Monthly Archives: November 2011

Biscotti al Torrone

It’s time to be thinking about Christmas again.  This year has whizzed past so fast, it’s enough to make one dizzy.  While many of you are pondering Christmas puddings, sugar cookies in the shapes of angels and stars, and all the globally recognised traditional Christmas fare … nothing screams Christmas louder to me than

TORRONE   …   PANETTONE   …   PANDORO   …

This is the stuff of Italian Christmas fantasies 😀

Around this time last year, I made a panettone as is my usual wont.  This year I’m skipping it.  As much as I’d love to do it, it takes some time and effort to make.  While it’s definitely worth the effort, I have two things working against me this year:  a distinct lack of free time and uncertain weather conditions (warm, cold, humid, dry, it’s all over the shop).  Neither of these are conducive to good panettone outcomes 😦

So I’m going back to EASY.  FAST.  FABULOUS.  Baked goodies that can double as gifts, are universally loved, and won’t kill me in the process!

First up are these beautiful biscotti.  I love biscotti.  I’ve ALWAYS loved biscotti.  Does anyone remember when biscotti were all the rage?

Before the Cupcake Craze

the Macaron Mania and

the Era of the Éclair that I swear is on the horizon … although, hey, I love éclairs … I’m a big fan of choux.  There will definitely be more choux here …

But biscotti!  Biscotti are wonderful because they are crunchy, delicious, easy and quick to make, and lend themselves to so many flavour and texture combinations.  Still, the classics are often people’s favourites.  It’s hard to go past the crunch and flavour of fresh roasted nuts in a biscuit.  Maybe a little chocolate 🙂

I wanted to keep these simple but with a traditional Christmas flavour, without resorting to the usual colourful pistachio and cranberry combo (although it’s wonderful, I love it).  So I crushed up some crunchy Italian nougat and added this to flavour the biscotti instead of plain nuts.  I used a hazelnut nougat and added in a little Triple Sec liqueur.  Just because …

WOW.  They have a lovely sweet honey, nutty, slightly gooey nougat crunchiness.  Divine.  Perfect with an espresso or even a hot chocolate.  Amazing served with gelato.  Or go totally traditional and serve with a little Vin Santo.

They make a lovely Christmas gift too.  Place them in pretty glass jars or in clear cellophane bags, tied with ribbon.  Voilà!

Come to think of it, they make a lovely gift any time.

I hope you enjoy them.  If you are stuck for something to serve with coffee on Christmas day and want something quick and easy you can make ahead, this might be just the thing.  I guarantee everyone will love them 🙂

Makes 4 dozen

Ingredients
125 grams (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
150 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
15 millilitres (1 tablespoon) Triple Sec or Grand Marnier liqueur
25 grams (1/4 cup) almond meal
250 grams (2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
100 grams torrone friabile (hard nougat)

NB: I used Flamigni torrone with hazelnuts (the blue edged bar) for this recipe:

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 165℃.  Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper or a large silpat sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and liqueur and beat until smooth.

Mix together the almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and beat the dough until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Chop the torrone finely.  You can do this by hand with a sharp knife, or in a food processor.  If using a processor, use the pulse action so you don’t grind it too finely.  It should not be powdered but you also don’t want large chunks.   That said, some unevenness is a good thing as it adds texture.

With floured hands, scooped the dough out on to a lightly floured board.  Divide into two even portions.

Roll each into a log.  Transfer to the baking sheet and shape each in to a log about 36cm x 4cm, leaving space between the two as they will rise and spread as they bake.

Bake for about 25 – 30 mins until golden.  You may need to rotate the tray halfway during baking to insure even browning.  Remove from the oven and place the tray on a wire rack.  Let the logs cool for about 5 mins.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each log diagonally into slices about 1 1/4 cm in width.  Transfer to the baking tray standing up.  It is OK if they are fairly close together but allow a little room for air to circulate.

Bake for a further 10 minutes or so.  Remove from the oven.  Let cool on a wire rack.  They will crisp up a little more as they cool.

They keep well, stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry spot.

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Cacao Passion Protein Mousse

Version 1: made with water and whey protein concentrate

 

Ahhh, there are as many ways to make a mousse as there are stars in the galaxy … trust me, I should know.

Ex-astrophysicist who makes lots of mousse. 

