party food

Cream Puff Swans on the Lake

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I love that my grandchildren love to cook and absolutely love that they like a challenge. My eldest makes perfectly shaped butter cookies; the next eldest recently cooked a vegetarian rice and beans dinner for her siblings. One of them once helped me bake a flourless chocolate roll for Passover.

Recently, my 9-year old grand daughter said she was bored and wanted to cook something really delicious, very pretty and also "hard." 

Be still my heart!

What better choice than cream puffs made into the shape of swans?!

I have taught baking classes on this particular recipe and have seen fully committed grown ups nervous about getting it right.

But off we went into the kitchen.

There are two really difficult challenges to making swan shape cream puffs. The first thing is mixing the eggs into the butter-flour dough, which is very stiff and therefore not easy to incorporate the liquidy eggs. Fortunately, this kid is athletic, with the kind of strong arms that come with spending hours doing chin-ups and stuff at the playground.

No problem! Stiff dough/eggs, perfectly mixed and blended. Check!

The second hard part is piping out small slivers of dough for the necks. There were lots of not-so-good ones (we just ate these as snacks after they were baked) but she did manage to create enough for us to use in the final product.

After that it was easy: we made some vanilla pudding but I told her that some other time you could also fill the swan bodies with whipped cream, sorbet or ice cream.

She said it would be really nice for the swans to have something to swim on.

Remember that old piano piece, Swans on the Lake? The music that so many of us learned as children taking our first year or so of piano lessons?

Well of course, there had to be a lake. We melted some chocolate. So easy. So lovely to look at when we put the swans down on each serving plate.

Wouldn't this be a beautiful finale to a lovely dinner for New Year's or someone's birthday or other special occasion?

 

SWAN PUFFS

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or vanilla pudding
  • melted chocolate or chocolate sauce

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat the water and butter in a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. When the water comes to a boil, raise the heat and add the flour mixture, all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Spoon 12-18 mounds of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, shaping them into ovals with your fingers, and leaving some space between each oval for the dough to spread. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12-18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

To make the necks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow-holed tip. Pipe the dough into "S" shapes about 2-inches long onto the second baking sheet. Bake the necks for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

To assemble: Split the swan puffs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Cut the top portion in half lengthwise to use as wings. Spoon some whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or pudding into the swan bottoms. Arrange the split top wings on top of the filling. Spoon some melted chocolate or chocolate sauce onto dessert plates. Place the filled swan bottoms on top of the chocolate. Insert the necks into the front. If desired, use a toothpick to dip into some meted chocolate and make a dot as an eye on the top of the neck.

Makes 12-18

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

Take a look through magazines and on-line recipe sites and, if it’s hors d’oeuvre recipes you’re looking for, I think you’ll find a lot of fancy stuff that may have names like “kale toasts with scallop sushi and sea urchin foam.” And recipes for beautiful hors d’oeuvre that you admire but will probably never make and even if you do it won’t look like the photo. 
 Mine don’t anyway. 
 Besides, after years and years of observing folks at parties, I’ve realized that a majority of people seem to like the classics. The oldies but goodies. The easy stuff. The comforting kind of hors d’oeuvre. The ones that aren’t so gorgeous you’re afraid to eat them. 
 That taste terrific. 
 Like Franks-in-blankets and Spanakopitas. 
 And Stuffed Mushrooms. 
 Try these for your next party. They’re easy, they’re good, they won’t intimidate your guests and you can make them a day or so in advance. 

     
     
  Stuffed Mushrooms   
    
  14-16 large white mushrooms  
  3 tablespoons olive oil  
  4 ounces sweet Italian-style sausage meat, finely chopped  
  2 scallions, chopped  
  1 clove garlic, minced  
  2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs  
  1 teaspoon thyme leaves  
  1/4 cup vegetable stock  
  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  
     
     
     
  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems, chop them, and set them aside. Brush the outside of the caps with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the scallions, garlic and chopped mushroom stems. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the meat is well browned. Add the bread crumbs and thyme and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Pour in the stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture inside the mushroom caps. Mix ingredients well and use the mixture to stuff each mushroom cap. Place the filled caps on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and crispy.  
     
