Cinnamon Banana Cheesecake

Recently, I’ve been craving cheesecake, thick, creamy, tangy cheesecake.

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While I was in New York this summer, I had the absolute best slice at a place called the Brooklyn Diner. It was heaven. I’ve looked everywhere for their recipe but I never found it. Someone told me about Junior’s cheesecake which is supposed to be amazing too and I located a copycat recipe for that one. Well, it’s not the Brooklyn Diner’s cheesecake, but it’s pretty good. I reduced the sugar, because it was really too sweet and took out all lemon flavoring (I’m a vanilla cheesecake person). Unfortunately, we inhaled it before I even had time to snap a single picture of it…so I’ll just have to make it again.

But I had some batter left over, so  I decided to be creative and invent a cake. A banana swirled cheesecake. It was really, really good!

 

FYI: I’m still on the lookout for the recipe from the Brooklyn Diner if anyone has an idea of where I can find it…

 

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Cinnamon Banana Bread

2 eggs

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

1-2 very ripe bananas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

 

  1. Line a round cake pan with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350 F or 180 C.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and bananas. Beat until homogenous.
  4. Mix in oil and flour until smooth.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared cake pan.
  6. Mix up the cheesecake batter below before placing in oven!

 

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Cheesecake

1 egg

¼ cup sugar

225 g cream cheese

3 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp cornstarch

 

  1. Whisk egg and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add whipping cream, cream cheese, cornstarch and vanilla extract and mix just until smooth. Don’t overmix!
  3. Pour over raw banana bread batter and swirl with the blade of a knife.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes.

Back-To-School Chocolate Cake

It’s that time of year again! Back to school. That moment each parent looks forward to—or is it just me? I like the rhythm it gives our lives and enjoy the time off, be it a few meager hours, to concentrate on the books I’m critiquing and the ones I’m writing. To celebrate, I baked my son, Adam’s favorite cake.

 

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It’s a spongy and moist chocolate cake that takes no time to make, but quite a bit to bake (nearly 1 hour). It’s light on the calories. One slice will set you back a mere 312 calories. Yummier by the minute, no?

 

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Serves 12

1 cup sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups flour

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and line a round pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla extract with the boiling water.
  3. Add in the oil and mix well.
  4. Beat in the eggs and the cream.
  5. Whisk in the flour until your batter is smooth.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.

 

 

4TH OF JULY SUMMER CAKE: Coconut Cake with Italian Meringue

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To celebrate Independence Day in style, we made a barbecue with homemade buns’n’burgers, corn on the cob, quinoa salad, and sparkling cocktails. Virgin cocktails for me as I’m expecting baby number three (coming to a maternity clinic in Geneva around Thanksgiving).

After the meat and all the summer salads, I chose to make a dairy-free cake. Umm…Probably the best cake I have ever ever made. For the lactose intolerant reading this blog, this cake will become your new kitchen staple.

AMAZING!

 

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Gabrielle got some frosting on her knee, which she decided to lick off. And Adam, ever so proud to be American.

 

Reduced Coconut Milk (you can make it up to 2 days ahead)

1 (13-14 oz) can of coconut milk

 

  1. Bring coconut milk to boil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to approx. 1/2 of the original volume, stirring occasionally (15-20 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  4. If making ahead, chill in the fridge until ready to use.

 

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Cake batter

¾ cup vegetable oil

½ tsp salt

1 cup of sugar

3 eggs

½ cup coconut milk reduction

½ cup soy milk

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper or coat with nonstick spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, salt, and eggs on high until fluffy (1 min).
  3. Add the oil and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk and the soy milk and whisk until homogenous.
  5. Add the flour and the baking powder and baking soda, and beat again. Finally add the coconut flakes and blend well until batter is creamy.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top of the cake is puffed and golden, a knife blade comes out nearly clean, and your house smells like a coconut palm grove.

 

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Italian Meringue Frosting

200 g sugar

100 g egg whites (approx. 3-4 eggs)

½ tsp salt

40 g water

 

  1. In a stand mixer, on medium high speed, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they reach soft peaks.
  2. In the meantime, boil the water with the sugar until an instant read thermometer indicates 121 C or 230 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, this step will take a good 5 minutes. The mixture has to be thickened, but stay clear.
  3. Beating continuously, drizzle the sugar syrup over the egg whites and whisk on high until mixture is perfectly creamy and comes to room temperature. Touch the side of the bowl (approximately 10-15 minutes).
  4. Cover the cooled cake with the frosting.

