Croquembouche

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 Traditional Croquembouche with Spun Sugar

Traditional Croquembouche with Spun Sugar

Pâte à Choux, Cream Puff Pastry

Makes 2 to 3 dozen depending on size

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1 cup of water

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the water, vegetable oil, butter, milk and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook the mixture over low heat until it dries slightly and leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each one is fully absorbed before adding the next one.

Cover a baking sheet, preferably one without sides, with parchment paper.

Place the paste in a pastry bag with a round tip with a 1/2 inch opening. To make cream puffs, hold the pastry bag at a 45 degree angle touching a paper lined pan. Squeeze the bag. Continue forming the puffs 1 to 2 inches apart. To make eclairs, squeeze the bag as you pull it toward you, making 3 inch long fingers.

Place the choux in the oven, and after 5 minutes, lower the temperature to 375 degrees F. Depending on size, they will require 10 to 15 minutes total cooking time.

NOTE: If the oven door is opened before they’re almost finished baking, they will collapse, so don;t peek until 10 minutes have passed. To test for doneness, tap one on the bottom. It should sound hollow. Remove and cool on a rack.

George’s Pastry Cream

Recipe by Chef George Hirsch | from KNOW YOUR FIRE Cookbook, 1997 by George Hirsch

Makes 2 pints

Pastry cream or crême patisserie is all flour-based custard used as a filling for cream puffs and eclairs. After it’s cooked, place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface or sprinkle with granulated sugar to prevent a “skin” from forming and refrigerate immediately.

1 1/2 pints milk

2 Tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

Combine milk, butter and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, flour and orange zest and whisk until smooth.

Whisk about a cup of hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to warm it and the pour it all back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Continue to cook mixture, whisking continuously, until the cream coats a spoon, which it will do at about 190F. (If you cook it to boiling, 212F, the pastry cream will be watery and lumpy.)

Pour the cream into a bowl and place it in a larger bowl of ice water to cool it as quickly as possible. Pastry cream can be refrigerated for 2 days.

How To Fill Cream Puffs:

Wait until the puffs are cool and cut off the top third with a sharp knife. Fill the hollow bottom with a savory such as chicken or crab meat salad or sweet such as pastry cream or ice cream Replace the top and serve. If the filling is a sweet one, dust the cream puffs with confectioners’ sugar or pour chocolate sauce over the top.

When choosing chocolate, look for a shiny finish, which is a sign that the chocolate was heated at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Also, look for a crispy snap when chocolate is broken into pieces. Choose a good chocolate source for sauce like Lindt, Callebaut, or Scharffen Berger. In a pinch, chocolate chips will do. This very decadent sauce is ideal served with fresh strawberries. Note: this chocolate sauce recipe is not ideal for coating dipped strawberries. That’s another post.

 Croquuembouche drizzled with Chocolate Sauce

Croquuembouche drizzled with Chocolate Sauce

The Best Chocolate Sauce Recipe

by Chef George Hirsch

Makes about two cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 Tablespoons pure cane granulated sugar

3/4 cup cream

3 Tablespoons corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional: 1 Tablespoon Brandy or Grand Marnier Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and set aside.

Place cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a small pot. Heat to a boil stirring constantly. As soon as it reaches a boil pour directly over chocolate and stir until all chocolate has melted. Add vanilla and brandy.

Use immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks. To reheat, heat the amount you need over a double boiler and stir until just melted.

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On the First Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent me a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

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Making homemade desserts can be intimidating if you are not a trained pastry chef. Solution, my Apple Pear Tartelette. When the apples and pears are ripe it’s time to pick & prepare. This tart is also a great last minute “I’m entertaining tonight dessert.” And, once you’ve made this a couple times you’ll want to strut your pastry 101 skills and whip it up in front of your guests. Enjoy!

George Hirsch Pear Tart

Warm Apple Pear Tartlette 
Makes six servings
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1/4 cup unsalted sweet butter
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons water + 2 Tablespoons white pure cane sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 medium size Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored and sliced + 2 medium size gala or a sweeter apple; peeled, cored and sliced + 2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
1 store bought frozen puff pastry shells, baked  

Preheat sauté pan to medium temperature. 
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a simmer. Reduce temperature and let simmer two minutes. Cool and mix with sliced apples.
Optional: 
Add 2 Tablespoons cranberries or toasted walnuts to apple filling.
In center of baked puff pastry, top with warm apple and pear filling. Serve with freshly whipped cream or ice cream.

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Sgroppino

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Here's a Thanksgiving toast for you. Cheers!

All Champagne, by definition, must come from vineyards in the Champagne region of France. This is a small region comprising three districts which include the towns of Reims, Troyes, Charleville-Mezier and Chalons. Prosecco, produced in the Veneto region of Italy is considered an everyday drink or sparkling wine. Unlike most Champagne it does not improve with age and should really be consumed within six months of the time it’s purchased, or within a year of bottling. It tends to be dryer than many Champagnes. A good Prosecco, is inexpensive and very drinkable; right for any occasion even breakfast.

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Sgroppino Italian Cocktail

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Chill 4-6 Champagne flutes 

2 cups chilled Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine) 

2 Tablespoons chilled vodka 

1 cup frozen lemon sorbet 

2 Tablespoons half & half 

4 fresh strawberries, split for garnish 

4 fresh mint leaves 

Mix Prosecco, vodka, sorbet and half & half in blender for 1 minute. Pour mixture immediately into chilled champagne flutes. Top with berries and mint. 

