Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Fun with Puff Pastry and the Daring Bakers



I was so excited to see puff pastry as this month's Daring Baker's challenge! I absolutely loved all the puff pastry goods I made at my pastry class last month, and this was a great opportunity to try even more. Cakes are definitely my comfort zone, and I've always thought of pastry as being so much more time consuming, but it's really not! I did all 6 turns of the dough in one evening in about two hours, including chilling time, while I regularly spend at least 6 hours on a cake. And it tastes SO good! I'll definitely be getting out the rolling pin a lot more often from now on - although my golden retriever Tsuki was definitely looking at me very strangely as I attacked the butter with my rolling pin.

This recipe was from Julia Child, and was a little different than the recipe we used at ICE. We did 6 turns, rather than 4, and each turn resulted in 3 layers rather than the 4 we did at ICE. Both recipes yielded wonderful results!

I used one-third of the dough for the vols-au-vent filled with a chocolate pastry cream, and the other two-thirds for mille-feuille filled with a Nutella pastry cream. Puff pastry is now up there on my list of favorite desserts (and I really am a cake girl!), it was really that delicious!

I'm so happy to finally be one with my rolling pin.

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.

Recipe for Puff Pastry:

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

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). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

Dough/Butter Package

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

(Allie: I did all 6 turns in one evening, then put all the dough in the fridge for a few days. I made the vols-au-vent one evening with a third of the dough, then put the rest in the freezer (unrolled) for another week. After defrosting the dough in the fridge for almost one day, I made the mille-feuille.)

Steph’s extra tips:

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

For the Vols-au-vent:

Egg Wash: Whisk one egg in a small bowl.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one-third of the puff pastry dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

Use a 1.5" cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾"-inch cutter, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature.

Fill with chocolate pastry cream (recipe below), and serve.

Recipe for Chocolate Pastry Cream can be found here.

Recipe for Nutella Pastry Cream: Follow the recipe above for chocolate pastry cream, but replace the 3 ounced melted chocolate with 1/2 cup Nutella.

For the Mille-Feuilles: (makes 8 servings)

Divide 2/3 of the puff pastry into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, approximately 12" x 18". Lay the dough on a piece of parchment paper on a half sheet pan or cookie sheet and refrigerate for one hour.

Dock the dough (prick all over with a fork), and cover with another piece of parchment. Place another cookie sheet or half sheet pan on top of the parchment paper (the extra weight will keep the dough from puffing too much). Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350, rotating the pans every 10 minutes or so. The pastry should be a rich golden color. Cool completely.

Use a ruler to cut each rectangle into 3 equal strips. Cut each strip into 3 equal strips.

Assembling the mille-feuille:

Each serving uses 3 strips of pastry. Brush 2 of the 3 strips with melted chocolate, and top with Nutella pastry cream. Place the final strip of pastry on top, and dust with powdered sugar. You can refrigerate the pastry for a few hours before serving, but it will taste best if you serve immediately.

*Thanks to Ed for taking a few of the vols-au-vent pics!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Carrot Cake and the Closing of Payard

I just found out that Payard (upper east side NYC), arguably the best bakery in the country, is closed. Apparently their rent skyrocketed, and they're now looking for a new location. I hope they find one soon, it really does seem like Payard is one of the few authentic French bakeries in the US. They are also a restaurant, not just a bakery, and although I wish they had more vegetarian options, their Parmesan souffle is amazing. Until they reopen, you can content yourself with one of Payard's books.

Today I'm sharing with you something that is decidedly not like anything you'd find at Payard - carrot cake. I do not like carrot cake. I think it's the nuts. I really don't think nuts belong in cakes, brownies, cookies, etc. For like 30 years I thought I didn't like nuts (except peanuts and pine nuts which aren't really nuts anyway, right?), but now I realize it's just the texture I don't like. And I'm even broadening my horizons in that respect. My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (I think I finally have it perfected) includes hazelnuts, but they're ground up so fine that you get all the taste and none of the texture. I adore French macarons made with ground almonds or hazelnuts. I'm fine with slivered almonds used as decorations, and lately I love hazelnuts in almost any form. I've also recently started using pistachios in salad, and tasted some wonderful pasta in a creamy nut sauce in Italy. But I don't think I'll ever like chunks of nuts in my cakes or brownies.