Qualified 😀

If we were talking full-on wicked desserts, I’d be getting on my soapbox and ranting ad-nauseum about authenticity, the abomination I consider to be the adding of cream, and which chocolates marry well with various flavouring options.  Actually, that last one isn’t such a bad idea … BUT … we’re here to talk high protein mousse without the addition of fats and refined sugars.  Kinda limits the options, right?

Maybe.  The good news is, there’s a lot you can do with this recipe … pretty much anything that tickles your taste bud fantasy.  OK, within reason.

I added the pulp of a passion fruit because oh mamma, I love chocolate and passion fruit.  It’s mousse-arama.  But, you can add whatever you like.  Throw in some spices … how good would chilli and cinnamon be?  Toss in some pure extract of almond, vanilla, mint, whatever.  You could add some pulverised freeze-dried fruit, chopped or  puréed dates, or fruit … ooh orange zest with orange juice to replace the water or passionfruit!   Just don’t get carried away – keep any liquid quantities small or you’ll end up with a liquid mess 😀

If you’re not caring about the fat content so much,  use coconut cream or dairy cream instead of water.  You can even use some yoghurt or milk.  You can add in some cacao nibs or whatever you like if you want some crunch.   I have included two versions that I make often, below.

Version 1 is made with water and Version 2 uses low or non-fat yoghurt.  The latter gives a creamier, more full-bodied mousse with added protein, but will obviously add a little to the carb content.  Both are good, it just depends what you are looking to achieve and your tastebuds prefer.  I like the yoghurt version as a last meal on big workout days.  🙂

I normally make this with casein as it thickens the mousse and gives a really nice texture.  It also makes for a sensational last meal of the night.  This time, I also gave some unflavoured WPC a go and it was still pretty good.   As usual, this recipe works with unflavoured protein powders.  If you use sweetened and flavoured powders (you know, the rubbish with all the spakfilla taking up space where the protein should go), you may omit the sweetener but it will likely change the macros.

You’ll get the best mousse-like texture and macro count if you use fresh egg whites, however I was pretty happy trialing the egg white protein powder as a substitute.  It’s less dense in texture and lacks the same body of a mousse that you get from using the fresh whites, but the flavour was still great.  In a hands-down contest though?

USE FRESH EGG WHITES.

I like the tangy sweetness of the passionfruit and the bitterness of the cacao and frankly, I don’t need the stevia.  But if you’ve got a sweet tooth in denial, add some stevia or whatever sweetener you like.  If you seriously don’t care and want to use sugar, go ahead and do it, but any sweetener you use may change the macros.   If using sugar, add it to the egg whites once you whisk them to soft peak stage and continue beating until the meringue is stiff.  This will dissolve the sugar.

Version 2: made with yoghurt and casein

This is a great recipe if you are into eating clean, like moi.  It’s also gluten, nut, and refined sugar-free.  Woohoo!

As is my wont, I have included the macronutrient profile below.  Version 1 packs an average 20 grams of quality protein, only 1.8 grams of fat, 3.4 grams of sugars, and punches above its weight in antioxidants from the raw cacao.  Plus, you get 7.7 grams of fibre.   Version 2 gives you around 26 grams of protein with 21.3 grams of carbs (8.7 grams sugars) and only 3.1 grams of fat and you’re still getting all that fibre.  Superfood? 🙂

Easy peasey cocoa squeezy … it takes like two minutes to make.  Whack it together before you hit the gym and when  you get back, whaaheeyyy!!!!

Energy to move, power to lift … enjoy!

Serves 1

Ingredients
Version 1: Water based
2 egg whites (or 4 teaspoons egg white protein powder + 4 tablespoons warm water)
pinch cream of tartar
20 grams raw cacao powder
10 grams whey protein powder (I used Professional Whey WPC – you can also use casein or egg white protein)
1 passion fruit
1/4 teaspoon 100% pure stevia extract (or to taste)
about 10 – 15 ml water
other flavouring, as desired (optional)

Version 2: Yoghurt based
2 egg whites (or 4 teaspoons egg white protein powder + 4 tablespoons warm water)
pinch cream of tartar
20 grams raw cacao powder
10 grams micellar casein powder (I used Professional Whey Micellar Casein – you can also use whey or egg white protein)
1 passion fruit
90 grams non-fat plain yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon 100% pure stevia extract (or other sweetener, to taste)
other flavouring, as desired (optional)

Instructions
If using the egg white protein powder, whisk together the powder with the warm water until dissolved and let sit for a few minutes.  Whisk the egg white with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.  This will work really well if you are using fresh egg whites.  Using the egg white powder, I found I got a lovely meringue-like consistency between soft and stiff peaks as the best I could do.  It was fine.  The fresh egg whites will give you a mousse with more body but it still tastes the same 😀

Version 1: In a small bowl, mix together the cacao, whey (or casein, egg white, whatever), the passion fruit pulp, stevia, and water to a thick creamy consistency.  Add a little more water, if needed, to get the right consistency.

