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!!   :>)

Dry Creek Olive Company

Olive Oil Cake | I’m so fortunate to live in an area, which for most people, is considered foodie mecca. Thousands upon thousands of people flock here annually (thankfully not all at once) to experience the wine, food, gorgeous scenery and joie de vivre of this expansive agricultural Graceland. Where am I you ask? None other than the beautiful Sonoma County in Northern California. And in particular, the quaint Dry Creek Valley.

Here in this long and narrow AVA (American Viticultural Areaa designation given to a particular grape growing region) you’ll find not only top-notch Zinfandel and Rhone-style wines, but an amazing collection of small, family artisans who have been tending their farms, dairies, chicken & cattle ranches, olive and stone fruit orchards for generations.  It is this unique combination of farm to table living that makes this part of wine country a world-class destination.

Dry Creek Olive Co logo Dry Creek Olive Company/Trattore Farms is just one of the many small producers thriving in this rustic-chic community known for its dichotomy of sophistication & lux and down-to-earth farmer attitudes. Dry Creek Olive Co. mills a wide selection extra virgin olive oils from their estate olive orchards and has a couple of phenomenal vinegars as well. Their other arm of the business (Trattore Farms) produces estate wines, with a focus on red and white Rhone blends.

I’ve been a fan of their olive oils for years and am always looking for ways to incorporate them into my everyday cuisine. So this past week, our winery caterer and I were doing a photo shoot for an upcoming publication this fall. We had the pleasure of testing & experimenting with a few recipes trying to find the best citrus olive oil & semolina cake we could. Collectively we both baked up to four or five cakes, each recipe offering a slight twist on the basic ingredients of olive oil, citrus, semolina and almond meal.  In the end, we created a hybrid of them all (shown below) which proved the best result from a texture and flavor standpoint. The deep orange-golden color comes from the Valencia Orange Olive Oil and the semolina.

DSC_0181Olive Oil Cake |

Olive Oil Cake | whiskandmuddler.comFrom the batch of recipes we tested, our top two winners were: Orange, Semolina and Olive Oil Cake that I adapted from KR Catering’s recipe and an Olive Oil Cake from Dry Creek Olive Company.

And should you ever make it out to this corner of the world, do stop by Dry Creek Olive Company for an olive oil tasting or to sample their wines.  They’re open daily from 11am-5:00pm |