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.
Shari, a loyal TWDer who does cool things with classic dishes on Whisk: a food blog, chose Floating Islands (île flottante), a traditional French dessert, for this week’s recipe. I actually would have called this “snow eggs” (oeufs à la neige), but now I realize I don’t know what the difference is, if there really is one (and Googling it didn’t help, as I found different info on each link…too much information sometimes just confuses me).
This dessert makes me smile; it looks kind of goofy, don’t you think? The basic idea is this: a milk-poached meringue sits in a pool of crème anglaise custard. It’s light from the meringue and, at the same time, rich from the custard…and because it’s served chilled, it’s really quite refreshing.
Rather than quenelling smooth, egg-shaped meringues, I tried to make cute, spiky little islands. Unfortunately, my cute spikes flattened as I turned the meringues during the poaching process, and I ended up with deformed blobs. Whatever…looks aren’t everything. I made my meringues first, and so that I wouldn’t waste the poaching milk, I strained and remeasured it and used it as the basis for the custard sauce.
Traditionally, a drizzle of caramel finishes off floating islands, but because caramel doesn’t keep, and I had to take the blog pictures several hours before I’d be eating the dessert, I chose to skip that bit. I didn’t want my islands to look barren though, so in an effort to spruce them up another way, I decided to infuse my anglaise with orange zest and garnish with a few fresh berries. And since this is an old-school dessert, I went with some old-school baby mint sprigs, just for good measure.
This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. Now, now…before you go thinking that we did that last December, let me assure you that this is a very different dessert altogether.
This yule log is a truly impressive, multi-layered affair. Almond dacquoise, chocolate-caramel ganache, praline feuilletine, and vanilla crème brulée…all nestled between layers of dark chocolate mousse, and capped off with a super-shiny glaze. Sounds lush, right? It certainly is. (The ganache layer, by the way– amazing!! Also the crispy feuilletine…I could have eaten the whole layer by itself, before it even made it into the log.)
This is kind of an investment in time and ingredients, but taken separately, each component is actually quite easy and quick to prepare. I spread my work over three days. On day one, I made the ganache, feuilletine and brulée layers. (I can see the feuilletine layer being a bit of a pain, but I had it easy, because I was able to purchase gavottes and praline paste through work.) On day two, I made the dacquoise and mousse and assembled the layers, leaving it to freeze overnight. On the last day, all that was left was to unmold and prepare the glaze. I used a standard loaf pan (lined with plastic wrap) to mold my log. The finished dessert is quite large…it’s probably about ten servings. And we will enjoy each and every one.
Sorry that I don’t have more (or better) pictures to share, but my apartment is like a cave with the low winter sun, or lack thereof! I have to take what I can get. Let me assure you that this dessert is as decadent as it sounds, so if you’re up for a challenge, visit Hilda’s post for the recipe.
Éclairs may be my husband’s favorite pastry. He blames a box of éclairs that I made and brought home while in cooking school for sending him on a downward sweets spiral that resulted in him being on a diet for like two years after my graduation! I blame his lack of self-control. Let’s see if he can keep it together for this month’s Daring Bakers event– Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice have challenged us to make éclairs. Not just any éclairs, but Pierre Hermé’s éclairs.
Éclairs are made from choux pastry, usually filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate. They’re just like a cream puff, but elongated instead of round. Meeta and Tony wanted us to keep either the glaze or the pastry cream chocolate, but gave us free reign to make one of them non-chocolate. I kept the chocolate on top and filled mine with a coffee-wattleseed pastry cream.
It wasn’t until I took that top picture, that I noticed that from the side, my éclair looked a little weird. “What’s with this thing?” I thought. I usually prefer not to cut éclairs in half in order to fill them. Looks-wise, I like them better when they are kept intact and filled through a small hole in the back or on the bottom. But I was fast running out of daylight for my photos, so I figured I’d cut them in half to cool quicker and just assemble and photograph one right away. Upon closer inspection, I realized that rather than filling the bottom half of the éclair I photoed with pastry cream, I’d filled the top half of another one, and then sandwiched the two together. D’oh! I thought about a redo but then I decided to leave it, so you can have a glimpse of what it’s like to be me, the master (or mistress, I guess) of imperfection.
I made Dorie’s pâte à choux not too long ago, and I think I preferred it. The ingredients aren’t too different, although this one from Hermé has an additional egg. Perhaps that’s why it seemd a little crustier than I’m used to. I also had to bake it a bit longer than the recommended 20 minutes to dry it out and get it the shade of brown I like. I do love the chocolate sauce, though. It is delicious, and luckily I have a bunch left over..it will be great on ice cream.
When I saw that Caroline of A Consuming Passion had chosen Dorie’s Peppermint Cream Puff Ring for TWD, my fist thought was that it reminded me of Christmas, but that’s actually quite right for the weather over here. I even had a bunch of mint in the fridge that I was looking to finish off (why is that stuff so hard to use up?)–perfect!
