Eclairs with Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard and Chocolate Ganache

Well, after having a not-fun-at-all Easter thanks to the storms (no power equaled no Easter lunch, and no sleep to boot), we spent most of last week continuing the work-from-home/homeschooling grind.

However, I’ve been in the kitchen more than ever, and if you follow on Instagram, you’ve seen this bit of deliciousness:

I decided to try something new, and boy did it pay off. I started with a basic choux paste, which is a cooked dough that is used to make cream puffs or eclairs. Then, I messed around with what I affectionately call my mom’s “Cheaters Custard” method, incorporating a lone vanilla bean that was hanging out in my pantry, and finally topped the whole mess with chocolate ganache. I swear, the kids went bananas for these, and my neighbor was over the moon. (Don’t worry, we don’t break quarantine, we do contactless meal delivery to her).

Anyway, even though this recipe seems like a lot of steps, the whole process is really easy. I think people new to the choux paste concept might be a little intimidated at first, but once you go through the steps, you will be like, “Oh, ok, that was no big deal.” So, not only can you have an impressive, delicious dessert worthy of a special occasion, but you can also bask in the complements from your lucky eaters.

Eclairs with Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard and Chocolate Ganache

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Ingredients

Choux Paste

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 TBS unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 to 6 large eggs (see method for why)

Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean (alternatively, you can use 1 TBS good quality vanilla extract OR 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste)

Chocolate Ganache

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces heavy whipping cream

Procedure

Choux Paste/Éclair Shells

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Get out a couple of sheet pants and line them with parchment paper or baking mats. In a medium sauce pan, place milk, water, butter, sugar, salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring often, ensuring the butter is completely melted. Add the flour all at once, stirring quickly and vigorously until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Cook about 45 more seconds and remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a bowl (ideally use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer for the next step).
  2. While the dough is still hot, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (start with the 5 eggs only). After you have added all 5 eggs, test to see of the texture is right. If it seems too thick, add the last egg. I only needed 5 eggs. The dough should be a good consistency for piping while maintaining it’s structure.
  3. Transfer dough to a Ziploc bag and cut a corner so that you will get about a 1-inch diameter hole. Pipe the dough onto your prepared pans into logs about 5 inches long. (If you have piping equipment, go for it fancy-pants, but a Ziploc will do, I promise). *note, I did not do it, but if you want to, you can give the eclairs an egg wash before baking*
  4. Bake eclairs for 15 minutes at 400, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for about 10 minutes more until they are golden brown and feel hollow. Keep an eye on them the last 5 minutes of baking. My convection oven cooks hotter than a standard oven, so I had to pull mine out sooner than I expected. Set the pastry shells aside to cook completely.

Stupid-Easy Vanilla Bean Custard 

  1. In a medium saucepan, add milk, butter, flour, sugar, egg yolks. Slice vanilla bean in half and scrape the vanilla caviar from the bean halves into the pot, then toss the scraped pod halves into the pot as well.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and mix it thoroughly with a whisk. As it heats, it will begin to thicken and bubble. Keep stirring, and once it is bubbling consistently, let it cook for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, and using tongs, fish out the vanilla pod halves and discard them. Transfer custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the custard surface (this prevents it from getting a “skin” on top). Refrigerate until cold and thick.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Place chocolate and cream in a heat-safe bowl, then place the bowl over saucepan of simmering water (medium-low heat), making sure the water isn’t touching the bowl directly. Stir frequently until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream, and is smooth and shiny.

Assembly

  1. Place custard in a Ziploc bag for piping, and snip a corner to make a 1/2-inch diameter hole. For each éclair, cut a small slit in the side of each pastry, and then pipe the custard into the center making sure you get good coverage on both ends. Finally, dip the top of each éclair into the warm ganache and place on a baking rack to set. Refridgerate until ready to serve!

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Icing

I was missing Mom yesterday, so I decided to bake her chocolate sheet cake. This recipe is so dang easy, and the rich texture and decadent icing make it the ultimate comfort food when only chocolate will do. I used to inhale this for dessert with a big glass of milk, and it was one of the baking staples in my mom’s cooking routine.  She used to tell me that my grandmother would bake this cake every Friday so that she would have something chocolate for her five kids to snack on over the weekend.

