I did it! And I’m never doing it again…

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…or at least that is what I thought before I tasted heaven on earth, or what you might call a croissant. Yes, I made croissants from scratch. Yes, I spent two days rolling and folding dough, spreading butter (oh so much butter–5 1/2 sticks!!!), and waiting-lots of waiting.

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I never realized how much work went into making croissants {ignorance is bliss!} and maybe that’s why there are so many bad-tasting ones out there…nothing beats a handmade croissant. Wow. If I seem very enthusiastic right now, it’s only because I just finished eating my first one. There are still crumbs on my shirt, on my lips.

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The recipe I used comes from Tartine from the owners of the bakery of the same name in San Francisco. The Daring Bakers chose it has their monthly challenge in January 2007 long before I joined. I’m slowly baking my way through past challenges and after tasting these, I’m so glad I am. You can find the recipe at Veronica’s Test Kitchen, but the recipe is so long with a lot of steps {and the cookbook is great!} I urge you to get your hands on it.

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Here is a brief summary of the steps involved in making the best tasting croissant you’ll ever taste:

  1. Make a preferment. Let rise 2 to 3 hours (or overnight in fridge).
  2. Mix dough ingredients with preferment, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Knead dough for a maximum of 4 minutes in stand mixer. Let rise 1 1/2 hours or until doubles in size.
  4. Transfer dough to work surface. Pat out into a two-inch high rectangle, wrap in plastic, and place in fridge for 4 to 6 hours.
  5. An hour before your ready to start laminating the dough, take out the butter {22 ounces!!!} and use stand mixture to make butter malleable {but not warm! not soft!}. Wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator.

    This is what 5 1/2 sticks of butter spread out on dough looks like

    This is what 5 1/2 sticks of butter spread out on dough looks like

  6. Remove dough and butter from refrigerator. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches. {Do you know how long 28 inches is? OMG, it’s long. I know I used a measuring tape.}
  7. Spread and pat the butter over 2/3rd’s of the rectangle. Fold in thirds starting with the unbuttered side. Like a business letter. This is apparently known as a plaque. imgp3189
  8. Use your fingers to seal the seams and give the plaque a quarter turn. Roll out the dough AGAIN to a 28 by 12 inch rectangle. I feel like I got a good upper body work out this weekend. 😛
  9. Fold it into a plaque again, wrap in plastic, and place in refrigerator for 1 1/2 to 2 hours to relax the gluten.
  10. Clean work surface, dust with flour, and AGAIN roll out dough to 28 by 12 inches. It’s neat you can see the streaks of butter when you roll out the dough.

    This is a 32 by 12 inch "rectangle".

    This is a 32 by 12 inch "rectangle".

  11. Fold it into a plaque. Wrap in plastic. Place on a quarter sheet pan and place in FREEZER for at least an hour or up to a week. Remove from freezer and place in fridge the night before you plan on making the croissants.
  12. When you are roll out the dough, lightly flour work surface. Roll out dough into a rectangle 32 by 12 inches. {That’s longer than 28 inches!! 😛 }. imgp3192
  13. Cut dough into triangles with a four inch base and 10 to 12 inch sides and roll into croissants.
  14. Let croissants rise for 2 to 3 hours. imgp3195
  15. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  16. 10 minutes before croissants are ready for oven, make egg wash and brush on croissants. Let croissants sit for 10 minutes.
  17. Place in oven and turn temp down to 400 F. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, turning pan half way through.
Croissants...fresh from the oven.

Croissants...fresh from the oven.

Brussels Sprouts! and other good stuff

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I never bought or cooked brussels sprouts until this week. I don’t know why. Maybe childhood trauma? I don’t think so. I was never forced to eat anything. Anyway, up until this past Sunday I’ve been eyeing the brussels sprouts for sale at the farmers’ market and they had been eyeing me back. {This is usual behavior for me at the farmers’ market. Vegetables tend to eye me especially ones I’m scared to buy.} I had enough of the staring and bought a bunch. I’m glad I did. Not only are they delicious, they contain a bunch of good stuff too–vitamins a and c, folic acid, and lots of fiber.

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In the February 2009  issue of Vegetarian Times there is a yummy recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries.

