Diary · Honduras

Egg-mageddon Profiteroles 

Home for the holidays, big dinner party tonight, let’s bake a dessert, shall we? What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently. I decided to make profiteroles since they’re simple, don’t require any weird ingredients and are not so fancy that people won’t like them.

 Simple they may be, but easy they’re not. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It took 3 trials, 2 sticks of butter and 7 eggs to get the perfect profiterole shells. I could hear Chef Moss in my head: “overcooked panada”, “paste too runny”, “needs longer to dry out”.

Sure, baking with a different oven with different measurements (having no digital scale here, I had to settle for using imperial measurements) and different ingredients will make a difference. You definitely need to know your oven and hob, my mom’s hob definitely heats up faster than mine back in London. I think even the medium temperatures are hotter. So definitely a learning curve.

Fail #1 Overcooked panada

Stage 1 of profiterole making is called the panada, adding the flour to water and melted butter that’s been brought to the boil and then cooking for a bit. Basically, I realized the hob was too hot, too late. The dough didn’t look too overcooked, just a tad too shiny (meaning the butter was starting to leak from the dough). However, once in the oven smoke began to come out as the shells baked. Took them out and discovered dark bottoms. Definitely a butter leak. I was reminded of a Creme de la Creme episode where they had to bake croissants and one team of pastry chefs screwed up their lamination and ended up setting the oven on fire due to the butter leaking. At least that didn’t happen!  
Fail #2 Too much egg/liquid

The first time I tried, I had doubled the recipe, for round two I just did half just in case I screwed up again. This time I also did it all by hand instead of using my mom’s stand mixer. I’m not really sure what went wrong this time, maybe the panada wasn’t cooked enough on the hob, so there was still a lot of water in it. I didn’t add all the egg in but still ended up with a very runny mixture that half-assedly puffed up. 

Third time’s the charm, right? 

Last trial, if I screwed up this one, I was officially done with profiteroles. This time, no issues after stage 1. I incorporated the leftover runny dough before adding the eggs. This time the paste was stiff, but pipeable. Probably had like 1 1/2 eggs in there but I didn’t want to use up all of the eggs in the house. Plus I figured it was good enough. 

And it was. Hallelujah! 

 

Now that was just getting the pastry shells right… I also had to make the filling and chocolate sauce! 

Suffice to say, cream is a foreign notion here. There’s sour cream and cream with added salt. We bought some so called cream and it tasted like soap (Honduras, how??). Thankfully you can buy a chantilly cream mix to which you only add milk or water. 

Since I went through the trouble of getting a certificate in patisserie, of course I had to make my own sauce, especially since I was already cheating with the chantilly cream (out of necessity, but still). Too bad I couldn’t make the one I learned at the college, but no way was I using that soap-cream. I just used James Martin’s recipe on BBC Food, converting the measurements from metric to imperial (metric is the way to go people, please catch up). After scrounging up enough chocolate for it, it turned out well. 

So without further mishap, dessert was finally ready. Haha, I wish.

It turned out that the chantilly mix yielded less than a cup, enough to fill maybe half of my shells. In a bold move, I mixed the chocolate sauce together with the meager amount of chantilly. The end result was like a chocolate mousse, decent enough to be piped into the shells. 

Finally done!

Honduras · Switzerland · Taiwan · the Netherlands · UK

A taste of five pancakes

Before moving to London, I never knew about Pancake Day. Despite growing up in a Catholic household, there never was any change in our diets before, during or after Lent. We’d go to church, maybe eat more seafood during Easter, but never try to consume all the rich foods before Lent. Also, culturally pancakes are foreign to us. We eat both American-style pancakes and crepes but pancakes themselves are not part of a typical Honduran diet.

I love pancakes: blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, thick pancakes, thin pannekoeken or crepes, you name it. So it was only natural for me to tackle pancakes on such a special day. I’ve been making pancakes with my mum’s recipe for years, though adapted to yield one portion of pancakes. To challenge myself, I tried to make different pancakes for each country I’ve lived in. It was fun to brainstorm though I spent 2 hours making said pancakes.

