Sunday, August 31, 2008

Decadent Chocolate Eclairs...

...from the great man himself

I was excited to become a member of the Daring Bakers and couldn't wait to start my first challenge.

When I finally saw what the challenge was, I was a bit disappointed because I have made eclairs so many times before and was looking forward to trying something new. My disappointment quickly changed though when I saw that the recipe was one of Pierre Hermé's. I love everything that Pierre Hermé stands for and am looking forward to trying more of his recipes.

I thoroughly enjoyed making these. The choux pastry was easy to work with and turned out quite well. I found that I had to bake mines slightly longer.

The pastry cream....OMG...what can I say about it other than I absolutely loved it. It was the first time that I made chocolate pastry cream and have discovered something else to crave. The chocolate really came through in this recipe so you want to make sure that you use good quality chocolate. It was smooth, silky, chocolate decadence. I'm going to use this as a base for lots of other recipes.

I wasn't too crazy about the glaze since I found the chocolate sauce unnecessary(and a waste for me since I just threw away the leftovers because I didn't know what to do with it). While I think it tasted great I thought that the chocolate sauce weakened the glaze somewhat - maybe it was something that I did wrong. I find a simple chocolate ganache (without the addition of the sauce) perfect for eclairs. I made two batches of these and for the second batch I used the glaze recipe without the sauce.

Overall I enjoyed making these and found them absolutely delicious and quite indulgent. Thanks Tony and Meeta for a lovely challenge. I can't wait until I can get a copy of the book so that I can try other recipes by Pierre Hermé.

Looking forward to the next challenge.

Friday, August 29, 2008


...A firm South African favourite

Crunchies were a staple for me growing up. Everybody I knew who sold sweets out of their homes or at schools sold crunchies. Everytime I make these I am overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia. I remember begging my mother every day after school for 20c for popcorn and 50c for my daily crunchie fix. Wow... it seems like centuries ago and yet I still love these.

I remember the first day I made these for my niece and nephew(aged 6 and 7). I told them that I was going to make them crunchies. They looked at me with strange expressions on their faces and the exclaimed that they didn't know what crunchies are. They waited eagerly as I made and baked the crunchies and after one bite the first comment out their mouths were, "Aunty Diane we've had these before but we didn't know what they were called". I'm guessing that with all the food restrictions being placed on schools these days they aren't so popular with the kids anymore. Since making these for them they always request them when I call or visit them.

Crunchies, whether they are in the form of biscuits (cookies) or bars are made with the same basic ingredients which include oats, coconut and golden syrup. To spice them up you could also add your favourite chopped dried fruits and/or nuts or even chocolate chips. My favourite additions are dried apricots, pecan nuts or chocolate chips. I always love to drizzle them with melted chocolate after they have been cut and cooled in the pan.

2 cups (500ml) flour
2 cup (500ml) oats
2 cup (500ml) coconut
1 cup (250ml) sugar
250 g butter or margarine
4 tablespoons golden syrup (add about 2 tablespoons more if you like your crunchies a little chewy)
2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the crunchies, except for the baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Heat the butter and syrup in a saucepan until all the butter has melted.
  3. Add the bicarb (baking soda) and stir until frothy.
  4. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly into a medium sized greased baking pan, about 10 by 8 inches.
  6. Press firmly with your hands or the the back of a spoon to press until the top of the
    mixture is smooth and even.
  7. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350dgrees F until golden brown
  8. Cut into squares while still warm and leave in pan to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight containter.

Friday, August 8, 2008

No Chocolate Please

I promised a few of my friends last week that I will put together a black forest cake. I love black forest cake but for some reason I've never made one before. I wasn't going to take any shortcuts with this one and was going to include every bit of goodness that a black forest cake is known for right down to kirsch soaked cherries. When I got home though it was another story. You see people have been complaining that everything thing I make is chocolate. Well can I help it....I'm so in love with chocolate.

I decided to go ahead and make something else which is not related to chocolate. I found myself lost since I wasn't really sure what other dessert I would possibly enjoy that doesn't include chocolate. Then I remembered a special treat that I used to enjoy with my boyfriend a few years ago (he doesn't care much for chocolate desserts or any other dessert for that matter), carrot and pecan nut muffins. So carrot cake it was.

I have yet to buy a good carrot cake. I'm not saying that nobody out there sells good carrot cake, I'm just saying that all the ones I've bought in the past were very disappointing. If they weren't dry then they didn't have carrots....I mean they probably used half a carrot for an entire cake. If it's go next to no carrots can you still call it carrot cake. So I decided that I will stick to buying carrot and pecan nut muffins from Woolies (Woolworths) cause they are utterly delicious.

A few years ago I made my first carrot cake and to my surprise it turned out quite good. I didn't enjoy grating the carrots though. I think this is the reason why I've always avoided making carrot cake. This time around I actually enjoyed grating the carrots because I knew that a lot of people were counting on me to give them good dessert.

I used a recipe that I found all those years ago when I made my first carrot cake. It's a lovely cake, moist and spicy, just the way I like carrot cake to be. If you enjoy carrot cake then you will enjoy this one. I got so many good compliments for this cake. I was even surprised when my neighbours little daughter came up to me and said, "Aunty Diane you are talented". I mean I didn't even think that kids enjoy carrot cake...I didn't. Well that been said I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

This cake needs to be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container because of the cream cheese. It tastes even better the next day if it will last that long.

Carrot Cake


1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 pinch salt
3 cups grated carrots (pack the carrots tightly into the cup when measuring)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


113g (1/4 lb) butter
226g (8 ounces) cream cheese
450g (1 lb) powdered sugar


  1. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the oil, eggs and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  3. Mix in the carrots and chopped nuts
  4. Pour into 3 23cm (9-inch) cake pans.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 175°C (350°F) for 35 minutes.


  1. Mix butter and cream cheese together until smooth, then add sugar a little at a time.
  2. Beat until smooth.

You can decorated the finished cake with chopped nuts if you like (use the same nuts that you used in the cake).