I think I might just like this cake if I omitted the pecan chunks in the batter - but I guess it wouldn't be a traditional carrot cake that way. And my carrot-cake-loving friends loved it as is.

Cake Recipe: (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

Position oven racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 325
°F. Spray 3 9" cake pans with baking spray (or butter and flour).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, stir together the carrots and nuts.

In another bowl, preferably with a stand mixer, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother.

Reduce speed to low, and add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

Gently stir in the carrots and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back midway through baking. The cake is done when it just starts to come away from the sides of the pans, and a tester comes out clean. Cool on rack for about 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack and cool right side up completely. You can keep cake at room temperature, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, for up to a day before frosting; or freeze for up to one month.

Be sure the cake is completely cool before frosting!

Recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting: (Adapted from Martha Stewart)

This recipe yields enough frosting to frost the outside of the cake as well as filling the cake.

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese on medium for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Be sure to use cream cheese at room temperature.

Add butter, and cream until smooth, another 1-2 minutes.

Add powdered sugar slowly at low speed, and beat until fully combined. Add vanilla extract.

Beat frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Transfer to an airtight container, and chill until firm and spreadable.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mille Feuille with Chocolate Pastry Cream

Chocolate Mille-Feuille

Ok, this is my last post about the ICE pastry class, I promise (that class anyway, I'm taking another in October)! Mille-Feuille means 1000 sheets in French, because after all the folding you do with the puff pastry dough, you have nearly 1000 layers in the end. When I was in Paris in July, Pierre Herme had a new dessert called the Deux Mille Feuille - 2000 layers! I'm not sure if he really did double the customary number of folds, but it was one of the best things I've ever eaten: perfectly flaky caramelized puff pastry filled with praline and praline pastry cream (here is a picture). Ana and I had planned to do a coffee pastry cream with chocolate sauce drizzled on top, but we didn't have the espresso powder on hand that day, so we settled for chocolate instead. It was delicious, and I'll definitely be making it again. Next time, I'll try the fondant glaze on top - Fanny at Foodbeam has a great tutorial here. And I was really amazed that I could cut it without ruining it after it was chilled for a couple of hours!

I had always thought of dough as taking a lot more time and being more tedious than cakes, but after my week of pastry, I think I'll be getting out the rolling pin a lot more often these days. I've already made another batch of the classic puff pastry since class ended, and I did all 6 turns of the dough in less than 2 hours - much less time than I spend on a layer cake.

I've been looking up laws about getting my kitchen licensed so that I can start selling some of my baked goods, and apparently there's this distinction between PHF's (potentially hazardous foods) and non-PHF's, and pastry cream falls into the PHF category. Residential kitchens are not allowed to prepare (for sale) PHF's. This makes me really sad, because I can totally imagine catering some sort of party and putting cream puffs or eclairs or mille-feuilles on the menu... I wonder if there's a loophole somewhere. Please let me know if you have any more info on this topic!

Ok, time for the first faculty meeting of the year. Hopefully there won't be too much bad news in the budget discussions...

Recipe for Mille-Feuille (aka Napoleon)

1 batch quick puff pastry (or 1/2 batch classic puff pastry)
chocolate pastry cream (recipe below)
slivered almonds to decorate

Roll the puff pastry into two rectangles, approximately 12" by 18" each. Slide onto parchment lined baking sheets, and refrigerate about an hour to let the dough rest.

Preheat the oven to 350

Dock the dough (that is, use a fork or pastry docker to poke holes all over the dough). Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough, and then top with another sheet pan or cookie sheet. The extra weight will help keep the dough from puffing.

Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the pan often. The dough should be very golden when done. Cool between the pans to keep the pastry from warping. No matter how perfect your original rectangle was, the dough has probably changed shape while baking - this is why it's best to cut the dough after baking rather than before.

When the pastry is cool, carefully trim each piece to a perfect rectangle with a serrated knife; use as little pressure as possible as the pastry is extremely delicate. Next trim each of the two rectangles into three strips that are exactly the same size (you may need to re-trim some of the pieces to make them the same size). You'll make two large Mille-Feuilles, each with three layers of puff pastry.

