OK, I know it is New Year’s Eve afternoon already, and maybe I’ve missed the boat on telling you about this….but if you happen to be ringing in 2011 by having people over for cocktails, or if you are going to someone else’s place and looking for something to bring, I have just the thing. Dorie’s Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts are fast and easy (provided you have a stash of nuts in your fridge or cupboard), and trust me, they will be gobbled up.
The technique is simple: take a couple cups of your favorite nuts (a mix is best), coat them lightly in a frothed-up egg white and then toss them in a mix of sugar, salt and spices. Bake for half an hour at 300°, making sure they are in a single layer so they don’t stick together. Let cool and enjoy with wine or bubbly.
For the exact recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts (not all of us are doing the recipe this week). Happy 2011, and I’ll see you next year!
This French Fridays with Dorie recipe isn’t a dessert flan with caramel, but a savory custard with blue cheese and walnuts. The pumpkin flan base comes together in snap thanks to canned pumpkin and the food processor. I think I was a little aggressive with the whizzing up…my flans looked like I had some tiny air bubbles trapped below the surface. No matter, they still tasted great, and baking them in a water bath ensured a creamy, soft texture. I know I usually think of pie when I think of pumpkin, but really, it’s just squash and goes wonderfully with cheese and nuts. Add a spinach salad, a piece of baguette and maybe a glass of wine, and you have dinner!
Yeah, that’s right– a new Dorie book means a new group! Laurie started up French Fridays with Dorie (which, for some reason, I keep calling “French Fries with Dorie”), a weekly celebration of the recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s gorgeous new book Around my French Table.
Things have been more than a little disorganized here…boxes are everywhere, butcher paper is tied and stacked like bales of hay, and the kitchen counter is pretty messy. I thought I might miss the first party, and have to skip making these gougères. Then I thought again, and realized I could really use a glass of wine and some snacks!
Gougères are little cheesey puffs made with a pâte à choux base. If you’ve never prepared choux paste before, it’s not hard (I even made this batch by hand), and in my opinion it’s one of the most fun things to make! I used gruyère cheese in mine, but you can use whatever grating cheese flots your boat. Salty and good!
I was thrilled to see that Bungalow Barbara chose a recipe for TWD that can swing sweet or savory– Sablés. Between all the junk I munch on at the bakery, and all the desserts I make at home, these days I need a salt fix more often than a sugar fix. I went with a parmesan cheese sablé, and since I had heaps of fresh herbs left from Thanksgiving, I threw some thyme in there, too. Cheesy, buttery and salty…with that perfect crumbly texture– exactly what I wanted with a glass of white wine.
After more than two years as a Daring Baker (it all started with a mirror cake…), I’m so excited that Liz and Ivonne have asked me to host a challenge! Woo-hoo! But oh no–what to pick?? Looking over past challenges, I realized that we’ve covered a lot of territory! One thing we haven’t made since I’ve been in the group, though, is our own puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée). Puff is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should try to make our own at least once, right?
Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (called the détrempe). This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
I picked a recipe for homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. In order to showcase off the hundreds of flaky, golden, buttery layers in the homemade puff, we formed a portion of it into vols-au-vent– little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.
Sizes of and fillings for the vols-au-vent were left up to the individual baker. I made three types: a smoked salmon mousse canapé, a larger main course-size filled with tuna salad and a sweet version with vanilla whipped cream and bright red tristar strawberries.
As it’s a little long, here’s a printable link to the recipe for puff pastry, as well as instructions for forming vol-au-vents and some extra tips. Also, there is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). Dont’ be put off by the length of time it takes to make your own puff pastry (most of it is inactive, while waiting for the dough to chill between turns)…it really isn’t that hard to do! I encourage anyone who has never made puff before to take a look at the video, get some good butter, and give it a try!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge– I know it required a lot of time and a lot of butter, both of which are precious commodities. I appreciate your feedback and advice in the forums…not to mention your fabulous results!! Also, of course, great big hugs go to Liz and Ivonne, not only for starting this group, but for keeping it alive and fun and so well-organized! Check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll for more adventures in puff!
The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! picked a fantastic Daring Bakers’ challenge this month– strudel! Just thinking about strudel makes me long to re-visit Vienna and Budapest, cities that I travelled to long ago. At just nineteen, it was too bad I didn’t know then what I know now about pastries. Actually, maybe it was a good thing– I would never have seen the sights because I would have been sitting in coffee houses all day long!
Prior to this, the only time I’ve made true strudel dough was while studying at the FCI. I vividly remember my partner in strudel-making crime, S, and I struggling with a huge ball of dough, stretching it gently over our hands to eventually cover our entire worktable. I also vividly remember that taking more patience and concentration than I’m normally willing to put in, so whenever I’ve made strudel at home, I’ve gone the lazy route and used store-bought phyllo instead!
My dessert schedule is rather full on at the moment, so I thought something savory would be the smartest way to get this challenge done. Mushrooms immediately came to mind as a tasty strudel filling, and here I used a combination of crimini, shitake and trumpet. I sautéed them first, mainly so I knew they would be cooked through and seasoned properly, but also to release their liquid so the pastry wouldn’t turn soggy. Caramelized onions, garlic, pine nuts and goat cheese all sounded like good things to add to ‘shrooms, and went into the mix. I have to say that I just winged my filling measurement-wise, and was quite please to have a bit left-over…it will make tomorrow morning’s omelette that much better.
There are only two of us here at home, so I just made a half-recipe of the dough. It was a really easy amount to deal with, and I stretched it solo on a clean tea towel with no problems at all– very little patience and concentration required, thank you! My strudel-for-two was a cinch to fill and transfer as well. The mushrooms and goat cheese made a wonderful, hearty filling…perfect for a cool spring day like today. A glass of red wine and some asparagus on the side…much to R’s dismay, I was belting out “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” at the dinner table (OK, so that was probably just the wine)!
I had only planned to make the mushroom strudel, but I had the teensiest bit of dough left after rolling it, so I made a couple of two-bite apple strudels as well. Since they were so small, to make the filling, I just grated half an apple, squeezed most of the liquid out, and tossed it with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. And the only way to eat apple strudel? Mit schlag, of course!
This was a really fun recipe to make, and it’s very adaptable. Sweet and savory possibilities are limitless, although I’m sure you’ll find heaps of inspiration on the Daring Kitchen site. I’m listing the recipe for the dough below, but you can find more information on Coco Cooks and make life sweeter!
from Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
your prepared filling of choice
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
-Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary. Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
-Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
-It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
-The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
-Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Spread about 3 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread your filling about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip.
-Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit, if necessary. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
-Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.