Sometimes you just need a break. Right Izzy? A break from life on the first floor to explore the carpeted realm of the stairs and beyond. Until she peed in Luke’s office. Twice. In one night. I think someone was upset that her mom forgot to give her fresh hay in a reasonable timeframe. What a fresh bunny we have.
But I’m talking about a different kind of break. Yes, August is peach month and I’m sure you’ve seen enough posts about what to do with your 80 pounds of peaches you just couldn’t resist getting at the farmer’s market.
Well, there won’t be any of that here today. I need a break. A break from peaches and stone fruit, a break from zucchini and squash, because honestly, I can only eat so much of it before I’m thankful their season is over.
So let’s make something unseasonal. Or rather, something that’s always in season. Chocolate’s popularity never waxes and wanes; its versatility manifested in its ability to lend its flavors to other dishes while still remaining distinct.
I thought about a chocolate peach dessert. I thought about it long and hard, but in the end decided I just wanted chocolate. And marshmallow fluff. Because that never goes out of style either, right?
Adapted from Annie’s Eats
Makes 24-26 cupcakes
For the cake:
1¾ cups plus 2 Tbsp cake flour
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
6 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1 cup canola oil
1¾ cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
6 Tbsp water
For the filling and frosting swirl:
2 cups marshmallow fluff
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
½ tsp cream or milk
For the chocolate glaze:
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, canola oil, 1½ cups of the sugar and the water. Whisk to blend well. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Continue beating, gradually adding in the remaining 6 Tbsp of sugar, until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add a quarter of the egg white mixture to the bowl with the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until the batter is smooth and no streaks remain.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed, about 16-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the filling, combine the marshmallow fluff and butter in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar and salt and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes more. Transfer the majority of the filling mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip (about ½” wide), reserving ½ cup in the mixing bowl. Blend in the cream to the reserved filling mixture to make it smooth for piping the swirl on top of the cupcake. Transfer this to another pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (like the kind you’d use to write words with). Chill until ready to use.
Fill the cupcakes by inserting the pastry tip directly into the center of each cupcake and squeezing in a dollop of the marshmallow mixture. If excess filling comes out of the top, just scrape it off with a knife so the top of the cupcake is essentially smooth.
Make the chocolate glaze by placing the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or the microwave. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk together until a smooth ganache forms. Let cool briefly, about 5 minutes. Take the cupcakes one at a time and invert them, dipping the top into the chocolate glaze. Transfer them to a wire rack or baking sheet and let the glaze set. (You can speed this process up by chilling in the refrigerator.) Once the glaze is set, use the reserved portion of marshmallow frosting to pipe a uniform swirl across the top of each cupcake. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Sometimes I do silly things. Occasionally, my mom is there to take a picture of it. I was trying to get Izzy to climb on top of me…but she had other plans.
Also, this kitty really wanted in to our house. For obvious reasons, I could not oblige, though my kitty-in-distress senses were tingling beyond belief. However, not enough to sacrifice the well being of my bunny or Luke who is allergic.
When the mountain of summer produce arrived, I was so stoked. I watched gleefully as my mom pulled the bags of peaches and little blue boxes of blueberries out of her car. She plopped them down on the kitchen counter, along with something I did not expect.
It was long and green, and I definitely did not recall asking for anything matching that description.
But then I remembered how my mom had kept bragging about her abundance of zucchini, and realized she was passing the bounty on to me. Oh joy. For the record, I do not enjoy eating gourd vegetables. Squash in all its variations and zucchini just don’t do it for me. So as I stared at that green tube of a vegetable, I thought, “What the heck do I do with this thing?”
Thankfully a quick internet search brought up quite a number of tasty looking options, and I finally settled on this quick bread.
You can’t taste the zucchini at all (bonus), and what you do taste is a whole lot of chocolaty goodness. Double bonus.
