Tag Archives: Vanilla Bean

French Cruller Doughnuts with Maple Vanilla Bean Glaze

17 Aug

Who on earth thought you could make doughnuts at home?  I always just thought they were something that magically appeared in boxes labeled “Krispy Kreme” on Sunday mornings.  Even once I actually went to a Krispy Kreme store and saw the factory machine churning out glazed doughnuts, it still felt more like a Disneyland attraction than actually connecting in my brain as the creation of food I was about to eat, much less food that I might be able to make at home myself.

I can’t remember how I came across this recipe on a great blog, Not So Humble Pie, for French crullers, but I do know that something struck me about this recipe.  It was the first recipe for doughnuts that I came across that I actually felt I could make at home.  Bonus: Crullers are the healthiest doughnut you can enjoy because they’re so airy which means fewer calories.

As always a few notes before beginning:  you’ll need a pastry bag with a star tip.  I bought a little kit for $5 from Sur la Table–50 disposable pastry bags and 3 plastic tips, including a star tip.  The recipe says to let the doughnuts cool before glazing them.  Truthfully, I think the texture was much better when they were still warm, so I would advise you have the glaze ready to go before you start frying up the doughnuts (just whisk briefly if it starts to harden up).  If your honey has been sitting on the shelf for too long like mine had, 20 seconds or so in the microwave will liquidize it again.  Finally, this recipe is certainly a long process the first time you give it a go, so don’t plan on having these ready before the rest of the household wakes up.  Go into it knowing that and you can have them good to go for a nice brunch.

French Cruller Doughnuts with Maple Vanilla Bean Glaze
Adapted from Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home via Not So Humble Pie

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  1. Mix butter, sugar, salt and water in a medium sauce pan and to a rapid boil.
  2. Have a wooden spoon in hand and be ready because this next step goes quickly: add the flour to the pot of boiling mixture, stirring like crazy to make sure the flour is fully incorporated.  It will go from liquid to dough almost instantly.  Keep stirring and mushing it around the bottom of the pot for about 4 to 5 more minutes.  You’re going to get a film coating the bottom of your pot, but it’ll clean up easy later.  Not So Humble Pie pointed out the reasoning is to remove as much moisture as possible so the pastry is lighter than air so cook until there is no steam coming from the pastry any more.
  3. Transfer the pastry to a mixing bowl and beat it with your electric mixer for a minute or so to cool it off, then beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.
  4. The amount of egg white you add will change with each recipe.  You want to add enough egg white to make the batter glossy (egg white will make the doughnuts light and airy later).  Add too much egg white and the dough will be too soft and the pretty piping won’t hold and your doughnuts will be flat.  Truthfully, I just added both egg whites and didn’t worry about it and my doughnuts ‘wilted’ just a little.
  5. Cut out four 3″ squares of parchment paper (we’ll be reusing them) and lightly grease them.
  6. Heat 2″ of oil to 375 degrees.  Keep your instant thermometer in the oil the whole time so you can keep a close eye on the temperature and keep it as close to 375 as you can.  Also, don’t get impatient and just crank up the heat to get the oil hotter faster–once it reached 375 I turned down the flame, but it kept soaring up past 400 and I just had to wait for it to cool down again.
  7. While the oil is heating, line a table with a stack of paper towels and set out a wire cooling rack.  Also, whip up the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, vanilla, honey, and adding 3 tablespoons of milk.  If the glaze is not pourable, add one more tablespoon of milk.
  8. Back with the doughnuts, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the dough and pipe it into a ring shape on each square of greased parchment paper.
  9. Once the oil is hot enough, take one square of paper and gently drop it into the oil, doughnut side down.  The paper will magically unstick and float off the doughnut in just a few seconds; use tongs to pick it up out of the oil and let it drain on the paper towel lined plate.  Fry the dougnut for a few minutes on each side–they should be a deep golden brown color all over.  Transfer completed doughnuts to paper towel lined plate and then over to the cooling rack while you finish the others.
  10. Luckily, you won’t have to grease the squares again, considering they’ve been sitting in a vat of hot oil.  Continue piping rings of doughnut dough onto the squares and frying them until you’re out of dough.
  11. Glaze the doughnuts by flipping them upside down and dipping them in the glaze.  Set them back on the drying rack with some paper towels underneath so that the glaze doesn’t drip all over your table!  Let the glaze dry a little and then enjoy!

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise

5 Aug


I don’t think I could have found a simpler, more delicious way to eat my favorite summer fruits (peaches and nectarines), aside from just directly biting into one.  The peaches and streusel alone are fantastic–the warm cinnamon and nutmeg flavors complement the fruit perfectly.  When you add the creme anglaise, though…I don’t know if words can even describe how much I LOVE creme anglaise.  This was my first attempt at making it and, while not perfect, I was eating it straight out of the bowl and had to stop to make sure I would have enough to spoon over the peaches.  The original streusel recipe called for chopped almonds for crunch, but I switched in oatmeal instead–I’m a BIG sucker for oatmeal streusel.  Best of all, the ingredients were all in my fridge and pantry already, so it was a quick treat to whip up.  It’s not overly sweet either, so I may be making it for brunch pretty soon here.  In fact, I’m not even going to talk any more, I just want t
o get right to the recipe:

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise
Peaches recipe adapted from Eat Well
Creme Anglaise recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Dec 2006
Serves 2 (Creme Anglaise recipe makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 firm peaches or nectarines
  • 1.5 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces (plus extra for buttering dish)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1/4 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the Peaches:

