Perfect Party Puffs

DSC_0011-1As we all anxiously await the party of the year on December 31, here are some tasty Choux Paste puffs that can be whipped up in no time from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. They’ll be the perfect pairing to the many glasses of bubbly you’ll be enjoying over the next couple of days. Choux Paste is so versatile, easy and fast to make…..the flavor choices are endless. Depending on how you flavor the base dough, the puffs can be sweet (as in Cream Puffs a.k.a. Éclair) or savory if adding herbs or cheese (use Gruyère cheese to create the French classic puff Gougère). Make them large for an appetizer or dessert portion or small, like I have here, for a delicious hors d’ oeuvres certain to please a crowd.
I’ve chosen three of my favorite puffs to share with you for this New Year’s Eve celebration: Curry Curry, Thai Spice, and Chocolate Orange. The Curry Curry Puffs use the warm spices of India such as Garam Masala, tumeric and curry powder. The Thai Spice Puffs showcase the exotic aromatics of South East Asia with lemongrass,  fresh ginger, Kaffir lime leaves, and for a slight kick– Bird’s Eye Chili powder. And my Chocolate Orange Puffs partner the intense chocolate flavor of Dutch Cocoa, fresh orange zest, and Cointreau (orange liqueur) to make an indulgent sweet treat. All three basically used the same Choux Paste base, and I varied the flavor additions from there. Whether you’ll be drinking French Champagne, Sparkling Wine or Prosecco, these little clouds of yumminess will disappear before the clock strikes midnight! Oh, and here’s what I’ll be drinking on NYE along side these poofs of perfection.

Basic Choux Paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, unsalted (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (for sweet puffs)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a standard baking tray with a non-stick mat or grease pan with butter. In a medium sauce pan over high heat, bring water, butter, salt and sugar (omit if making savory puffs) to a boil. When butter melts, remove pan from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously to ensure there are no lumps and that the paste is well blended. Bring pan back to heat and stir for 3-5 minutes, until the paste forms a ball in the center and leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and cool for 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon to incorporate. The paste will separate/break upon adding each egg, but no worries, just blend vigorously to bring paste back to a smooth consistency. Add flavor additions at this point and stir until well blended. Let paste rest for 10 minutes.

Shape puffs using a pastry bag with a plain hole tip or a cookie scoop as I did for the chocolate ones, which was 1 1/4 inch size. They don’t spread much when baking so you ought to get 24-30 per pan, depending on the size you’re going for.  Tip: use the cookie scoop as it will give you more consistently sized & shaped puffs, resulting in an even bake and a nicer presentation. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Yields approx 2 dozen medium size, or 4-5 dozen cocktail size puffs. Cheers and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!   :>)

Coconut Almond Macaroons

DSC_0332I’ve made this Macaroon recipe so many times over the years, it’s one of the few I have memorized. Partly because the ingredients list is so short, and because it’s dead simple to whip up on a whim.

sunset cookies book The original recipe came from Sunset Cookies  (Lane Publishing Menlo Park, CA) published back in 1985 and surprisingly is still available at Amazon. Although mine is now quite worn and nearly in tatters, the easy-to-follow pages of this paperback have given me the foundation for all the cookies, pies, tarts, and bars that I bake today. Over the years I’ve adapted each recipe (as I did this one) to suit my taste. Another favorite from this book is their Chocolate Eclairs —but that’s for another post!

These Macaroons are right up my alley. A medium-firm exterior from the chocolate coating but soft and chewy on the inside. I bumped up the flavor with the addition of almond meal and almond extract. The combination of coconut and almond is a nice one. The dark chocolate coating was not part of the original recipe, but I highly recommend you add this step. These little gems taste just great as they are, but who wouldn’t want a sweet treat dipped in chocolate? I happened to be out of said dark chocolate today (blasphemy!) so had to use milk chocolate instead….hasn’t stopped me from eating them though ;>)


Coconut Almond Macaroons

1 & 1/2 cups dessicated coconut (I like Kara brand, find on-line or Asian market)
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup almond meal (put skin-free slivered almonds in a clean spice grinder and whiz until a fine meal)
4 egg whites
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/2 pound dark chocolate, melted (semi-sweet or milk will work too)

Preheat oven to 325F

Combine both types of coconut and almond meal in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer,  beat egg whites until frothy & foamy. Add vanilla and almond extracts, sugar & salt. Mix well.

Gradually add flour and mix again just until incorporated, do not over-beat.

Remove bowl from mixer and scrape down sides. Add coconut mixture by hand and stir to combine.

Set aside for 5-7 minutes to rest.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion onto lined baking sheet.

For small sized portions, bake 18-19 minutes. For a large size macaroon, bake 20-22 minutes. Do not brown.

Cool on a wire rack then dip one side of macaroon into melted chocolate. Yields 12 large or 18-20 small.

I like to use an oval ice cream scoop to shape them if I’m making large ones. Otherwise, use a small scoop (1 & 1/4 size in diameter) for nice little round drops.

oval ice cream scoop 1&1-4 ice cream scoop

Bel Gelato

gelato saying

Ah, the arrival of summer and along with it the permission to indulge (or over-indulge) in the wonderful flavors of Gelato. I can’t even remember now what it was about Gelato that set me on a quest over a year ago to try my hand at making it. But boy am I grateful, as I’ve had so much fun coming up with new flavor combinations and learning the secrets to a smooth, silky and effortless Gelato.

After a lot of on-line research I purchased a gelato/sorbet machine, ice cream pints & lids,  and a great book on the subject called The Ciao Bella Books of Gelato & Sorbet by the master-makers F.W. Pearce & Danilo Zecchin. I also follow David Lebovitz on Pinterest as his beautiful pictography always inspires me. View some cool gelato pics here (pun intended!)

My favorite Gelato recipes:
Gelato De Crema  (plain gelato base) |  Ciao Bella
Classic Chocolate Base | Ciao Bella
Pistachio Gelato | David Lebovitz
Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato | two peas & their pod
Lemon Gelato | Double The Batch

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