Version 2: In a bowl, mix together the cacao, casein (or whey, egg white, whatever), the passion fruit pulp, stevia, and yoghurt to a thick creamy consistency.

Use a wire whisk or metal spoon to gently fold the cacao mixture into the egg whites, taking care to not deflate the mixture too much.

Place into the fridge to chill before serving.  Eat.

Version 1: this version has less body but is still yum!

 

Macronutrient Profile
I’ve included the macros for both versions above.

Macros include use of fresh egg whites vs egg white protein powder.  Fresh is better on all fronts – both for texture and macros.

If you use a different protein powder it will alter the macros somewhat, although you can check that easily by following the link provided above to see what the variations are.

Remember that if you add other flavourings or sweeteners, it can change the macros … as does cream etc.

VERSION 1: Water and WPC

VERSION 2: Casein & Yoghurt

 

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Desserts, Fruit, Protein, Protein Desserts, Special Diet

Coca River Caramel Semifreddo

I’ve been in a bit of a baking funk lately.  Can’t seem to think up any ideas for what to bake … a total wasteland of inspiration.  Or maybe I just couldn’t be bothered.  Which probably means I need professional help, cos that is just not on.

But hey, what’s this?  In my quest for a total cacao experience, I’ve been sampling some brewed cacao.  Huh?  Yep, brewed.  In a French press.    It’s a bit like a coffee drink but not.  It’s like cocoa, but not really.  The beans are roasted, like coffee, and ground.  Want to check it out?  Knock yourselves out at Crio Brü Australia or Crio B.

Well, hey … now, I love drinking it.  I love adding chilli or vanilla or cinnamon or all three to it.  I’ve even added natural mint extract, pistachio aroma … all delicious.  But the first thing I did was inhale the mmmmmmmm aroma … and then I grabbed a spoon and ate some of the grounds.  Wow.

So aside from drinking this delicious cacao nectar of the South American gods, I wanted to make something with it.  A bit like using cacao nibs but with a more subtle flavour.   It’s also seriously healthy.  Yes!  Full of antioxidant shazamness and other fabuloso stuff.  Anyway, I’ve gone to town on the Coca River variety, all the way from beautiful Ecuador.  A lovely river that flows into the Amazon.  I love trying new ingredients 🙂

It’s cacao, Jim, but not as we know it … 

What does this alien cacao taste like?  Not as bitter as raw cacao beans and nibs and you can detect some of the varietal flavours of the beans used, probably as a result of roasting the beans.  The Coca River has quite a sweetish chocolately aroma and a little of the astringency of the fruity flavours.  Just my personal view.  It’s hayfever season here so I’m not able to pick up any really subtle flavour notes at the moment.  Totally compromised.

Given my total blaaahhh on baking and the warmer weather, I made a semifreddo.  Lovely warm caramel flavours given a bit of a kick from swirling through some Coca River grounds and a little spicy hint of cinnamon and vanilla.  Ecuador, here we come!  It’s downright CACAO-TASTIC.

No.

It’s BODACIOUS.  Yes, my friends, totally, over the top, BODACIOUS.

It makes a great dessert served with biscotti or tuiles.  I just served them in little animal print cupcake liners because it was too darn hot to do anything fancy.  Plus, you know …  Amazon, jungles, jaguars … they looked cute and matched the caramel colour of the ice cream.

This semifreddo firms up as it sets but never sets hard, staying creamy and lush.  The caramel is warm, not too sweet and beautifully rounded.  The grounds are a revelation.  I feel like a proud mamma 😀

I hope you love it too.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 egg yolks
135 grams sugar
400 millilitres pure cream (about 45% butterfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cinnamon
24 grams Crio Brü Coca River

Instructions
Place the egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl that has been warmed.  You can do this by pouring hot water into it, leave it for a few minutes and then drain and dry the bowl.  Whisk the yolks until frothy and light.

