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Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy pork chops in a cream sauce

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The secret ingredient — Cider Maker’s Select … Rest Easy from the Naramata Cider Company

Seasoned with garlic cloves and shallots, this easy to make pork chops recipe is elevated into the stratosphere with its apple and blackberry hard cider and velvety cream sauce. Adapted from blogger queen of France’s Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook, French Country Cooking, the recipe takes less than a half hour to prepare.

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Keeping it local…all the ingredients were sourced in the Okanagan Valley including the Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy, lovely thick pork chops from T-Bones in Penticton, cream from D Dutchman Dairy and vegetables from my garden and the Penticton Farmer’s Market.

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 2.5 cm thick
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup Rest Easy Naramata Cider Company apple and blackberry cider
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

IMG_6972.jpgDirections

Preheat oven to 325F

Score the pork chops on both sides and season all over with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops and garlic cloves, reduce the heat to medium and cook just until the juices run clear (about 7 minutes per side).

Transfer the pork chops to an ovenproof dish, put the sage leaves on top and spoon the pan drippings over all. Put in the oven to keep warm.

Increase the heat under the pan to high and pour in the cider. Boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Add the heavy cream, stir until thickened and remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce on top of the chops and serve. Pair with the remaining cider!

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Amaretti Amaretto limone tarts

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Not to be all fancy pants Italian, these lovely tart lemon tarts have almonds three ways in the buttery tart shells…crushed Amaretti biscuits, Amaretto liqueur and ground almonds (almond flour). The lemon curd uses fresh eggs and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Topping them off is a small cloud of Amaretto meringue topping.
IMG_5863.jpgTart shell ingredients
Makes eight 4-inch tart shells or six 6-inch shells
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground amaretti cookies (I bought mine at La Cucina in Penticton.) Look for them in an Italian store. (Place a handful of amaretti in between sheets of parchment and crush them with a rolling pin)
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened but still cold
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, and ground cookies; set aside.

  2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle over confectioners’ sugar and toss, using your hands, until butter is fully coated. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until butter and sugar are well combined.

  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, add egg yolk, and continue beating until combined. Reduce speed to medium-low and slowly add the flour mixture; beat until well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and add heavy cream and Amaretto; beat until well combined. Form dough into a large ball using your hands. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight if you make the day before.

  4. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and cut into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on the size of tart shell you select. Gently knead each piece of dough into a smooth disc, using a spatula to turn dough, as it will be sticky. Add more flour to work surface if necessary. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough until chilled, about 10 minutes.

  5. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch or 8-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer each round to a 4-inch or 6-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and gently press into tart pan. Roll a rolling pin over each tart shell, pressing lightly to trim any excess dough; discard.

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  6. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and prick the bottom of each tart pan with a fork; transfer baking sheet to refrigerator and chill 30 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake tart shells until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

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 Lemon curd ingredientsIMG_5889.jpg
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 6 lemons depending on their size)
  • Grated zest of two of the lemons
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue topping) ((Come on Maria…please lay one more egg as I only have 6…Yippeeee…good chicken)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

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Directions

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice/zest and whisk until combined.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened…about 6 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk in the butter. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.

Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to stop a nasty skin from forming. Set aside at room temp. until you have made the meringue and are ready to assemble the tarts.

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Lots of egg photos…eggs as art when you have your own chickens.

Amaretto meringue ingredients

  • The 7 large egg whites you have reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Amaretto liqueur

Directions

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a nonreactive mixing bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 140 degrees…about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan, with an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high until stiff peaks form adding the cream of tartar after about 3 minutes. Mix a further 3 minutes and then add the Amaretto and mix just to incorporate.

Some assembly required

Add the warm lemon curd to the pre-baked tart shells. Drop a dollop of meringue on top of the lemon curd and place under a preheated broiler until the meringue is lightly browned.

These tarts should be eaten within 24 hours (no problemo).