  Makes 14-16   
     

  

Take a look through magazines and on-line recipe sites and, if it’s hors d’oeuvre recipes you’re looking for, I think you’ll find a lot of fancy stuff that may have names like “kale toasts with scallop sushi and sea urchin foam.” And recipes for beautiful hors d’oeuvre that you admire but will probably never make and even if you do it won’t look like the photo.

Mine don’t anyway.

Besides, after years and years of observing folks at parties, I’ve realized that a majority of people seem to like the classics. The oldies but goodies. The easy stuff. The comforting kind of hors d’oeuvre. The ones that aren’t so gorgeous you’re afraid to eat them.

That taste terrific.

Like Franks-in-blankets and Spanakopitas.

And Stuffed Mushrooms.

Try these for your next party. They’re easy, they’re good, they won’t intimidate your guests and you can make them a day or so in advance.

 

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

14-16 large white mushrooms

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces sweet Italian-style sausage meat, finely chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/4 cup vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

 

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems, chop them, and set them aside. Brush the outside of the caps with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the scallions, garlic and chopped mushroom stems. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the meat is well browned. Add the bread crumbs and thyme and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Pour in the stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture inside the mushroom caps. Mix ingredients well and use the mixture to stuff each mushroom cap. Place the filled caps on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and crispy.

 

Makes 14-16 

 

 

Herb and Chorizo Gougeres

My mother always said “don’t try out new recipes on guests.” Because what if the recipe doesn’t work or we don’t like it and so on and so on and then there might be nothing to eat. 
 Well, first, there is never nothing to eat at my house. Because my mother’s other advice (shown by example) was to have a freezer full of food “just in case.” 
 Second, because I like to try new recipes and who else could I try them on if not for the people who dine at my table? 
 Usually what I do when I have a dinner party is to make one new dish. All my friends know there will be some experiment or other for them to taste and comment about. 
 But next Sunday I am having lots of people over to celebrate the birth of our granddaughter Carina (I am a little slow, she is now 7 months old) and several of the dishes I will be serving are experiments. 
 Only I took my mother’s advice. I tried them out first so I know they work. 
 One of the hors d’oeuvre I worked on was gougeres, the wonderful, crispy baked French cheese puffs. I’ve made them a zillion times, so no problem there.  
 But I needed to make them dairy-free. 
 How do you make gougeres without butter and cheese? 
 I substituted Earth Balance buttery sticks for the butter. And instead of mixing in grated cheese I added finely chopped chorizo sausage (I used  Jack’s Gourmet ), which gave the puffs the characteristic tangy taste needed for a good gougere. 
 Voila! Followed my mom’s advice and have plenty in the freezer just in case. 
 Here’s the recipe: 

 Herb and Chorizo Gougeres  

 1 cup water 
 1/4 pound (1/2 cup) Earth Balance Buttery Spread, cut into chunks 
 1 cup all-purpose flour 
 3/4 teaspoon salt 
 4 large eggs 
 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs 
 1/2 cup finely chopped chorizo (one Jack’s Gourmet chorizo) 
 pinch cayenne pepper 

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the water and Earth Balance in a saucepan over medium heat. When the Earth Balance has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the herbs, chorizo and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Lightly grease  and flour a baking sheet. Drop 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. Bake for 20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 60

My mother always said “don’t try out new recipes on guests.” Because what if the recipe doesn’t work or we don’t like it and so on and so on and then there might be nothing to eat.

Well, first, there is never nothing to eat at my house. Because my mother’s other advice (shown by example) was to have a freezer full of food “just in case.”

Second, because I like to try new recipes and who else could I try them on if not for the people who dine at my table?

