Paté Choux — Sounds Fancy, But Is So Easy

One of our favorite desserts growing up was Mom’s cream puffs.  She used to have us help make the “puffs,” or paté choux .  We’d also make the filling – Jello Vanilla Pudding (not instant).  When she started catering in the early ’80’s, she changed the filling and began making the pastry cream that made her a “hit” as Mrs. T Catering at the Old Dana Point Cafe and Wine Bar.  The pastry cream recipe was in my 5/03/12 post called “Mom’s Homemade Pastry Cream.”

My good friend is giving a bridal shower this weekend, doing a traditional English tea menu.  Included was making paté choux mini puffs which she will fill with curried egg salad.  We made them together, then I took the odd sized ones for a luncheon I was doing…they are so easy to make.  In the past, we used a wooden spoon and mixed each egg in by hand, now I use a Kitchenaide stand mixer. Either works well….old fashioned elbow grease or electric mixer.

These are always a hit and can be filled with sweet or savory fillings. The filled puffs look unique and inviting.  We prepare the puffs days in advance, freeze them, thaw in the fridge the morning you plan to use them.  Fill each puff a few hours before serving, the filling softly and lusciously melds into the eggy pastry.

 

Pate choux puffs...gorgeous little versatile holders.

Pate choux puffs…gorgeous little versatile holders.

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Here’s the recipe we use:

Paté Choux Puffs:  Makes approximately 40 petite puffs, using a teaspoon-sized scoop.

Egg salad puffs...always a favorite filling, mine has a little curry in it.

Egg salad puffs…always a favorite filling, mine has a little curry in it.

PREP TIME:  20 minutes TOTAL TIME:  35 minutes (includes baking time)

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup filtered water

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

4 large whole eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, salt, and water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and immediately remove from heat.

Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in the flour until combined.  Return pan to medium-high heat, and cook, stirring vigorously, until mixture pulls away from the sides in a solid mass and forms a ball, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon add 4 eggs, one egg at a time.  Beat each egg into the mixture until smooth, then add the next one or use a mixer.

Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, about 1 minute.

Drop batter by teaspoonful 1” apart onto a greased or Silpat ® lined baking sheet; or if piping, transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted only with a ½” tip. Hold the tip of the bag about 1” above the baking sheet, pipe the dough onto the prepared pans, forming mounds ½“ diameter and ½” high, placing each mound about 1” apart.

Dampen your finger and round off the top of each puff.

Bake at 425˚F  for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚F for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  The puffs should be firm on the outside and not too doughy on the inside.

Cool the puffs on a wire rack.  They can be frozen for up to three weeks.

These are a perfect accompaniment with almost any tea….eggs and tea just go together.

Hil’s Balcony Herb Garden

There is something so fulfilling about running out to my backyard to grab a  handful of herbs to use in dishes I’m preparing.  My mother always had herbs growing just outside our back door (and we grew up in the city, just outside of L.A.)  When I was a tiny tot, my grandfather had what seemed like a large garden  growing in his front yard in South Central L.A. – so while we were all “city” dwellers, we grew up valuing growing as much produce as possible in our yards.

Recently, my good friend (and hype girl for Tea With Betty) moved to a somewhat smallish place – she has a neat little balcony area which when my sister spotted it, instantly thought, “aha, a great area to grow herbs.”  She had seen these functional, efficient planters  in a catalogue which have built in water catching trays and gauges for letting one know when to water – perfect for the space Hil’s had on her balcony railing.

Hil's patio ledge self-watering planters...from Gardener's Supply

Hil’s patio ledge self-watering planters…from Gardener’s Supply

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We planted chives, Italian parsley, rosemary, thyme, two types of basil, micro greens (for a quick salad) and even strawberries for a summer treat.

Wherever you are, if at all possible, plant an herb garden.  It is so wholesome and healthy and somehow makes you feel like you are a bit of a gardener, bringing you closer to the food you consume.  It takes little effort and very little space to have enough herbs at your fingertips to enhance any meal or recipe.

In the winter, the thyme, rosemary, and chives do well in our climate, as well as, various small lettuces.  Instant organic salads available steps from your door.

Put a little mint in a separate pot and use it in your teas or add a bit to your salads for a nice lift.

Pat’s “Almost Famous” Carrot Cake…It’s Easy as Pie

My dear friend, Pat, was a spectacular baker of cakes.  She was “almost famous” around our neck of the woods.  She made scores of wedding and shower cakes,  many were made for people she didn’t know, but were friends of friends of friends who had heard about her… And she never charged for her cakes!  She did enjoy it when she got invited to the occasion.  Pat loved a good party.  For me, it felt like a party anytime I was around her.  She just oozed joy and generosity.   We lost our dear friend two years ago, but she left her cake legacy behind…and some pretty darn fabulous recipes too.

Pat readily shared her recipes (carrot cake listed below.)  Recently I prepared it with a creamed cheese frosting as a two-layer cake for my best friend’s birthday.  And then as petite cupcakes for a graduation party.  They were both hits of the party.  The cake is fruity, moist, and crunchy – with texture coming from the grated carrots, coconut, and chopped nuts and sweetness from the pineapple.  And it’s easy as pie to make. No mixer needed…just dump everything into a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon.  I hear Pat’s voice every time I bake any cake, “don’t over bake the cake!” she always cautioned.

 

Mini carrot cakes & full sized fruity, moist, creamed cheesy cake...Pat would have been proud of this one.

Mini carrot cakes & full sized fruity, moist, creamed cheesy cake…Pat would have been proud of this one.

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Pat’s Carrot Cake Recipe:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

¾ cup buttermilk

3 eggs

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

3 ½ ounce bag shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened, your choice.

