Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sweet Jesuses

...or is it Jesi? What is the plural of Jesus? Perhaps only God Himself knows! I'll have to ask Him when the Rapture comes and I ascend to Heaven with the rest of His Flock. Anyway! Here is a recipe for "Sweet Jesus" puff pastries!

Why settle for flavorless communion wafers? My recipe yields a delicious Christ-shaped treat, filled with "blood" (raspberry coulis) and "water" (blue-tinted pastry cream).

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) —John 19:33-35

I figure, since these pastries already look so much like the real Jesus, they can transubstantiate that much more smoothly! Plus, the kids love them.

For Christ's blood:
• 6 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen)
• 3-4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon red wine (or other booze of your choice!)
• pinch salt

For holy water pastry cream:
• 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
• 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
• 3 large egg yolks
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 15-20 drops blue food coloring

For Sweet Jesus puff pastry:
• 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
• 2 tablespoons whole milk
• 6 tablespoons water
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpouse flour, sifted


For Christ's blood:
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and shake to combine. Let bowl sit out on the counter for several hours, shaking every now and then, until berries have released their juices and sugar is dissolved.

2. Transfer berries and juices to blender and puree. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.

For holy water pastry cream:
1. Heat half-and-half, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan until simmering, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar in a mixing bowl until sugar is dissolved and yolks are creamy, about 30 seconds. Add cornstarch and continue whisking until yolks are pale yellow and thick, 30 more seconds.

3. When half-and-half simmers, gradually whisk it into the yolks to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened and slightly bubbling, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla.

4. Strain pastry cream through fine mesh over a bowl. Add blue food coloring until color resembles cartoon water (it will have a greenish tint, live with it). Press plastic wrap directly over cream and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

For the Sweet Jesus puff pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Beat the eggs and egg whites in a liquid measuring cup; you should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess).

2. Bring butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Off heat and stir in flour with a rubber spatula. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, smearing the mixture with the spatula constantly, until it's shiny and fat coats the saucepan bottom, about 3 minutes.

3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a standing mixer with a paddle. Mix on high setting for about 10 seconds. With machine still running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. Scrape bowl, and continue mixing at high speed until sticky past forms, about a minute longer. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.

4. Pipe 6 cross-shaped figures onto a parchment paper. Make sure the "heads" are circular, and try to twist the "legs" a little so it looks like a crucified human (as opposed to just a cross). Smooth out the Jesuses with a teaspoon dipped in cold water if you need to.

5. Bake for 15 minutes (do not open oven door!) and then reduce the oven temp to 375 degrees. Continue to bake about 10 minutes longer until the Jesuses are golden brown and fairly firm.

6. Remove baking sheet from the oven. With a paring knife, poke small "stigmata" holes into the Jesuses: one on each hand, one on top of the head, one in the feet, and a larger slit for the spear wound in the stomach. These holes are essential, both for filling and for allowing steam to escape as the puffs cool (otherwise they'll collapse!)

7. Return the poked Jesuses to the oven. Turn off the oven, and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon handle. Let the Jesuses dry in the turned-off oven for 45 minutes. Then, transfer the Jesuses to a wire rack to cool until you're ready to fill them.

To finish the Jesuses:
1. Transfer holy water pastry cream to one piping bag. Transfer the Christ blood to another piping bag (you can also use one of those little squirting things that you shoot stuff into your nose and ears).

2. Pipe the blue pastry cream into the stomach stigmata hole until mostly filled. Pipe the raspberry coulis into the other stigmata holes until slightly overflowing (go easy on the head hole). Then, pipe a little bit of blood into the stomach stigmata, over the pastry cream.

3. At this point, they are ready to eat, but you can also use melted chocolate to decorate Jesus' face (just put some chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave them at 50% for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally). Use a spoon and drip/smear the chocolate into eyes, a mouth, and of course a beard.

Some people might say you'd want to paint a frowny-face on the crucified, suffering Lord, while others might say you should paint a happy face (since at this point, all is accomplished). Far be it for me to speculate on such theological matters, I just want to eat the little guys! Yum!

Easter dinner!