For reference, this is my mum’s recipe (which she got from my grandmother and who knows where she got it from…basically it’s the Motz family pancake recipe):

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter (which I’ve always omitted, never changed the end results)

1 tbsp sugar (again, optional, especially if adding sweet toppings)

All the ingredients are mixed into a batter. Scoop batter onto pan with the teeniest amount of butter (which has been wiped around the pan with a paper towel), unless you’re doing Dutch style pancakes (pannekoeken) which do need a healthy nob of butter to cook in. A tip to keep them fluffy: don’t press down on the pancakes with a spatula while cooking.

 

Now, here are my five-country variations:

Honduras (family recipe, served just with maple syrup)

These are my mum’s pancakes, which I’ve eaten my whole life. We would usually have them with honey or, my personal favorite, Hershey’s chocolate syrup. However, I ran out of honey and I don’t have Hershey’s syrup either, so maple syrup it is. I actually like the taste of it more than honey’s.

 
Taiwan (pineapple pancakes)

So I tried the pineapple cakes before and I thought I could adapt the recipe into pancakes. I made the pineapple jam and mixed it in with the batter, to which I also added a spoonful of milk powder to evoke more of the pastry flavor. They were tricky to shape into circles, but they tasted nice (very sweet, though).

 
the Netherlands (pannekoeken with brown sugar or hagelslag)

One of the things I miss about the Netherlands and Belgium was their style of pancakes, thin as crepes but laden with goodness. I always had pannekoeken with either cassonade (brown icing sugar) or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles); savoury pannekoeken I’ve only had here in London at My Old Dutch Pancake House (really tasty, but enormous things!). So that’s how I had my small portion of pannekoeken (I thinned out the batter with milk to get the crepe-like pancake): with brown sugar and lemon, and hagelslag.

 
Switzerland (pancake fondue)

For this one, I cheated a bit. The pancake itself isn’t anything Swiss; I just cut up my mum’s pancakes into bite-size pieces. But I did make a chocolate sauce for dipping as you would with dessert fondue. Definitely more of a snack than a meal!

 
UK (digestive pancakes)

I know ‘digestive pancakes’ sounds hilarious but when you find out that Britain’s favorite biscuit is the digestive biscuit (essentially, a cookie with oats and brown sugar) then it all makes sense. I attempted to recreate the biscuits in pancake form. I ground a couple of tablespoons of oats and added them to the batter, along with a tablespoon of brown sugar (instead of the original tablespoon of sugar). These came out alright, though I would probably add more oatmeal in future batches or just mix ground digestive biscuits into the batter. I spread some of the chocolate sauce on top, just as digestive biscuits sometimes have a layer of chocolate.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of pancakes. At least I’ve got breakfast sorted for the rest of the week!

Honduras

Pan de coco

I’ve always been funny about coconut. I’m not a picky eater, but I have decisive opinions about different products derived from this fruit. Coconut milk? I love it in food. Coconut water? Only from fresh coconuts, and the big green ones at that, not the hairy brown ones. Desiccated coconut? Disgusting. It’s the texture I can’t get past.

Having said that, I love pan de coco (coconut bread), which comes from the north coast of Honduras. It is made with coconut milk as the liquid to bind the dry ingredients, together with an egg. It is soft and rich and full of flavour. I’ve been craving some ever since the Independence Day celebrations in September organised by the Honduran embassy here in London.

Having found a recipe here and seeing how simple it was, there was no way I could delay making some. I chose that recipe for its smaller yield and measurements in the metric system. Here is the English version of the recipe :

Ingredients

453g strong flour

5g dry yeast

20ml water (to dissolve the yeast in)

10g butter

15g sugar

5g salt

260ml coconut milk (you might need a bit more if mixture is too dry)

 

Method

Dissolve the yeast in the water and one tablespoon of flour, mix and let rest until foamy (about 15-20 minutes). Mix all the ingredients (except for the butter) until they come together. Add the butter and knead until the dough becomes soft and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rest until it has doubled in volume, about an hour.

Divide the dough in equal portions, shape into rolls and let rest a further 15 min. Place rolls on a baking tray, leaving some space between them.

Bake at 175 °C for 30 min (or until golden brown). Once baked place rolls on a rack to cool.

The rolls, while a bit dense and of closed texture, looked and tasted as they should. A couple got stuck to the tray (I ran out of baking paper), but no big deal. I think I might have  also overworked the dough as I shaped them into rolls, so 15 min wasn’t enough to let the dough relax before baking. Seeing how easy they were to make, I’m definitely trying again (until I get them right)!