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    Friday
    Dec112009

    Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

                      
                            Vanilla Pastry Cream fills a Chocolate Eclair
       
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    Off the shelf  
    baking book reviews

    Today's off the shelf is not only my favourite Martha Stewart book, the 416 page hardback book is my all time favourite baking book!

    Why? It's where I turn to when I need any of the classics, here is an overview of the chapters...

    Each chapter is prefaced with relevant tips & notes on techniques and equipment used.
    Chapter one: Simple Baked Goods
    Includes, scones, popovers, Blueberry Muffins, Glazed Lemon Pound Cakes, Bundt cakes to name a few.
    Chapter two: Cookies
    Is where you will find, Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, Brownies, Linzer Hearts, Savory Caraway Cheese Crisps amongst dozens of other recipes.
    Chapter three: Cakes
    One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes that I make a lot, plus Lemon Madeleines, Fruitcakes, my stepson's favourite New York Cheesecake, Upside Down cake, carrot cake & the list goes on.
    Chapter four: Pies, Tarts, Cobblers and Crisps
    Of course there is Classic Apple Pie, but you'll also find Nectarine Tart, Easter Pie, Rhubarb Tart, Sour Cherry Cobbler included in the over two dozen recipes in this chapter.
    Chapter five: Yeasted Baked Goods
    In my favourite chapter, there is Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Baguettes, Panettones, Challah, Brioche, Honey Whole-wheat Bread, plus over two dozen more recipes.
    Chapter six: Pastries
    Yum, chocolate elcairs, profiteroles, napoleons, puff pastry, cream puffs, choux pastry are only a few of the wonderful recipes in this chapter.

    The chapters are followed by basic recipes, this is where you'll find your frostings, fillings, glazes, toppings and doughs. I've spoken before how Martha's Swiss meringue butter cream is in my opinion the best frosting in the world!!

    There is so much to like in this book, beautiful photographs intertwine with practical shots of techniques or for example what a baba pan looks like. It is the one book I turn to weekly, whether baking Dried Fruit Focaccia or Ciabatta, making a curd recipe, pastry or a pastry cream.

    The following is the pastry cream recipe from the book and what I used to fill the chocolate eclair pictured above, I also use it or a flavoured variety to fill cupcakes, layered desserts and to fill fruit pastry tarts. A delicious recipe that is easy to flavour with liqueur, coffee, essence/extract, zest or melted chocolate.                       Pastry cream flavoured with coffee essence

    Pastry Cream
    Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

    Makes about 2 1/2 cups
    Ingredients
    2 cups whole milk
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
    Pinch of salt
    4 large egg yolks
    1/4 cup pure cornflour (cornstarch)
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    Method
    In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until it has been incorporated. Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean.
    Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.
    Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Just before using, beat on low speed until smooth (you can also whisk by hand). 

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