For Halloween this year I've decided to do a post about something that I find truly scary. Spiders!
Though I admire their handiwork, accidentally walking into a spider's web is a traumatic experience. (This happened recently, and I have yet to fully recover!) As fall creeps in, it is more and more evident that these little guys are super busy. I'm finding webs on my porch railing, on the hedgerow and worst of all, across the walkway to my house. Going to the mailbox now requires a thorough inspection and at times, a broom.
All that spinning inspired me to do some of my own. In this recipe, I've spun sugar across overturned bowls to create a candy spider's nest. Below the sticky landscape I placed delicious "spider eggs" (cream puffs) that are filled with berry pastry cream and rolled in powdered sugar.
I also made some eerie red meringue spiders to place around the nest. I think they turned out really cute, but boy, were they ever fragile!! If anyone wants to attempt these little guys, I piped them with a #4 plain Wilton tip.
Next time I make this, I'll probably skip the meringue spiders and use a few plastic ones. They are just as cute and not so (very!) fragile. I'm not including them in the printable recipe, but you can find the recipe here (I halved it) if you'd like to give them a try.
Spider's Nest with Choux Eggs
[click for printable recipe]
3/4 cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
1/4 Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Powdered sugar for dusting
Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
Berry Pastry Creme
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1/3 cup berry puree (I used blackberries and raspberries)
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Stir in berry puree. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use. To fill pastry puffs, make a small slit in the sides of the choux and pipe in pastry creme. Gently press back together and set aside. Roll in powdered sugar. Store (refrigerated) in an air-tight container until ready for use.
Spun Sugar Spider's Nest
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
Prepare a work surface with parchment paper. Place two bowls of different sizes upside down on the sheets of parchment. Coat them with cooking spray.
Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil the sugar syrup (stirring occasionally), until it reaches 302 degrees. The sugar will cook very quickly towards the end, so watch closely to ensure it doesn’t burn.
As soon as the sugar reaches the proper temperature, remove the saucepan from the heat. Allow the mixture to stand for a minute or two to thicken slightly.
Hold the pan in one hand and a fork in the other. Dip the fork in the sugar syrup and stir. Remove the fork from the syrup and hold it 12 inches above the bowls (I used a step-stool). Rapidly flick the fork back and forth allowing very fine strands of sugar to drape across the bowls. Repeat several times. If the syrup doesn’t create any strands, or the strands have a lot of “beads,” allow the syrup to cool for another minute. If the strands are very lumpy and difficult to form, re-heat the syrup very briefly.
When finished, carefully pick up the entire mass of spun sugar and transfer it to a serving platter. Place several spider eggs (crème filled choux puffs) in and around the nest, making sure to place a few under the raised mounds of spun sugar created by the overturned bowls. Place the remaining choux in a bowl beside the centerpiece.
Spun sugar is best used immediately after it is made.
To close, I'd like to wish my very good friend and fur-baby a happy birthday.
Happy Birthday Biscuit!