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coursely chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts to dry pan. Stir occasionally, until walnuts are nice and toasty about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove walnuts and set aside.
  2. Wipe out pan and add olive oil. When hot, add brussels sprouts and saute, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown–about 5 minutes. Add garlic and shallots and cook for another minute.
  3. Add water, cranberries,  and agave. Partially cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Transfer to serving bowl and stir in walnut oil and toasted walnuts. Season with salt and pepper.

I also made another recipe from Veganomicon, Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots. You can find the recipe here.

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This was my first time eating and cooking Israeli couscous, which is different not only size from regular couscous but also texture. I loved it and definitely will had it as a pantry staple. I realize most of my dinner recipes I  have been blogging about lately are some sort of grain-y product, with nuts, and fruits/veggies. For some reason, these are the types of recipes that are calling out to me. 😛

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{TWD} Berry No-Surprise Mini-Cakes and a little something chocolate too

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Tuesdays with Dorie is a weekly online baking group. Every week one member selects a recipe from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking…From My Home to Yours and we all bake the recipe in our own special way and blog about it on Tuesdays.

This week’s recipe, Berry Surprise Cake, was selected by Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen. You can find the recipe here. I love, love, love Mary Ann’s blog. She blogs almost everyday {maybe everyday} about a {usually} healthy, good-for-you recipe she made for her family. Whether or not the recipe is healthy, the pictures are always gorgeous. She even makes food I don’t like {beets} look appetizing.

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The base of the Berry Surprise Cake is a génoise, which in the world of French pastry is one of the basic starting point for many desserts. Also in the world of French pastry, there is debate about whether you should add melted butter to the batter. Some do and some don’t. Dorie does and I’m of the opinion that butter is always good. 😛

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Dorie calls this recipe a Berry Surprise Cake because you are supposed to carefully slice off a top layer of the cake, hollow out the core, fill it up with whipped cream goodness and berries, put the top layer back on, and frost with topping. Surprise! It sounds delicious, but I felt a little lazy this week and decided to change it up a bit.

Picture from my mobile phone

Picture from my mobile phone

Last week strawberries started showing up at the farmers’ market en masse, so I decided to use them instead of the suggested raspberries. Since I was going the lazy route, I decided to make mini-cakes using my mini-muffin pan.

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Because I forgot to use lime zest last week, I decided to use it this week {who doesn’t like strawberries and lime?} and rubbed it in with the sugar. I also used cake flour instead of all-purpose because I wanted the cakes to be light and French-y {whatever that means}.

Dorie urges us to gingerly fold in the flour because the beaten eggs are divas. I was overly ginger because when I was half-way done scooping the batter into the tin, I found a bunch of unmixed flour in the batter. :0 I quickly {but gingerly} mixed in the lost flour.

In the oven, half the mini-cakes sank and looked ugly as sin. This was the half that did not have enough flour. The other half rose perfectly and were very lovely. I likened the ugly half to Victorian novel crazy relatives locked up in the attic. My friends do not need to know they exist. 😛

Crazy relatives locked in a Victorian attic

Crazy relatives locked in a Victorian attic

I made the filling and used it as a topping. Instead of cream cheese, I substituted mascarpone. I sliced the strawberries and placed them on top of the mini-génoise cakes, piped the filling, and then finished them with chopped pistachios.

These were a big hit and I’m sure the properly assembled cake is yummy too. Maybe when I am feeling less lazy I will make as directed.

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Almost-Fudge Gâteau

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I’m slowly baking my way through TWD recipes selected before I joined the group. The Almost-Fudge Gâteau was  the recipe for the week of February 19,2008. This recipe was very easy to make {I made mini-cakes again} and very, very delicious. If you haven’t made it yet, do it! It’s wonderful. Nikki of Crazy Delicious selected this cake and you can find the recipe here.

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It’s a whole grain-palooza!

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This weekend I made Nine-Grain Whole Wheat Harvest Bread the next recipe in the Art and Soul of Baking. The recipe calls for 9-grain hot cereal mix. When I went to the local health food store it buy it, I had a choice of 6, 7, 8,  or 10-grain cereal mix in addition to the 9-grain. I didn’t even know all these varieties existed. I used the 9-grain which includes: rice, corn, oats, cracked rye, barley, millet, flax, soy and triticale.

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The bread came together easily. Not bad! The bread is hearty, but light and mighty tasty. It’s great for sandwiches, toast, or just eating plain.

