Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chestnut Pie

Gardeners and tree farmers are all too familiar with blight, which is a disease than can kill flowers, vegetables and trees. Overall, I believe that the most destruction it has caused would be the extinction of chestnut trees in the US.

Before the blight took over, chestnut trees were quite plentiful here. They spanned from Maine to Georgia and the amount of trees were too many to count. Sadly, blight can kill a tree in about 5 days. The Christmas song lyrics of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" no longer applies here in the US. That is, unless you go to the expense of having them shipped to you from another country in order to roast them.

In scanning my pantry, I did find a can of chestnut puree from France. It was an import I ordered previously. With the holidays coming up, I decided to put it to use and make a chestnut pie. This pie is much like a pecan pie, without the chunks of nuts. However, the filling is not as sweet and has a thicker consistency. Regarding flavor, it has the unmistakable earthy taste of chestnuts with a touch of orange.

Outside of crust preparation, the pie comes together easily and only has about 6 ingredients. The crust is not par-baked so you can prepare the dough days before rolling and forming.

If you like chestnuts, do not be discouraged by the fact the trees are extinct in the US. Seek out the chestnut puree on line or at specialty grocers this season. You will be glad you went to the extra trouble. As always, reading the whole recipe along with the tips prior to creating are helpful in order for your efforts to be successful.

Chestnut Pie
adapted from Mrs Rowe's Southern Pies
Ingredients/Pie Pastry
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tbs milk
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white (depending on form of pie edge)

Ingredients/Pie Filling
3 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs orange liqueur
1 tbs orange juice
1 1/2 cups sweetened chestnut puree ( about 1 pound)
ground nutmeg (optional for sprinkling)
sweetened whipped cream (optional for topping serving)

For the crust, start by whisking together the flour and the salt. Then add the shortening and use a pastry blender to cut and mix it in with the sifted ingredients. This will result in a dough that has several small, "pebble sized", clumps. At that point, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the milk and blend by folding the dough over several times with the fork. Once the liquid is absorbed, continue with the process by adding one tablespoon of milk at a time. Test for consistency at 6 tablespoons, mixture should easily clump together leaving no dry crumbs behind.

Dust a flat surface and a rolling pin lightly with flour. Flatten the dough into a disk and roll out to 1/8 of an inch thick. It should be between 13 and 14 inches in diameter. Once rolled out, carefully roll dough around rolling pin. Then unroll over the top of a 9 inch the pie plate or dish. Lightly press the dough into the plate, smoothing out evenly.

If you are using the fold under and shape type of edge, trim the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. If you intend to decorate edges with cut out dough, trim leaving only a 1/4 inch overhang.When adding decorative toppings to the edges with cut outs from the excess dough, be sure to brush top of dough edge in pan prior to placing the extra layer of the cut out dough on top. As you can see by the picture, the pie edge has layers of overlapping rectangles. This is the decorative edge that I created with the excess dough.

After you have formed the pie crust, mark the bottom with the tines of a fork to prevent bubbling up when baking. Then place in the refrigerator while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The filling starts with 2 egg whites. Beat the whites until they are very stiff. Set aside. Using a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Then stir in the cream, orange liqueur and orange juice. Add the chestnut puree and sugar. Using a wooden spoon, blend the mixture together until it comes together, creating a thick batter. Lastly, carefully fold in the egg whites.

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling in the prepared pie crust and smooth the surface until even. At this point you can opt to sprinkle the surface with some nutmeg, if you prefer. Place in oven and bake until center is set and a knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour on rack and then transfer to refrigerator for an additional hour to chill. Then it is ready to slice and serve. Feel free to top each serving with sweetened whipped cream.

Tips and Notes:
1. The original crust recipe was modified, so the above reflects a 1/4 increase in the amount of each pie crust ingredients. This gave me enough to do a nice edge on the crust. The original quantity did not roll out big enough to make a nice edge.

2. I used a stoneware pie dish instead of aluminum. The refrigeration time and the type of pan used added an extra 15 minutes to the baking time.

3. My decorative topping made the back crust too heavy and it collapsed upon serving. Next time I will just make a formed, fold over edge.

                                     **LAST YEAR:Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies*

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Samoa Bundt Cake

There are just some girl scout cookie flavors that are such favorites that they have crossed the cookie boundary into everything from mixed drinks to ice cream. The most common replicated flavor has been from the Samoa cookie. We just can't seem to get enough of that crunchy cookie base that is laden with caramelized coconut and chocolate made famous by the Girl Scouts.