Place one strip of puff pastry on a plate or piece of cardboard. Spread a thick layer of pastry cream on top, and top with a second layer of puff pastry. Spread a thick layer of pastry cream on top of the second layer, and top with the third strip of puff pastry. Smooth the sides of the pastry, and press slivered almonds on the sides if desired. Dust the top of the pastry with powdered sugar. Repeat with the remaining three strips of puff pastry and pastry cream.

To serve, slice each mille-feuille into narrow rectangles. It will be much easier to cut after refrigerating for 2 hours. (Alternatively, you could slice the pastry into small servings before decorating with almonds and powdered sugar.)

Recipe for Chocolate Pastry Cream

2 cups milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cut into several small pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of the milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs and yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Slowly pour the milk/sugar mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (you don't want to cook the eggs). Strain.

Return to heat (medium/high flame), and continue whisking until the cream thickens. After the cream comes to a boil (little blips, not an active boil), cook one more minute. Your arm will feel like it's going to fall off at this point!

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla and melted chocolate. Cool in the refrigerator or over an ice bath. The ice bath will cool the cream more quickly.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pastry Class at the Institute of Culinary Education - Part 2

Fruit Strip

I'm sitting outside in Saratoga, drinking iced tea, taking a break from course prep, and enjoying my last few days of summer. I so love the atmosphere of a good coffee shop, especially one with outdoor seating. The weather is perfect. The only thing missing is my dog - I left her at my mom's because I wasn't sure I'd be able to find us an outdoor seat. My local coffee shop at home is my home away from home, and my students all know I'm more likely to be found there than my actual office. I'm really more productive there than I am at my office - and with a laptop, wireless internet, and cell phone, who really needs an office these days?

But back to pastry class... days 4 and 5 were puff pastry, strudel dough, and phyllo dough... so much fun!

Our ICE Kitchen Classroom

We made both the quick puff pastry and classic puff pastry. I didn't do as thorough of a taste test as I would have liked, but I'm not sure I could discern a huge difference in taste between the two. The quick version was, unsurprisingly, much quicker than the traditional version, so I'll probably make that one more often - but the classic was so much fun and really made me feel like a baker, so I'll make that again too.

Puff pastry is not quick. My partner Ana and I ended up working straight through the lunch break in order to make everything on the menu: mille feuille (aka Napoleon), palmiers (aka elephant ears), almond sugar straws, and a puff pastry fruit strip. All of it tasted amazing - perfectly light and flaky and delicious. A lot of my classmates thought the texture was completely changed (for the worse) by the following morning, but I swear they tasted good for several more days. Sure, they might not have been perfect, but they were still better than a lot of pastries you can find for sale these days. I froze some of the straws and palmiers, and wonder if they'll still be good after thawing and re-crisping in the oven. I freeze cakes all the time, frosted and unfrosted, and it would be great if I could freeze pastry too. At the very least, I'm told that freezing the unbaked puff pastry works very well.

Recipe for Quick Puff Pastry (adapted from ICE)

20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Dice 2 sticks butter into 1/4" - 1/2" cubes; chill.

Whisk salt into flour.

Coarsely chop remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Put this butter and flour/salt into the food processor and pulse until butter is absorbed - about 10-12 one-second pulses. Add the remaining 2 sticks of butter (already diced), and pulse once or twice to distribute. Add water and pulse 3-4 times, just until dough begins to form a rough ball. You want big bits of butter remaining; do not over-process.

Shape dough into a rough rectangle on top of a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap. Lightly flour the dough, and top with another piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough with rolling pin to flatten, and then roll dough into roughly a 12" x 18" rectangle. Work quickly so the butter doesn't melt.

Peel away top piece of plastic wrap and invert the dough onto a floured work surface. Peel off the remaining piece of plastic wrap. Fold the dough in thirds, like you're folding a piece of paper to place in a business-size envelope. You should now have roughly a 4" x 18" piece of dough, with three layers.

Roll up the dough from one of the smaller ends, tucking the end underneat the dough at the end. Press the dough into a square, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm (overnight is fine).

