Puff (the Magic) Pastry — The Modern Baker

Although we won’t get to the Puff Pastry section in the Modern Bake Challenge for about another year, I have been wanting to try the Perfect Elephant Ears on page 210 of The Modern Baker for a while. And I couldn’t see making them with store-bought puff pastry. So I’ve been eyeing the basic Instant Puff Pastry recipe on page 195 for some time.

But what finally tipped the scale was actually a recipe from Dorie Greenspan‘s new book, Around My French Table. I wanted to try a few recipes before French Fridays with Dorie started in October. And one that caught my eye right away was the recipe for Mustard Batons on page 15. They start with puff pastry, and again, I couldn’t fathom buying puff pastry in the frozen food section when I had Nick’s recipe to try.

The Instant Puff Pastry recipe is simplicity itself. It only has four ingredients — flour, butter, salt, and water. And unlike the typical puff pastry recipe, which requires multiple “turns” to fold and roll chilled butter into the dough, Nick’s recipe incorporates the butter into the dough from the beginning.

After combining the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor, I added the butter (chilled and cut into pieces). I pulsed mixture, then added the water and finished mixing the dough. Then I turned the dough out onto a floured board, where I pressed and rolled it into a rectangle.

I cut the rectangle into two pieces, folded each piece in thirds, then rolled and flattened the resulting cylinders. I cut each piece of dough into three pieces.

As you can see from the pictures, the dough exhibits the layering of puff pastry, so I was hopeful that it would bake up with the same lightness. I wrapped each piece of dough, froze four of them, and refrigerated the other two to use for Mustard Batons and Perfect Elephant Ears.

I baked the batons and elephant ears over the next few days. And how did the puff pastry perform? You’ll have to check out the Mustard Baton and Perfect Elephant Ears blog posts to find out.

But I’ll give you a hint: I will never buy frozen puff pastry, nor will I ever be without homemade puff pastry in the freezer.

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Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans {FFwD}

It happens every Fall. I get on a pumpkin kick. Actually, I love pumpkin enough that I cook and bake with it year-round. But there’s something about the weather changing around this time of year that always sends me to the store to stock up on canned pumpkin and has me scouring the Internet and my cookbooks for untried pumpkin recipes.

So, when I got my copy of Around My French Table, it was only natural that I turned to the Index and started looking at the pumpkin recipes. This recipe caught my eye right away. And I knew I couldn’t wait for French Fridays with Dorie to make it. So on a recent weekday evening, we had Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans for dinner.

This recipe is easy enough to whip up after work. The ingredients consist of pumpkin, eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, gorgonzola, and walnuts. You mix the first three ingredients in the food processor, season with salt and pepper, then pour the mixture into buttered custard dishes.

The recipe says that it makes six flans, and Dorie writes that she uses 6-ounce custard cups. My cups are also six ounces, but, as you can see, the custard mixture only filled four of them. I’m not sure why my results differed from the recipe.

Another difficulty I had with the recipe, besides the custard cup issue, was trying to balance the salt. After adding salt and pepper to the custard, I tasted it, added a bit more salt, and tasted again. It still seemed to be slightly under-salted, but I knew the gorgonzola would be salty, and I didn’t want to overdo it. I did sprinkle the flans with fleur de sel before putting them in the oven, both for appearance and for that final burst of flavor.

After filling the cups and adding the gorgonzola and walnuts, I baked the flans in a water bath for 35 minutes, until the custard was set and the cheese melted and bubbly.

Next came the nearly impossible task of waiting for the flans to come to just-warm temperature before eating them. I drizzled the tops with a touch of honey before serving.

My wife, who is not a big fan of French cooking (at least not yet, but I’m working on it), initially said she didn’t want a flan, but wanted to take a taste of mine. One taste was all it took, and she was hooked. Even though she had just had a few pieces of pizza, she ate her flan and declared it one of the best things she had ever tasted. And I would have to agree.

The mild flavor of the pumpkin custard paired perfectly with the tang of the gorgonzola and the slightly sweet finish of the walnuts. The salt level was perfect, and I was glad I had given it that final sprinkle of fleur de sel.

