm.

And that’s it.  Very easy–no recipe required.  Awesome, huh?!  Your holiday dessert awaits.  Oh, remember what I said about the caramel:  the darker, the better.  If you’re serving this to kids, keep it lighter.  If it’s an adult dessert, you’ll want to take your caramel pretty dark.

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