Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Daring Baker Challenge ~ Chocolate Eclairs

The August Daring Baker Challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan ,at his blog by the same name, and MeetaK, at the What's For Lunch, Honey?, blog.

The challenge was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé, from the cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan called: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé.

The recipe is supposed to make 20 - 24 eclairs, but since I wanted to bring them to my nephew's block party for dessert and wanted to make sure there would be enough for all his guests, I made mine mini in size and made about 60 from this recipe. They were bite sized, about the size of a finger.

Here is the recipe:

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate ÉclairsRecipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) 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.

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 (see below for recipe)

• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

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 (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). 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.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• 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 temperature1)

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.

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 hand mixer 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.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk

• 4 large egg yolks

• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar

• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted

• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted

• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat). Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream

• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature 1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.


1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

• 1 cup (250 g) water• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream

• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.


1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

The eclairs were delicious! I especially liked the chocolate pudding filling.

I used the Jacque Torres "Big Daddy" chocolate that I had bought at his chocolate shop in the recipe.

The recipe may seem complicated, but if you follow it step by step it was actually very easy to make. As you can see by the photo above they were gobbled up quickly at the block party and I received a lot of compliments!

If you would like to see wonderful versions of the Chocolate Eclairs on other Daring Bakers web sites today, check the Daring Bakers blogroll! There is also an open forum for general baking discussions here, but you have to be a member of Daring Bakers in order to register to log in for each month's challenge and discussions regarding it.

If you think you are up to taking the monthly challenge instructions are on the blog as to how to join! Don't delay, as there is only a 24 hour time limit to join evey month for the next month's challenge!

There is even an "Alternative Daring Baking group for gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergy, vegetarians, vegans and bakers who use alternate ingredients due to other health concerns or life styles. "

I hope to see you all doing the September Daring Baker Challenge!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

Bay Ridge is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is bound by 65th Street on the north, Interstate 278 on the east, and the Belt Parkway-Shore Road on the west. The southern border is 101st Street. The portion below 86th Street is a subsection called Fort Hamilton. A small area east of I-278, bounded by 7th Avenue, is also part of Bay Ridge.

(All photos enlarge when clicked on)

In the late nineteenth century, Bay Ridge was one of Brooklyn's most exclusive suburbs and the Shore Road section still contains many homes of the wealthy.

Many of these home are built high on a ridge......

.... as across Shore Road street in front of them is a walkway park, and through that .......

.....are magnificent views of the Narrows, and the Verrazano Narrows bridge that connects Brooklyn to the borough of Staten Island. Here you can see Shore Promenade that circles the perimeter of the Brooklyn coastline in this neighborhood.

A view straight ahead of Staten Island:

To the north lies the Upper New York Bay and the borough of Manhattan, and many of these exclusive homes have this view.

I zoomed in closer with my camera and you can see The Empire State Building in the distance to the right, and the green copper top of The Woolworth Building to the left.

An even closer view of the Empire State Building and a cruise ship that is using the relatively new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

Some more houses along Shore Road.

Driving through this neighborhood we see many homes that look like they could be found in New York City suburbs.

Because property is so expensive in NYC, even in the outer boroughs, it is rare to see ranch style homes like this:

I showed this unusual stone house when I went on A Slice Of Pizza Brooklyn Tour, but since it is in this neighborhood I took a few more close ups.

It looks like it belongs in a J. R. R.Tolkien novel! It's so magical in design!

Bay Ridge is also comprised of many other types of middle class homes once you go a little further away from the shoreline, and homes that are more representative of the types of housing that Brooklyn is comprised of.
Bay Ridge has been known for its large Irish, Italian, Greek and Scandinavian population, but like other areas in South/Southwest Brooklyn, it has recently seen a large influx of Russian immigrants, and a smaller amount of Chinese The neighborhood is home to one of America's oldest Arab communities of Lebanese Christians and in recent decades, Arab Muslims from a large variety of countries have moved to Bay Ridge.
Bay Ridge also has many international restaurants and bars, especially along 3rd and 5th Avenue, its main commercial strips.
Here are some single family houses:

Semi attached single family houses:

Limestone houses attached on both sides, which are usually each two family homes with a rent able basement:

Brownstone houses that are also usually each two family homes that have a rent able basement:

I loved how this owner decorated their steps with flowers.

There are also many, many apartment buildings. Unfortunately many older homes have been torn down over the years and high rise apartments have replaced them. Some of these apartment buildings have privatized and the apartments are sold as "Co-Op" shares, which means it is jointly owned and managed by those who live in it.

A closer view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

When it opened in 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the world's longest suspension span. The ends of the bridge are at historic Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, both of which guarded New York Harbor at the Narrows for over a century. The bridge was named after Giovanni da Verrazano, who, in 1524, was the first European explorer to sail into New York Harbor.