In this post, the flavor of the Samoa cookie can be found in a delicious Bundt cake. The cake has the tender crumb you know to be a great quality of the traditional Bundt. Each piece has a tasty blend of brown sugar and coconut flavor in the base with a caramelized coconut topping. The flavor is good enough to stand on its own. However, I could not resist to add some ganache drizzle to a slice.

While the cake was pretty tasty, there was a problem issue. The recipe calls for a blend of coconut/brown sugar and butter to be pressed into the bottom of the Bundt pan. I used a black bundt pan. After baking, quite a bit of the coconut stuck to the pan and the cake was difficult to release. The original recipe was posted noting that the pan used was a new, cast aluminum non-stick Bundt pan. Baking with this particular equipment turned out to be crucial to insure that the cake releases with a thick and toasty layer of coconut on top.

I would not make this recipe again without the specific type of cake pan as noted in the recipe. Cooking the coconut mixture in a saucepan until it caramelizes is another option. Then the cake batter can be split and the coconut mixture put in between the two cake layers. The coconut would bake with the mixture as a tunnel in the cake instead of on the surface. Another idea is to eliminate the recipe for the coconut topping and use another Bundt recipe that includes a coconut filling.

The recipe is listed below as I originally baked, adapted from the author. I have included the ganache topping recipe as well. Even though you may not have a non-stick cast aluminum pan, the website link below does have numerous Bundt cake recipes that can accommodate different types of Bundt pans.

Samoa Bundt Cake
adapted from Food Lust People Love 

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups sweetened coconut

6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Chocolate Glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chopped dark chocolate
pinch of salt

Start by melting a few tablespoons of butter. Brush the interior of a 12 cup Bundt pan (specific type of pan as noted above) with the melted butter and dust with flour. Tap out excess flour and make sure all areas are completely covered. Then place pan in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake, place the butter and both types of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl in intervals. The mixture should be very light and fluffy after this process. Set aside bowl.

In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour.

Add one egg to the butter/sugar mixture and beat for about 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat this process, adding one egg at a time, until all 6 eggs are incorporated into the batter. Using a separate bowl, pour in the coconut milk and stir in both extracts. Pour the coconut mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly blended. Lastly, using a wooden spoon, fold in the sifted ingredients.

Fill the cake pan with the batter and place in oven and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Place cake pan on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes and then invert onto rack and let cool completely before covering with ganache.

To make ganache, place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Then fill a saucepan with the heavy cream and place over medium high heat. Let the cream heat up just to the point of simmering and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Pour mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth and then pour over cake evenly, covering the top and letting drip down the sides. Once the ganache is set, the cake is ready to serve.
 Tips and Notes:
1. The ganache is optional, but remember that dark chocolate is a strong component and may overpower the flavor of the cake. You can put it on the side when serving so your guests can choose how much or how little they want.

2. Again, the success of the coconut topping requires the specific pan. The top surface of the cake will have a crispy chewy layer when baked, resulting in a mix of caramel and toasted coconut.

3. You are welcome to bake this in a 10 cup bundt pan. The pan is to be filled 3/4 full, so there may be batter left over. Also, baking time may need to be adjusted.

3. The cake lasts for about 3 days when stored in an air tight container.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Peanut Butter Bundt Cake**

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Favorite Cookie Round Up

With the holidays coming up, most bloggers are getting ready by digging up their favorite recipes from the past or searching for something new and delicious for cookie swaps or to surprise guests. This year, I decided to bring out some tasty gems from the past.

One the recipe I chose is a traditional favorite from the Hershey website that has not been posted previously. The others are in the blog history. As you know, all recipe books have indexes on types of cookies. I feel that this compilation covers most of the types listed. If I was limited to only making one of these recipes, it would be quite difficult since they all are wonderful in flavor as well as texture.

If you only have the time for one recipe, remember that there is no "wrong" choice here. Time to click on one of these links and get started in the kitchen!

Chocolate Covered Alfajores - Two tasty vanilla cookies sealed together with Dulce de Leche and dipped in chocolate. Caramel and chocolate with the crunch of a cookie- a nice package of what good is.

