My continuing struggles with pate a choux

If I ever wrote a baking memoir, there would be a whole 50-page chapter devoted to my roller coaster-like ride in learning the pate a choux. I had thought that the hard-fought success after my first gazillion trials would help me nail the eclair rather easily. Turns out there is more to it than knowing technique and what the batter should look like at certain points. I mean, these are the things I have already truly learned after all my previous failures. No, this time I really have to chalk up the “rough” appearance of my eclairs to my lack of proper equipment. I now realise I do not have the piping tip appropriate enough to squeeze out the eclair shape of my dreams.

Fortunately these eclairs baked as they should into beautiful golden shells. And the better part? They tasted divine. Bouchon’s pate a choux are by far the best-tasting ones I’ve ever had. And as a whole, the Pierre Herme recipe for chocolate pastry cream definitely played a large part in the glorious taste of these eclairs. I guess you could say whatever my eclairs lacked in finesse appearance-wise they more than made up for in taste.

Truth be told I haven’t thought about making choux pastry for quite some time, but after seeing this challenge posted by Love & Olive Oil I was encouraged to once again test myself on what seems to be my baking Achilles’ heel. I am happy to report that I can now recognise the pate a choux batter when it is in its right consistency, and so for the most part, my attempt this time around was a resounding success!
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My first ever deeply dark Flourless Chocolate Cake

As the Lenten Season comes to a close once again, I thought I would sneak in one more recipe that I feel can be welcome addition to any Easter spread. Lent is the most important time for us Catholics to recognise the sacrifices made by Jesus on the cross and I think this can be done in the simplest manner by appreciating every little blessing we have, including the food that gets put on our tables.

I’m not making hot cross anything this year because that’s all I seem to make for Easter the past few years, so I thought I’d make something different this time. I’ve been seeing a lot of flourless desserts among the blogs I follow (probably made to coincide with the Jewish passover, which is also around this time) and it has encouraged me to try my hand in making one as well. Plus my family hasn’t eaten homemade flourless anything before and I wanted to see how it would be received.

This was was my first time making a flourless cake and I had absolutely no idea how it was going to turn out. But I put my full faith in Mr. Lebovitz, aka the man who “taught” me how to make my first ice cream, first macaron, first madeleine… There’s probably another first in there I’m missing but I owe a lot to Mr. Lebovitz’s for introducing the techniques to some of my favourite things to make in the kitchen. It seemed only fitting that I use his recipe for another first.
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On falling in love with the beautiful challah bread

I’ll be the first to admit I am quite ill-prepared in terms of recipes for this year’s Holy Week. Being Catholic, my family and I practice abstinence from meat beginning on Good Friday up until Easter Sunday. I wish I could share some meatless dishes with you this week, but from the messy way my year started down to the fact that my mind is already looking forward to my impending Easter-weekend vacation, plenty of things seem to be slipping through the cracks in my memory.

Searching for a recipe to fill the void, I began looking through my archives and found the photos from my first attempt on Challah Bread (pronounced HAH-lah). I was surprised at myself for not posting about it as soon as I made it, given how much I gushed over pretty much every single aspect of this bread. The braiding part is obviously the best part; followed very very closely by the eating part.

Ugh. Me want to make another batch of this suddenly.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the challah bread is actually a rich-tasting yeast bread typically linked to Jewish cuisine. It might be weird to write about Jewish bread at this point, but since this bread is meatless anyway, I think it’s a safe addition to any Lenten table. I am also quite excited to share this bread with you because it immediately became one of my favourites the moment I had a taste!

I initially had no idea about challah bread apart from the fact that it looks pretty and seems to be challenging to make thanks to the braid. I was prepared to take this bread on since I enjoy trying out yeast bread recipes of all sorts, but not only did I discover that challah is not at all difficult to make, I also really really love how it tastes. I love the richness and slight saltiness of of it. I love the crustiness that contrasts with the soft yet dense crumb. No wonder everybody uses it for french toast and bread pudding! It’s an amazing bread and I was lucky that I found an excellent recipe to start with.

There is no other way for me to describe how I feel about the challah bread apart from being head over heels in love with it. Looooove!
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An attempt to copy McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie

I don’t have much of a relationship with fast food to speak of, simply because it hasn’t been a part of my diet in the last 5 years. I’ll eat fast food when I’m traveling in a foreign place and I’m too hungry to seek out a restaurant, or when I absolutely have no choice. That happens maybe 3 to 5 times a year. But if I had to pick one of my favourite fast food indulgences, the McDonald’s Apple Pie would definitely be on the top of my list.

These crunchy buttery pastries are one of those things that’s soooo difficult to resist even though you know it’s ridiculously bad for you. Yet I’m hard-pressed to find a person who can actually say no in the face of this taunting golden fast food beauty. Even my aversion to fried pastries becomes a blurry memory. Just upon sight of these, I can already imagine glorious autumn exploding in my mouth.

So when my brother Jason texted me out of the blue just to ask if I ever considered making a copycat McDonald’s Apple Pie, I immediately understood. He probably happened upon a classmate eating one at school. He could’ve bought himself one from the many McDonald’s dotting the perimeter of his school, but he knew I would love the challenge of making a homemade version.

When he came home that night we studied a bunch of recipes and decided on combining two of them for this copycat experiment. 
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