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.

bite-high-quality

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

 

Chocolate raspberry tart with almond filling

final-chocolate-tart

Here is the first post in my French food series! A few months ago, I returned to Paris to visit my host family and see my old haunts. While there, I had a few posts that showed you what I visited and ate. (Which you can see here, here and here.) I also hinted to launching a French food series where I show you how to make my take on French food. This will be my first post on the topic.

After landing in France, one of the first things I ate was an almond pear tart. These tarts are commonly found in neighborhood bakeries and are one of the more approachable French desserts that someone could make. (Though, if I am completely honest, any French dessert will be a bit tedious in order for it to be pretty and pristine.)

For this recipe, I wanted to use fresh raspberries and dark chocolate to give the otherwise light tart a deeper flavor. Here, I mix melted dark chocolate in the batter to give the almond filling a gooey, creamy texture.

chocolate-tart-pan

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (just so I can pretend this is slightly healthy – but it also gives good texture)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into centimeter-sized cubes
  • 1/8 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs orange liqueur
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Step1: We will start with the crust. Mix all of the crust’s dry ingredients in a bowl, and then massage the butter into the flour with your fingers. It will become mealy, almost like wet sand. Slowly incorporate the cold water into the dough until it comes together. (If by any chance you choose to use an entirely all-purpose flour crust, you will need to double the amount of water.) Knead the dough ball a few times to ensure everything is well mixed, and then shape it into a flattened rectangle. (If you make a round tart, keep the circle shape) Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Step 2: When the dough is fully cooled ( you do this to re-solidify the butter and make the dough easy to roll), roll the dough into a thin sheet big enough to fill your tart pan. In the end, my dough was about half a centimeter thick. Press the dough into a greased tart pan and then prick the bottom of the dough with a fork to prevent air pockets. Cover the dough with parchment paper or foil, and then fill the tart with dry beans. This will ensure the crust stays flat and even.

Step 3: Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until the edges have hardened and slightly shrunk away from the pan. Remove the beans and foil, and return the crust back to the oven to brown the surface of the bottom of the crust. This will be another 5 minutes.

Step 4: While the crust is baking, make the filling. Heat the butter in a saucepan on high and cook it until it browns slightly. Then add the chocolate into the hot butter to melt. Mix until homogenous. Mix in the almond flour, sugar, vanilla, liqueur and salt. When fully combined, and the mix is not overly hot, add the eggs. Stir to combine.

Step 5: Pull the tart shell from the oven, and reduce the oven’s temperature to 375. Pour the almond mixture into the shell and then press the raspberries into the filling. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes. When done, the top of the almond filling should look similar to the top of a brownie, and it should not jiggle when agitated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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baked

Cherry clafoutis

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The first time I ate clafoutis was at a birthday party my host family held. As you guys may have read in my About page, I lived in Paris with a  Franco-Italian host family this last Spring semester of college. As awkward as it was with the language barrier, the family always invited me to their family gatherings.

My host aunt brought over two desserts, an apple and prune clafoutis. Both of which were shoveled onto my plate at dessert with a stern look from my host uncle. He said, “You must try both of them, my wife made them and they are delicious.” I, with a completely full stomach, accepted with a hesitant smile. He then made an “I’m watching you,” gesture with two of his fingers and then gestured to the two plates of cake. I all but licked my plate clean under his watchful eye and received an “I told you so.”

Regardless of how full I was, I loved those desserts. Mostly because of how simple they were. My host aunt explained the steps to me, it was pretty easy. A clafoutis is basically a custard poured over fruit, then baked. In the oven it will rise, looking almost like a cloud. Once cooled it sinks back down to create a dense cake. Cherries in this case make the dessert pretty striking and the acidity helps cut through the sweetness of this dessert.

*Fun fact for the day, the clafoutis cake (pronounced like clah-foo-tee) originates from the Limousin region of France. Looking back on my time there, I knew my host mother’s family originated from a southwestern area close to that region. Though I never found out what actual city where she was from, I wonder if she came from the region of the clafoutis.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup pitted, halved cherries

 

sugar

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, salt and zest.

 

eggs

Add the eggs. Stir.

 

milk

Then add in the milk and extract.

 

fill 1/3

Pour enough mixture to fill a greased dish 1/3 of the way. Bake at 350 °F just long enough to create a skin at the surface stable enough to support the cherries. This can take about 5 minutes depending on your baking dish.

 

cherries

Pull out the dish and add the cherries. Sprinkle with a little additional sugar. For those watching their sugar, you can either adjust or omit this step.

 

fill

Pour the remaining batter on top and return to the oven for another 40 minutes. The clafoutis is done when it is puffed, like a cloud, and golden brown. A toothpick when inserted should come out clean.

 

final 2

Let cool just enough for the cake to sink back down. While this dish is good cold, it is best warm with a bit of ice cream like shown above in my mini version made with leftover ingredients.

 

 

 

Roasted strawberry ice-cream sandwiches

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One of the best memories I have from elementary school was scrounging up a dollar to contribute to my “I want ice-cream” fund. On the days when that did happen, there was no better joy I remember than almost falling into the cafeteria’s ice-cream freezer in my search for cookies and cream bars.

Which is my theme for this week. Childhood favorites. I have three posts lined up that focus on my favorite foods from when I was younger: ice cream, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and mac and cheese. Only now I am updating them.

This will be my first post on the subject, a roasted strawberries and cream bar.

This is a very easy recipe that doesn’t actually use ice cream. It uses whipped cream. I found that this gave the bar a good density while also making the sandwich pretty light. With all of the air blended into the cream, it instantly melts in your mouth once you bite into it.

Let’s just say these won’t last that long.

Ingredients:

  • 12 graham cracker squares
  • 2 cups hulled, quartered strawberries
  • Juice of one medium lemon
  • 5 tablespoons sugar (divided into 2 parts of 3 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Zest of one medium lemon

 

prep

Mix the strawberries, juice, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl.

Roast

Line a baking sheet with a greased sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the edges up to create walls – this will lock all of the juices inside and prevent heavy burning on the baking sheet. Pour the strawberry mixture on the foil, making sure to leave behind any juice that accumulated at the bottom of the bowl.

Roasted

Roast the berries at 400 °F for 30 minutes, stirring them once after 15 minutes. This will coat them in any juices they release. Take them out and cool completely.

Chop

Once cooled, take the strawberries and roughly chop them in a food processor. This can also be done by hand. Set aside.

whip

Whip the half cup of whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Continue until you achieve stiff peaks. (The whipped cream on the whisk attachment should stay upright when turned upside down.)

Fold

Gently fold in the strawberry mixture and lemon zest.

Trim

Taking a graham cracker, dollop a good amount of whipped cream in the center. The amount is up to you, but keep in mind that my yield will make about 6 square-shaped sandwiches. Place another graham cracker on top.

Freeze for 3 – 4 hours.

If you want a really clean edge, like shown in the photo, before freezing use a spatula to completely fill any gaps between the crackers. There should not be any space left. Then when the sandwiches are completely frozen, a sharp knife can cut away the edges for a pretty layered effect.

 

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Also, don’t forget the chocolate drizzle.