 

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American Flag Decoration

A handful of strawberries and blueberries.

 

 

 

The Baker’s Almond Torte

I love almonds and almond powder and almond butter and almond milk and almond paste. So when I stumbled on this recipe a while back, I added it to my Pinterest board, For the Sweetest Life.

And then, one Saturday morning, I baked it. And oh, wow! It was entirely gone by the afternoon. Not a crumb was left. We were many sweet-toothed culprits, but interestingly enough, one didn’t even like almond paste.

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It is a one bowl sort-of-cake, i.e. supereasy to make. Just be sure to have your almond paste handy.

FYI: Almond paste is not marzipan – although if you can’t find almond paste, marzipan works fine. The cake will just be a bit sweeter.

 

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¾ cups sugar
1 log of (approx 200g) soft almond paste
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF or 165ºC. Line a round baking mold with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the sugar with the almond paste until the almond paste is in fine pieces. Add the butter and the vanilla, and cream the mixture until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in the whole eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.
  5. Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center feels springy when you push it gently.

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Adam’s Marble Cake

My son came to me one morning saying, “Mom, I love vanilla cakes and I love chocolate cakes. Can we mix them?” I said, “Yes!” So we browsed the internet for recipes—or rather he did that part—and selected one inspired by Buttercake Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Marble Cake. We tweaked it (as always), reducing the sugar by 1 whole cup and taking out the corn syrup and chocolate chips. It was the moistest marble cake I’ve ever had, where both the vanilla layer and the chocolate layer were equally amazing.

 

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PS: The kids swirled it so I didn’t quite get the true marbled effect. Maybe I should rename the Bicolor Cake.

 

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Makes 1 large or 2 small

 

1 ½ cups sugar, divided
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
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  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and grease a large bundt pan or 2 small ones.
  2. In a small saucepan, on medium-high heat, whisk together ½ cup sugar, the cocoa powder and the hot water. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 1 tsp of vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standmixer, cream the butter with the remaining cup of sugar until light in color and fluffy (1-2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining vanilla.
  5. Reduce the mixer to low and pour in the baking powder and salt. Add half the flour, then half the milk. Whisk until incorporated. Beat in the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.
  6. Place one third of the batter in a clean bowl and whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture to create the chocolate batter.
  7. Now ladle ½ the vanilla mixture in your bundt pan. Spoon the entire chocolate mixture over it. Fold the remaining vanilla mixture over that.
  8. With a clean knife, swirl the two batters in a continuous figure 8 motion all around the baking tin.

 

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My little helper and…

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... my little tester. I had to put the cake up on the counter.

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It did not deter my little tester.

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Yep… it was that yummy.

 

Death by Chocolate Cake

I’ve adapted this chocolate layer cake recipe from the Williams Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook that my brother gave me for my wedding 7 years ago. Wow… 7 years… Where does time go?

 

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Anyway, this is the first time I make this recipe. And I’m certainly not waiting another 7 years to make it again. The cake part is incredibly moist and can hold its own without the frosting, but my kids (and I) are terribly fond of the creamy, sweet topping, so I had to make the whole thing. As always, I cut some sugar in both the batter and frosting recipes. I also took 1/2 the butter out of the frosting, and let me tell you, it’s not missing!

 

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The frosting recipe is interesting. It’s a cross between chocolate mousse, chocolate pudding, and heaven. Yup. Heaven. Thus the name for it.

 

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Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 big four-layer cake or 2 small two-layer cakes

 

125 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp hot water

2 scant cups flour

2 tbsp cornstarch

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 scant cup sugar

90 g butter, softened

1 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1tbsp vanilla extract

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C and grease 2 round, small, identical baking tins.
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate and hot water for 1 minute on high. Stir and let cool.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs and salt.
  4. Mix in the baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, and flour.
  5. Fold in the melted chocolate.
  6. Add the heavy cream and whisk on medium speed until batter is homogenous.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Chocolate Frosting

 

¾ cup whole milk

3 egg yolks

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ tsp salt

90 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped

200 g butter, cut up

 

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk until simmering. Take off the heat.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks, salt, and sugar until light and creamy (approx. 2 minutes on high speed).
  3. With the mixer on low, drizzle in the warmed milk.
  4. Return mixture to saucepan over medium heat. Throw in the chopped chocolate and whisk until thickened and creamy (approx. 2 minutes).
  5. Add the butter and whisk until incorporated.
  6. Put frosting in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 1 hour. Take out of the cold and return the bowl to the stand mixer. Whip on high for 2-3 minutes or until frosting has doubled in volume and lightened in color.
  7. With a long serrated knife, halve the cooled cakes. Spoon some frosting in the middle of each one and spread evenly. Replace the tops of cakes and frost the top and sides.