This is another winning recipe from Dorie’s new book. And I’m one step closer to making a French food lover out of my wife.

Coupétade (French-Toast Pudding) {AMFT} {FFwD}

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread pudding. And those who know me well know I also love French toast, especially baked French toast. In fact, I prefer the baked version to the “real thing”. I’m not much of a morning person, so I like the idea of mixing up the French toast the night before, popping in the oven while I have my first cup of coffee, and having breakfast ready by the time everyone else is up and around.

So, when I found a recipe in Around My French Table that combines both of these into one recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it. I had just made Dorie Greenspan’s brioche and had a loaf left over, just waiting to be made into coupétade.

I began by mixing up the French toast ingredients, which consisted of eggs, milk, and sugar. After soaking the brioche, I cooked it on the griddle in plenty of butter.

After the French toast was finished, I cut each slice in half diagonally, and arranged the pieces in the pan. Then I mixed up the custard ingredients — eggs, sugar, vanilla, and milk. I poured this over the French toast and allowed it soak for a few minutes, so the bread would absorb some of the custard. The recipe called for dried fruit, which I put on half of the pan, as I knew my girls would like it better plain.

I baked the pudding in a water bath for about an hour and a half, until the custard was set. The house smelled amazing while the pudding was baking, and I was excited to try it once it cooled.

So, how did it taste? It was quite good. But not nearly as good as my N’awlins Bread Pudding. In fact, it tasted like one of my baked French toast recipes, which is fine, but not what I was expecting from bread pudding. It seemed more like a breakfast bake than a dessert. And unlike my typical baked French toast, I had gone to the effort of frying the French toast first and so was expecting something more.

So,while I enjoyed it, and we ate most of it over the next few days, this isn’t a recipe I’m likely to repeat. But I will definitely use Dorie’s brioche the next time I make baked French toast or bread pudding.

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie. Check out the website to see what others thought of this recipe.

Brioches — Bubble-Top and Loaves {AMFT}

French Fridays with Dorie, the new cooking group dedicated to making weekly recipes from Dorie Greenspan‘s latest book, Around My French Table, doesn’t officially launch until October. The first months’ recipes, chosen for us by Dorie herself, look really great and should be a nice introduction to the book for most people. I, of course, couldn’t wait for the launch of FFwD, so I set out to make a few recipes from AMFT on my own.

The first recipe I tried, Eggplant Caviar, was a hit and had me ready to try more. For my second recipe, I decided to make something I already know and love, Brioche. Having made all three brioche recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I had an idea what to expect from the dough and resulting bread.

Dorie’s recipe differs from Peter Reinhart’s recipes in that, instead of a sponge, it uses overnight fermentation to develop flavor. As far as butter content, it seems to be somewhere between PR’s Poor Man’s and Middle-Class Brioches.

The dough mixed up fairly quickly in the Kitchen Aid, and after resting for an hour on the counter, it was ready to chill overnight. The next day it looked like this:

There are two shaping options given in the recipe — bubble-top brioches and brioche loaves — and I decided to try them both. The bubble-top brioches are individual brioches made by dropping three small dough balls into brioche molds or cupcake tins.

The loaf is shaped by dividing the dough into four pieces, shaping each into a log, and arranging the logs in the pan.

The loaves proofed for about an hour-and-a-half, until the dough filled the pans.

The bubble-top brioches baked for about 20 minutes; the loaf for about 30, until they were golden brown and well-risen.

The brioches were delicious — buttery and light. They compared quite favorably to PR’s Middle-Class Brioche, my favorite of the three. In fact, I would have to try Dorie’s and PR’s loaves side by side to choose a favorite.

This is definitely a recipe to make again, and another winner from Dorie’s French table.

Cornetti: Olive Oil Rolls from Bologna {ModBak}

The final recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Cornetti, a uniquely-shaped dinner roll. When shaped correctly, they look like two croissants criss-crossed over one another. Mine more closely resembled little voodoo dolls.