Make the caramel.  Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan.  I use a solid stainless steel saucepan for this as it is a dry caramel and I like to keep a close eye on the colour.  If it burns, the caramel will be bitter and you will have to throw it out and start again.

Place the saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Using a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon, keep the sugar moving a little over the base of the saucepan so that it doesn’t stick or burn as it melts.  This will help it to melt evenly.  Don’t stir it around vigorously.  Just gently keep it moving until the sugar is completely melted.  Keep an eye on it as the sugar starts to caramelise and darken, stirring it gently to keep the colour even as it darkens.   A lovely deep caramel colour is what you are aiming for, not a light golden hue.  The latter is great when making praline but we are looking for a really intense caramel flavour.  Once the caramel begins to colour, it will darken very quickly.  Be extremely careful not to touch it with your fingers.

Once the caramel has reached a lovely deep amber colour, remove it from the heat.  Start whisking the egg yolks on medium speed.  While the egg yolks are being whisked, pour the warm caramel into the egg yolks in a thin steady stream.  If the yolks are warm, the caramel will not set on contact.  If you notice a few lumps, it means the caramel is cooling but as you pour more in the mixture will heat up and it will melt again.  Keep whisking on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick and the consistency of cream.  If the bowl is still too warm at this point, you can place it into a larger bowl, half filled with iced water, to cool.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held whisk to gently whisk the cream until soft peak stage.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon and Crio Brü Coca River grounds and stir through.  Gently fold in the caramel egg yolk mixture.

Scoop the semifreddo into a container, seal, and freeze for at least several hours, until ready to serve.

It will keep for several days, if required.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Ice cream & Sorbet, Special Diet

Crustless Sweet Potato Protein Pie … giving thanks

Anyone in the mood for pie?  Well, one without a crust, just to save on some kcals and fat?  OK, so maybe ignore the maple syrup I poured over it in the photos … *sheepish grin* ;-P

It’s time for Thanksgiving in the USA very soon and I always wonder how you guys survive Halloween and the seasonal obsession with all things pumpkin.   From October, I find I can’t face the idea of pumpkin because of all the punkin-ing around on recipe sites.  It’s totally insane.  😀

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin.  Generally speaking, I am a fan of the gourd.  They have magical properties, right?  But in a hands down contest, I’d go sweet potato every time.  Sue me, I really love sweet potato.   So I’m a bigger fan of the Thanksgiving celebrations.   Sure, there are pumpkins involved, but I say give it up for the sweet potato and say THANK YOU for being so delicious, versatile and a damned fine carbohydrate.

It’s also time to thank YOU for being such awesome readers too.  I hope you love this.  It really is like a pie filling and so so good topped with a little maple syrup.  That’s traditional, right?  I may have gone a little overboard with the maple in the photos … I love maple syrup.  If you want an extra protein kick, it would be awesome served with vanilla or spiced protein fluff.  Hell, it’s even good with yoghurt.  Tried it, ate it, thoroughly enjoyed that too 🙂

I made no crust for this pie to keep the calories and fat content down.   If you want to use this as a filling for a pie or tart crust, go right ahead, it would be superb.  If you want to make a protein crust, try using a base of nuts, a little pea or rice protein powder,  or maybe some coconut or quinoa flour, and a minimal amount of butter or coconut oil.

The macro-nutrient profile is provided below.  It’s low in fat and sugars and has some fibre.  Oh yeah, it has a good little protein kick too.  If you don’t or can’t use an unflavoured casein, I’d opt for a vanilla casein as your best bet.  You can then adjust the amount of vanilla you need accordingly.  I used Professional Whey Micellar Casein, which is unflavoured and gives a great creaminess to the texture.

Boil or steam the sweet potato for this recipe.  For the eggs, the weight given is without the shell.  I also used Heinz 100% Fruity Pears as pears are not really at their best now here.  The nice thing about baby food pears is that it’s just 100% pears with no additives, and it’s totally convenient 🙂

You can also double the recipe if you prefer a deeper dish pie or to make a 20cm (8 inch) pie.

This recipe is also squeaky CLEAN as well as gluten and wheat free.  It can also be nut free if you use an alternative milk.

Energy to move, power to lift … and giving thanks for the opportunity to have and enjoy them.

Enjoy!