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The Perfect Gingerbread

The last time, I made this cake was a year ago. It’s the funny thing about spice cakes—they really taste better when snow blankets the ground and the temperatures drop. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s some ingrained human habit. Whatever the reason, this cake is wonderful and I’m sure it would taste as yummy with poached peaches in the summer as it does with mulled wine in the winter.

I adapted it from the Williams Sonoma Dessert cookbook, substituting the butter for oil, for no other reason that I was out of butter (it tasted delicious with oil). It is moist and springy and absolutely delicious. If you asked me what winter tasted like, I would say gingerbread.

Happy, happy holidays to all!

 

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Makes 1 loaf

1 2/3 cups (235 g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ cup (125 g) dark brown sugar

½ cup (160 g) molasses

½ cup warm water

2 eggs

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it with non-stick baking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients (flour and spices).
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the oil, water, and molasses and whisk again.
  5. Mix the dry ingredients with the egg mixture. Beat until smooth.
  6. Pour in the loaf pan and bake until puffed and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes.

 

Blackberry Yogurt Cake

Blackberry Yogurt Cake 2

I have a confession to make. One that will probably come as no surprise when you look at the pictures. I took these photos with my iPhone because my actual super-awesome camera is upstate at my parent’s house. *Hangs head in shame*. But I knew I still wanted to share this recipe with you because frankly it’s too good not to. Hopefully if you make this cake, you will be so dazzled by it’s moistness, simplicity, and deliciousness, you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

Blackberry Yogurt Cake 3

Blackberry Yogurt Cake (adapted from Bobby Flay’s Orange French Yogurt Cake)

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup Greek Yogurt (I like to use Wallaby’s Whole Milk Greek Yogurt because it’s very mild)

3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup melted butter, slightly cooled

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup Blackberry Jam

1 tablespoon (or less) freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

1/4 Blackberry Jam (for the glaze)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, melted butter, canola oil, vanilla extract, and blackberry jam. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the lemon juice (if using) and whisk again until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, being sure not to over mix. It’s okay to have streaks of flour!
  5. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached.
  6. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes, before un-molding the cake and putting it on your serving dish.
  7. In a small, microwave-safe container, heat the remaining 1/4 cup Blackberry Jam until liquid.
  8. Pour the hot jam onto your un-molded cake. Allow to set for 15-20 minutes and serve warm. Enjoy!

Blackberry Yogurt Cake

Mini Caramel Cheesecakes

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A friend of mine gave me a cheesecake book. I salivate just looking at the pictures and have been dying to try basically every recipe. The first I attempted was this salted caramel cheesecake. Of course, I’d used up the cream the day before and the only sort of cream cheese I had was 1 full fat pack and 1 light pack. Being Sunday in Geneva, shops were closed, so I used the cream cheese I had and replaced the ½ cup of cream necessary with ½ cup unsweetened, natural yogurt. I was a little worried about the cheesecakes not turning out as creamy as they should, but they were absolutely, mouth-wateringly velvety and delicious.

 

Makes 12

 

Cookie Base

1 package of Graham Cracker or Digestive Cookies (or gluten free cookies), pulverized into crumbs

2 tbps butter, melted

  1. Mix the butter and the cookie crumbs. (I use a ziploc and a rolling pin to crumble my cookies. Stick them in the plastic bag. Close it getting all the air out, and pass your rolling pin over it until you have fine crumbs).
  2. Line a cupcake mold with wrappers.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of the crumb mixture inside each paper liner and with the bottom of a glass (I used my kids drinking cups) , press the crumbs into the bottom so they are tightly packed.

 

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Caramel Sauce

45 g sugar

50 ml water

15 g salted butter

2 tbsp thick cream

  1. Boil the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat until amber. Take off the heat.
  2. Add the butter and whisk. Return to low heat for 1 minute or until mixture is homogenous.
  3. Take off the heat for good and whisk in the cream.
  4. Let caramel sauce cool while preparing the cheesecake filling.