Spicy Date Filled Cookies - a decorative, crunchy round cookie filled with dates, nuts and spices. There is enough exotic flavor in one of these to transport you to another country.

Minnies Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies - A monster cookie that has all the components to make these the ultimate treat for kids- toffee, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and nuts.

Peanut Butter Blossoms - this traditional combo of peanut butter and milk chocolate is so tasty that the recipe has remained as a keeper in a countless number of recipe boxes.

Maple Pecan Pinwheel Cookies - A nice example of format change. These gems have all the flavor of pecan pie in the form of a cookie- one layer of flaky crust and one layer of maple/brown sugar and pecans all rolled up in a round swirl.

Hmmm..after typing all of this I am hungry for some cookies!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eggnog Spice Cookies

There are days when patience wins out overall. I have been looking for eggnog for the last few weeks and it finally showed up at the grocers. Prior to this I even asked one of the clerks when it would be coming in and she answered that no one even tells her what creamers will arrive. 

However, today have my eggnog (not a creamer) and the grocery clerk is probably still stocking the store. The sweet holiday flavor of that beverage was just the thing I wanted to capture in the form of a cookie. The main issue was that it was a liquid and the flavor components of most cookies originate from powder or very little liquid.

The best way to enhance the flavor of any type of liquid is to boil it down. As it boils, the water evaporates off, leaving a stronger flavor behind. This was also the fix to having too much liquid in the cookie dough.

The final result to experimenting is a cookie that is soft and chewy, sort of like the texture of bar cookies. Since I like bar cookies, the fact that they did not have a crispy texture was not important. The dough retained the delicious and unmistakable flavor of eggnog after baking, which was exactly what I wanted. Now we are into the Christmas flavor category! To enhance this even more, I topped the cookies with a glaze that has a touch of gingerbread flavored whiskey and added some sprinkles of little gingerbread men. This recipe makes about 2 dz cookies.

Now it is time to start the festivities, so on to the recipe....

Eggnog Spice Cookies                                                                   
by flourtrader

1/2 cup of eggnog
1 egg (separated)
1 1/2 tsp melted butter
2 tbs sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp whiskey (preferably gingerbread spiced)
1 tbs plus 1 tsp water
holiday sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Also, dust a flat work surface with flour.

Fill a saucepan with eggnog. Place over medium heat and let simmer, stirring constantly. Let cook down until reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt (if using). Set aside. Using a medium size bowl, whisk egg yolk. Add sour cream, sugar, cooled eggnog and melted butter and stir until blended together. Fold in half of the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and blend into a smooth dough. The dough should be somewhat stiff and sticky.

Using a scoop or tablespoon, drop about 6 mounds of dough onto the floured surface. Form the mounds of dough into 5 inch logs. Cover one end of each log with a little of the egg white and shape the log into a circle and seal the ends together. Place on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat the process again with 6 mounds, forming into circles.

Once the baking sheet is full of the shaped cookies, bake in oven for 9-12 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to rack to completely cool.

For the glaze, start by placing a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a flat surface.  Using a 2 inch deep bowl (like a pasta bowl) stir together water, powdered sugar and whiskey. Dip the top of each cookie into the icing and let the excess drip off and place on paper. Top with holiday sprinkles and let set until topping is dry.

Tips and Notes:
1. You can eliminate the whiskey topping by replacing with water and adding nutmeg and cinnamon. How much spice is according to your personal preference.

2. The dough circles are very light and delicate, so they had to be reshaped a little when transferred to the baking sheet. To remedy this, you can form the cookies right on the parchment lined baking sheet, just take care not to "over flour" the surface of the parchment.

3. If you prefer not to ice these cookies, you can use a sugary spice mix (cinnamon/nutmeg/sugar blend) on top prior to baking. Mix in 1 tablespoon  of water to the egg white and brush on top of each cookie. Sprinkle the spice mix on top of each cookie then bake as stated previously.

4. The flavor of these cookies does develop with time and are best eaten a day or two after baking.

5. The cookies (with the exception of the bottom) do not brown when baking. The surface appearance does not determine if they are done baking, it still remains white/ivory when done.

6. Due to the delicate nature of the cookies, do not attempt to place on cooling rack after dipping in icing. Once the icing has set up and dried, they may be too difficult to remove without breaking.
                             **LAST YEAR: Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake**

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Baklava Cake

I am not sure about other food bloggers, but there are times when I struggle with shortcut ingredients when creating and baking in the kitchen. The use of cake mixes and pudding mixes are a few examples of those type of ingredients. Additives in some ingredients can really change the end result and some (if implemented properly) can have no effect.