(You will have left over meringue…unavoidable to have enough yolks to make the curd…you can make meringue cookies with the leftovers. You may also have leftover lemon curd. Refrigerate and enjoy like pudding.)

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Cocktail hour – Legend’s Rosemary Swizzle

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A Naramata sun sets in this lovely Rosemary Swizzle at Legend Distilling.

Students of the latest Naramata Blend cooking class, (or as a participant dubbed us Naramata Blenders)  completed Mixology 101 by learning to make a Rosemary Swizzle. Once made, our final exam was to sip and enjoy this refreshing, aromatic cocktail made with local hand-crafted spirits and wine. We passed.

Rosemary Swizzle

Recipe created by Chris Mason Stearns – Mixologist extraordinaire

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Ingredients

  • 1 oz Legend Distilling Doctor’s Orders Gin (You can substitute of course…but it won’t taste as good)
  • 2 oz Elephant Island Crab Apple wine (Again…if you can’t source Elephant Island use another brand of crabapple wine but the taste won’t be as amazing, merely just great)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 splash fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp simple syrup (see below)
  • top with soda water
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Dawn Lennie (who along with Doug Lennie owns Legend Distilling) was our mixology professor.

Preparation

In a highball glass full of ice, combine all ingredients except soda. Muddle the edge of the glass with the sprig of rosemary. Top up with soda water and garnish with a large rosemary sprig. Serve with a straw.

Dawn’s mixology tips

How to make your own simple syrup

Simple syrup is, as the name implies, very simple to make and it is an essential item to stock in any bar or kitchen. Also called sugar syrup, you will find it in many mixed drinks including the Mojito, Daiquiri, and Hurricane and it can be used for your coffee, tea, and homemade sodas as well.

This sweetener is primarily used as a substitute for cane sugar because the sugar is already dissolved into the syrup. Simple syrup adds a rich volume to drinks and there are a few ways to make it.

Making your own simple syrup is also more economical than buying it at the store. You can make as small or as large a batch as you wish and store it in the refrigerator in a well-sealed bottle for two to three months.

When the only ingredients are sugar and water, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be making simple syrup at home.

Boil the kettle and combine equal parts (1:1) sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

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Some cocktail ingredients, such as the fresh rosemary in the Swizzle, are added simply for aroma.

It’s about balance

The cornerstone of cocktail making is in the understanding of the relationships between strong and weak, and sour and sweet. ‘Strong’ refers to the main alcohol component of the drink, such as vodka, rum or the Doctor’s Orders Gin in the Swizzle; ‘weak’ means the lesser alcoholic beverages, such as liqueurs, fortified wines or the Elephant Island Crabapple Wine Dawn used; ‘sour’ mainly means citrus fruits, such as lemon or lime; and ‘sweet’ accounts for sugar and syrups.

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The Crab Apple gave the Rosemary Swizzle a lovely colour.

A Chef’s stock-in-trade – vegetable stock done right

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Caramelizing is king… Photo by class participant Patrizzio Dunn

Vegetable stock…how hard can that be to make? Done right, it’s not so much hard as slow, Chef Mike Sonier tells participants of the third Naramata-Blend cooking class, “Cooking done right takes time. You can’t make great food on the fly. There is no cutting corners. Food takes time. Cooking with proper ingredients and from scratch is about flavour and nutrition. If you take one thing away tonight it’s take time to cook for yourself.

“Take a minute to look at the ingredients on a packaged stock from the grocery shelf,” he says. “It’s full of MSG, sodium, food colouring and some things not on the labels like GMO ingredients and pesticides.” In addition to the superior flavours of home made stock, it’s also about what’s not in it, he says.

Chef Mike shares his vegetable stock recipe with us and more importantly his tips to make it well.