Have I ever told you that I love making pâte à choux, the base for cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles and the like? This wasn’t always the case though. In culinary school, we had to use all these crazy tests to tell if we had added the “proper” amount of egg to the dough. And for baking–turn the oven up, then down, then off. Argh! Then I went to work in a restaurant and it was like, “just use four eggs and bake them at 375° till they’re done.” Freed of all that egg ambiguity and temperature trickery, choux became really fun and easy!
Dorie calls for the choux paste to be piped out in the shape of a large ring that is later cut in half and filled, similar to a Paris-Brest. Partly because several other TWDers had their choux rings deflate on them, but mostly because a big ring sounded a bit too much for our small household, I decided to pipe individual cream puffs instead. For these cream puffs, I made a half recipe of choux, using two whole eggs. (One tip that Dorie doesn’t mention is to paddle the cooked paste in the mixer for a minute to cool it off a bit before adding the eggs one by one. It should still be warm, but it is good to let some of the steam out before the eggs go in.) This yielded about 24 two-bite puffs (using a 1/2-inch tip to pipe about 1 1/2-inch mounds).
I baked off nine right away and put the rest in the freezer to bake later. Since I was already switching up the shape of Dorie’s choux, I decided to proceed with her baking instructions rather than my one-temperature method. I baked my puffs for 15 minutes at 425°, then about 10 more at 375°. While I was at it, after they were fully baked, I used a pairing knife to put a small slit in the side of each baked puff, and further dried them out in the turned-off oven, which I cracked open with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes. This baking process was much less painful than I remembered it in school (but then again, most things are).
The cooled puffs (or ring) were sliced in half and filled with a mint-infused whipped cream. A little sour cream or crème fraîche folded in gave it a bit of tang, but it would have been just as tasty without. Capped off with dark chocolate glaze and toasted almonds, these were perfect little bites. And just for Dorie, I presented my puffs in the form of a (rather dodgy-looking) “ring!”
Thanks Caroline! As always, the recipe’s in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, but this time she also has a version of it here on Epicurious. And don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!
The word of the day is althaiophobia: a fear of marshmallows. And no, I didn’t make that up.
I’m kinda afraid of marshmallows. Not really the marshmallows themselves, but the gelatin inside them. When I saw that Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats had chosen marshmallows as this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I was a little frightened. I really wanted to participate, but I really didn’t want to use gelatin, and after the agar-agar disaster of ’07, I wasn’t too excited to try that again either. Luckily, this time of year the Kosher section of the supermarket is pretty well-stocked, and I was able to pick up a box of fish gelatin. I’d never used it before, and wasn’t sure how to (the package labeling is in Hebrew, so it didn’t help me out a lot). It’s a little more granular than regular gelatin, but I decided to treat it the same way, since I didn’t have any better ideas.
I went with Dorie’s ‘Playing Around’ instructions for cappuccino marshmallows, and based on some advice from other TWDers, just stirred in the cappuccino mixture at the very end to keep the marshmallows from deflating. I set them in a glass baking dish rather than a baking sheet, which just seemed easier to me, and made them nice and tall. I wasn’t sure if they would set up or not with that gelatin, so as soon as I tipped the mix into the dish, I immediately left the house and went to the movies (if you haven’t seen ‘Lars and the Real Girl,’ you should!). If there’s one bad kitchen habit I have, it’s that I must endlessly poke and inspect things that I should just leave alone.
I was really pleased with how they turned out! They were soft and squishy and high. Now here’s the cake plate shot, à la Dorie.
What time is it? It’s time to put on my disposable paper cap and make like Fred! Two of my favorite food bloggers, Peabody and Tartelette, have teamed up to host Time To Make The Doughnuts, and I couldn’t not participate. I must say, I love doughnuts but I rarely allow myself to have them because I can quickly spiral out of control. This is embarrassing, but if you have a box of Entenmann’s chocolate glazed things in the fridge (those MUST be eaten cold!) and invite me over, do not turn your back on me because I will sense their presence and they will magically disappear! And back when Krispy Kreme was just a southern thang, it was so fun to go to the big shop near Grandma W’s and watch as they plopped off the line and into the vat of fat! Oh, and have you ever had one from the Doughnut Plant? They are the schiznit!
I definitely go for cake-style doughnuts over yeast-raised; usually cinnamon-sprinkled or chocolate-frosted. But there is another type of doughnut that really makes my heart race (yes, this is probably actually because of sugar content)…glazed crullers. I love them, but I had never made them myself and had no idea how they were made either. So I decided to find out, and fry them up for Peabody and Helene.
Turns out they are just pâte à choux, the same dough you’d use for eclairs or creampuffs, fried and glazed. I found a recipe in the book Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers. They are a Viennese treat, properly called spritzkrapfen. As an aside, I drool over everything in this book. I went to Vienna, Budapest and Prague as part of a backpacking trip in college. It’s too bad that I didn’t know anything about anything back then, because I would have loved to experience the kaffeehaus atmposphere (and pastries!). I will have to go back sometime and do it right.