There are some ingredients on my list that will never have a substitute. One of them is heavy whipping cream. Even if I am using it as a topping to a dessert, nothing but the real deal will do.

This particular recipe has a shortcut which has impacted the texture in a positive way. It has all the flavor of traditional baklava, but is void of phyllo (filo) dough, which requires buttering each thin layer and stacking one on top of each other. Instead of phyllo dough, another dough component is created that bakes up into a moist cake. The new dough component comes together fairly quickly and is a lot easier to work with.

This wonderful cake has pulled together all the flavors that you would expect in a Middle Eastern dessert. The filling is a spicy combo of cinnamon, cardamon and walnuts while the cake layers support the exotic syrup made up of honey and rose water. The final element is a dusting of pistachios on top.

So if you are looking to try a traditional dessert from another country, this recipe for baklava cake is the perfect choice. You will not have to spend all day in the kitchen and your dinner guests will be impressed by its delicious flavor.

Baklava Cake
adapted from Persian Mama blog 

1 tsp baking soda
1 cup plain yogurt
8 oz or 2 sticks melted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

Ingredients/Walnut Filling
2 eggs (yolks separated from whites)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp cold water

1 tbs plus 1 tsp rose water
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp honey
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup ground pistachios

Prepare a 9x13 cake pan by buttering the interior and dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large bowl with all the first 6 ingredients listed above for the dough. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined into a smooth batter. Set aside.

To make the dry filling, whisk together the powdered sugar, cinnamon and cardamon. Then stir in the walnuts.

Take the bowl of the batter and fold in 1/2 cup of the flour. Continue with this process, adding the flour in increments, until a dough mass is formed. You may not need to add all 5 cups of the flour. The dough is the correct consistency when it no longer sticks to the inside of the bowl. Divide the dough equally in half.

Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on a flat surface. Put 1/2 of the dough on top of the paper and cover with another sheet. Roll the dough out to form a rectangle that will fit in the bottom of the pan. Once rolled out, remove the top sheet of paper and roll the dough around the rolling pin or flip it into the pan. Press the dough down into the pan and make sure the dough is even from corner to corner.

Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy on the surface. Using a pastry brush, brush a light coat of the egg whites onto the surface of the dough. At this point, there will be some leftover egg whites, set aside. Take the dry filling mix and sprinkle evenly over the top of the dough. The little bit of remaining egg whites can be poured on top.

Roll out the second layer of the dough in the same manner as the first. Then carefully lay it evenly over the top of the filling and press down lightly. Make sure that all the filling is completely covered. Fill a small bowl with the egg yolks and water. Blend together to form an egg wash.

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut into the dough layers to form about 20 rectangular single servings. Brush the egg wash on top of each single serving, avoiding the cut edges. Place in oven and let bake until done. The cake is done when when each serving has a toasty, golden hue. The baking time is about 35-40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, the syrup topping can be made. Whisk together the water, sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and let come to a boil. Let the mixture boil for about 3 minutes and remove from heat. Whisk in the rose water and set aside to cool until the cake is finished baking.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a baking sheet. Cut the servings again with a knife, following the same lines as cut before. Pour the syrup over the top of the hot cake and let it soak in until completely absorbed by the cake. Sprinkle the ground pistachios over the top of the sticky cake. Place the pan over a rack to cool completely. Once it reaches room temperature, it is ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. It is the rosewater that adds a unique flavor to the cake, so a substitute would change the flavor. Rosewater can be found on line or at a specialty store. If you are unable to find this ingredient, you can replace it with about 2 tsp of vanilla extract.

2. Be careful when brushing on the egg wash. It can pool together in puddles which will bake up into a yellow tinge on the surface of the cake. You do not have to use all the egg wash-just enough to cover each serving and leave a 1/4 inch border around the cut edge.

3. The drizzling of the remaining egg whites on the filling does not have to be perfect. There will not be enough left after you have brushed it on the surface of the first layer of dough to worry about drizzling it evenly.