I like it with the pecans, but you can leave them out of the icing or substitute them with another chopped nut of your choice.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Icing

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Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 TBS cocoa

Icing

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 TBS cocoa
  • 1 box of powdered sugar (1 pound)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 TBS milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Place butter, water, shortening, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Cook mixture over medium-high heat until butter and shortening are melted and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour cocoa mixture into the flour fixture, whisking until combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Prepare icing while cake cooks because you will pour it over cake when it comes out of the oven.
  4. To make icing, melt butter in saucepan on medium-low. Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring well. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour evenly over warm cake and it will set as it cools. Enjoy!

Super-Easy Petite Cheese Cakes

We had a nice, relaxed family get-together yesterday, and I wanted an easy dessert that I was pretty sure *most* of us would like. These little cakes are so stupid-easy, and for something so simple, they still taste like delicious indulgence.

Petite Cheesecakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 18 vanilla wafers
  • jam of your choice for topping, if desired

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pans with 18 paper baking cups. Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Cool 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with jam, if desired.

How easy is that?!?

Easy Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

School is out, which means we are in the final countdown toward Christmas. I’m making cookies with the kids, which is equal parts fun and frustrating as they argue about who gets to use which cookie cutter first. My kids could fight about what air tastes like if given the opportunity.

We are on to sugar cookies today, but ended up making Gingerbread Cookies last weekend. The recipe I use is pretty easy to work with and forgiving, so it’s great if you really want to get into decorated cutouts. If you need to distract restless kids, I highly recommend baking up a batch, and investing in a few dollar tubes of icing from the store so they can decorate and be distracted from arguing about that whole air thing.

Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Procedure

    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, mixing well to combine.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and making powder, stirring well.
    3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
    4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired cutters and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Tasty Tuesday–Coconut Cream Pie

pieWe had a little family get-together this weekend, which included epic card games, cocktails, and lots of fun. I made a huge meal of fried chicken, rice, gravy, biscuits, and veggies. If that wasn’t enough, I cranked out a couple of pies, one of which was this coconut pie at my husband’s request. (On a side note, my butt will be on the treadmill every day this week after that marathon of indulgence). I officially need a weekend from my weekend, and maybe a salad…or ten.

Anyway, this is Granny’s super-easy recipe, which comes out rich, creamy, and oh, so decadent. Whip one up and I guarantee you will impress somebody…if you don’t hoard it for yourself, that is. I won’t judge.

Granny's Coconut Cream Pie

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Ingredients

  • 1 deep dish frozen pie shell or 1/2 pkg. refrigerated pie crust (or go homemade if you’re ambitious)
  • 2 cups whole milk (Granny insisted that you cannot use reduced fat in this recipe or the custard won’t set right)
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus additional for garnish ( This can be found in the baking aisle, usually by the nuts and chocolate chips)
  • Fresh, sweetened whipped cream

Procedure

  1. Bake pie crust according to package directions, and set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter, flour, sugar, and egg yokes with a whisk. Cook this mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly (seriously, dude). Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, about 7 to 10 minutes give or take. Once the mixture starts to bubble/boil, continue cooking for one more minute.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in coconut extract and flaked coconut, whisking well to combine. Pour mixture into pie crust and refrigerate until cold. Top pie with plenty of fresh, sweetened whipped cream and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Sprinkle with additional coconut to garnish if desired.


pie 2Yummers!

Tasty Tuesday–Chocolate Kahlua Cake

cakeThis cake is an older recipe, but is one my husband loves to make it when he is puttering around the kitchen. Y’all know me, any cake with hooch in it is a thumbs up. However, this really is a good, fast cake recipe that elevates the lowly box mix into company-worthy dessert.

Chocolate Kahlua Cake

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Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1 box Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 pkg instant chocolate pudding mix (5.9 oz) (the larger box!)
  • ¾ cup Kahlua
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs

GLAZE

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup Kahlua

Procedure

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, or spray it with the nonstick spray that contains flour (Baker’s Joy, Pam with Flour, etc.).

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, Kahlua, water, oil, and eggs with a hand mixer. Blend on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes more, until batter is thick and smooth. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.

3) Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-47 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove cake from pan and place on cake plate or platter 

4) Place powdered sugar and Kahlua in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Spoon glaze over warm cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides and into the center. Cool completely before cutting.

