Friday, March 15, 2013

Petite Treats:Fancy Stuff,Strawberry Cream Eclairs,Final Review!

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We have reached the final chapter of Petite Treats that is dedicated to the "Fancy Stuff" that will definitely test your skill and expertise in the kitchen. Some of the recipes included in this chapter are canoli's,eclair's, mini cheesecake's and bear claw's. Don't those all sound so delicious and creative that you just want to test them all out.Well before you dive into this chapter you might want to hear my experiences with "Fancy Stuff".

In this chapter, I have learned that all these recipes need a lot of patients and the ability to cope with very  fragile treats.That being said I don't recommend the reader to start making any treats from this chapter until they test out recipes throughout this cookbook.Trust me with saying this because I have reviewed one recipe from each chapter and I still had a difficult time when I tested out a recipe from "Fancy Stuff".I learned they were no where kidding about how this chapter tests your baking skills,especially for their recipe for Strawberry Cream Eclairs.

Now at first I thought this recipe would of been a breeze since I have made puff pastries before.However I was wrong and ended up with a bad experience with the choux pastry.Now the directions to making the pastry were very familiar to me and were easy to come together.Also the piping was alright it just took some time getting use to.However the trouble came from the baking part of the recipe.The recipe mentioned to bake these eclairs at about 20 minutes until golden brown,which seemed way to long for eclairs so I made sure to always keep watch.When I was done baking all the pastry I noticed that some of the eclairs were very flat and not useful.This was quite confusing to me since the recipe didn't mention this could happen.

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This is what I ended up with.
Then I realized that I made a big mistake when I was baking this pastry. I remembered a tip I learned from a recipe that you should never open the oven door to puff pastry since it will cause them to deflate.So I made sure to redo the recipe with the tips and they came out a lot better with only a few that went flat. I felt pretty stupid when I forgot about this tip;however it made me wonder why the recipe didn't mention anything about it.If that little nugget of information was added to this recipe it would prevent many people from becoming discouraged ,especially first timers. So I'll have to give a thumbs up to the directions to making the choux pastry, but a thumb down for the baking portion of the recipe.

Now on to the more relaxed and fun part of the recipe.Creating the vanilla cream and berry filling.This part of the recipe is heaven compared to the choux pastry.First,the vanilla cream is super easy to make with only using vanilla bean,heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar.The vanilla bean can be found at any grocery store, down the baking aisle and is very important to the flavor.If you don't know how to scrape the vanilla bean I'll give you some tips in the recipe.The directions are also super easy to follow and it can be made with a kitchen aid mixer or a hand held mixer.

The berry filling is even easier to put together then the vanilla cream.All you need is fresh strawberries,chopped, granulated sugar and fresh mint or basil.I would not dare use frozen strawberries for this since it will be way to watery for the filling.The mint or basil is your choice of what flavor you like to have bond with the berries.Overall, the filling does takes some time to come together since it needs one hour to let the flavors bond.Beside the wait it is super easy to create. I will have to give both these fillings thumbs up.

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Now the assembling of these eclairs are the most fragile part of the recipe.Its will be a lot harder in person then its explained in the recipe because your dealing with a very sensitive pastry.What you have to do is cut the eclairs length wise,horizontally without wrecking anything.Then you have to pipe in whipped cream, top with berry filling and then place the top back on.All while trying to make it look quite fancy.It is also very important to have your pastry completely cooled and your whipped cream with stiff peaks.The recipe does a pretty good at explaining what to do,but it feels a lot different when your actually assembling.Also, its your choice if you want a dust of icing sugar for the assembling. I chose not to since its already a pretty sweet dessert.Anyways,I give a thumbs up for the directions in assembling.

Now for the moment we all been waiting for the, test test.These Strawberry Cream Eclairs were delicious even after all that frustration with creating them.The pastry was mildly sweet with a soft and airy texture while letting the vanilla cream and berry filling shine through.The cream was rich and creamy with a strong vanilla flavor.It also had beautiful specks of vanilla that created a really unique look.

The berry filling had sweet and juicy strawberries with just a hint of mint flavor.It gave off a beautiful vibrant red with just a few specks of green from the mint.The eclairs had layers and layers of flavor and everyone really enjoyed them.Everything was really good that the flat eclairs even got eating because once you dip them in vanilla cream and berry filling the taste buds can't tell the difference.I'm so glad nothing went to waste and everything was delicious.

So overall, I really love this recipe for its creativity,simplicity and of course the flavor.The recipe may suffer problems with lack of information and if the recipe had just had that extra help for the reader I could give it a perfect rating.However I got to be honest so I will give a thumbs up for its flavor,texture and simple direction.While I give a thumbs down to lacking information and the baking directions of this recipe.  I wish I could give it a better rating,but that's how it turned out for me.