Another view from this area (below) looking north towards Upper New York Bay and the promenade. If you look closely in the distance, you can see a large cargo ship that has just passed the narrows under the bridge and is about to enter the upper bay.

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge "monumental 693 foot high towers are 1 5/8 inches farther apart at their tops than at their bases because the 4,260 foot distance between them made it necessary to compensate for the earth's curvature. Each tower weighs 27,000 tons and is held together with three million rivets and one million bolts. Seasonal contractions and expansions of the steel cables cause the double-decked roadway to be 12 feet lower in the summer than in the winter. " source

It now has the eighth longest center span in the world, and is the largest suspension bridge in the United States. Its massive towers can be seen throughout a good part of the New York metropolitan area, including from spots in all five boroughs of New York City.

Presently, the fee to cross the bridge is a one-way toll (paid westbound into Staten Island only) in cash is $10 per car or $4.50 per motorcycle, and unfortunately there are no pedestrian or bicycle access.
I continued along the promenade to the show the views of the bridge from the southern side. The sunsets over the bridge can be spectacular, and someday I hope to share some good photos of them.

Close up of the sea wall beyond the promenade.

The promenade continues southward. This area is well used by families, walkers, bike riders, etc. At one time many recreational kite flyer's used this park until that was prohibited by the city in this area as it caused many traffic jams and accidents on the parkway because drivers were distracted by the kites!

From this spot I zoomed into a view of Lower New York Bay and the peninsula at the end of Coney Island that is called Sea Gate . This is a gated community of many expensive homes.

This shot was zoomed in on a more central view of Coney Island, where you can see on the left the light towers of Keyspan Baseball Park the home of the Met's minor league team The Brooklyn Cyclones, the old landmark parachute jump ride tower, and both private and public housing projects that are located there. On the other side are the Coney Island beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.

I hope you enjoyed seeing another neighborhood of Brooklyn and I hope to be able to visit many more on future blogs.
As you can see there is much variety in Brooklyn, both in housing, neighborhoods and attractions. We are a borough of over two and a half million people, from almost all nations of the world , or as one of the famous highway signs which I have on my sidebar says: "Welcome to Brooklyn: Home To Everyone From Everywhere."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Fun Things To Share!

Want to make your own fortune cookie or other fun messages and signs? Go here: Lots of fun things to make there!


Just in case this political year in the United States hasn't generated enough excitement, Dover Publications has come out with a paper doll collection of the two candidates and "their wives, plus casual and formal outfits they wore during the campaign. Each paper doll set includes a brief biography, descriptive notes, and a bonus 'Election Night Scorecard.' "

You can even sign up to get free paper doll samples mailed to your e-mail inbox! They also will send an e-card of your choice of candidate, among other designs that you can choose from their website.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Manhattan Rendezvous

I went into midtown Manhattan this morning to meet someone special at The Hilton Hotel so that we could go to breakfast together.

She was Kathy of the blog Have Suitcase, Will Travel!

She was in Manhattan from San Francisco, for a long weekend to met her daughter who had come over from England, and they had a good time seeing the sights and doing some shopping. I'm sure within a few days she'll be displaying many of her photos and stories about NYC, so be sure to check her blog to read more.

Kathy was going back to San Francisco today, but had the morning free, so met for breakfast in a deli near the hotel. Unfortunately, the photo I asked a waitress to take of us came out a little blurry, but it was a lot of fun meeting a fellow blogger for the first time, as you can see from our smiling faces and our untouched food, as we gabbed and gabbed about ourselves and our experiences blogging. She brought me some beautiful San Francisco souvenirs including a little teddy bear for my future grand son which was so sweet of her, and she shouldn't have. Thank you so much Kathy! It was so nice to meet you!

After we parted I went over to my daughter's office building, as the company she works for had moved to a new floor in their building and she wanted me to see her new spot.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of LOVE in Manhattan!

Passed by Radio City Music Hall as I walked down 6th Ave.

Wow -- this is a nice new cubicle L! It actually has a window! She showed me all her files and, boy oh boy, does this girl work hard. I'm very proud of you L!

I don't know why it always seems to be a grey, overcast day when I go into Manhattan, but the following few photos are views from my daughter's office windows -- no need to go up to the top of the Empire State building today for city views.

Speaking of which, here is a view of The Empire State Building -- as you can see it's quite a bit higher than the 40, or so, floors that I am on as I take this photo.
Kathy told me it was so crowded with tourists waiting to go to the observation deck that she and her daughter had to wait over an hour both to go both up and down, which was unfortunate as they had so little time to spare.

You can see the sharp point of Chrysler Building in the distance in the next photo.

And here's some more midtown building views. I think if I worked in some of these offices I'd be tempted to look outside all day long!

All in all it was a wonderful day meeting some of my favorite people.

I have a lot of "catch up" to do tomorrow, reading all of your wonderful blogs, so see you then!