 

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Cheesecake Layer

350 g cream cheese (I used 1 box of full fat and completed the amount with the lighter version)

90 g sugar

2 eggs

1 full-fat plain unsweetened yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 180C or 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer, beat the sugar and the eggs on high speed until light and creamy (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the yogurt, the cream cheese, and the vanilla extract and mix until batter is smooth.
  4. With the mixture on low, pour in the cooled caramel sauce. Whisk until combined.
  5. Ladle on top of crumb base, filling wrappers to the top. Cheesecakes don’t puff up.
  6. Prepare your water bath: fill a large and deep baking pan that can hold your cupcake pan with water. Add the cupcake pan on top.
  7. Lower your oven temperature to 150 C or 300 F.
  8. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off but DO NOT take out cheesecakes. Place a wooden spoon to crack oven door open and leave in the oven another hour.
  9. Take out of the oven and place in refrigerator without unmolding cheesecakes.
  10. Let chill at least 3 hours before serving.

 

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Salted Caramel and Vanilla Eclairs

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I rarely make éclairs because I rarely eat éclairs. And the reason I rarely eat them is because I don’t really find them good. The pastry cream is often too sweet and sticky, and the choux casing is often dry and rubbery. The only consistently good part is the icing. However, in the past few months, it’s become all the rage in Paris. Specialty shops and éclair counters are popping up literally everywhere with an array of colorful, freshly-assembled éclairs. The flavors offered are endless, only the shape remains unchanged.

This is my second attempt at éclair making. The first one was years ago and a complete fail. This time, I used a French baking blog (la cuisine de Bernard) for a step by step explanation. And it paid off.

Making éclairs is laborious—I will not hide that. The pastry cream needs to be smooth and creamy, which means not over boiling the milk and not scrambling the eggs. The choux dough needs to be light and fluffy, which translates in a lot of elbow grease. My arm still hurts as I type this blog post out. J

But ultimately, if you have the time and the will to make these delicacies at home, do it. They are hands down the best, most scrumptious dessert when well made.

By the way, you need to count two days from start to finish. According to Bernard (the chef I inspired myself from), the baked choux casing and pastry cream need to rest overnight to facilitate the assembly.

 

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Makes 10 big éclairs or 20 small ones

 

Pâte à choux

(make the day before)

60 ml water

60 ml milk

55 g salted butter (if you don’t have salted butter, add a ½ tsp salt to the batter)

3 g sugar

2 eggs

70 g flour

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C or 400 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring the milk, water, sugar, and salt to a simmer.
  3. Once the mixture simmers, take off heat and add in the flour all at once. Beat energetically.
  4. Return to heat and, whisking continuously, dry out the batter for a minute over medium heat.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add a little bit of the flour mixture into the eggs and whisk super-fast so as not to cook your eggs. Add a bit more and beat again. Repeat until the eggs are homogenously incorporated into the dough.
  6. Place the dough in a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
  7. Pipe out finger-long éclairs (for mini, use your pinkie as reference – for normal, use your major). Try to keep them as flat as possible because they puff up a lot!
  8. Bake for 17 minutes (for minis) and 23 minutes (for normal) or until dough is puffed and golden.

 

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Vanilla Pastry Cream

(make the day before)

500 ml 2% milk

50 g salted butter

55 g pastry cream powder (it’s a baking specialty product you should be able to find in the baking aisle – it makes the cream super creamy)

5 egg yolks (keep the whites for Italian meringue! Yum)

100 g sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 50 g sugar and the pastry cream powder. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, mix the milk, butter, and the remaining 50 g of sugar. Boil.
  3. Take off the heat. Pour a little bit of warm milk on the eggs and whisk vigorously.
  4. Add a bit more, and beat again. Repeat until the eggs are combined with the flour.
  5. Pour mixture into saucepan and return to medium heat. Add vanilla. Whisk for 3 minutes or until your pastry cream has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  6. Pour into a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. The wrap should touch the mixture to prevent it from drying out. Place in the fridge overnight.
  7. To use the cream, take out of fridge and whisk until smooth.
  8. Place in a piping bag fitted with a very small fluted nozzle and make 2-3 indents (directly with the nozzle into the top of each éclairs – for small éclairs, make on hole near either extremity – for normal ones, make one hole in the middle and 1 near either extremity).
  9. Pipe out the cream into each hole until you see it begin to pop out of the holes. Run your finger over any runaway cream and smooth the top.

 

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Salted Caramel Icing

90 g sugar

100 ml water

30 g salted butter

2 tbsp crème fraiche (or sour cream)

  1. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on high heat.
  2. Once it begins browning, take off the heat. Add the salted butter.
  3. Place over low heat. Add the cream. Mix until smooth.
  4. Take off the heat. Carefully, dip the side of the éclairs that have the holes in them into the icing.

 

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