When I cut the ends off of the zucchini to grate it, both ends started sweating. I guess it knew it was being done in. If your zucchini sweats too, make sure to dry the grated bits before adding them to the batter, as you don’t want that extra moisture in there.
Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes one 9×5” loaf
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (one medium) shredded zucchini
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold the batter together until almost no flour remains. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips, ensuring that they are evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
Yesterday my mom and stepdad came to see the house. It’s been fun showing off our house to the various people that come to visit, hopefully we’ll have a continuous stream of friends coming through our door in the weekends to come.
We walked to the subway station and took the train into Boston to Chinatown for dinner. We wanted to go to a dumpling house, but even at 5pm there was a 40 minute wait. Sad face. So we went to a Korean/Japanese restaurant across the street. I got ja jang myun, a noodle bowl with pork, cucumbers and potatoes smothered in a dark sauce. It was quite tasty, and the portion was huge. We had to chase down the waitress to wrap it up for me to take home. Luke tried to wave her over after our bill was paid, but she just thought he was being friendly and waved back. So my stepdad had to go over to the waitress corner and ask for a take-out container.
After dinner we went to three different bakeries in search of egg tarts, but sadly they seemed to all be sold out. So I drowned my sorrows in a big cup of chocolate milk tea. The last stop was C-Mart, were I got sesame paste filled buns, scallions, garlic and incredibly cheap cherries.
Even though my mom brought me a mound of peaches and blueberries from my favorite orchard back in CT. The cherries were so beautiful with their deep red skins; I just had to get them. Some I’ll freeze, and some will become chocolate cherry crisp.
That I will eat while Diego and I watch kinda bad sci fi movies where the plot is incredibly predictable and the script is well…somewhat lacking in originality. But that’s how we do it up on a Saturday night.
But in all seriousness, this crisp is great. Sweet, juicy cherries are paired with dark chocolate and covered by an oat-y buttery crumb topping. Add some vanilla ice cream, and you’ve got a perfect summer dessert.
Chocolate Cherry Crisp
Adapted from White on Rice Couple
Makes about 6-8 servings
For the crumble topping:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
For the filling:
2 lbs fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Pinch butter into flour, using your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add oats, and use your hands to toss and squeeze the mixture until large, moist clumps form. Transfer to freezer to chill while you prepare the filling.
(If desired, set aside a handful of cherries to decorate the top of the crisp.) In another large bowl, toss cherries with chocolate chips, sugar and flour. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with topping mixture. Place reserved cherries to decorate top of crisp. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden and bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. (I also sprinkled extra crumb topping from this recipe on top. Couldn’t just throw it out now could I?)
Pastries. Let the word wash over you and conjure images of a small patisserie in some tiny alley in Paris. Pastries are fabulously delicate, while possessing a luxuriousness that can be hard for other desserts to rival.
Did I mention you can make them in your own kitchen? By the end of today, you could be eating an éclair that you made with your own two hands. Mind-blowing, I know.
I will admit that the thought of making my own pastries intimidated me at first. It still does. Luke is waiting for me to get up the courage to attempt making croissants, but I keep telling him that in order for it to even have the remotest chance of happening, he has to buy me the extra pound of butter it’ll take on his own. And so he shuts up.
Éclairs do not require a pound of butter to make. They do take a little time more time and effort than the average baked good, but I’m telling you, the effort is soooo worthwhile. When I first bit into one of these scrumptious little delicacies, I could not believe it had come from my kitchen. I simply stared at it in disbelief, chewing slowing, savoring the moment.
Normally I would hoard a dessert this good, neglect to tell Luke I made it, shove it in a back corner of the fridge and have a secret rendezvous with it while Luke was at work. But no, not this time. This time I shared. Mostly it was to declare to my friends and family, “Check it out! I made a freaking pastry on my own!!!!” Join that party, give these a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Éclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream
Adapted from Annie’s Eats
Makes 8-12 eclairs, depending on size
For the mocha pastry cream:
1½ cups half-and-half
6 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1½ tsp espresso powder
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the pâte à choux:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 Tbsp whole milk
6 Tbsp water
1½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
For the glaze:
3 Tbsp half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
First make the pastry cream. Heat the half-and-half, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is warm, whisk in the espresso powder. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Next make the pâte à choux. Whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup. You should have ½ cup (discard the excess). Set aside. Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice. When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.)
Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream. When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.
Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip. Fill the pastry bag with the pâte à choux. Pipe the paste into eight to twelve 5 x 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart. Use the bake of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface.
Bake 15 minutes without opening the oven door, then lower the oven temperature to 375˚ F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each éclair to release steam. Return the pan to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon if it doesn’t stay open on its own. Dry the éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist and crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam. Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth. (I used leftover glaze from this recipe.)
To assemble the éclairs, add the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the pastry cream through the slit in the side of each éclair to fill it completely. (I found this difficult, so I hollowed out each éclair with a chopstick and piped the pastry cream in there.) Dip the top of each éclair in the chocolate glaze. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the glaze to set. These are best served within several hours, but they will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge in an air-tight container.
I have always been interested by Boston cream pie, as it is actually a cake. Yet it’s called a pie. According to Wikipedia, the dessert was first made in a hotel in Boston in 1896 by an Armenian-French chef.
And it was made the “official dessert” of Massachusetts in 1996. I did not know that states could have an official dessert. Massachusetts cheats a bit though. We have a state dessert and a state cookie. Which is chocolate chip by the way. Missouri’s state dessert is the ice cream cone. Ok, I need to get off Wikipedia now. But not before I tell you that both Ohio and Oklahoma have multiple “state meals”…how does that work? Oh and, the state “snack food” of Utah is jell-o, ok I’m done, I swear.
Sooo, back to Boston cream cake, I mean pie. I remember the first time I attempted to make a full sized one with my friend Diego. We used a cookbook with British measurements (by weight, not volume) without a kitchen scale in his mom’s kitchen. His mom and I did all the work, and the cake-pie came out…well…edible.
My next attempt was last year for my stepfather’s birthday. Much more success was achieved, and everyone was pleased. Which brings me to these cupcakes, made for my stepdad’s b-day again. I guess he really likes Boston cream cake-pie. I’ll have to think of another iteration for next year. I’m thinking whoopie pies are a good way to go.
But for this year I made cupcakes. Tasty vanilla cupcakes filled with pastry cream and topped with ganache. Perfect for those of you who like your Boston cream pie-cake handheld and adorable.
Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes
Adapted from She Who Bakes
Makes 12-14 cupcakes
For the pastry cream:
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp plus ½ tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cupcakes:
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup milk
For the ganache:
6 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
First make the pastry cream. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl until smooth. Meanwhile, heat the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Once the thickened mixture starts to bubble, remove the saucepan from heat. Pour 1/3 of the thickened mixture into the yolks and whisk until smooth. Return the yolk mixture back to the saucepan and place it back over heat. Add in the vanilla extract and stir it for another 4 mins. Pour the cream into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for at least 4 hours.
For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale, about 5 minutes. Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine. Place the butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, pour the mixture into the batter and beat well. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract. Scoop the batter into muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool.
Once the pastry cream has chilled, remove it from the fridge and beat it until it’s smooth. Set it aside while you make the ganache.
Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once it boils, pour it over the chocolate. Let it stand for 3 mins, then whisk until smooth. Set aside to let it cool.
For the assembly: using a paring knife, cut out a cone the top of the cupcakes and set them aside. Fill the holes with pastry cream. Cut the bottoms off the cones so only the top remains, and place the tops over the pastry cream, pressing down. Using a spoon or an offset spatula, spread about a tablespoon of the chocolate ganache over the tops of the cupcakes. Let the ganache set for 15 mins (putting the cupcakes in the fridge will expedite the process) and serve!