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.

38 comments:

Eat4Fun said...

Congrats on completing your first DB Challenge! They look good! :-)

Veron said...

Congratulations on your first challenge. Looks excellent!

Argus Lou said...

eat4fun and Veron, thanks for dropping by and your encouragement.

Lunch Buckets said...

I call shenanigans on the whole open oven door thing! Welcome to the group:)

Claire said...

This looks GREAT! I think that white chocolate would be great.

CookiePie said...

Congrats on your first challenge -- and well done! Your eclairs look divine!

Jude said...

Wow that hogs head looked kinda scary. Last thing I want to see at night.
The eclairs look perfectly piped! Look great.

Argus Lou said...

Lunchbuckets, Claire and Cookiepie, thanks for the support. 'See' you at the next challenge.

Jude, I thought the pig's head was kind of funny.
Thanks. All the best in the next one.

Life for Beginners said...

The Hog's Head is hilarious! I wish Malaysian gardeners had the same wacky sense of humour.

And congrats on your first baker's challenge: More, please? :D

hot garlic said...

Congrats on your first challenge! They look great, nice and puffy!

My Food Safari said...

Argus, Congrats on a successful first challenge. I did not mess with the oven door as well.

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, glad you like the hog's head. For a minute there, I thought only my other half and I liked it.

Hot Garlic and MyFoodSafari, thanks muchos.

silverrock said...

Ooo, your eclairs look so professionally done. I bet you could sell them and make a pretty penny?! Way to go on your first DB challenge, isn't baking in groups fun :)

Tanya said...

Welcome and congratulations on your first completed challenge! Your eclairs look beautiful.

www.takethecannoli.us

wonda said...

You're already back in Switzerland? The hog and your lovely eclairs make my lips curl up like a Smiley, especially the last photo of your eclair. The filling looks like a tongue.

Adam said...

Hey punk eclairs are awesome, they would totally win in a fight against other pastries.

You're a pretty funny cat yourself, and I like your pics. I'll check back soon.

Oh, and if I read that you're dieting, you might want to read my Friday posts, some people like what I write there about nutrition.

gRaCe said...

ur eclairs look so yummy.. making me all hungry right now.. *stomach growling*

had great fun with u the other night. ;o)

kellypea said...

Blog-thingies, indeed! Nice eclairs you've got there. I'd like one about now since I made mine a week ago...Congrats on your first challenge and here's to the next!

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Silverrock and Tanya. Yes, baking in groups is motivatingly fun.

Wonda, I'm now in Taiping, Perak. I posted this in Kuala Lumpur. Will going back to Switzerland on Sept 9. (Yes, the last eclair shot is my favourite, too.)

Adam, you're right about punk eclairs. They also kick the butt of anyone's diet dreams. See you around, kiddo.

Argus Lou said...

Grace, it was great to see you and Xeus, too. Cream puffs are a nice comfort food.

Kellypea, thanks much! See you at the next challenge.

Lee Ping said...

Every one of us has talent(s). This gardener is blessed with the ability to form wood and grass into an art that we all can recognize at first sight.

I recognize the pouting lips in your Chocolate Eclair (very cute). :)

Argus Lou said...

Dear Mrs HBT, yes, I agree with you. With some, it's more apparent as they exercise their talent more diligently and regularly.

Haha, eclair with pout or tongue - depends on how we view it.

Cynthia said...

That is quite some gardening sense of humour :)

Congrats on the success of your first DB challenge. Here's to many more!

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Cynthia. Glad you enjoyed the hog's head garden 'sculpture' too.

Life for Beginners said...

Nah, methinks the hog head is universally popular. Uhm, almost universally popular. :P

Lianne said...

Thanks heaps for the recipe! I will try it over the weekend!

Argus Lou said...

You're most welcome, Lianne. Put in lots of marjoram into your Berlin potato soup - that is, if you like its flavour.

Dawn said...

what a breath of fresh air looking at your photos here. :::sigh:::: how I miss traveling.
thank you for your comments on my food blog--I aim to please.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Dawn. Thanks. And welcome to Argus World, a place where everything is possible - except for your chocolate covered potato chips. Ha ha! The Surgeon General might have something to say about your interesting blog.

Rasa Malaysia said...

Hey Argus, I replied to your roti jala comment. Check out my blog.

By the way, which publishing company do you work for? I would like to publish a cookbook. Any help would be much appreciated. :)

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Rasa Malaysia. Thanks for your reply. I've left a response to your publication question on your blog. I don't work for any publisher at the moment.

Tunku Halim said...

I just love that pig photo ... it's so much fun. As for those pastries ... yummy!

Argus Lou said...

TH, fun as it is, the hog-o-rama won't go down well in a Malaysian public park, I suspect. ;-)

Lianne said...

Saw some lovely photo of you with the makan gang in Malaysia! enjoyyyy!

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Lianne. It was a nice time meeting with bloggers and floggers. ^_^

fatboybakes said...

OMIGOSH, how did you get your eclairs to be so even? did you pipe it using a nozzle? if so, what diameter?

Argus Lou said...

You mean the top two long ones, FBB? Well, I have this silly cookie piper tube. Just took off the nozzle and used the 8mm end. Was a bit too skinny so had to go round the 'circuit' a few times to get the recommended shape. Messing around with a cookie piper is not my idea of fun though. ;-)

fatboybakes said...

well, yes, you did compare it with gouging your eyes out.... ah, the tribulation of having no maids hor!

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)

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