Back to the doughnuts…My crullers came out very homemade-looking (if not for the label, would you have mistaken them for onion rings in the photo??), but they were totally melt-in-your-mouth, and the rum glaze was sensational. They were easily the best crullers I’ve had…probably because they were so fresh, and of course dripping with rum. My brother had two suggestions for improvement–make them bigger (I couldn’t agree more) and make more of them (I only made three so as not to be piggy)!
Crullers with Rum Glaze (Spritzkrapfen)– makes 14
adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
1 cup water
8 T (4 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1 t sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unbleached flour
4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 beaten), room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups powdered sugar
2 T golden rum
1 T water, approximately
For the crullers:Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so the butter melts. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once, and stir hard with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and it forms a ball. Return the pan medium-low heat and cook. Stir continuously to evaporate some of the moisture, until the dough films the bottom of the pan, about 90 seconds.
Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer (you could do this by hand or in a stand mixer), beat in the three whole eggs one at a time, making sure they are completely incorporated and stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add as much of the fourth beaten egg as needed so the dough is thick and hold its shape, but falls slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift it out of the bowl. It should be smooth and shiny.
Cut out fourteen 4-inch parchment squares and place a wire rack over a sheet pan for draining. Using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (Rodgers recommends a 9/16-inch-wide tip, like Ateco #825, but I’d go even a bit wider), pipe the dough into 3-inch circles onto the parchment squares.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large pot or Dutch oven to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 360°F. Working in batches, without crowding, place the dough circles (still on their papers) upside-down in the oil. After about 15 seconds, use tongs to pull off and discard the papers. Fry, turning once, until golden on both sides. Using a skimmer, transfer the cooked crullers to the rack to drain, and repeat for the next batch. Try to keep the oil at 360°F throughout.
For the rum glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the rum and enough water to make a glaze the consistency of heavy cream. Dip each cruller upside-down in the glaze and place right side up on the rack to cool and set.
OMG…there are so many events I want to do this month, and of course I’ve saved them all until the last second! I’ve always been a procrastinator, so this is really just par for the course. But anyway, there will be lots of desserts for R and me (and a barrage of posts for you) this last week of September! So to kick things off, I’m starting with what’s due in just a couple of hours– Sugar High Friday! This month’s hostess is Ivonne, author of the addictively delicious Cream Puffs in Venice, and she’s chosen ‘The Beautiful Fig‘ as her theme.
For a long time I thought figs were really not so beautiful. Fig Newtons (to me anyway) are gross, and so fresh figs suffered from guilt by association. I never even had one until my mid-twenties. I was surprised to find that a fresh fig is sweet and soft, smells great, is pretty and pleasantly seedy–nothing like the icky pasty stuff inside a Newton! I am still not crazy about dried figs, unless they have been heavily booze-soaked. But alas, the fruit (it’s actually a flower, as I read on Cream Puff’s blog) was to suffer another setback when the most annoyingly twitty boy in my culinary school class described a fresh fig as being like a certain part of a woman! Ack–why, WHY did I have to hear that, especially from him?!? Some mental scarring still remains, but I no longer take things out on the innocent fig.
My inspiration for this recipe comes from Regan Daley’s recipe for oven-roasted figs with honey and orange in In the Sweet Kitchen, one of my bookshelf favorites. I tweaked the technique and ingredients a bit because the figs right now in Sydney are maybe not quite as beautiful as their fall counterparts up in the Northern Hemisphere. Chef Daley roasts the figs in the oven in a bath of orange juice, honey and spices. I gave this method a test drive last week, and it truly tasted fabulous, but it kind of drained the color out of my figs. I like to get a pretty picture you know, so I tried again, reducing my liquid to a loose syrup on the stove top before adding the figs to just briefly soften. Once off the heat, I then stirred in a handful of raspberries for some extra visual pop (not to mention they taste great with figs). I let the compote cool just slightly and then put it over vanilla ice cream. I think it would be great with yogurt, too. Scrummy and beautiful!
Fig and Raspberry Compote– makes three or four servings, depending on how much fruit you use
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, smashed
1/4 c honey
2 T sugar
pinch of salt
2 T unsalted butter
several figs, quartered (I used 5 figs, but you could throw in a couple more)
handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
-Combine the orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, honey, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan. Simmer until cooked down and slightly syrupy. Whisk in the butter.
-Add the cut figs, tossing in the syrup. If your figs are ripe and soft, you can remove the pan from the stove top, and the residual heat from the syrup should warm them through. If your figs are on the firm side, continue to gently simmer in the syrup until they soften slightly, about five minutes.
-Once off the heat, discard the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Toss in the raspberries, coating with syrup.
-Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before spooning over ice cream.