My take on the French chouquette

chouquette cream puff

After a month-long break, I am back with one of the prettiest posts I have shot in a long time. Let me introduce you to the chouquette, a light, airy pastry that can be decorated any way you wish.

These pastry bites use the same dough as the cream puff, only instead of filling the pastry with cream, you top them with pearl sugar or chocolate to add sweetness and texture. In this post, I wanted to treat them like doughnut holes so that I could offer you guys a healthier alternative to the breakfast staple.

These pastries are a one pot wonder – and they bake up in a flash for those who are impatient bakers. For those starting to look for handmade gift options this holiday season, this is a great option as chouquettes are easy to make and can be decorated quite lavishly. In this post I have created four options for you: the traditional version that is topped with a crunchy homemade pearl sugar, a chouquette topped with chocolate chunks, a cinnamon sugar dusted version, and my personal favorite: a green tea chouquette topped with black sesame.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs

Toppings:

  • Cinnamon sugar (about 1/4 cup should work)
  • Pearl sugar – you can make this by mixing a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water and then pressing it into a heated saucepan. Leave it to cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring and re-pressing a couple times while waiting. It will harden into lumps as it cools.
  • Green tea icing: 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Dark chocolate chunks

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a pot with the water until it is entirely liquified. Bring the butter/water mixture to a boil.

Step 2: Add the flour, nutmeg and salt. Stir until the mix forms into a lump. Keep the pot on the heat and stir the dough vigorously for a minute to evaporate any excess water. You want to create a very thick paste.

Step 3: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir the dough vigorously for a few minutes to help cool the dough down. You want it to be cool enough that you can touch it and not be burned. (If it is too hot or your arm gets tired, you can let it sit for a few minutes to cool off.)

Step 4: Add the eggs one at a time. The dough will become lumpy at first, so you will not want to add all the eggs at once. Beat the egg into the paste until it becomes homogenous before adding the next. When all of the eggs are mixed in, transfer the batter to a plastic bag. (You can easily do this by inserting the bag into a mug, and inverting the mouth of the bag over the rim of the cup.)

Step 5: Cut a centimeter sized opening into the corner of your plastic bag – this will be a makeshift pastry bag. Pipe 1 inch-sized mounds onto the sheet, leaving an inch of space between each. Using a dampened finger, lightly tap on the top of the batter to even out any pointed tips. For those making the sugar or chocolate versions, press the sugar or chocolate chunks into the tops of the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.

Step 6: For those making the cinnamon sugar version, while the pastry is fresh out of the oven and steaming hot, dump the pastry puffs into a bag filled with cinnamon sugar. Close it, and shake to coat evenly. For those making the green tea version, mix the powdered sugar, matcha and water until you have a thick paste. Dip the tops of the pastry into the icing and then top with black sesame seeds.

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chouquette animation

 

Back in Paris (well, kind of) and visiting Versailles

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I’m back with another France post. Like I mentioned in my last post, I am publishing my France trip series a little late since I got sick while I was on vacation. So, I am currently in Texas while writing this. However this post focuses on my days spent at the latter end of my trip. My friend and I centered ourselves around Paris and Versailles.

Photographed above is Palais Royal. This was one of my favorite places to hang out when I studied abroad as my preferred study café was near there. However, this area is also a very popular location for photo shoots – in fact, if you look into the background of the photo, you will see the crew of a photoshoot taking a selfie. You can probably see the photographic appeal of Palais Royal, with all of the striped columns. If you ever visit, look for the railing in the ground. You can see it in the midground of the photo. If you look through the railing, you will see that the columns extend underground. There’s your fun fact for the day.

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Of course, if you visit Paris, Versailles will be a tempting day break away from the city. It is a quick 20 minute ride away, not to mention that it is also a cheap trip. If you take the RER, one of Paris’ commuter trains, the round trip will only cost around 8 euro. Sasha and I have both already been here, so we decided to only come for the gardens as visiting the interior of the castle can take hours of waiting in line.