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Vegetable Stock

Ingredients

Choose organic vegetables if at all possible. On a side note Chef Mike says always choose organic vegetables for juicing as the process will pull out any of the chemicals found in non-organic vegetables, “not doing yourself any favour.” Good quality ingredients makes a night and day difference to your end product, Chef Mike adds.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 head celery
  • 3 pounds carrots
  • 6 yellow medium onions
  • Handful of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil stems, parsley
  •  4 bay leaves
  • ½ tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 10-15 litres spring water

 

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Choose organic vegetables and buy local if possible.

Method

  1. Wash celery and carrots thoroughly. Peel very top layer of onions.
  2. Chop celery and carrots into 2” pieces. Chop onions into 6 pieces while leaving shells and ends on.
  3. Place stock pot on burner over medium heat until pot is warm but not hot.
  4. Place onions and olive oil into pot. Reduce temperature to a low heat and caramelize until starting to brown.

Mike says that the onion caramelizing is crucial to making a good stock. The sweet flavour of the caramelized onions will be the main flavour of your stock and sweet makes for a great flavour profile. Some of the onions will stick to the bottom of the pot…this is what you want.

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Onions starting to caramelize. Mike says Chefs work by their noses and can tell by the sweet smell when the onions are caramelized to perfection.
  1. Add garlic cloves, celery and carrots. Increase temperature to medium-high heat, stirring frequently and allowing vegetables to stick and brown to pot. (Keep a close eye on temperature as you may need to reduce heat if starting to burn).

The garlic will turn dark brown and some will even turn black which Mike says is “totally fine.” “You want a really dark colour in your stock because that will mean its flavourful.”

Chef Mike shows us the technique of scraping only some areas of the pot at a time incorporating the dark flavourful bits into the mixture.

  1. Once vegetables have fully caramelized (this takes awhile…don’t rush this step) then add in your spring water, herbs, peppercorns and bay leaves. Increase temperature to high heat until boiling.
  2. Once boiling lower your temperature down to a low-simmer and continue to reduce liquids until pot has only ¾ left. This can take from 6 to up to 18 hours depending on how potent or concentrated you want your stock to be. For soup you may only want to reduce by a quarter but for a more intense flavour for a dish like risotto, Mike says to reduce by 3/4 or more.
  3. Taste stock as it’s reducing to achieve desired flavour profile that suits your needs.
  4. Cool down in pot. Once cooled, cover and set in refrigerator to incorporate full-flavourfor a minimum of 24 hours.
  5. Double strain liquids with mesh strainer into sealable containers to keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Discard the vegetables which no longer have any nutritional value.
  6. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 7 days. Freezes in 1 litre containers for up to 6 months.
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The Naramata-Blend cooking class was a combination of demonstration and hands-on.
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We also learned how to make Salt Spring Island Mussels in a garlic cream sauce giving some Naramata Blenders their first taste of a mussel.
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The white wine, garlic, cream sauce was amazing.

Chef Mike Sonier and his business Knotweed is focused on catering events around British Columbia, consulting and finishing up a cookbook that has been in the works for several years. Coming soon, he will be opening a new location that will be geared towards a gastro-styled restaurant on BC’s coast. Knotweed will also be catering, hosting pop up events and workshops in the Okanagan.

“I’m more than stoked to be back on the coast creating coastal dishes that will complete my cookbook, after creating all my land dishes over the years when I’ve been in British Columbia’s interior,” he says. “This journey that I’ve been on out here in B.C has been absolutely incredible and it feels like it has just begun.”

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Chef Mike and his Sous Chef and partner Sierra

 Next up on the blog, a recipe for Legend Distilling‘s Rosemary Swizzle from the mixology component of the cooking class.

Make your own Petit Ecolier French dark chocolate crowned butter cookies

Petit Ecolier…a petite history

One of the Handyman’s favourite varieties of biscuits is the French treat, Petit Ecolier. They have a butter biscuit base and an embossed chocolate top featuring a little schoolboy.
Made by the LU cookie company, their excellent quality cookies dominate the supermarket offering in France. More than 150 years ago, the LU cookie company was begun in the western city of Nantes by the husband and wife team Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile (the first initials in their last names were combined to name the company).