All praise to the Christgod! And welcome to the one and only Christian Cooking Blogue! We're going to start things out with a bang: Easter Dinner! (He is risen!)

Easter is the celebration of Christ's rise from the dead. But it is also a time of reflection, a time to think about everything He sacrificed so He could save us. Christ suffered on the cross for three long hours. The Romans put a crown of thorns on His head to mock him, and a centurion stabbed Him with a spear as His apostles and followers looked on, weeping and wailing.

I figured, since Christ is often described as the lamb of God, I'd cook up some lamb for Easter dinner! Specifically:

Cruci-fried lamb with bloodsauce on a bed of Golgatha mashed potatoes with roasted root vegetable apostles, centurions, and weeping women

This dish may seem elaborate, but it's actually relatively easy to make. Just don't overcook the lamb!

For the lamb and bloodsauce:
• 1 rack of lamb
• olive oil
• salt and pepper
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
• 1 cup red wine
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 whole cloves
• 1 sprig of rosemary

For the mashed potatoes:
• 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (or russet, whatever), plus one spare potato (reserve for assembly)
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1/2 to 1 cup half-and-half, heated in microwave
• 1 teaspoon salt
• pepper, to taste

For the roasted root vegetable people:
• carrots
• rutabaga
• parsnips
• orange beets
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• lots of salt and pepper

For the roasted root vegetables onlookers:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degres. Peel vegetables and carve them into human shapes, including Roman centurions, apostles, Mary Mother of Christ, etc. It's easy to do two-dimensional figures, but you can do 3-d ones if you're ambitious. For the centurions, remember the Roman helmets were crested.

2. Lay carved vegetable people onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with oil, salt and pepper (carefully), and roast for about an hour, turning vegetables occasionally, until well-carmelized and delicious.

For the Golgatha mashed potatoes:
1. Peel potatoes and cut them into two or three pieces each, so they're evenly sized. Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring water and potatoes to boil, then lower heat and simmer, 15-30 minutes, until a paring knife can easily be slipped in and out of the spuds.

2. Drain potatoes, return to pot, add salt, and mash them with a potato masher or ricer or what have you. Then add the melted butter and mash them some more. Stir in the warmed half-and-half (use as much as you like, this dictates their texture) and mash some more. Add pepper and more salt to taste, and stir with fork to even out.

For the cruci-fried lamb and bloodsauce:
1. Cut the rack of lamb into individual pieces or "chops" (you should have 8, but you'll actually only need 5 for this recipe). Dry the lamb chops well, and liberally sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet (NOT nonstick) over highest heat. When the oil is super-hot and smoking, add the lamb, arranging the chops in a pinwheel fashion. Fry for about 3 minutes until well-seared. Then flip lamb and sear on other side. Remove lamb and set aside.

3. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and add shallot. Saute until softened, about 1 minute. Add wine and rosemary, increase heat to medium-high, and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce wine for about 7 minutes until thick and syrupy. Add chicken broth and boil, reducing for about 5 minutes, until there's only about 1/3 cup of liquid in the pan.

4. Off heat, and whisk in 2 tablespoons cold butter until well-combined.

Arranging the Christlamb
1. Spread mashed potatoes over a large platter in a hill-shape. Cut the reserved potato in half and place at bottom of the "hill."

2. Cut the bone from one of the lambchops so it's a round circle. Poke the two cloves into the lamb-circle (these will be Christ's "eyes"). Twist the spare rosemary sprig around the lamb-circle, right above the eyes (the crown of thorns).

3. Using wooden skewers, spear the lambchops, with the "head" lambchop on top, to resemble a crucified man. (Model it after the picture above). You may have to use several vertical skewers.

4. Mount the vertical skewers in the reserved potato halves, poking them in and placing the cut-side down on the platter. This will provide much-needed support for your crucifix.

5. Arrange your roasted-root-vegetable apostles, weeping women, and centurions below the crucified God on the mashed potatoes.

Note that I had a spare carrot for carving; I attached this to one of the centurion's hands and had him spearing Christ, Longinus-style. A sprig of rosemary would also work.

6. Spoon the bloodsauce over the crucified Lamb, spilling it on the mashed potatoes below. Serve!