Fortunately for us, the gardens were free that day. There was also an art exhibit taking place, which would explain the circular mirror in my second photo.

*Also, one more fun fact, there was a bit of breaking news while I was abroad. It was announced that part of the palace grounds would be turned into a luxury hotel. So if you ever want to sleep like royalty, that’s now a possibility. What are your thoughts on that?

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For our remaining days in Paris, we spent most of our time wandering around the city. The main photo in the mosaic was a goat cheese salad I made for my friend. Since she is vegetarian, it was a bit hard to find food that she could eat in the city, so we spent a good amount of time eating in. With that being said, it was incredibly fun to cook over there and eat on my host parent’s terrace. Photographed is a goat cheese salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing. I also found a loaf of fig bread that we used to dip in the leftover dressing.

The photo at the top right corner shows one of my favorite foodie hot spots in Paris. When I was abroad, a friend of mine took me to this café and bakery as it was her favorite place to take a pause and have a coffee or tea. I have since adopted it as my favorite as well. It’s on Rue de Rivoli and sits almost a block or two from the Louvre. Why was it our favorite café in the city? Because it’ s cheap. Well, at least for the neighborhood it is in. You can stop in for a snack and mint tea for under 10 euro. The staff is also very friendly.

Lastly, on my Instagram, you guys might have seen that I visited Père Lachaise cemetery and Parc Buttes Chaumont. The photo on the bottom left corner of the mosaic was my snack while wandering the park. Chouquettes are airy puffs of pastry topped with crunchy chunks of sugar. I will also be recreating this recipe in a future blog post – I just need to figure out how to get my hands on the sugar sprinkles as I have yet to find something similar in the US.

Well, that’s it for my travel posts. I already have some recipes lined up for publication for you guys – one being a flakey chive pancake. However, I will announce that I will launch a series of French-inspired posts influenced by the foods I ate while on vacation. I did hint at it a little, but here is the official notice for it. Anticipate it!

 

Giverny and Rouen | Visiting Monet’s garden and eating my way through Normandy

monet-garden

So this is a belated post. I am currently back in Texas. However, at the end of my trip I caught a bad cold, so I decided to push back blog posts until I got better.

Which brings us to now! Yay. Ok, so with that being said, the next two posts will be France-themed. Like I mentioned on my last post, I travelled around Paris and some northern French cities last week with a college friend. This post will be dedicated to the time spent in Giverny and Rouen, France. Both cities are north of Paris, and are easily accessible by train (Giverny was about 30 minutes away and Rouen 45).

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The main reason we decided to get out of Paris was because we (my friend Sasha and I) wanted to see some of the smaller cities and get a more authentic French feel out of our vacation. While Paris is beautiful, all of the architecture is the same due to Napoleon’s order to have the entire city rebuilt in the 1800s. Because of this, the city can feel monotonous if you have been there before. I really wanted to see some of the countryside and some medieval architecture. Which brought us to Normandy.

Monet lived in Giverny and used his house and garden for a good amount of his subject matter, the waterlily series being one example. When we found out how close Monet’s garden was to Paris, our side trip was decided then and there.

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I figure my photos of the garden are pretty self explanatory – they were gorgeous to say the least. However I also had a bit of a food nerd moment while I was touring Monet’s house. You guys can probably tell that I am an avid cook. So when I saw this gorgeous kitchen, I had to photograph it. Aside from the kitchen, his house was beautiful. There was an entire room dedicated to displaying his paintings.

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We stayed in a neighboring town called Vernon and slept in an adorable Airbnb there. We had what I assume was a renovated carriage house or storage house. We also had shared use of the owner’s garden. Pictured above is her cat (named Truffe).

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I took advantage of the host’s patio table. Sasha and I were pretty exhausted after walking around Giverny, so we spent the afternoon in the garden playing with Truffe, sipping tea, and eating pastries. The next morning we departed for Rouen.