13 EPISODES on 4 HD-DVD Disk Set
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Hot Apple Tart as seen on George Hirsch Lifestyle

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The original legend tells that an apple tarte was made upside down by mistake—and so, I call it a confused apple pie. And the tart is still a tart with or without the e. Believe it or not- tarte tatin is easier to make than apple pie; and could even have higher appeal because it’s served warm. So put your best pastry move on and make it for your guests for dessert, they’ll love the show! 

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Tarte Tatin aka Apple Tart

Makes six servings

 chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

2 large green apples, peeled, cut into quarters, remove core and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 stick sweet butter

1/4-1/2 cup pure cane granulated sugar, depends on tartness of apples

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted 

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread room temperature butter in the bottom of a nine-inch non stick oven proof sauté pan. Sprinkle sugar completely over bottom of pan. Arrange apple slices on top of sugar.  Cover apples with puff pastry dough, but do not stretch dough. Press dough lightly around the inside rim of the pan. Cut away corners of excess dough so puff pastry fits into the round sauté pan. With the tip of a knife, poke three to four tiny holes in dough.

On the stove top, begin to cook the tart on a high heat until the dough begins to bubble. This will take about 3-4 minutes. By cooking on the stove top you are browning the sugars and apples. If the dough bubbles up too high, gently pierce dough with tip of a knife to allow excess steam to escape. Once the tart has been cooked on the stove top, place the tart in the oven for ten to twelve minutes or until the pastry is light brown and fully baked.

Remove tart from oven, allow to set about thirty seconds. CAREFULLY, with a large serving platter place inverted over tart. With a towel holding the hot pan and anther hand on top of the inverted platter, turn the platter right side up and un-mold the tart from the sauté pan. 

Top with powdered sugar. Serve warm with fresh whip cream or ice cream. 

Geore Hirsch Lifestyle Apple Tart
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classic apple pie

Looking forward to a wedge of mile high apple pie at your Thanksgiving dinner? Make your own. I have included my winning flaky pie crust recipe in addition to the ultimate traditional apple pie recipe. I'll be using a mix of local tart and sweet apples. I will be making a few apple pies since one is never enough. Enjoy!

 George Hirsch Apple Pie as featured in  Celebrate Magazine

Q & A with George: 

Why do you consider pies a strong technique of yours?

My mother and grandmother were both excellent bakers. Plus, the early stage of my professional cooking and baking practical experience required baking a pie to perfection. Most European chefs I trained with were not about giving a second chance if it did not come out well.

 Why are people hesitant to make their own pies?

Baking can be intimidating. If someone has experience with set baking skills, sometimes it just comes down to available time one has to spend in the kitchen. Mixing the dough, allowing it to rest, preparing the filling, assembly, and baking all take time. And the hardest part of all is the after-baking waiting, letting the pie cool down so the filling sets. Have you ever stared at a well-baked pie and not wanted to dig in? 

Premade pie crust versus homemade pie crust?

Acceptable to use a premade crust for efficiency on time, and for someone who is just beginning to bake because it’s a good way to gain pie-making experience. However, I do encourage giving from scratch a try, as making a pie crust is very easy and should be attempted. The worst thing that can happen—you eat and start again.

What is the most common mistake people make when making a pie?

–Underbaking the bottom crust. 99% of pies have a bottom crust that is not baked. 

–Tough and chewy pie crust.

–Runny fillings. 

What are the must-have tools for pie baking?

A good rolling stick, a heavy-gauge metal pie pan—and I love rolling dough on marble to keep the crust cold. 

as featured in Celebrate Magazine

Apple Pie Recipe

Makes 8 servings

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1 recipe pastry for George’s Favorite Pie Crust, see below
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 medium size Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored and sliced
2 medium size Rome, gala or a sweeter apple; peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of fresh ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer two minutes. Cool and mix with sliced apples.

Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a top crust or a lattice crust. To add a richer color to a double-crust or lattice-topped pie, brush the top crust with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with teaspoon of water) before baking.

Bake 15 minutes at 425, reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

For a nice shine, as soon as the pie is removed from oven, mix a quarter cup of light corn syrup with a couple Tablespoons of water. Boil for 3-5 minutes. When the pie is done, brush the thinned syrup over the top of the crust.

Optional: 
Add 1/4 cup plump raisins, cranberries or walnuts to apple filling

*George’s Favorite Pie Crust

Makes 1 pie or 2 bottom crusts

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup cold milk

Chill the butter and milk before you begin. Chilling keeps the pie crust flaky and prevents the fat pieces from melting into the flour and becoming tough. 

Next, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Cut the chilled butter into the dry mixture using a pastry cutter or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands. The mixture should have fat lumps no larger than the size of raisins. If making pie crust in the summer time cool off the flour by measuring your flour and refrigerate one hour before making dough.

Pour in the chilled liquid just until the milk is absorbed, mixing gently with a fork. You should be able to gently press the dough into a ball. Mix the dough as little as possible: you don't want to cream the lumps of butter into the flour. A crust without lumps of butter will be dense, not flaky. Note that humidity will affect how much liquid the flour will absorb.

Split the dough into two parts; 2/3 and 1/3 (2/3 for the bottom and 1/3 for the top). Pat them into balls, flattening them slightly, and wrap them in plastic wrap. The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Overnight is preferred. Chilling lets the flour absorb all of the liquid, lets the dough relax and become more elastic, and keeps the fat in separate pieces which will give the crust a lighter texture when it is baked.

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