Sunday, 20 February 2011

Hoegaarden Profiteroles in San Francisco

"Cream Puffs" at the San Francisco Ferry Market

Yes, you read it correctly - Hoegaarden profiteroles. What a fabulous and unique find at the San Francisco Ferry Market!

A bunch of we "internationals" took another trip to San Francisco this weekend, despite the ridiculously heavy rainfall (why did I leave my wellies in England?!) and found ourselves, yet again, at the legendary San Francisco Ferry Market.

A very wet San Francisco

I think it sinful whenever I am in San Francisco on a Saturday morning and do not visit the Ferry Market. It's such a fantastic market with ubiquitous free samples and I always manage to discover something new.

During this visit, I was introduced to two new ideas in the food world. The first was a "tea soup", which contained the brew of some immune system-boosting herbal tea bags and the soup ingredients one wishes to add. In this case, we sampled a tomato and onion soup. This tickled my brain into the idea of creating an "immune-boosting" soup. I may investigate this sooner rather than later as my immune system seems to have been struggling a little recently...

Puddles and brollies and puddles...

The second find was this divine beer custard cream inside a profiterole. As we dashed from stall to stall in our squelchy shoes (I could swear that there was more water inside my boots than outside!), we came across these delightful little treats. I asked the gentlemen behind the stall what each profiterole contained. They told me that the custard cream inside the plain profiteroles was made using some Hoegaarden. "That's, like, my favourite beer!" (eek - my vocabulary seems to be acquiring an American tone, please forgive me!). It's probably not my favourite beer. It's actually one of the only beers I like, thus far. I have just entered the "beer world", you see, as I am taking a brewing class this quarter, which, as an initial beer-hater, I am, surprisingly, enjoying. Within the first two of weeks of classes, I suddenly developed a taste for beer. Now, I am very intrigued.

Pâte à Choux with Hoegaarden Custard Cream and Caramelised Apple

I was so excited that my friends had to ask me to "calm down!". There was a chocolate profiterole bun with a chestnut ganache topped with a caramelised slice of apple and a plain profiterole bun with a Hoegaarden custard cream topped with a slice of pear. Such a terribly tough decision for a food enthusiast such as myself, so what did I decide?

"Okay - I'll just have both, please!"

Three for the price of two!

The very generous gentlemen gave me three profiteroles for the price of two! One with the chestnut ganache and two with the Hoegaarden. This certainly brightened up the rather dismal day. I immediately consumed one of the Hoegaarden profiteroles and was completely blown away. I don't like my desserts too sweet, so the herby bitterness of the beer with the subtly sweet cream and a delicate soft choux bun was one of the most sublime culinary combinationss that my palate has ever experienced.

Chocolate Pâte à Choux with Chestnut Ganache and Pear

The chocolate and chestnut profiterole also entertained my palate, but had a lesser effect on the chemical stimulations occuring in my brain, compared with the Hoegaarden profiterole.

If the reading of this post has left you craving for one of these stunning bites of beer-heaven, plan a trip to the Ferry Market as soon as possible! Or failing that, just head off to your nearest pub...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Soft But Not-So-Chewy Dark Chocolate and Walnut Cookies

My idea of a cookie is something that is soft, moist and slightly chewy. A biscuit is something that is hard and can be dipped into a cup of tea.

In America, it seems that the term "cookie" covers both of these descriptions and a biscuit is a savoury scone that is frequently served drenched in gravy. I find all of this this very confusing.

I assumed that in order to make a soft, moist and chewy cookie, you simply use a hygroscopic sweetener and you're there. This theory proved incorrect when I decided to make some "soft and chewy" cookies by using light brown sugar and corn syrup as the sweetener. Corn syrup is famous for its hygroscopic properties and retaining moisture in baked goods, as is brown sugar. I also refrigerated my cookie dough for a good hour before baking as, apparently, this prevents the cookies from thinning out and becoming crispy during baking.

In fact, I thought that the cookies turned out a little too thick. I don't think that I overcooked them and I certainly didn't use too much flour, yet, fresh from the oven, these were not chewy in the slightest. The next day, however, they had a slight chewiness but nowhere near as yielding as I would have liked.

Despite their lack of chewiness, they seemed to go down very well. They certainly carried the "buttery" flavour and texture. It is true when they say that there is no substitute for butter... I am glad that I decided to spend $6 (yes $6!!) on a stick of butter instead of using the so-called 'butter' in the fridge which contains 53% vegetable oil...

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup corn syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix in the sifted dry ingredients and then stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

Wrap up the dough and chill for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the dough into 1.5 inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are set. Cool on a wire rack.

This makes about 25 cookies.

I was wondering if anyone had any tips or advice on how to make soft and chewy cookies?

Another issue that I found was that the bottom of the cookies cooked a lot faster than the top. This meant that a couple of the cookies were burnt, but most of them only had a browner base. I think that this was because I didn't use a baking sheet and I now know how important it is to use one! Even though I enjoyed the caramelised flavours that were produced by the browning, I will use a baking sheet in future to avoid the risk of burning!