Grease two 8” cake pans.  Place wax paper on the bottom, cut it to fit the pan, and grease it too.

Dump all of the ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to incorporate the ingredients.

Pour batter into the two cake pans or greased cupcake papers, ensuring that they’re even.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Do not over bake.  Once cake starts to pull from the side of the pan and when a toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.  Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.  After a couple of minutes, remove cake from the pan.  As a cupcake, bake 18 to 20 minutes.  As a petite cupcake, bake 11 minutes.

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Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, Philadelphia brand preferred

¼  pound butter (1 stick), room temperature

10 ounces confectioners powdered sugar

Mix together and chill until ready to use on the cooled cake.  For best results, use a hand mixer.

We’ve reduced the sugar in this recipe versus other recipes as we prefer the cheese taste to stand out.

This cake is so good with hot or iced tea, particularly a Ceylon black tea or a Chai tea.

Black Pearls – A New Find

While all tea comes from one plant, the camellia sinensis, there are literally thousands of combinations of infusions resulting in delightful choices to choose from when determining which tea to consume.  Sometimes the choices are overwhelming.  There is one tea shop in Pasadena, California, Chado Tea House, which boasts offering over 400 varieties and blends of leaf teas.  They know their tea, but wow, it is daunting paging through their tea menu to decide the “one” you want that day.  But I love that we have the opportunity to choose.

This week I was excited to get a tea I had ordered online from Adagio Teas.  I was intrigued to see they had a tea called “black dragon pearls.”  It was sold out, but you could click to be alerted when it was in stock.  (Nice customer service by Adagio – thank you.)  When back in stock, I ordered it and to my surprise…more great customer service, I received my tea order in two days (without special delivery instructions.)

When opening the bag, I pictured the pearls being like Jasmine Downey Pearls (one of my favorites)… Instead I was a bit shocked to see the size of these pearls.

The directions for steeping suggest using 2 – 3 Dragon Pearls per cup for a sublime drinking experience.  They were correct…that’s all you need.

Once steeped, the pearls unfold like this…

This black tea from Yunnan, China is hand rolled in the Dragon Pearl style.  Adagio’s description is spot on, “naturally sweet and smooth.  A touch of earthiness and subtle cocoa notes.”   I found the distinct sweetness and cocoa notes pronounced and that the tea was delicious without milk.

Lately, I have been “stuck” on a few favorite teas (Irish Breakfast with milk in the morning and Jasmine Pearls Green Tea in the afternoon and Kenilworth Ceylon for iced tea.)  When I venture out – I am glad I’ve done so.  This black dragon pearl is a nice change…it’s light enough for my afternoon tea.  I have a few others to try that I ordered from Mighty Leaf Teas and Mariage Freres.  The first is a rooibus called Coco Chai, the second is a traditional Darjeeling TGFOP.  Will open these up in a few days and let you know how they are to my taste.

Large black pearl tea (hand rolled) and Jasmine Downey Pearls...the black pearl is a large whole leaf--very tasty, a hint of chocolate exudes

Large black pearl tea (hand rolled) and Jasmine Downey Pearls…the black pearl is a large whole leaf–very tasty, a hint of chocolate exudes

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It’s fun to try new teas when friends come over. I use small cups and have a “dump” bucket (just as one would in tasting wines.)

Enjoy tea!…

June 10 Is National Iced Tea Day – What???

I don’t know why there would be a special day for iced tea; however, in the U.S., we tend to celebrate some random things.  This week, my good buddy, H., sent me  information about the U.S.’s bizarre and obscure holidays.  She had read my recent posts about iced tea and thought I timed them to coincide with our national celebration of iced tea.  “Nope…”  I knew nothing about this frivolous designation.

But since I am now enlightened about our national holiday, thought I’d share the info with you.  Here’s what the write up says about the U.S.’ National Iced Tea Day

When : Always June 10th

With the official start of summer just a few days away, the timing is perfect for National Iced Tea Day.

Chances are, it is already hot in your area. Today may serve as a good reminder to make and enjoy your first (of many) Iced Tea drink of the season. Have it plain, add a little lemon, or sweeten it with sugar. Iced Tea is certainly a favorite summer cooler of millions of Americans. And best of all, tea is good for your health!

It takes no imagination to decide how to enjoy this great day: Grab an Iced Tea and head out to the hammock strung under a shady tree.

The Origin of Iced Tea:   In 1904, English tea plantation owner Richard Blechynden set up a booth to sell hot tea at the St. Louis World Fair. It was a sizzler of a day, and fair visitors didn’t want anything hot. Rather, they needed something to quench their thirst… something cold. He dumped some of his hot tea into ice and served it cold. It was an immediate hit. This was the first known use of iced tea.

What the heck. life’s short… so here’s to celebrating the small things, even a lovely glass of iced tea….and fyi, iced tea was certainly consumed in the U.S. prior to 1904 (although this story is interesting and true)… Folks in the U.S. south are known to have consumed sweet tea scores of years prior to the turn of the 20th century.

When reading through the list of bizarre and obscure holidays, iced tea day actually seems relevant compared to a few others…but then again, each of us values different things. A few of the other national obscure holidays include:
National Waffle Iron Day and National Log Cabin Day…hmmmmm…I do like National  Hug Day though.  It’s on June 29.  Give those who need it a hug that day.  Also, National Chocolate Eclair Day (June 22) …now that IS something to celebrate for sure.
Marketing gimmick or not, it’s fun to celebrate the small stuff.
Enjoy a cool, tall, fragrant glass of iced tea this week!
Large jugs of iced organic Ceylon Tea from Kenilworth estate

Large jugs of iced organic Ceylon Tea from Kenilworth estate with simple syrup and food grade paper straws…ice is in the ice bucket to be added to each glass so as not to “over” dilute the tea…