  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly butter any baking dish that will accommodate the peaches (I used a glass pyrex).
  2. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.  On the round side of the peach, cut a thin slice off  to create a little flat space so that the peaches won’t roll around in the baking sheet.  Arrange them in the dish with the pit side up.
  3. In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the butter pieces and pulse about 5-10 times until the mixture is crumbles.  A word of warning: I over pulsed mine and accidentally made it into cookie dough.  If this happens, it’s no biggie; it will taste the same.
  4. Stir the oatmeal into the mixture.
  5. Press small handfuls of the mixture onto the tops of the peaches.  Like I said, mine was more like cookie dough, so pinched off bits and pressed them onto the peaches.
  6. Pop the peaches into the oven and bake 20 minutes.  Peaches will be tender and the streusel will be baked and browned.  In the meantime…

For the Creme Anglaise

  1. Warm the milk in a medium sauce pan over low heat until steaming.
  2. In the meantime, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl about 1 minute until pale yellow in color.
  3. Measure out 1/2 cup of the steaming milk (leave the rest in the pan over the low heat) and, while constantly whisking, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of milk over the egg mixture. (This is called “tempering”, you’re warming up the eggs so they don’t freak out when poured into hot milk and turn immediately into scrambled eggs.)
  4. Pour the warmed egg mixture into the pan of milk and constantly stir the mixture for the next 8-10 minutes.  Using an instant-read thermometer (do you have one yet?  If not, they’re something like $12 at Bed Bath & Beyond; go get one!), keep stirring the milk until it registers 175-180 degrees.  Be patient.  If you turn the heat up, the milk will curdle.  Make sure to keep an eye on the bottom of the pan–be quick to break up any curdled milk that forms along the bottom of the pan because it will make the creme grainy.  I was disappointed, seeing that my creme was turning out super grainy and decided that I would eat it anyway and just not give you guys the recipe until I had figured out what I did wrong but it turns out I had no reason to panic because of the next step here…
  5. Once you reach 175-180 degrees, take the pan off the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer.  I was worried I wouldn’t have a strainer fine enough, but just your average mesh strainer will do–it got rid of all the little grains and I had a beautifully smooth Creme Anglaise!

The creme can be refrigerated until you want to use it (put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the creme so that you don’t get a skin on it later), but I spooned it still warm over the warm peaches.  I thought I was in heaven.  I still have a lot of strawberries left (I’m eating them as fast as I can!) and can’t wait to eat them with some of the creme tonight after dinner.

Panna Cotta

21 Jun

I wondered if I was getting ahead of myself by posting my all-time favorite dessert only a month into my food blog adventure.  But I’m just so beside myself with excitement that I was able to recreate this dessert I thought was impossible to make at home that I really have to share it with you.  I had my first taste of panna cotta in London, in a little Italian restaurant in Exmouth Market, just a block or two from the flat I was staying in for the semester.  I can barely remember the taste or even the texture, but I do remember that I was absolutely in heaven.  Or perhaps eating heaven.

Panna cotta is a delicately flavored (typically with vanilla beans) dessert with a consistency that falls somewhere between Jell-O and pudding.  It’s softer than Jell-O, but firmer than pudding. Panna cotta is typically molded so that it looks just like flan.  The beauty of panna cotta is that you can take it from a fancy molded Italian bistro dessert down to a less fussy yet still classy and beautiful presentation.  The recipe here is pretty strongly of vanilla (it tasted almost like ice cream)–probably because I used vanilla bean paste instead of an actual vanilla bean (see my caramel recipe as to why).  I missed the delicate flavor, but the delicate texture was exactly what I was hoping for and, in the end, this was still one of my biggest triumphs in the kitchen: recreating one of the greatest food memories I have in my heart.

I have to admit, I waited 4 years to even attempt this because I assumed it was a recipe only attempted by the most knowledgeable Italian master chefs.  I give full credit to Miss Nina Baker (no relation) for giving this recipe a try long before I did–and successfully I might add!  Obviously I regret waiting so long now that I know how easy it is to make.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
slightly modified from The Best International Recipe cookbook
serves 5-8, depending on your serving manner

Emily’s Tips: 1) make sure you have 2 trays of ice ready ahead of time or else you’ll be calling your boyfriend and asking him to stop by your apartment to make ice for you before you get home from work.  Your request will be met with confusion.  2) Keep your wits about you.  This is a very simple recipe, despite its appearance.  Just read the recipe thoroughly ahead of time and stay calm during the cooking process.  3) Make sure you’ve got a thermometer handy.

  • 1 cup whole milk (do not substitute skim or low-fat milk)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Knox unflavored gelatin (find it in the market next to the Jell-O)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (2 teaspoons of vanilla extract can be used instead)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the milk and let it sit and hydrate, about 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the vanilla bean paste (or extract) and cream in a large measuring cup; set aside. Make a large bowl of ice water using 2 trays of ice cubes and 4 cups cold water; set aside. Set your containers on a baking sheet and set aside.  You can use eight 4 oz ramekins.  I evenly split the recipe up amongst 5 of our tumblers.  The most elegant serving dish?   Wine glasses.  I prefer the look of stemless in this case.
  3. Heat the milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved, about 1 minute.  Stirring the milk and sugar mixture constantly, slowly add the cream and vanilla mixture (make sure to get all the delicious vanilla that has likely settled to the bottom of the cup by now).
  4. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl (metal if you have it) and set the bowl gently into the ice water. Let the mixture chill, stirring frequently, until it has thickened to the consistency of eggnog and registers 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the mixture into a pitcher (I used a tall measuring cup and just refilled a few times), then pour it evenly into the serving dishes.  Shake each dish gently to even the surface.  Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic does not mar the surface of the cream and refrigerate until just set and chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 5 days.
  6. Add your preferred topping just before serving, most commonly a berry coulis, but personally, I just like cutting up fresh strawberries to drop on top.
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