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So Wow! We are now coming to the end of my review of Petite Treats, even though I know I left out one last chapter to review.The last chapter to this cookbook is dedicated to toppings,frosting,streusels and drizzles.I felt I had to leave this chapter out since I wasn't able to use any of the recipes in any of the treats I tested.It might of not been the best reason to leave out a chapter;however I felt it was the best for me.

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Anyways, Everyone wants to hear about the overall opinion of the cookbook, right? Well I find that Petite Treats is a very creative and inspiration cookbook.There are many recipes that people will enjoy and I also love that their is vegan friendly recipes as well.The photos included in the book are excellent and quite detailed.Lastly, the directions and ingredients in the recipes are also quite simple for many to understand.

Now with all these great attributes to Petite Treats there are a few downfalls.The recipes in Petite Treats may be quite simple;however they do need more detail and information to help the reader understand.Their is also a typo in one of the recipes titled F.U Brownies and I hope their isn't any more in the other recipes.Overall, I do have to say I really like this cookbook for its creativity and recipes.I will recommend this cookbook for others to learn how to make their own mini dessert treats.

I find Christy Beaver and Morgan Greenseth, the author of Petite Treats to be very inspiration and I just hope their next cookbook includes more information and tips for the readers like me.I hope everyone enjoyed my recipes reviews for Petite Treats and I hope you all tune in for the next cookbook I review that is all about our favorite snacks.I am so excited!

The Recipe

Strawberry Cream Eclairs

Makes 20

For the Eclairs:

1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs

For The Vanilla Cream

1 vanilla bean,split lengthwise
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar

For The Berry Filling

2 cups strawberries,finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp finely chopped fresh mint or basil (Your choice)
1/2 powdered sugar,dusting (optional) 

Make The Eclairs:

Preheat the oven 400F.Line two baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray. (My Tip: Be sure to spray the sheet with cooking spray if not they will stick)

Combine the milk,water,butter and salt in a medium saucepan.Heat over medium-high heat ,stirring constantly,then remove from the heat.

Add the flour and stir until combined.Return the pan to medium- high heat and cook for 4 minutes,stirring constantly,then remove from the heat. (My tip: The mixture will become a ball of dough)

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Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.Mix on medium speed for 1 minute.Add the eggs one at a time.Make the first egg is incorporated before you add the second one.(My tip: Can use an handheld mixer and keep the mixture in the pot while beating in the eggs)

Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2 inch tip. (My tip: If you cannot find this size tip, cut an disposable piping bag until reaches the right size.Use a kitchen measuring tape to help you out)

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Pipe the eclairs about 2 1/2 inch long onto prepared baking, about 10 per sheet. (My tip: Use a kitchen measuring tape to help you get the right length and 10 per sheet depends on the size of the pan) 

Bake until golden brown,about 20 minutes. ( My Tip: For me this time was way to high so be sure to keep an eye on the pastry and do not overcook.Also DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN!. They will deflate if the oven is open so just look through the oven door and remove when golden brown.)

This picture includes flat eclairs and some that are a little useful.
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Make Vanilla Cream: 

Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer for 30 minutes in the freezer. (My Tip: Can use a metal bowl and mixer attachments to an handheld mixer as well)

Scrape the vanilla bean in to the mixer bowl.Discard the pod. 
(My tip: Cut vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape top to bottom, using the dull part of the blade.Also, DO NOT DISCARD the pod.You can use it towards making your own homemade vanilla or by adding one pod to sugar to create vanilla sugar.)

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Add the whipping cream.Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.With the mixer running,gradually add the powdered sugar and beat medium-high speed, until stiff peak form (My Tip:  Same rules apply to a handheld mixer)

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Transfer the whipped cream into a pastry bad fitted with a large plain tip and refrigerate, until ready to use. ( My Tip: I used a large star tip for my piping bag which created a nice design)

Make The Berry Filling:

Place finely chopped strawberries in a medium bowl.Add the finely chopped mint or basil.Add the sugar and stir.Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.(My Tip: 1 package of fresh strawberries is more then enough for 2 cups)

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Assemble The Eclairs:

When the eclairs have completely cooled, slice each one in half lengthwise, horizontally.Set each top next to its bottom (My Tip: Slicing these can be very difficult since the pastry is very fragile)

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Pipe the vanilla cream onto each bottom.Top the cream with the berry filling. (My tip:Be sure the vanilla cream is thick with stiff peaks.)

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 day. 

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