Tags: baking, cake, dessert, holiday
It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to get fancy in the kitchen! Something like a Gingerbread bûche de Noël sounds like the right way to celebrate. Way back in the early days of this space, I made another bûche. That one was all done up with stumps, meringue mushrooms and faux wood grain…this one’s easier in that it’s just a roulade but it’s still a showstopper and, of course, it still has several steps. In addition to a gently-spiced geniose-style gingerbread sponge cake, there’s a cream cheese filling, a marshmallow meringue frosting and, for crunch and sparkle, a pecan praline.
If you’re the organized type, you can actually break up the steps and knock out the praline and filling a day in advance, but I did it all start to finish in one afternoon, so I can tell you that it’s procrastinator-friendly, too. I did kind of goof up the cake a bit, and you can see it in the center of the spiral. I deflated the cake batter while mixing in the butter at the end. I was pretty annoyed with myself, and worried it would be like eating a rubber mat, but there’s a lot going on with this cake and we also had it with a scoop of eggnog ice cream, so it really wasn’t that noticeable. Next time, I’ll do better with that. Although the marshmallow makes a stunning, glossy, snow-white frosting, I had a lot left over…next time, I’ll also try cutting that amount in half. I’ll reduce the cream of tartar in the frosting a bit as well because I think it gave the marshmallow a slightly acidic taste. If you’re on the fence about gingerbread (I know not everyone is crazy about it), the flavoring here is very subtle…no molasses or cloves or other dark and mysterious flavors.
Tags: baking, bread
Two things you need to have before making Steve Sullivan’s Mixed-Starter Bread are a piece of leftover bread dough and plenty of time. The “old dough” can be just a little hunk of raw dough saved from last night’s pizza party. As for time, we’re talking about a whole weekend. That’s the time needed to feed that old dough and turn it into a big batch of airy new dough.
Once you’ve successfully done your time feeding the starter and kneading and rising your dough, you can make a variety of shapes out of it…like a nice baguette, an amazing couronne, or cute wheat stalk. You can even knead in a heap of walnuts and make a big Walnut Bread. Not wanting to fully stock my freezer with bread loaves, I made a half-recipe of the dough and divided into a somewhat imperfectly snipped wheat stalk (pain d’epi) and a walnut boule.
In the book, the walnut boule is made with an entire batch of the finished mixed-starter dough, so mine is just a baby boule and it baked through much faster than a big guy would have. As a result of reduced oven time, it didn’t brown as much as I would have liked, so I cheated by painting on a little olive oil before its last five minutes of baking. I still wish I’d gotten a both breads a bit darker.
Due to the lack of afternoon light in my house this time of year, I didn’t get a good shot of the cut breads. Even though you feel like you’ve done a lot of waiting while making this dough, it actually doesn’t hang around long enough to develop a sourdough flavor. You get soft white bread with air holes inside and a real crust outside. The walnut version is excellent with cheese, and I’ll take salty butter on the epi, please.
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (the mixed-starter bread is also here and the walnut bread is here). There’s also a video of the BWJ episode showing how to make and shape the mixed-starter bread. Finally, don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, dessert, holiday, tarts
If you’re still on the fence about what to make for this Thursday’s dessert, let me make your decision harder by throwing one more option your way. This Cranberry Crackle Tart from Baking Chez Moi is for people who don’t mind breaking a bit with Thanksgiving tradition. It has a cookie-like base of sweet tart dough (fondly known to those in professional pastry circles as “STD”…we keep it classy), a layer of jam (which you can’t see here) and a meringue topping with cranberries folded though. The topping is like a crispy-edged marshmallow– the sweetness is interrupted by little bursts of softened, tart berries. This is meant to be a larger tart, but I didn’t need so much for the two of us on a random weeknight, so I just made a couple of individual tartlets (they took quite a bit less time to bake, btw). The big one, with its pretty, swirly meringue top and ruby-colored berries peeking through, would make an impressive dessert for a crowd. And it’s a light one, too, after a big dinner.
The hidden jam layer can be any red jam, really, like strawberry, raspberry or cherry. I made a cranberry sauce ahead of time from the extra berries that weren’t going into the tart and I used that instead. We ate our tarts with whipped cream, and my husband said it reminded him of pavlova with a cookie crust.
Tags: savory, tart
This Alsatian Onion Tart is our third Michel Richard puff pastry recipe in a row! This is a great easy recipe to toss together for brunch or lunch (or dinner) if you have some puff in the freezer already. It’s actually designed to use scrap puff pastry that’s been rerolled, but I didn’t have enough scrap and sacrificed a fresh sheet. It was worth it.