The classic puff pastry is for you if you've had a bad day and can't get to a kickboxing class. You make a dough with flour, butter, salt, and water (I'll put up a detailed recipe for puff pastry in another post). Now, you need to make the butter (4 sticks!) into roughly the same size and shape as the dough, but you need to keep it cold so you can't use your hands. Solution? Take your versatile rolling pin, and whack the hell out of your butter until it gets soft! Seriously. After a few minutes of pounding, you can use your hand to quickly shape the dough into a small square, slightly smaller than the dough. Then you wrap the dough around the butter, and do some more rolling and folding over the next 24 hours or so... just so you feel a little better about the 4 sticks of butter, the classic puff pastry makes about twice as much dough as the quick puff pastry recipe above.

Sacristains (aka Almond Sugar Puff Pastry Straws)

Recipe for Sacristains (from ICE):

1 batch quick puff pastry (or 1/2 batch classic puff pastry)
egg wash (whisk together 1 egg with a pinch of salt)
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar

Roll dough out to form a rectangle, about 3/16" thick. Brush with egg wash.

Stir together the ground almonds and sugar. Scatter the almond and sugar mixture evenly over the dough. Roll the rolling pin over the dough to press the toppings into the dough slightly.

Allow the dough to rest in refrigerator for 1 hour (you can skip this step if you're in a really big hurry). Cut into 1/2" wide strips - a pizza cutter works well for this. Twist each strip into a corkscrew shape. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 375
°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. These are best served on the day they are baked.

We made an amazing mille feuille and some other things as well. I'll put the mille feuille (a Napoleon) in the next post.

On Day 5, we made strudel (both sweet and savory) and then several things with phyllo dough. Butter was the theme of the day. It turns out that, like the puff pastry dough, strudel dough is a good thing to make when you need to get out some agression. After you bring the dough together, you slap it (hard!) against the table 100 times before it's ready to roll. This activates the gluten which allows it to be stretched so far.

Apple Strudel

Recipe for Strudel Dough (from ICE)

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus more for oiling dough)
warm water

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs and oil with a fork in a 2-cup measure (so worth buying if you don't have one, but any liquid measure which hold at least 1 1/4 cups will do). Add enough warm water to make a total of 1 1/4 cup.

Stir the liquid into the flour with a rubber spatula or your fingers, making sure no flour stick to the side of the bowl. The dough should be fairly soft.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently to begin developing the gluten. Pick the dough up and slam it (hard!) against the surface 100 times, kneading and folding occasionally. The dough should not be smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Oil a small bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning it over so that it is completely covered with oil. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour or more. If it will be resting more than 12 hours, place the dough in the refrigerator (and let come to room temperature before continuing).

Time to stretch!! Cover a rectangular table (30" x 48" or bigger preferably) with a cloth, and flour the cloth generously. Place the dough in the center, and flour it lightly. Be sure that the dough is still smooth and that it didn't get folded as you removed it from the bowl. Roll it as thinly as possible with your rolling pin. Brush oil over the entire surface of the dough.

Dough is rolled as big as possible, then brushed with oil.

Preferably with at least one other person, pull the dough from the center outward, stretching it over the backs of your hands, fingers folded under. Keep stretching the dough until it's very thin - you want to be able to read paper through it. Some holes are ok.

Stretching the dough

Trim the very edges of the dough which are probably a little thicker than the rest. Let the dough dry for 5-10 minutes.

After stretching the dough, brush the entire surface with butter, and sprinkle about 1/3 cup of bread crumbs on top.

Fill the strudel with your desired filling. Here, apple strudel is on the left and topfen cheese strudel is on the right.

Roll up the strudel using the table cloth. Fold in (and occasionally trip) the ends as you roll.

Brush the strudel with butter. If you're using the entire strudel dough for one strudel, you will need to shape it into a horse-shoe shape to fit on the baking sheet. If you split it into two strudels, each will fit diagonally on one half sheet pan.

Bake the strudel at 400°F for about 40 minutes. If the pastry begins to take on too much color, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and cover the strudel loosely with foil.

Let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Apple Strudel - all done!