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At first the company was mostly just a luxury store where people came to buy carefully crafted cookies, served with great show and packaged for gift giving. Over time and as the company’s care was passed from one generation to the next, the company changed over to the industrialized production of cookies.

Their marketing campaigns featured many delightful advertisements created by artists, and the le Petit Ecolier (Little School Boy) painted by Firmin Bouisset became emblematic for the LU company. The company has now been taken over by Kraft but the quality has remained the same.

The Handyman’s go-to Petit Ecolier is now made by Quebec company Leclerc that began making their Celebration version about 15 years ago. The chocolate top features an image of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. This company was formed in 1905.
In a small backroom at his family home on Arago Street in Quebec City, Francois Leclerc baked his very first cookies. These cookies were from  a tried-and-true jelly cookie recipe belonging to his wife, Zelia.

This version, made in Quebec, has a 45% cocoa dark chocolate cookie topper.

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Another Quebec company gives us the tools to hack the secret of the Petit Ecolier.

Ricardo Cuisine makes a butter cookie cutter and chocolate moulds kit that works beautifully to let you make your own version at home and up the ante by adding no artificial flavours or soya lecithin and increasing the cocoa content of the chocolate.

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Adding to the fun element…you can create cookies with the chocolate moulds that have French and English versions of a few sayings…such as “home made”, “made with love” and “yum”.

The butter cookies are easy to make although it takes awhile to make all the chocolate tops with the six moulds provided in the kit (which costs under $20).

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Butter cookie base

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Directions

Place flour, sugar, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. (You could also do this by hand cutting in the butter.) In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla; with motor running, add to food processor. Process just until a dough forms. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so to chill.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F degrees.

Roll dough out to a bit less than a 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and use the Ricardo butter cookie cutter (which works very well by the way…nice sharp edges). Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

IMG_3927.jpgChocolate toppers

Ingredients

  • 2   90 gram 70 per cent dark chocolate bars. (I used Godiva Belgian chocolate.
  • 2   250 gram high-quality dark chocolate chips. (I used Ghirardelli 60 per cent cacao chocolate.)

Directions

Place the chocolate in a non-reactive metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and melt the chocolate stirring occasionally. Once melted carefully pour into the chocolate moulds ensuring the chocolate gets into all the crevices of the mould. Keep the chocolate over the simmering water while you continue to make the six batches you will need. Place the moulds in the refrigerator or in a cool place (I put them outdoors on a winter day) for a few minutes for the chocolate to set up. Carefully unmould the chocolate by loosening the edges. If you break any of the toppers simply put the pieces back into your melted chocolate in the double boiler so you can re-use it.

If you let your cookies cool for just two minutes and then place the chocolate disks on top of them, the chocolate will melt nicely and adhere to the biscuits. (Thanks good folks at Ricardo for this tip.) If like me, you didn’t have all your toppers ready beforehand, you can “glue” them onto the butter cookies with a few dabs of the melted chocolate. (You could also use Nutella.)

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The Handyman’s verdict on these fun to make cookies? “Delicious and they are even bigger than the store-bought ones which is a very good thing.”

Allegory of Spring raspberry pistachio almond sponge gateaux

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Fit for Botticelli’s lovely ladies dancing on the wall’s of Florence’s Uffizi and good buddy Bill’s birthday.
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Here is a second version with violets for decoration.

This lovely little light cake serves eight with nary a crumb left. The homemade pistachio paste whipped into the Swiss meringue buttercream gives the cake’s layer’s a primavera hue and a nice nutty flavour that complements the almond sponge perfectly.

