Sunday, August 31, 2008
Wonderful Wales + My first Daring Bakers' Challenge
Some places just make your jaw drop and the corners of your lips curl up in wonderment. One such place that I visited in Wales is found along a river somewhere between Saundersfoot and St Gowan's Head. A field of grass sprouted huge bunches of bright yellow flowers. On top of it, the air was crisp and fresh from a downpour the day before.
In Bute Park in Cardiff, we came across evidence of a gardener's sense of humour: a plant, grass and wood formation of a hog's head complete with pointy ears. It did not fail to make onlookers smile and snap pictures.
Three weeks ago, I applied and got accepted as a member of Daring Bakers. This is a growing bunch of bloggers from all over the world who agree to take up a baking challenge proposed by a pair of members every month. There is a private members-only forum, but the earliest we can blog about the month's challenge is on the last day of the month.
My first challenge was Chocolate Eclairs. I had baked eclairs a few times before based on a simple cooks.com recipe and used a whipped cream and custard filling.
For the Daring Bakers challenge, we were required to follow the given many-step eclair recipe and use its chocolate pastry cream or a chocolate glaze recipe. I chose to switch the chocolate in the pastry cream recipe to white chocolate as my other half is not too enamoured of chocolate desserts. Then I simplified the glaze to microwave-melted dark chocolate mixed with powdered sugar and butter.
The recipe called for leaving the oven door a crack open for part of the baking time (likely the recipe writer Pierre Herme's way of flaying us wannabe bakers). I found that it made the puffs of the top tray in the oven not rise as much as the lower tray (see pic above left: right is the 'unpuff' and left is the 'puffed'). The pastry cream was wonderful-delicious and quite a lot was left over. So, a couple of days later, I made another (slap my 'dieting' wrist!) batch of puffs - this time without messing with the oven door. They puffed up fine. Also, I didn't bother with piping out the choux pastry (cleaning the pump is akin to gouging out my eye) so the puffs had spikes like punk eclairs. Needless to say, my other half and I were happily stuffing our faces with the yummy eclairs - mine with lots of choco glaze and his with just a bit, and both with as much white-choc pastry cream as the burdened puffs could carry.
If you want any of the recipes, please let me know.
Here's pouting at you, kid. (Doesn't it look like 'hair' and 'lips'?)
In the meantime, all over the world, a gazillion chocolate eclairs are exploding across kitchen counter tops and creaming the baking blogosphere as the hundreds of Daring Bakers post their respective blog-thingies.