Other than the shaping, this is a fairly simple recipe, consisting of flour, yeast, water, salt, olive oil, and sugar. I mixed the ingredients in the Kitchen Aid, let them autolyse for a few minutes, and mixed some more. After turning the dough out into an oiled bowl, I covered it and let it ferment for about an hour.

When the dough had risen, I divided into six pieces (I made a half recipe), shaped each piece into a ball, and let the dough balls rest for a few minutes.

After the dough had relaxed a bit, I began rolling it out. I found it required another short rest to relax enough to get the dough balls rolled out to 12″ x 3 1/2″ rectangles.

Nick Malgieri says to roll out all the dough at once, then begin shaping it; but I don’t have that much counter space, so I shaped the rolls one at a time. After rolling the dough into a rectangle, I cut the dough corner to corner with a pizza wheel, then flipped one piece of dough so the points were touching.

I brushed the dough with olive oil, then rolled each side from the wide edge to the center, making two connected croissant-shaped rolls.

I lifted the rolls to the baking pan. As I was setting them on the pan, I crossed one roll over the other.

I rolled and shaped the remaining dough, then allowed the rolls to proof for about 45 minutes. I baked the rolls in a 400° oven for about 25 minutes, until they were puffed, golden, and slightly firm to the touch.

The rolls smelled really good coming out of the oven. My shaping left a bit to be desired, but I think with a little experience, these would be really impressive dinner rolls.

As for taste, they were really good. Because of the crescent shape, I was expecting them to be light and fluffy. They weren’t. The texture was what you would expect from a typical dinner roll. Again, not what I expected, but really tasty, especially with homemade plum jam.

I wonder how it would be to make this shape with croissant dough? I might have to try that when we get to croissants.

For now, I’m ready to move onto the next section of the Challenge, Yeast-Risen Specialties, Sweet and Savory. We will be baking in this section for the rest of the year. There are some great holiday recipes like brioche, babka, and ginger-scented panettone. So if you’ve thought about joining the Modern Baker Challenge, this would be a great time to dive in.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes {MSC}

This is my first month baking with the Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes Club, and I was excited to start with this recipe for Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes chosen by Nina. I bought Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes a few months ago with a 50% off coupon at JoAnn’s, but until now I hadn’t baked anything from it. Suffice it to say, I’ll be baking more from this book, and not just once a month with the Club.

My daughter actually saw this recipe before she knew I had joined the Cupcakes Club and asked me if we could make them. Oreos and cheesecake baked in a cupcake, who could resist?

We cut the recipe in half, in part because I don’t have 30 muffin cups, but mostly so we wouldn’t eat that many cupcakes between the four of us.

This was a very easy recipe to make. In the time it took my daughter to line the muffin pans and put an Oreo in each cup, I had mixed the batter, which consisted of cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, eggs, sour cream, salt, and crushed Oreos. I was afraid the cheesecakes would be too rich and sweet, but there wasn’t much sugar in the recipe, and the sour cream cut the richness. All in all, I would call this a perfectly balanced recipe.

After we baked them, I put them on a cooling rack on the table to cool. The recipe said to cool them in the pans, then put the pans in the refrigerator for at least four hours before eating. I wasn’t sure I could wait that long. As it turns out, neither could Bailey, our three-year-old beagle. I heard something in the dining room, and went to check only to find him standing on the table, enjoying his third cheesecake, paper and all. This wasn’t his first foray into the culinary arts. I only wished I had thought to take a picture of him before I shooed him off the table.

I decided the cheesecakes were cool enough, so I put one pan in the refrigerator and the other, smaller pan in the freezer. After about 45 minutes, we sampled the ones from the freezer. They were delicious. Sweet and crunchy, with a nice tang from the cream cheese and sour cream.

We will definitely make these again. And I’m sticking with the Club, my waistline be damned.

Triple-Citrus Cupcakes {MSC}

This evening, in the time it took for the rest of the family to decide what they wanted for dinner, I mixed up these wonderful cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes.