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Homemade pistachio paste

Expensive to buy, if you can find it, pistachio paste is not hard to make yourself and the results are pretty great.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams shelled pistachios (If you can’t find shelled, do the shelling yourself as I did…buy about 450 grams of  un-shelled pistachios to give you the 200 grams you will need allowing for snacking while you shell)
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams sugar
  • About an ounce of water
  • A few drops of almond extract

Directions
Using a coffee grinder (my choice), mortar and pestle or a blender, grind the pistachios until smooth.
Transfer the ground pistachios in a large bowl and mix in the almond meal
Add the almond extract. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat until the temperature reaches 115-120 degrees C, stirring constantly.
Immediately pour the sugar/water mixture into the nut mixture and mix quickly to prevent the sugar from crystalizing.
While mixing the mixture to form a paste (kneading with your hands is best), you may have to add more water in order to achieve a marzipan-like texture. Add only 1 teaspoon at a time.
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. Freeze for longest shelf life.
Makes about 12 ounces of paste so enough for this cake and for the next time you bake it.

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Almond sponge cake ingredients

Almond sponge cake

You will need a 10 by 15 inch cake pan to get the three six-inch round cake layers and you will need and a six-inch cake ring. Alternatively you can use a 9 by 13 inch pan and Macgyver one of the layers by cutting out two half circles and piecing them together to use in the middle layer of the cake (or you can use a hexagonal shaped pan if your husband remembers his math formulas and can calculate the area and compare it to the recommended 10 by 15 inch pan that I didn’t have.)

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Got to love it when a plan comes together.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (85g) icing sugar sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10 by 15 inch or 9 by 13 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale in colour. (I cheated and used an immersion blender). Sift in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs whites until they start to foam and add the granulated sugar and cream of tarter and mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it out with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

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Pistachio Buttercream

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Pistachio buttercream and raspberries for the layers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pistachio paste

Directions

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and place over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on to top of the saucepan to make a double boiler. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it is hot to the touch. Fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks.

Change to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter a few cubes at a time then the vanilla and pistachio paste. Once all incorporated, turn the mixer up of medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth.

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Some assembly required

Lift the cake out of the pan using a spatula. Invert it on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment. Using a 6-inch cake ring cut out three rounds of cake. Place the cake ring on a cake board or plate and place the bottom layer of cake inside the cake ring. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip with the pistachio buttercream. Pipe about a 1/2 cup of the filling and press into sides of the cake ring. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Place half the raspberries on top of the buttercream pressing them in lightly. Fill in the gaps between the berries with more buttercream. Add another cake layer pressing down lightly and repeat with the buttercream and berries. Top the final layer of buttercream with the third layer of cake and refrigerate to set for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Once set, insert a knife around the inside of the cake ring carefully wiggle the cake ring off. Dust the top with icing sugar before serving and add edible flowers to garnish if you like.

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Allegory of Spring ladies just before they sat down to a picnic lunch with my cake for dessert.
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Digressing…hard left…but I love the Florence home to the Botticelli ladies. Favourite city in Europe. Hope to go back some day…
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I think Botticelli would have liked this cake…Bill did.

School of Pastry and Chef Amanda’s lemon meringue eclair

Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Pastry Co. in Naramata is a pastry sorceress. She used her magic to teach 20 home cooks of varying skill how to make four different choux pastry creations with fillings and toppings with voluptous names: Pate a choux, vanilla, raspberry and chocolate chantilly cream, chocolate ganache glaze, lemon curd (OK, not sexy but tastes pretty zippy), Swiss meringue and chocolate creme chibout.

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The cooking class series was organized under the auspices of the blog and this class was a sweet success participants tell me because of Chef Amanda’s knowledge, organization, and enthusiasm, the fun group of participants and the tasty bubbles from Bella Wines in Naramata.

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Charlie goes a bit off piste with her take on the St. Honore.

Chef Amanda is happy to share with all you chibouts three of the recipes from the class that miraculously combine to make lemon meringue eclairs.