4. This dessert can be stored in the freezer for serving at a later time. Separate it into individual servings and place in an air tight freezer container with a layer of parchment over the surface.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bars**

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Banana Bread Pudding

Today's post is all about the evolution of bread pudding. Back in the eleventh century, kitchens were quite a bit more frugal than they are today. There was a great effort in making use of leftovers and, in the case of bread pudding, that meant using stale bread. However, the up to date version is not perceived as frugal. In fact, this dessert has found its place on many of the menus at upscale restaurants.

While stale bread still remains as an ingredient in some recipes for bread pudding, plain baked bread or toasted breads are now considered acceptable. It is the "soaking" factor of the bread that creates the custard-like texture. Most bread puddings have a custard/bread base as the main component with little or no topping. 

As you can see by the picture, this recipe is not the standard. This bread pudding was made with cubed French toast/cinnamon swirl bread- it did not have to be stale or toasted. The recipe measurements were scaled down and it was still baked in a 9x13 inch pan. This change evened out the various textures and flavors of the dessert. The custard layer was about 1/2 inch thick, leaving room for all the special add in's to share in the spotlight. One bite contains quite a bit of delicious flavor as well as textures.

With creamy custard, crunchy pecans, soft bananas and a toasted topping of buttery brown sugar-it is hard to believe that this dessert originated as just a method to use up leftover/stale bread!

Banana Bread Pudding
adapted from The Disney Chef

Ingredients/ Bread Pudding
4 ounces or 2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
6 oz or 3/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 ripe bananas
8 slices of cinnamon swirl bread (cubed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup sanding sugar (50/50 mix of white to brown sugar)

Ingredients/Vanilla Topping (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1/4 plus 2 tbs sugar

Start by preparing the bananas. Cut one in half, setting one half aside.Take one half and 2 bananas and mash together. You can mash them by hand in a zip lock bag or mix them in a blender. Set the mashed bananas aside. Then slice the remaining bananas into rounds, about 1/4 an inch thick. Set these aside also.

Fill a medium size bowl with the eggs, butter, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk together and then fold in the mashed bananas and pecans. Take out a 9x13 pan and add the bread cubes and sliced bananas. Mix together and then smooth out evenly in the bottom of the pan. Then pour the egg/sugar mixture over the layer. Let sit for 10 minutes and then stir, making sure that the pecans are evenly distributed and all the bread cubes are moistened. Let the flavors meld, undisturbed, for an additional 15 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the process is completed, brush the surface of the bread pudding with the butter and sprinkle the sanding sugar evenly over the top. Place in oven and bake for 25-35 minutes. Bread pudding is done when surface is a golden brown and liquids have caramelized.

To make the topping, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the flour. Let cook and stir while the mixture thickens. At the stage it reaches the consistency of cake frosting, stir in the remaining ingredients. Continue to cook and stir for an additional 5 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency of sauce. Pour over each serving of warm bread pudding.

Tips and Notes:
1. Should you want a thicker serving, double the recipe but use the same size pan and baking longer.
2. For more sauce, double the recipe except for the egg.
3. Feel free to experiment with applesauce & sliced apples or pumpkin puree and cubed fresh pumpkin.
4. Half the pecan ingredients and replace with raisins if preferred.
5. Watch the topping carefully as it cooks, it can quickly change from a sauce to a thick custard.
                                 **TWO YEARS AGO: Buttermilk Fig Cake** 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Gingerbread Spice Cream Puffs

When spicy food is mentioned, we all envision different types of food. Traditionally, most spices are reserved for a specific category, either sweet or savory. However, the latest trends in food have many spices transcending over both categories. Today, there are recipes for rosemary lemon cake or chocolate chip cookies with cayenne pepper.

One spice that has always existed in both categories is ginger. There are so many savory recipes that use ginger-you can probably have a meal with every entree and side dish containing this spice. Also, finding a dessert that contains ginger is not a difficult task, especially around the holidays.

Let's not count the days until the holidays (it is a scary thought since there is so much to do and plan)! Instead of counting days, I decided to roll out a recipe for a "holiday" spiced treat-sort of a preview of things to come. This recipe is for little cream puffs or profiteroles that are filled with passion fruit cream. Instead of using plain pastry for the outer shell, I have added gingerbread spice to the dough. In addition to the spices in the dough, the puff shells, after baking, are topped with a sugary version of the same spice. The end result is a delicious combo of tart and spicy- something special to put you in the holiday spirit.....