Serves 4 to 6 (makes 1 x 18cm round or square pie)

Ingredients
240 grams cooked sweet potato
110 grams whole eggs (about 2 large)
110 grams 100% pear purée (baby food or homemade)
40 grams casein powder (e.g. Professional Whey Micellar Casein)
20 ml unsweetened almond milk (or coconut/grain/dairy milk)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 teaspoon roasted wattleseed, cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (optional)

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 150℃.  Line the base of an 18cm round pie dish with silicon baking paper or use a silicon pie dish for easy removal.  I used an 18cm square dish as I wanted to be able to cut it into slices and for the pie to be fairly thin, as if I were using it to fill a tart crust.

Place all the ingredients in to the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth.  Taste the batter and, if you think it needs sweetener to suit your palate, go ahead and use a sweetener of your choice.  The sweet potato and pear puree already add sweetness so just adjust it to suit you.  I didn’t add any as I find it perfect as is.  Just remember that it may affect the macro-nutrient profile, depending on which sweetener you use.

Pour the batter into the prepared pie dish.  Place it on a tray and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until set.  It will be soft like pie filling but not runny or sloppy.  More like a set custard … or sweet potato pie filling 🙂

Remove the pie dish to a wire rack to cool.  Take care when lifting it out of the dish.  This is where lining the base or using a silicon dish comes in handy.  I find it helpful to use a large flat spatula to help lift it out on to a serving dish.

It will keep for a day or two, covered, in the refrigerator.  As it has no added sugar or fat, it is best eaten as soon as possible.

Serve on its own, topped with vanilla or spiced protein fluff or yoghurt or … give in and pour a little maple syrup on top.  I LOVE maple syrup with sweet potato.  You don’t need much but … wow!

Creamy pie filling texture?  YES …

Macro-nutrient Profile
Macros are based on average values for all ingredients except I have used the values for Heinz 100% Fruity Pears and for the casein powder I have used, as indicated above.  If you use a different casein powder, the macros may change slightly.  You can compare by clicking on the link above.  The nutritional profiles are available on the website.

These macros are for the pie and don’t include any toppings.

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Bignè al Pistachio e Cioccolato

If the choux fits … go ahead, eat it and enjoy the experience!

I love love love choux pastry.  It’s possibly my favourite pastry of all.  The silky satiny shine when it’s ready to pipe.  The way it puffs up into magical, golden shells.  Sigh.  Endless possibilities for deliciousness.  Ahhh, mon petit choux …

Which begs the question of why it has taken so long for me to post a recipe here featuring choux.  It’s not as though I haven’t made any over the past year.  I have.  Lots of times.  Really … you can see some quick shots I got of a few here.  A while ago, I was lucky to have the gorgeous Gourmantine ask me to do a guest post on her wonderful recipe blog and I posted a recipe for Bigne allo Zabaione.  I mean, who doesn’t go ga-ga for zabaione?  It’s a classic.

I just haven’t had the time to take photos and post something since then.  You see, by the time I’ve finished filling the little golden puffs with whatever happens to be the gusto del giorno, random members of my family appear out of thin air and they disappear so fast, I’m pretty sure there’s a warp drive involved.   I had two of them hovering like vultures as I filled these gorgeous little babies with a lush pistachio crema.   I literally had to threaten them and shoo them both away so I could take a few photos.  In a rush.  With a promise they could taste test the finished product.

Why?  Because the choux rules.  Everyone loves them.  Italians call them bignè and the little ones like these we refer to as mignon … part of a lexicon of tiny pastries and probably the most popular in any Italian pasticceria.

These particular mignon, I wanted to share with you.  Because pistachio bignè are totally swoon-worthy.  Yep, this is what I was planning for that delectable pistachio butter in the previous post.

The filling is a classic pastry cream made with cream instead of milk for a more lush crema, flavoured with the pistachio butter.  The result is a lovely subtle pistachio colour … very reminiscent of the classic Vespa in pistachio.  I want one.  Ah, don’t we all?  I added a tiny bit of natural bitter almond extract to the crema.  This really intensifies the pistachio flavour in the cream (an old Italian trick), but it’s optional.  The flavour is already 100% pistachio insanity.  A little tempered chocolate on top gives a nice little crackly crunch to the texture.  I prefer it to the traditional sweet icing and well …

PISTACHIO  +  CHOCOLATE  =  HEAVEN

Right?

Right!  Better than icing!  Maybe I’m a little biased  🙂

Use a smooth creamy dark chocolate for this.  Valrhona’s Araguani or Michel Cluizel’s Vila Gracinda are both fantastic.  I used the latter.  Wonderful with the nuttiness of the pistachio cream inside.