This is very similar to the flammkuchen I like to get at German beer hall in my neighborhood (except I think they use a flatbread base instead of puff pastry). It’s almost like a pizza topped with slightly sweet, soft onions simmered in chicken broth, bacon and a touch of cream. I put some fresh thyme on mine, too…hopefully the Alsatians won’t mind.
While the recipe specifies four very large onions for the topping, two of my onions were most definitely small and the other two were medium-sized at best. I was crying so freaking much chopping them, I don’t think I could have physically handled anymore. I had plenty for a nice thick layer anyway. I actually thought it looked like too much cooked onion but I put it all on there. Also, I used turkey bacon instead of slab bacon so I skipped the blanching step and just gave it a quick sauté. Oh yeah, and I baked my tart at 400° because I like puff to be a little browner than I’ve found I can get it at 350°. You can prep the components a day in advance and assemble the tart right before baking.
The recipe says this tart is best just baked, but I had leftovers that I reheated in a 325° oven the next day, and they were great.
Tags: appetizers, savory, snacks
I’m no interior designer. This has been made painfully obvious to me by my home decorating choices (more accurately called mistakes). Right now I’m trying to choose a few paint colors and I just can’t. I can’t. I need a glass of wine and a treat. Thankfully, that I can do, and easily, too, with Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Pizzettes. These little one bite snacky hors d’oeuvres are meant to use up the scraps from the other week’s Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries. Homemade puff pastry (heck, even store-bought– it’s expensive!) is a no-waste situation. I only made two of the apricot pastries so I really didn’t have a whole lot of scrap to go with here and just got six pizzettes. Even so, I made two versions with goat cheese– one with tomato and the other with sautéed leeks. I’m annoyed that I forgot to put a little parsley leaf on top of each tomato one…my picture would have been cuter! See what I mean? I fail on the design details.
These were a tasty little snack with glass (or two) of wine. They were best warm, though. The room temp one I tried had definitely lost some of its crispiness.
Tags: baking, breakfast
Michel Richard is a chef with a sense of humor. Case in point, these cute Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries. At first glance, they’re fried eggs on toast. At first bite, they’re poached fruit and pastry cream on top of crispy puff pastry.
Before you can have these for breakfast (or for dessert, if you are like I am and this is too much to process in the morning), you have to make pastry cream and poach fruit. I’d take care of these a day in advance. You also have to deal with the puff pastry situation and decide if you are going to buy it or make it. I’ve worked in restaurant and bakery kitchens for more than 10 years now…while not every place I’ve worked has made puff from scratch, a few of them have, so I’ve laminated me some dough. Frankly, it can be a pain in the neck (literally). On a large scale, those of us with no upper body strength (who me?) struggle to roll a ginormous batch by hand if there isn’t a dough sheeter. If the kitchen’s too hot, butter oozes everywhere. It’s often a rush-job because no one bothers to mention that they took the last sheets from the freezer and left me with nothing for the day’s production. But, I’ve made this very puff pastry dough recipe at home before–I actually chose it several years ago when I hosted a Daring Bakers Challenge– and I know that it’s not hard at all, especially if you make it a day or two before you need it and the temps are relatively cool. If you are on the fence, a half-batch is super-approachable, doesn’t take too much counter space to roll and will give you plenty of puff for treats. And if you’re still on the fence, just get a nice store-bought one….I do it all the time, so no judgments.
Apricots aren’t in season here anymore, so I had planned to just use canned ones instead (and also skip the recipe’s poaching step). Then at the Greenmarket this weekend, I saw that nectarines are still around, so I picked out a few of the smallest “apricot-sized” ones and went ahead with those. I gave them a gentle poach and left their skins on. I thought they were pretty, but they kind of wrinkled up in the oven. Next time they’re coming off. Next time I’ll also leave the puff a little fatter than the book indicates. I think the recipe says to roll it too thin, so while the front and back ends puffed nicely, the sides were a little flatter than I would have liked. Super crispy, though.
These were delicious, and a fun weekend kitchen project. I’ll make them again, especially since I have extra homemade puff in the freezer now. Here’s a document that I typed up about making puff pastry for my DB Challenge back in 2009…somewhere near the end are some tips and suggestions.
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here). There’s a video of the BWJ episode showing how to make both the puff pastry dough and the pastries. Finally, don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!