The batter consisted of butter, sugar, lemon, orange, and lime zest, eggs, flour, and salt. The butter and sugar whipped up really light and fluffy, and the batter ended up having the consistency of fresh whipped cream. By the time I put the batter in the pan, we had decided on dinner and called in our order.

The cupcakes were finished in 20 minutes, just in time for me to go pick up our dinner. By the time we were done eating, the cupcakes had cooled and were ready to be glazed.

I mixed up the glaze, which consisted of powdered sugar, lime zest, and fresh lime juice. I dipped the cupcakes in the glaze, then sprinkled them with lime zest.

These cupcakes were really delicious. They weren’t overly sweet, and the citrus gave them a nice depth of flavor. Although I’ve only baked a few recipes out of this book, so far I’m impressed with what I’ve tasted.

Rosemary Olive Knots {ModBak}

Rosemary Olive Knots is the next to last recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge. The individually knotted rolls are stuffed with a savory mixture of olives, rosemary, and olive oil. So these rolls are not a side dish, complement your meal kind of bread; they stand on their own and are best served with a strong, hearty dish or on their own, split and filled with strong flavored cheese or meat.

As with many of the recipes in this section, this one calls for mixing the dough in the food processor. And as with the past few recipes, I ignored this part of the instructions and mixed it in my Kitchen Aid mixer.

The dough was fairly slack, but it rose well and developed some body as it fermented.

After the initial rise, I pressed the dough out into a square and put it in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

While the dough was chilling, I mixed the filling, which consisted of olives, rosemary, olive oil, and cracked black pepper. If you’ve ever tried to chop olives on a cutting board, you know what a challenge it can be. I always end up with as many on the counter and floor as on the board, so I came up with a better idea — chopping them directly in the bowl with kitchen shears.

The recipe calls for Gaeta or Kalamata olives. I used Kalamatas, but I was a little concerned as they can be a bit on the tart side, and these particular olives were. Given the strong, pungent flavor of rosemary, I worried that the rolls might come out bitter-tasting.

In order to strip the leaves off the rosemary, I held the stem with one hand and ran my thumb and finger from top to bottom, which caused the tender leaves to fall off the stem.

After mixing the filling ingredients, I retrieved the dough from the refrigerator.

I spread the olive mixture over the lower half of the dough.

Then I folded the dough in half.

The recipe makes 12 rolls, and I scored the dough to create a guide for cutting even strips.

Now came the fun part. As I read the recipe, I couldn’t imagine how it was possible to tie the strips into knots without spilling much of the filling out onto the board. In the end, I lost less filling than I thought I might, but I still left a good bit of it on the board.

I set the rolls aside to proof for an hour. While the rolls rose, I preheated the oven to 400° F.

I baked the proofed rolls for about 25 minutes, until they were golden brown and firm to the touch.

The rolls smelled amazing — in addition to the normal, fresh-baked bread smell, the rosemary and olives gave the rolls an irresistible aroma. I couldn’t wait to try them and wondered if my concern about the strong, bitter flavor of the olives and rosemary had been overblown.

I served the rolls with a dinner of chicken and forbidden rice. We all enjoyed them, but I found that, as I had feared, the filling was a tad on the bitter side. I think a milder olive would have been a better choice. But overall, these rolls were very good and would make an impressive dinner roll to serve to company.

Eggplant Caviar — Around My French Table {AMFT}

Like most serious home cooks, I know the name Dorie Greenspan. But until recently, I didn’t own any of her books. That changed a week or two ago, when I ordered a copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. A number of my online baking friends are members of Tuesdays With Dorie, a group that bakes a different recipe from Baking every week. It was too late to join the group, as membership is closed, but I’ve heard so many great things about the book, I wanted to get it.

About the time the book arrived, I learned that Dorie had a new book coming out, Around My French Table. I also found out that there was a new group forming, French Fridays With Dorie. I thought it might be fun to join this new group, but I wanted to try a few recipes from the book before I committed myself.

Although the release date is October 8, Amazon already had it in stock; so I ordered it and two days later, it was at my door. I opened the book, and the first recipe I saw was Eggplant Caviar (p. 23). Since I had just picked up some beautiful eggplant at the farmer’s market, this recipe seemed like as good a place as any to start.