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The photo on the left is one of the few I had of Rouen’s old architecture. The city’s “old” district is full of timbered buildings and hidden churches. There was also a surprising amount of street art – one example can be found on my Instagram. The photo on the right was actually taken in Giverny – there is an awesome garden restaurant next to the Giverny Foundation. It ran like a cafeteria of sorts, you pick up little wooden or paper trays of food and then find a seat outside where you can eat amongst the flowers.

Photographed is a mussel, leek, and fish bake; a beer brewed in Normandy (the cleanest tasting beer I have ever had – it’s made by La Richard Coeur de Lion if you ever come across it); and a rhubarb tart. I will soon be experimenting with a recipe for a similar leek/fish bake as that was one of the best meals I had while on vacation, anticipate the post for it.

Well that’s it for this post! The next one will focus on our travels specific to Paris and Versailles.

I’m back in Paris!

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So for those of you that are new to the blog, I’ll first start off by saying that I studied abroad a year ago. For four months, I lived, studied, and interned in Paris. I came back home to the States knowing that I would come back one day.

However I did not think this day would come so quickly. I am traveling from a college friend and for the next couple posts, I will show you guys what we have seen and eaten around Paris. (Also, just because I cannot bring my camera everywhere with me, you can also follow me on Instagram (@audperki) where I will keep my account frequently updated as I travel.)

We plan on traveling for a little over a week, and we will also hit up Monet’s garden in Giverny, and Rouen. This trip has been planned for months and I am so excited to show you guys our adventures. So far, we haven’t done much as we decided to not push too many sights in too little time. However, I have assembled some photos as a teaser to show you guys what is to come.

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*Shout out to my host family who not only let us stay with them, but also gave us breakfast on the patio this morning. It was such a sight to wake up to. On the left is chestnut paste, some crackers to eat with tea (at least I do), a baguette, and a sampler of plain and chocolate croissants.

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A close up of the croissants because why not.

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The Luxembourg gardens.

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Lastly, a haul of groceries we picked up at the market street where I used to go to school. On the left is fig bread – which I was told was sweet and salty, canelés – which are rum custard cakes, some fruit and vegetables and a roll of goat cheese.

 

s’mores cupcakes

smores cupcakes

This is less of a recipe post and more of an idea post. I am sure you guys have heard of this cupcake before. The s’more cupcake, an easy frosting hack that was popularized on Pinterest as an easy 2-minute solution for lazy bakers. I wanted to use this blog post as an excuse to try the baking hack out and give you guys my take on it.

(For those that want the actual chocolate cupcake recipe, you can find it here. I used one from Sally’s Baking Addiction. (I love her blog, especially when I am looking for something more technical.))

When I made these cupcakes, I had them in mind for a family outing and I wanted them to pop and make a good impression. That idea aside, I can be a fairly impatient cook. This is perfect for people similar to me because this cupcake topping is incredibly easy and takes 2 minutes tops to achieve. In fact, take your eye off of your cupcakes and they will be ruined – it’s that fast of a process.

On most Pinterest posts, you will see this as a two step project. Place the marshmallow on the cake. Then, put it in the oven heated to its broil setting. However here are a couple tips on how to prevent your cupcakes from turning into a Pinterest fail.

  1. Flatten the marshmallow first. This is especially helpful if you want the top of the cupcake to look like it was iced and not just topped with a generic marshmallow. I initially struggled with having a weirdly, partially covered cupcake. I wanted it to look like I had iced everything and then toasted the top. You can achieve this look by flattening the marshmallow into a rectangle, and then laying it flat onto the top of the cake. This way, the heat will hit more of the marshmallow directly, creating an even melted and toasted look. To help things along after the cakes are done toasting, press the melted marshmallow further into the cupcake and it will create a “spreaded” look.
  2. Since the key to this recipe is broiling the marshmallow tops, it is important that you do not walk away from the oven. It takes less than a minute for the marshmallows to toast and seconds for them to move from toasted to completely burned. Be ready with oven mitts and make sure to remove them the moment they have a nice golden brown crust.