The Best Fudge I’ve Ever Had

We interrupt the Halloween Party recap to bring you my favorite recipe find of the month. I came across this recipe in Sharon Bower’s book Goulish Goodies. Even though I have never been a fan of fudge, this recipe seemed easy enough to try, and therefore ideal to include in our party menu. I loved the idea of a dessert that actually had the pumpkin and spice flavors of Fall, since the rest of the  selection was geared more toward the kids.

Needless to say, I loved this stuff, which is definitely saying something since I don’t like fudge. My husband says it may be the best fudge he has ever had. I probably should re-name it “Diet Killer,” because I was hard pressed not to eat the whole dang pan. Luckily, I remembered that I really like my skinny jeans, and exercised a little self control…though I am having to suck in the tummy this week.

I have never made fudge before, but luckily for me, this recipe was pretty much fool-proof.

Vanilla-Spice Pumpkin Fudge

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the good stuff!!! no imitation!!!)

1) Grease a 9-inch square baking dish

2) Combine first 10 ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved; stop stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for a full 5 minutes without stirring.

3) Remove pan from heat and stir in the white chocolate chips, pecans and vanilla. Stir until the chips are completely melted (this took  longer than I expected, so just be patient and keep stirring. It probably took me 4 minutes to get the chips completely incorporated). Pour fudge into prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into pieces, and serve. Try to exercise some self-control.

Tell your skinny jeans I’m sorry.

The Cookie Peace Treaty—aka Forced Disarmament and Some Granny-Style Distractions

As the temperature crept past 100 yesterday, I knew we were in trouble. I tried to get the heathens outside with me to weed the garden, but after fifteen minutes, even I was whimpering in defeat. 100 degrees with 90% humidity drove us back inside, and I think we all had tempers that were noticeably shorter.

Unfortunately, the more bored my children got, the more inclined they were to pick on each other for sheer entertainment. Pretty soon, all-out war erupted, and one bloody nose and some severe punishments later, I knew I needed some methods of distraction…or rather a Plan JJ, since I had already exhausted Plans A through II.

When my mom was my age, our family moved to Los Angeles as a result of my stepdad’s job. This big move was quite the adventure, but it also took my small town Louisiana mother far away from her friends and family, and plopped her into a strange and frightening world. Her driving skills were the first major casualty of the move, as she realized that the freeway was actually an insane asylum moving at 70 miles an hour. To this day, my mom still drives like Andretti, even though we are back in Louisiana… it really is frightening. The second, and more lasting effect of the move was that my mom was often lonely and homesick, and treated this condition in the best way a Southern Lady knows…she cooked, she baked and then she cooked some more. My mom used cooking as the ultimate distraction and Band-Aid for her homesickness. It’s amazing that we did not turn into Weebles, but we did have a gaggle of neighborhood kids who turned up conspicuously around dinner time. My mom rocked, especially when she was a little obsessive around the kitchen.

I am nothing, if not my mother’s daughter. When WWIII erupted yesterday, my first instinct was to drag the heathens into the kitchen and turn on the oven. Cookies are a great distraction for the kids, because they take a while, and the recipes have enough steps to divide up between the two kids, thus keeping them distracted for an hour of blessed peace. Yesterday, we made Cowboy cookies. The original recipe calls for pecans, but I had to leave those out to avoid a picky-eater freak-out. We started with the basics:

cookies 1

And in traditional cookie fashion, creamed the butter and sugars:

cookies 2

While the mixer was accomplishing creamy bliss, we did a quick mix-up of the dry ingredients:

cookies 3

We added the eggs and vanilla to our butter mixture:

cookies 4

After mixing in the dry ingredients, we added the oats and the chocolate chips. I like adding the oats because it stretches the recipe, makes the cookies more filling and makes me feel about 0.01% better about feeding my kids a pile of cookies instead of something healthy.

cookies 5

After baking them up, we had a lovely pile of cookies:

cookies 6

But more importantly, we bought ourselves a little peace, and the boys were distracted from their driving need to annoy each other to death.

Want some peace of your own?

Here it is:

Cowboy Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 (12-ounce) pkg. chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

1. Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Gradually add this to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in oats, chocolate chips and pecans.

3. Drop dough onto a baking sheet in large tablespoon size amounts (use parchment paper if you are smart…easy clean-up). Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until cookies are pretty-pretty.

Serve them up and enjoy the blissful silence, at least until the ceasefire ends and they are back to their shenanigans.