Almond Butter and Apple Sandwich

Almond Butter and Apple Sandwich

I also made a Wheat Berry Salad with citrus, toasted pine nuts, feta, and spinach using a recipe from Super Natural Cooking. This was my first time cooking/using wheat berries. The wheat berry is the whole wheat kernel–the bran, germ, and endosperm. Because it has all those parts, it takes about an hour to cook–but it is so worth it!

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The salad itself comes together quickly once the wheat berries are cooked. It’s nice eating it when it is still warm, but it is even better waiting for it to cool completely so all the flavors meld together.  YUM! I’m definitely going to make this again. I think it would be great for a potluck. Or making my own wheat berry salad using different flavorings like pears, blue cheese, and walnuts or tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (no surprise there!).

Nine-Grain Whole Wheat Harvest Bread

From the Art and Soul o f Baking
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) 9-grain hot cereal mix (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115F)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
    1. Make The Cereal Mix: Pour the cereal into the medium bowl. Add the boiling water and stir to blend. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight (bring the mixture to room temperature before continuing).
    2. Mix, Rest, And Knead The Dough: Pour the warm water into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast and whisk by hand to blend. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Add the cooled cereal, honey, bread flour, whole wheat flour, and salt. Knead the dough on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm and elastic, 4 to 7 minutes.
    3. Rise The Dough (First Rise): Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 35 to 45 minutes (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to make the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of table so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
    4. Punch Down And Shape The Dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towl and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gulten some time to relax.) Shape into a round, taut loaf. If you are using a baking or pizza stone, transfer the loaf to the semolina-dusted pizza peel, or form a makeshift peel by lining the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you are not using a baking stone, transfer the loaf to the cetner of a parchment-lined baking pan.
    5. Proof The Dough (Second Rise): Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and allow to rise until it is almost doubled and looks like it has taken a deep breath, 20 to 30 minutes.
    6. Prepare The Oven: Place the baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat.
    7. Bake The Loaf: Dust the top lightly with flour – don’t got crazy here or you’ll have a mouthful of flour. Slash a pattern in the top of the dough with a lame, razor blade, or chef’s knife. If the dough is on a pizza peel, transfer to the baking stone; if on a baking sheet, simply set the baking sheet on the baking stone or oven rack. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 190F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.

    Makes 1 Round Loaf

    Wheat Berry Salad with Citrus, Toasted Pine Nuts, Feta, and Spinach

    Adapted from Super Natural Cooking.
    • 2 cups soft wheat berries, rinsed
    • 6 cups of water
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • Grated zest and juice of one orange
    • 1 tablespoon of  freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
    • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon or more sugar (optional)
    • 1 bag of baby spinach
    • 1 cup of toasted pine nuts
    • 1 /2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
    1. Combine wheat berries, water, and salt in sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately an hour. The wheat berries will be plump and chewy. Drain and season with salt to taste.
    2. Meanwhile, combine orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and shallot. Whisk in olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add sugar if using.
    3. Toss the hot wheat berries with spinach, citrus dressing, and pine nuts. Top with feta cheese.

    Serves 4 to 6.

    Herbed Fougasse and Winter Caprese Salad

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    Fougasse is the French version of the Italian foccacia. It’s dimpled and full of olive oil goodness. It also was the next recipe for me to bake in The Art & Soul of Baking. I flavored my fougasse with fresh rosemary and thyme, but like it’s cousin, you can flavor or load with other herbs or treats–cheese, olives, basil. The sky’s the limit. It was very easy to make.

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    In this month’s Gourmet, there is a recipe for Winter Caprese Salad (the very last page if you have the magazine). As you all know, I love Caprese Salad. The minute I saw it in the magazine I knew I had to make it. What makes it “winter”? Instead of using raw tomatoes, you roast plum tomatoes. It was very delicious, but nothing compares to a summer Caprese Salad using tomatoes at their peak. I can’t wait….7 months and counting!

    Winter Caprese Salad

    Adapted from the January 2009 issue of Gourmet
    • 1 pound plum tomatoes, quarted lengthwise.
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella log, sliced  in rounds1/4 inch thick.
    • a handful of fresh basil
    • Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and freshly ground pepper.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle. Toss tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes in baking dish cut side up and roast in oven for 45 minutes or so. When the tomatoes are ready, the skins should be wrinkely and the bottoms should begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.

    Slice basil thinly. Assemeble cheese and roasted tomatoes by alternating them on a plate and sprinkling with basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

    Makes 4 servings.

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