Lastly, I have a tip to take this idea to the next level. I liked adding a chocolate drizzle and sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs. The only difference that separates you from having cupcakes that look they came from a boutique is that last minute spent on decorations. Take an extra 30 seconds and melt some chocolate chips. Want to be even more fancy? Microwave a graham cracker for a few seconds to make it soft. From there, you can take a small cookie cutter and cut out some cute shapes and use them to top your cupcakes.

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more cupcakes

No-churn chocolate cherry ice cream

chocolate cherry ice cream

So I can’t take full credit for this post. I have always wanted to master a good, easy method for ice-cream making. While the obvious route would be to buy an ice cream machine, I found that the one I had didn’t incorporate enough air into the cream and left me with an unmanageable block of ice. So, when I saw this technique in a Buzzfeed video, I knew I had to give it a shot.

Like the video says, this method is simple. All you need is a mixer (or a whisk if you don’t mind a lot of hand mixing). However what I will take credit for in this post is the flavor combination – which I must admit is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve always had a slight weakness for cherries mixed with amaretto. Cherry and almond go so well together. However, this recipe also mixes all the flavors and textures that make a good dessert. Creamy, crunchy, sweet, creamy.

Of course, you guys can switch out your flavor combinations. Not legal for the amaretto? You can sub in almond extract. Want more chocolate? You can mix cocoa into the whipped cream and then add the chocolate chunks. The only key here is that you use heavy whipping cream (compared to a less fatty whipping cream) or you will not get as stable of a mix for the freezer.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped fresh cherries soaked in one shot of amaretto
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

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Step 1: Whip whipping cream until you get stiff peaks. Start the mixer slow and slowly increase the speed to prevent splattering cream everywhere. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk, mix again until well combined.

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Step 2: Mix in the cherries, remaining cherry juice/amaretto and chocolate. Be careful to not over mix or you will deflate the ice cream base.

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Step 3: Pour mix into a dish. Cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap, making sure to have the plastic touch the surface of the cream. Tuck the plastic into the edges created between the cream and the edge of the dish, this will create a good seal that will prevent the surface of the cream from drying out or absorbing any smells lingering in your freezer. Freeze overnight.

 

Fresh mint tea with honey and orange blossom water

mint tea

I first thought of this recipe after looking back at old photos from when I was abroad last year. When I lived in Paris, my friend and I liked to go to this Middle Eastern café on the right bank because it was cheap and close to the Louvre. Almost every time we went, we shared a pot of their mint tea and a handful of rosewater tinged marzipan sweets. However, my favorite part of ordering their tea was how they served it. Before them, I had never tried orange blossom water before. However next to the tea pot, they kept an ornate dispenser that dripped a couple drops of orange blossom water into your tea if you wanted. Ever since then I have been obsessed with the stuff.

When I got home from school this summer, I found that my backyard had been overrun with fresh spearmint. Since it was going to have to be removed, I figured I would save some and make tea with it. It also gave me a chance to break out my nearly untouched bottle of orange blossom water.

*Quick tip, the flower water is very potent, so if you get your hands on some and plan to use it, be sparing with it or your tea will become perfume.

Don’t think you would like orange blossom water? No worries. This tea is perfect on its own or over ice. You could also mix it with other loose tea or fresh lemon zest. Now on to the recipe:

ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • honey to taste, around 1/4 cup to start
  • 1 to 2 drops orange blossom water per cup, add more to your choosing

Step 1: Place the mint in a tea pot then add the honey. Pour in the boiling water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes until the water is golden brown.

Step 2: Pour into your cup and add the orange blossom water. Again, be very careful with the stuff or you will get an overwhelmingly perfume-y tea. A drop or two will do it.