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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Strawberry Matcha Éclairs

Well, since my Totoro puffs didn't turn out the way I imagined them to, I thought I would work on some éclairs instead. The good thing is, the choux dough recipe is the same (so refer back to the Totoro post), the only thing you do differently is how you pipe them out.
And you know what? You're supposed to use a star tip, but I couldn't find mine. It's probably at my parent's house - all my baking supplies are now split apart because my condo can't fit everything. But the éclairs turned out just fine with a round piping tip.
After the éclairs cool, cut them in half so that you have your elongated boats. If you made the choux dough correctly, the interiors should be semi-hollow.
It's strawberry season again (yay) so I chopped them up into tiny little cubes. Then sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar on it, gave it a toss, and had it macerate for a bit. It's sitting in a sieve so that any excess liquids can drain off.
Using tiny dessert spoons, I filled the with the strawberries I so painstakingly sliced.
Then came the fun part, decorating with matcha buttercream! I was originally going to make matcha pastry cream, but realized I finished using all the milk on the choux dough. Oops! Oh well, it worked out in the end as buttercream is so much easier to make and also pipes out beautifully.
Doesn't the smooth matcha buttercream look like avocado? In fact, these éclairs remind me of sub sandwiches or avocado toast. I know you're supposed to put the tops back on the éclairs . . . but they're so much prettier when they're like an open-faced sandwich!
You can also pipe the buttercream in first and then top it with strawberries. Don't forget to decorate! I had sprinkles and milk chocolate crispearls on hand. You can also switch out your piping tip for different designs.

Howard's colleagues are going to have a happy Monday eating these (I hope)! There's too many for Howard and I to finish. There's also a key lime pie in the freezer, but more about that later.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Totoro Puffs

Have you seen the original Totoro cream puffs from the Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory in Japan? They are impeccably made, uniform, smooth, and oh-so-cute! I've heard they taste really well too, but since I am not in Japan, I've been fixated on these recently and finally decided to try and make them. Just one tiny problem: I've never made cream puffs before. I took out one of my favourite cookbooks, Sugar Rush, and flipped to Johnny Iuzzini's cream puffs and éclairs recipe. Gave it a through read through a few times and tackled this seemingly simple dough.
Cream Puffs
Recipe from Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini
(Makes about 1 and a half dozen cream puffs or 12 Totoro puffs)

1/2 cup + 2 teaspoon of whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoon of water
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 cups of bread flour
4 to 5 large eggs
Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. In a large saucepan, pour in the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and wait for it to simmer. Give it a quick stir and then remove it from the heat.
  2. Add the bread flour and stir and knead with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are all combined. 
  3. Return the saucepan to the medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes to dry out the mixture a little bit. The dough shouldn't stick to the sides and when you see a skin form on the base of the pan, turn off the heat and transfer the dough to your stand mixer's bowl.
  4. Using your wooden spoon, spread the dough out along the sides of the bowl (see photo above) to help it cool. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes to cool.
  5. Scrape the dough down a bit (if you really built it up) and attach your mixer paddle. On low speed, add 2 of the eggs until it's completely incorporated into the dough. Stop the mixer and scrape.
  6. Add the third egg and mix until it is fully incorporated again. If your dough is too firm, add the fourth egg and mix until combined. The batter should be firm enough to pipe, but not runny. It has to hold its' shape. If it's still too tough, add a fifth egg.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line your baking pans with silicone mats. Use a large round tip on your piping bag, fill the bag with the batter and hold the bag at a 45 degree angle. Pipe pear-shaped puffs on your silicone mat. Space them out at least 2 to 3 inches apart as the puffs will expand during the baking process.
  8. Help reshape any end tips or points with a wet finger (the dough will stick to your dry fingers). Use a smaller round tip to pipe out two ears. Again, help reshape using your finger.
  9. Spray the surface of the dough with a light coat of cooking spray. Then put the pans in the oven and adjust the temperature to 325°F (160°C). 
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans and continue to bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the puffs completely cool before decorating or filling.
You know what? Piping cream puffs is harder than piping macarons in my opinion. The pear-shape and those ears took me so much longer than I expected. And they still don't look as perfect as Shiro-Hige's. I wonder how they pipe their's out. Also horizontal or vertical? Do they use some sort of mold?
The ears turned out better than I thought they would after much aggravation piping them. But, my poor little Totoros ended up with crevices on their belly. It's like they went to war and came back slashed. Or they're part of the walking dead. Totoro zombies!
For some of the puffs, I ended up decorating the back because it was a lot smoother than the cracked front. I made some icing with powdered sugar and water and piped little dabs on the face to adhere the white round sprinkles. Then another dab on top to stick on the little brown sprinkle for the eyes. Then using the icing as glue, decorated near the ears with stars, hearts, or leaf-shaped sprinkles.
Tried to do some whiskers using jimmies. And gave this one a nose too. I think this one should be General.
She looks like a Lieutenant General, you can tell by her battle scars.
Next, Major General.
The Colonel has a sense of humour.
Okay, Totoro puffs, now let's get into formation.
Formation into my belly.
Side story: Howard walked in when the puffs were cooling. He peered into the pan and asked if I was making goldfishes. Dishearteningly, I showed him a photo of the Shiro-Hige Totoro cream puffs and he proceeded to laugh for 3 minutes straight. My puffs were apparently that bad. I did save a few and made them into goldfishes for him. =)

Also, I decided not to fill mine with pastry cream, hence I called them puffs in the blog post title instead of cream puffs. But you can by creating a little hole using a chopstick or knife. And then a narrow piping tip to squeeze all that deliciousness into the hollow of the puff. Or you can simply cut off the base and fill it and reapply the base. I did trim the base to help my Totoros stand.