Pâte à choux

Pâte à choux, or choux paste, is a paste made of flour, water, butter, and eggs — it’s slightly thicker than a batter, but not quite as thick as a dough. It’s pronounced “pat a shoe”. “Pâte” means paste and “choux” means cabbage — the name comes from the resemblance to little cabbages when the puffs come out of the oven.

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The paste is thick enough that it can be scooped or piped into almost any shape you can think of, from puffs to éclair shells to thin straws. It contains no yeast or other leavening; instead, as the liquids in the paste evaporate in the oven, they puff up the pastry, creating a hard outer shell and a nearly hollow interior perfect for piping in creamy bursts of flavour.

The goal, according to Chef Amanda, is a light, crispy delicious pastry.

Ingredients

  • Water  500 ml
  • Butter  225 g
  • Salt       5 g
  • Bread flour  275 g
  • Large eggs  9

Directions

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Fit a star-shapped piping tip into a disposable piping bag. Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once boiling add the flour all at once and stir vigorously to remove all the lumps. The goal here is to cook some of the starch out and remove a good amount of the moisture through steam so the dough won’t result in a soggy pastry. Keep stirring until the paste comes away from the sides of the pot and there is a bit of a film on the pot’s bottom.

Transfer the paste to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 30 seconds or so to release more moisture. (Don’t skip this first step and add the eggs too early or they will scramble in the hot mixture.)

Add the eggs one by one until the paste comes together smoothly.

Fill a pastry bag with the paste and begin by piping four small dots of choux paste on the corners of your baking sheet under the parchment paper to adhere your paper to the tray.

Using the star-shapped piping tip, pipe 4-inch lines of dough onto your parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Wet down a finger in a bowl of water and smooth out the end tip once piped. (Amanda tells us that the pastry tip makes lines that bring more space for the eclairs to rise and open. If you don’t have a star tip…use a fork to make the lines.)

Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on a rack while making your lemon curd and Swiss meringue.

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Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is similar to pie filling but the texture is smoother and the flavor more intense. Pie filling is thickened with flour or cornstarch while lemon curd uses egg yolks and natural pectin in the zest and juice of the lemon. The secret to the smooth texture in lemon curd is butter unlike the commercial pie fillings.

Chef Amanda gift to us – her super secret lemon curd recipe.

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Ingredients

  • Lemon juice & zest   500 ml (about 9 lemons)
  • Large eggs   6
  • Large egg yolks   12
  • Sugar 400 g
  • Butter (cold)  340 g

Directions

Combine the lemon juice & zest, eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a bain marie (a non-reactive metal bowl set on top of a pot of gently boiling water or double boiler). Cook until thick and foamy. Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks stirring well until all the butter is incorporated. Strain the curd and chill well before use either over an ice bath or in the fridge.

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Locked and loaded…ready for filling.
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Champagne doesn’t hurt or more precisely, sparkling rose Orchard House Gamay from Bella Wines in Naramata.

Swiss Meringue

Ingredients

  • Egg white to sugar ratio by weight 1:2

Directions

Whisk over bain marie (double boiler) until sugar is dissolved. Whisk on high with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Some assembly required

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Using a wooden skewer, poke a hole near each end of the top of the eclair.

Fill a pastry bag with a round tip with lemon curd and squeeze the curd into both holes in the eclair moving the bag around to fill as much of the hollow choux pastry eclair as possible. Wipe off any excess on the top of the eclair.

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Fire up the torch!

Using a star tip pipe overlapping dollops of the Swiss meringue onto the filled eclairs. Use a kitchen torch to give the meringue its signature caramelized topping.