There are many recipes for the profiterole shells, however, I experimented with one that had minimal ingredients. A recipe without sugar and milk.This was my first time in creating this type of pastry and the "puff" factor was an issue. I was expecting the dough to rise more in baking. While a pastry chef may consider creating cream puffs and easy task, a newbie should be prepared for trial and error. Due to the level of difficulty, additional attempts with the dough may yield the tall round profiteroles we recognize. However, bear in mind that the shape has no impact on the delicious flavor of these little gems.

The recipe makes a little over 3 dozen. Be sure to read through the whole recipe and the tips at the end prior to making these.

Gingerbread Spice Cream Puffs
by Flourtrader

Ingredients/Gingerbread Pastry Shells or Profiteroles
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp gingerbread spice mix (see recipe below)
1 cup water
4 eggs
4 ounces or 1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Ingredients/ Passion Fruit Cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup passion fruit puree
4 egg yolks
2 tbs plus 2 tsp butter (melted)
1 1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs plus 1 tsp gingerbread spice mix

Ingredients/Gingerbread spice mix (adapted from Genius Kitchen)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

The first step is making the passion fruit curd. Start by filling a saucepan with the sugar, puree and egg yolks. Whisk together and place over medium heat. Continue to whisk while the mixture is cooking. With time, the sugar will dissolve and it will thicken into a pudding-like consistency. The cooking process should take about 12-15 minutes. Test for correct consistency by checking to see if it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and pour in melted butter. Stir until butter is melded into batter. Empty saucepan into a heat proof bowl and cover the surface of the fruit curd with plastic. Place in refrigerator to cool completely before using.

Prepare for the profiteroles by lining two baking sheets with parchment paper. Also, in order to pipe the dough, assemble a piping bag with a coupler fitted with a plain decorating tip. The opening of the piping tip should be no bigger than 1/4 an inch. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a saucepan with the water, spice mix, salt and butter. Let the mixture come to a boil and then remove from heat. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. When ready, you will notice that the dough no longer has a shine to it and it does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a mixer and add one of the eggs. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Repeat the process with the additional eggs, adding one by one. The end result will be a batter thick enough to hold its shape.

Fill the piping bag with some of the dough. Pipe tablespoon size mounds onto the baking sheet, spacing about an inch apart. Place in oven to bake until puffed and golden brown, about 27-35 minutes. Let cool on parchment paper for about 3 minutes, then transfer to rack to completely cool. Continue until all the batter has been baked into profiteroles. Clean the coupler and decorating tip. Set these tools aside for additional use in this recipe.

Once the final batch of profiteroles has completely cooled, take a small paring knife or wooden skewer and punch a hole in each one. The whole should be located in the center of the bottom of each pastry. Then you are ready to create the additional elements.

Beat the heavy whipping cream in a medium size bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Take the passion fruit curd out of the refrigerator and measure out 1/2 cup plus 2 additional tablespoons. Fold that amount into the whipped cream. Assemble another piping bag with the same coupler and decorating tip as used previously. Fill the bag with the passion fruit cream. Pipe the cream into the profiteroles, filling until the cream starts to overflow the hole. Follow this process to fill all the pastries.

Lastly, the topping will be completed. Using a small bowl, stir together the gingerbread spice mix and the sugar. Take each of the filled profiteroles and dip in the butter, covering the top surface only. After dipping in the butter, dip into the sugar mixture and place upright on a serving plate. After topping these little gems, they are ready to serve!

Tips and Notes:
1. The bake time on the standard profiterole recipes span from 20 minutes to 40 minutes- so keep an eye on these when baking. The pastries will lose their sheen and be light and dry with toasted edges when done.

2. Due to the additional of spices, the pastry shells bake up darker in color than the standard.

3. The pastries have some height to them but are always flat on the bottom.

4. If not serving immediately, store in refrigerator.

5. The spice has a more prominent flavor the next day. If you do not opt for the topping but still want a gingerbread flavor-increase the amount of spice and try a recipe that includes milk and sugar in the dough.

6. A single profiterole is about 2 bites which is a lot smaller than a cream puff.

7. Consistency is important when making the dough. If you find that it is too liquid, add a little more flour if needed. Additional time beating the dough will also help.

8. You will have about 3/4-1 cup of passion fruit curd left over. It is delicious as a cake or cupcake filling or just poured over ice cream.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Mini Sweet Potato Cakes**