I picked up another (less beautiful) eggplant and the herbs at the store, and set to work. This is really a simple recipe (which, in case you’re wondering, has no caviar in it). The first step is to roast the eggplant.

In a sidebar, Dorie suggests slitting the eggplant and stuffing it with slivered garlic. I followed her suggestion, and the roasted garlic gave the eggplant great depth of flavor. I baked the eggplant for 45 minutes, until they were soft and wrinkly.

Once the eggplant had cooled, I halved each one and scooped out the meat. I think I should have baked the eggplant another 15 minutes or so, as some of it didn’t scoop out cleanly. I was able to get most of the meat into the bowl, where I mixed it with garlic and olive oil. (As a side note, if you stuff the eggplant with garlic, you might want to cut back a bit on the raw garlic.)  The recipe says to mash everything together with a fork, but I found it easier to squish it up with my hand.

After the eggplant was sufficiently broken down, I added the remaining ingredients — lemon zest and juice, onion, basil, thyme, cilantro, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

The recipe doesn’t specify how much salt to add; I found that it needed quite a bit, about 2-3 teaspoons. I used black truffle salt, which gave the dish amazing flavor. I also added healthy amounts of black pepper and cayenne.

So, how did my first Dorie Greenspan recipe come out? Well, let’s just say I’m glad I bought two of her books. I’m going to bake the brioche recipe from French Table next, then maybe I’ll have a go at something from Baking.

Oh, and I already signed up for French Fridays.

Recipe: Maple Oatmeal Bread — September BOM

The September BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group is Maple Oatmeal Bread, a recipe posted by Floyd at The Fresh Loaf. This is an easy and delicious recipe. It comes together quickly with ingredients you most likely have on hand.

 

Maple Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
1 package dry yeast
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil
5 cups flour

  1. Put the oats into a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oats and set aside for an hour.
  2. Mix the yeast, syrup, salt, and oil into the oats. Mix in 3 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for an hour.
  3. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is the correct consistency. Knead for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into two pieces, then shape it into loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 – 50 minutes.

While the oats soaked in the water, I assembled the remaining ingredients. I substituted instant yeast for the active dry yeast. Referring to my yeast conversion chart, I knew I needed just shy of two teaspoons of instant yeast. I mixed the dough, which was very wet, as it initially had only three of the five cups of flour in it.

I set the dough aside to rise for an hour. I was surprised that it didn’t rise very much, maybe by about 40-50%, but I decided to move forward with the recipe as written.

After the dough rested for an hour, I mixed in the remaining flour, one-half cup at a time. However, after mixing in the remaining two cups of flour, the dough was still quite wet. I decided to add extra flour as I kneaded the bread. I kneaded in flour — a lot of flour. I didn’t measure it, but I would guess I kneaded in at least an additional two cups of flour. I reread the recipe several times to try to figure out what happened, but I’m sure I followed the recipe to the letter.

Even after adding so much flour, the dough was quite wet. I was able to shape it into loose loaves and transfer them to the pans before they spread too much.

After 45 minutes proofing time, the loaves hadn’t risen much, so I expected quite a bit of oven spring. I might have let them proof longer, but it was late, and I wanted to bake the dough and get to bed.

As you can see from the picture at the top of the post, the loaves rose quite a bit in the oven, which indicates to me that they were underproofed going in. The next time I bake this bread, in addition to cutting back the water by 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup, I will allow the dough to ferment and proof until it nearly doubles.

Despite the issues I had with this recipe, the result was worth the effort. As you might imagine, the maple smell while the bread baked was amazing. It even drew my 13-year-old out of her “cave”! The bread was delicious fresh from the oven, the crumb was soft and slightly sweet, and the crust had just a bit of crunch to it.

But it was the next morning when this bread really started to shine. It made the most amazing toast. Slathered in butter and smelling of warm maple syrup, it was all I could do not to eat an entire loaf for breakfast.

This is definitely a recipe worth making again, even if it might take a little experimentation to get it just right.