There are lots of options for filling your strudel. Click here to see the apple strudel recipe that the Daring Bakers made in May, as well as a different recipe for strudel dough.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pastry Class at the Institute of Culinary Education - Part 1

Paris Brest

Ok, I messed up with the Daring Bakers again - but I have a great excuse this time. I took a 5-day pastry class at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York last week. It was so much fun! I'm usually all about cake, so pastry was definitely a great change of pace. We did pie dough, sweet tart dough, choux pastry, quick puff pastry, classic puff pastry, strudel dough, phyllo dough. We didn't do anything with yeast, but they do have a 2-day Brioche and Croissants class which is mighty tempting.

I highly recommend the ICE classes. They have so many choices, you're bound to find something that looks good. The classes are at all levels; they have classes for kids, couples, families; they have food-based walking tours of NY. The facilities are great, class size is limited to 16, and our instructor, Faith Drobin, was excellent. I know I'll be going back.

After class every day, I went back to my sister's apartment and played with my 3-year old niece Kate. We read a lot of Dr. Seuss, baked snickerdoodles, and did a lot of dancing (she's particularly fond of the songs Boom Boom Pow and anything by Pitbull). I even went to African, hip hop, and Belly Dancing classes - such a great week!

Baking snickerdoodles with Kate... Tsuki wanted a taste!

Day 1 focused on sweet tart dough (pate sucree). We made frangipane fruit tart, chocolate hazelnut tartelettes, coconut custard pie, banana walnut pie, lemon cheese tartelettes (similar to an Italian cheesecake), blueberry crumble pie, sour cherry crumble pie, and pecan pie. Well, my partner and I only made the first three, but the class together made all of the above. I've made a lot of pie before, but I can always use more practice in rolling out dough.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tartelettes

Day 2 was all about apples. We used the flaky pastry dough (pate brisee) for these.We made apple tarte tatin, apple pie, a pastry that was sort of a cross between an apple crostata and an apple dumpling, and individual fruit tarts with orange flavored pastry cream. I am a truly pathetic apple peeler. Although I only cut myself once, my partner Ana peeled the apples at least three times as fast as I did - maybe the knife skills class is in my future... Perhaps I should just go crazy and try peeling a few dozen apples all at once in an attempt to improve - like Julia Child did with her onions in the movie Julie and Julia (great movie by the way, even though I had to shield my eyes whenever there was any sort of lobster slaughter or duck de-boning episode...).

I prefer the taste of the regular apple pie to the tarte tatin, but the tarte tatin was so spectacular to behold - and it was fun to make: making the caramel, carefully placing the apples in the very very hot caramel, laying the crust over the apples, and baking it. I'd love to try a peach tarte tatin sometime, but a fresh peach tastes so perfect on its own, I can never bring myself to do anything else to it! I forgot my camera on apple day, so no pictures unfortunately...

Frangipane Fruit Tart

Day 3 was delicious: choux pastry. We made more pastry cream - praline and coffee this time. Either one would have made a fantastic "dessert" alone on a spoon. But we used the creams to fill eclairs and cream puffs. We also made a Paris-Brest (a bicycle tire-shaped pastry named for the cycling race from Paris to Brest). To make it, you trace a circle of any size on a sheet of parchment paper, then flip it over. Pipe one circle of pastry outside the circle, and another circle of pastry inside the circle. Finally pipe a third circle on top of and between the first two. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top and bake. When cool, you just slice the top third off the pastry, fill with whipped cream and strawberries, slice the top of the pastry into however many servings as desired, and place it on the whipped cream and berries. Finally top with powdered sugar.

This simple trick Chef Drobin taught us - cutting through the top layer of pastry before putting it on top of the whipped cream - was one of the most useful tips I learned last week. When serving, you only need to slide the knife through the previous cut and then cut through the bottom layer - easily done without smushing the pastry and cream together and destroying the look of the entire thing. I always find it extremely difficult to slice cakes and pies and tarts and even brownies without making an ugly mess, so I'll definitely remember this!

Somehow my pastries even made it home unwrecked that day, even after a half hour subway ride on a 90 degree day. When I was in Turin in July, I bought a lot of hazelnut praline, and I can't wait to use it in pastry cream form!

Praline Cream Puffs

Days 4 and 5 were devoted to puff pastry and strudel dough. Puff pastry was probably my favorite part of the class, and it's really the main reason I took the class. The strudel dough was also fantastic, so I think I'll leave those pictures and recipes for another day... here are some more pictures of what we made as well as a recipe or two.

