Tuesday 17 June 2008

Its my turn to pick!

Its been 4 months since I first joined Tuesdays with Dorie and its been a wonderful ride. From the Brown Sugar Apple cheesecake, to the Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart to Big Bill's carrot cake, there have been so many firsts. So when it came time for me to pick a recipe for the entire group, I really wanted to pick something good. So I picked up my book and shortlisted a few recipes - the caramel-peanut-topped brownie cake, the blueberry crumb cake, the peppermint cream puff ring and the chocolate-crunched caramel tart.

If you know the book well, you'll know that there's one thing in common with all these recipes - they are all accompanied by gorgeous photographs! What can I say - I'm a visual person. I had a really tough time narrowing these 4 choices down to 1, however, so I enlisted M's help to pick. After all, he's the one who has to eat most of it so he might as well like it! And, that is how it came to be that this week's TWD recipe is the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring. (Of course, I had my reasons for picking the recipe as well. I wanted to choose something that the TWD group hasn't yet tackled as a group and since we've done brownies, cakes and caramel before, I thought pate a choux would be a good challenge!)

I didn't have too much trouble putting together this week's recipe. The closest heart-stopping moment I had was probably 15 minutes into baking time when my ring was already well beyond golden brown. I honestly thought the pastry was going to burn. Thankfully, although it is quite brown, it never did quite burn.

Some people had trouble getting the whipping cream to be of a firm enough consistency after folding in the creme fraiche but again, mine turned out firm enough to hold the shape of the rosettes. What I did to hedge against a too runny cream was whip the cream slightly longer than I would have otherwise, so that they formed very stiff peaks.

The verdict on this recipe? Absolutely scrumptious! Since Dorie mentions that the ring doesn't really keep beyond one day, M had 2 large portions. In my books, that makes this a winner!

PS: The TWD-ers decided that the person who picks the recipe will post the recipe on their blog and other members can then link to it. As such, here's the recipe!

Peppermint Cream Puff Ring
From Baking From My Home to Yours

For the Pastry
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For the Cream
About 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
40 fresh mint leaves
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold creme fraiche or sour cream
Peppermint extract (optional)

For the Glaze
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp light corn syrup
3 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Draw a 7- to 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper, turn the paper over and use it to line a baking sheet. Fit a large pastry bag with a 3/4-inch diameter plain piping tip.

To make the pastry:
Bring the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour all at once and mix it in with a a wooden spoon, then keep stirring energetically until the dough comes together in a shiny mass. The bottom of the pan will be covered with a thin film of flour. Cook the dough for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, then transfer the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat in 3 of the eggs on at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated beore adding the next. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and very gradually add enough of the beaten egg to form a dough that is thick, shiny and silky.

Spoon the warm dough into the pastry bag, position the tip above the outline of the circle and pipe a ring of dough about 1-inch thick. Pipe a second ring of dough inside the first ring and just touching it. Pipe a third ring of dough on top of the circle where the first and second rings of dough meet If you have any extra dough, pipe out as many cream puffs as you can or use the dough to make a few eclairs. (The cream puff dough must be piped out as soon as it is mixed. However, if you'd life, you can pipe out the ring and freeze it for up to 2 months beore baking it; don't defrost it, just add about 10 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Bake the ring for another 20 to 25 minutes (total baking time is 35 to 40 minutes), or until it is puffed, brown and firm. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the ring cool completely.

To make the cream:
Bring 1 1/3 cups cream and the mint leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pull the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 1 hour, then pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Strain the cream into a measuring cup and add as much additional chilled cream as needed to measure 1 1/3 cups.

Use a serrated knife and a very gentle sawing motion to slice off the top of the pastry ring in one piece pull out and discard any soft dough from the inside of the base. Carefully place the pastry ring base on a platter.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a medium bowl, whip the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar until the cream holds firm peaks. Stir the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar into the creme fraiche and, using a rubber spatulat, gently fold the creme fraiche into the mint whipped cream. Taste the cream, and if you'd like a stronger mint flavor, add a drop or two of extract.

Spoon the mint cream into a clean pastry bag and pipe large rosettes into the base, keeping the rosettes close to one another. Pipe a second row of rosettes on top of the first row, piping the top rosettes between the bottom rosettes. Refrigerate the base while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze:
Melt the chocolate with the cream and corn syrup in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until the glaze is melted and smooth.

Using a small icing spatula, spread the glaze over the top circle of pastry. Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the glaze, and press them down gently. Carefully set the rign on top of the base - don't press down, you want to top to rest light on the whipped cream - and refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before serving. Covered lightly and kept away from food with strong odors, the ring can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours.)

Makes 12 servings