They just beg for the company of a good espresso … and you.

I hope you like them.  Enjoy!

You can make small choux puffs (profiteroles) or classic oblong éclairs, or any shape you like.  Check out my post on Gourmantine’s Blog for a different take on piping éclairs for a pretty effect.

Note that the recipe indicates 3 to 4 eggs for the choux pastry.  How much egg you need will depend upon the size of the eggs, the flour, and the weather.  Flour absorbs moisture differently between brands, at altitude and in different weather conditions.  I would strongly urge you to resist making these in humid weather.  Humidity can ruin choux pastry and instead of puffed up golden shells, you could end up with little bullets of dough.

Make the crema ahead of time and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before filling the shells.

Makes 24 – 28 bignè or 12 éclairs

Ingredients

Crema al Pistachio

4 egg yolks

50 grams sugar

20 grams cornflour

600 millilitres pure cream (35% fat)

1/4 teaspoon natural bitter almond aroma (optional)

200 grams Sweet Pistachio Butter

Choux Pastry

240 millilitres water

120 grams unsalted butter

4 grams salt (½ teaspoon)

10 grams sugar

145 grams plain flour, sifted

3 – 4 eggs, beaten

Chocolate Coating

100 grams chocolate couverture

10 grams softened butter (optional)

Instructions

Crema al Pistachio

Place the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and light.

Place the cream in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and bring to a low simmer.  As you continue to whisk the egg yolk mixture, slowly add the hot cream to the mixture.  Whisk until thoroughly mixed.

Return the pastry cream mixture to the saucepan, over a low heat.  Do not allow the mixture to boil and continue to stir with a whisk or spatula to ensure the cream remains smooth as it thickens.  Continue until the pastry cream has thickened.

Pour the cream into a bowl and continue to whisk until cooled.  When cooled, whisk in the pistachio butter and the bitter almond aroma, if using, until smooth.  Chill until ready to fill the bignè.

Choux Pastry

Preheat the oven to 225°C.    Line a large or two medium baking trays with baking paper or a silpat sheet.

Place the water, butter, salt, and sugar into a saucepan, over a low heat.  Do not let it boil while the butter melts and sugar dissolves.  When the butter has melted, raise the heat a little and bring to the boil.    As soon as it boils, take off the heat and tip in all the flour at once.  Beat vigorously with a spatula or flat wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth.  Return to a low heat and keep beating until the dough leaves the sides of the pan, comes together in a mass.  Remove from the heat and tip the dough into the bowl of a mixer.  Let cool slightly.

When the dough has cooled a little, start mixing at medium speed, and slowly add the beaten eggs.  You may not need the whole amount.  I usually add 3 eggs and then slowly add a little more, if required, a little at a time.  If you add too much egg, the choux dough will be difficult to pipe and will not hold its shape.  Keep mixing at medium speed or beating briskly by hand, until the dough is smooth, shiny and can hold its shape.  I only needed 3 eggs this time around.

Fit a large piping bag with a plain piping tip and fill with the choux dough.  Pipe the dough into mounds about 4cm in diameter.  Make sure to space them evenly to allow for them to puff up and expand.   Alternatively, pipe éclairs of 8 to 9 centimetres in length, using a knife to cut off the ends neatly.

Bake the bignè at 225°C for about 10 – 12 minutes until they are puffed and starting to colour.  Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes until cooked.  The shells will be golden and hollow when tapped.

Switch off the oven and leave the pastry shells for a further 10 minutes, with the oven door ajar.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to carefully cut each bignè or éclair in half horizontally.  Fill a piping bag with the chilled pistachio crema and pipe the cream into one half of each shell.  Alternatively, use a spoon to fill the shells.  I just like to pipe it.

For the chocolate coating, melt 75 grams of the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring after each, until melted.  It should take around one minute all up.  Stir in the remaining chocolate until melted.  Finally, stir in the butter, if using.  It adds an added sheen and richness to the chocolate but is not necessary.

Dip the top of each shell in the chocolate and place on top of the filled base shell.  Alternatively, you can just spoon a little chocolate over the top of each after you’ve already placed them on top.  This is a simple topping but really delicious.

If they don’t all get eaten within 10 minutes of being filled, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.  They will keep for a few days.  The choux pastry may soften a little but they will still be fabulous.

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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Nuts, Tarts & Patisserie