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Some suggested resources from Chef Amanda

Local (Penticton)
Bulk Barn – cake boxes and boards, gel food colourings, bulk Callebaut chocolate,
Wholesale Club – plastic deli cups, large bags of flour and sugar

Vancouver
Gourmet Warehouse – pastry tools and molds galore, some specialty ingredients
Williams Sonoma  offset spatulas, Chicago Metallic brand good quality baking sheets, Silpats, the blowtorch that I use
Ming Wo — only the Chinatown location (Vancouver restauranteur secret – the Chinatown Ming Wo has every tool and gadget that a professional chef could need)

Online
www.goldaskitchen.ca – Canada’s leading online resource for specialty pastry and decorating tools.
www.jbprince.com – the most complete tool catalog for pastry chefs. Every specialty product and tool imaginable can be found here!
www.vanillafoodcompany.ca – a great Canadian website for Valrhona and Cacao Barry chocolate, Neilsen Massey extracts, and also quite a good selection of tools.

Okanagan Noir chocolate sozzled cherry cookies

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I created this recipe to showcase the unveiling of a bespoke Okanagan chocolate. With this trademarked chocolate the Okanagan Valley has put the frosting on its reputation as Canada’s food and wine capital. Chocolate, wine and orchard fruit…yes!

Until you can get your hands on this beautiful chocolate from Okanagan College, the locally-sourced CC Orchards Naramata dried cherries and special Wild Goose Dunkelfelder wine to create the ultimate gooey, chocolatey, tart cookie I will suggest substitutes…

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Okanagan College is the first post-secondary institution outside of Europe and only the second in the world to create its very own chocolate recipes. The exclusive milk and dark chocolate recipes were created by Chef Danny Capadouca and Chef Bernard Casavant last summer when the pair traveled to Paris to the Or NoirTMII tasting laboratories of Cacao Barry, a chocolate company founded in 1842. More on how you design a chocolate in an upcoming post on the blog with an interview from Chef Bernard…It’s tough work right?

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces Okanagan Noir chocolate (or 70% cocoa dark chocolate), coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dried CC Orchards cherries, firmly packed (9 ounces)
  • 1 cup Wild Goose Dunkelfelder (or other fruit-forward red high quality red wine)
  • icing sugar for dusting (optional)
  • further 1/2 cup of Okanagan Noir or other high-quality dark chocolate for drizzling over baked cookies (optional)

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Directions

The night before you want to make your cookies, macerate (soak) the 1 1/2 cups of dried cherries in one cup of red wine overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Strain the cherries reserving the wine to drink! Chop the cherries into two or three pieces; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined. Do not overbeat.

With a wooden spoon, fold in Okanagan Noir chocolate and cherries. (Dough can be frozen at this point, wrapped well in plastic, up to 1 month; thaw completely before baking.)
Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar and drizzle melted Okanagan Noir over the icing sugar topped cookies for even more chocolatey flavour.

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Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 3 days. Three days? As if that is going to happen…

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Mandelhornchen – Amazingly easy delicious German holiday cookies

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These German delicacies contain a hat trick of almonds – marzipan, ground almonds and sliced almonds and the horseshoe is then dipped in dark chocolate. Also call almond horseshoes or almond horns they are very easy to make. The key is to buy good quality marzipan. I bought mine at La Cucina European Market. Another tip is to work clean, as my pastry chef instructor drilled into us. By this I mean, make sure to clean out your bowl and beaters well using every scrap of your expensive ingredients in your cookies.

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Ingredients

  • 10 ounces good quality marzipan (almond paste), broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces finely ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

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Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix marzipan, almonds and sugar on low speed until well combined (mixture may appear a bit dry at this point). Mix in egg white and almond extract until combined.

Toast sliced almonds in your preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Divide dough into 12 equal portions (about 1 rounded tablespoon each). Working one at time, roll each ball into almonds as you shape it into 4 1/2-inch ropes with blunt ends. Shape rope into U shape and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining balls of dough, evenly spacing apart from each other.

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Bake cookies until just beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on pan 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

 

In a medium bowl over pan of barely simmering water, melt half of chocolate, stirring gently, then add remaining chocolate and stir to melt. Dip ends of almond horns in chocolate and place back on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chill cookies in fridge until set. Serve cookies at room temperature.

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