Swan Cream Puff - made by Chef Faith Drobin

Recipe for Choux Pastry (from ICE)

3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs (approximately)

Preheat oven to 425

Combine water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in flour.

Return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixtures dries slightly and begins to leave the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes to cool; if using a stand mixer, beat for one minute to cool.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time; be sure to wait until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. You might not need the entire fourth egg; you might need another half egg. The dough should be stiff enough to pipe; if you swipe your finger through the dough, it should close up on itself.

Immediately pipe the dough into the desired shape (Paris Brest, cream puffs, profiteroles, or eclairs) and bake for about 10 minutes or until well-risen. Lower the oven temperature to 350
°F and continue baking until completely dry. Chef Drobin told us that once the pastry looks done, it needs another 20 minutes or so in the oven - it should be completely firm when you take it out of the oven or it will collapse.

Recipe for Frangipane (from ICE)

4 ounces almond paste
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour

Combine the almond paste, sugar, egg, and yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed with paddle attachment until smooth. Add the butter and beat until light. This will take a long time - go do other things. On low speed, beat until flour until just absorbed.

For Frangipane Fruit Tart:

Roll the dough (we used the sweeter dough, pate sucree) into a 14 inch disk, and line a 10 inch tart pan with it. Chill the dough for several hours or overnight. Spread the frangipane evenly on the bottom of the pastry shell. Top with fruit, pressing it in to the frangipane slightly. Don't cover the frangipane completely, leave plenty of space. Bake at 350
°F for about 40 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Tartelettes (from ICE)

1 batch pate sucree
2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons dark rum (I'd use Frangelico or Kahlua next time)

Preheat the oven to 350
°F. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small bowl.

Combine the corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan and stir well to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate mixture.

Whisk the eggs and salt with the rum. Beat in the chocolate mixture just until combined (this will keep the tart fudgier; it dries out if you beat too long). Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.

Roll out the dough and line a 10-inch tart pan or several smaller tartelette pans. Pour the filling into shell. Bake at 350
°F until the filling is set and the crust is baked through, roughly 40 minutes for a large tart and 20-25 minutes for smaller tartelettes.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raspberry Shortbread Bars

These bars were by far the best fruit bars I've ever had. My local coffee shop (yes, there's only one in Williamstown) makes a raspberry shortbread bar that is pretty good, but I wanted to try to improve on it. These bars are not too thick, not too thin. The jam layer is thin which keeps the bars from being too gooey and messy, but it's enough to complement the shortbread. I'll definitely be making this recipe again and again, with lots of different types of jam. I think blueberry would be terrific.

And hey, there's fruit in there - it can't be that unhealthy, can it? But really, I'd so much rather have a small piece of real dessert then eat all that fake processed food. The only reduced fat food in my kitchen is my Jif reduced fat peanut butter, and that one's going to be hard to give up - I just love the taste. Luckily, I love to workout as much as I love to bake. When I teach step classes, I'm talking constantly - usually barking out steps to tell everyone what's next. But even when we start doing something more repetitive, I keep talking to take their minds off the work...but usually that means describing the big layer cake I made over the weekend or the latest treat I brought in for my students. And I'm so horrible, I never bring in any goodies to step class... bringing cookies to the gym just seems so wrong!

Recipe: (Adapted from Epicurious)

3 sticks butter
3 egg yolks
1.5 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter until soft and fluffy.

Add yolks, mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add to the butter/yolk mixture, and mix until just incorporated. Freeze dough for 2 hours (or up to one month).

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  

Set aside 1/3 of the dough for the top of the raspberry bars. The remaining 2/3 of the dough will be the base for the bars. Either place the dough in the food processor, pulse a few times, then gently pat into the pan, or grate the frozen dough into the pan, being sure the dough is spread evenly over the surface of the pan. Grating the dough yields a lighter shortbread. Bake for 20 minutes.

Spread about 1 cup (I like to use a little more than a cup) of raspberry jam evenly over the dough. Use more jam (maybe 1 1/2 cups) if you want a thicker jam layer. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam. It doesn't need to cover the entire surface. Bake another 20-40 minutes until the bars are light golden brown.

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