Sunday, August 31, 2008

If you lived here you'd be home now...

We are back at Laguna Beach for a week, this time at a different place . . . when we made this reservation (100 years ago) Manzanita wasn't taking reservations into September. Their plan was to sell the property. We decided on this little bungalow called The Secret Garden. It's a little Bohemian. I am guessing under 500 sq. ft., but about 100 steps from a private beach. We like it.

This is a private deck off the bedroom. Sit in these chairs and you can see the ocean. The entire front yard is a thick garden on a hill. So not the desert...

I have never seen Laguna Beach so crowded and busy. It makes me wonder if the sedate little beach town may be changing. Sure hope not. In the meantime, I have six novels, a stack of Vanity Fair and Esquire Magazines and a lot of 50 spf sunscreen. I shall check in later.

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August Daring Bakers Challenge - Chocolate Eclairs

Oh yes, this was FUN. I am a huge fan of the cream puff and watched my grandmother make many variations growing up. I've made Pate A Choux many times so I was psyched.

I chose a vanilla pastry cream rather than the chocolate cream that came with the recipe . . . and a different chocolate glaze. The result was beautiful AND delicious. Don't be afraid of Pate A Choux . . . it's amazing AND versatile.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. The dough should be still warm.

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.


1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

Chocolate glaze
Pastry cream (keeper of an old pastry cream recipe I ADORE)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch. Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.
2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Marian's Barbeque Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/2 cup worcestershire
1 t. chili powder (I'm heavy handed on this ingredient)
1 dash tobasco
1 cup water

Heat to boiling and simmer for 30 minutes. You may add a chipotle pepper or more tobasco to taste.

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