Usually what I do when I have a dinner party is to make one new dish. All my friends know there will be some experiment or other for them to taste and comment about.

But next Sunday I am having lots of people over to celebrate the birth of our granddaughter Carina (I am a little slow, she is now 7 months old) and several of the dishes I will be serving are experiments.

Only I took my mother’s advice. I tried them out first so I know they work.

One of the hors d’oeuvre I worked on was gougeres, the wonderful, crispy baked French cheese puffs. I’ve made them a zillion times, so no problem there. 

But I needed to make them dairy-free.

How do you make gougeres without butter and cheese?

I substituted Earth Balance buttery sticks for the butter. And instead of mixing in grated cheese I added finely chopped chorizo sausage (I used Jack’s Gourmet), which gave the puffs the characteristic tangy taste needed for a good gougere.

Voila! Followed my mom’s advice and have plenty in the freezer just in case.

Here’s the recipe:

Herb and Chorizo Gougeres 

1 cup water

1/4 pound (1/2 cup) Earth Balance Buttery Spread, cut into chunks

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs

1/2 cup finely chopped chorizo (one Jack’s Gourmet chorizo)

pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the water and Earth Balance in a saucepan over medium heat. When the Earth Balance has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the herbs, chorizo and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Lightly grease and flour a baking sheet. Drop 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. Bake for 20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 60

Eli's Cheesecake

It’s cheesecake season. Whatever the reason: Shavuot, Mother’s Day, graduation, upcoming pool or patio party, Father’s Day and so on. 
 So last week I handed out  my very special recipe  for cheesecake.  
 Which got a terrific response and one particularly nice one for me from  Eli’s Cheesecake  in Chicago, Illinois, which I became familiar with many years ago when I was at college at Northwestern University. 
 When the good folks at Eli’s read my blog and saw how I was bragging that my cheesecake recipe is unsurpassed, they offered to send me one of theirs to compare. 
 So here’s the deal. 
 My cheesecake is smooth, creamy, dense and tangy. I mix in freshly grated orange and lemon peel to infuse it with a refreshing citrus flavor. 
 Eli’s cheesecake is smooth, creamy, dense and tangy, pleasantly sweet and spiked with rich vanilla.  
 It’s the old apples-oranges thing. They are too different to compare. 
 If you like baking your own, try my recipe. If you’re looking for scrumptious bakery-bought cheesecake, order one (or more) from Eli’s. In addition to plain vanilla there’s lots of  other flavors  including gluten-free versions as well as chocolate, salted caramel, turtle, cappuccino, blood orange, key lime and more (including sampler packs that include several flavors together). 
 Either way, you can’t go wrong, especially now. Cheesecake season. Whatever the reason.

It’s cheesecake season. Whatever the reason: Shavuot, Mother’s Day, graduation, upcoming pool or patio party, Father’s Day and so on.

So last week I handed out my very special recipe for cheesecake. 

Which got a terrific response and one particularly nice one for me from Eli’s Cheesecake in Chicago, Illinois, which I became familiar with many years ago when I was at college at Northwestern University.

When the good folks at Eli’s read my blog and saw how I was bragging that my cheesecake recipe is unsurpassed, they offered to send me one of theirs to compare.

So here’s the deal.

My cheesecake is smooth, creamy, dense and tangy. I mix in freshly grated orange and lemon peel to infuse it with a refreshing citrus flavor.

Eli’s cheesecake is smooth, creamy, dense and tangy, pleasantly sweet and spiked with rich vanilla. 

It’s the old apples-oranges thing. They are too different to compare.

If you like baking your own, try my recipe. If you’re looking for scrumptious bakery-bought cheesecake, order one (or more) from Eli’s. In addition to plain vanilla there’s lots of other flavors including gluten-free versions as well as chocolate, salted caramel, turtle, cappuccino, blood orange, key lime and more (including sampler packs that include several flavors together).

Either way, you can’t go wrong, especially now. Cheesecake season. Whatever the reason.