Croissants

Ready to Proof

Each year, as I write down my list of resolutions for the upcoming months, I section off a portion of the items to tackle in a “Food” category. They typically range from specific projects, to broad scope themes such a portion control, to monthly challenges and a general overall reminder to not be afraid to try new things. As days pass, I return to this list and make notes of tasks I’ve accomplished, or at least those I’ve worked on – the later is something I highly recommend. It can be a bit dispiriting to look back at the list at the end of the year and see nothing completed, but if there’s a note that says “hey, I tried” it’s not nearly as depressing. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I see the “let’s get in shape this year” bullet point.

One of the food challenges that has been on my New Year’s Food Resolutions list for longer than I care to admit (okay, fine, since you asked, I think we’re on the third year) has been a baked good with its own recognizable shape – Croissants.

After watching the much beloved Julia Child work her magic on The French Chef via Twitch with her croissant recipe, I realized the process may not be as challenging as I had built it up in my mind to be. With an arsenal of cookbooks in my kitchen, I decided upon using Sarabeth Levine’s recipe as my guide. Croissants are a bit time consuming, but what I found the most challenging during the entire process was making sure I had my timing down in terms of what day I would make the dough for what day I wanted to bake the goodies off. Ultimately, timing was on my side, and these were the perfect Easter morning delicacy! Given that this was my first time trying my hand at croissants, I may adjust my baking time on my next go-round — the finished product was a bit too browned for my liking, although that might also be due to their rather diminutive size. Still, another checked item off the ol’ resolutions list and another success from Levine!

Baked Croissant

Croissants
Adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Croissant Dough
Makes 2 batches of croissants

Détrempe
2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Beurrage
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons bread flour

*Make the dough at least two days before using

  1. To make the détrempe, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm milk (105° to 115°F) in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to bloom, about five minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, then add the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
  2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the bowl of the stand mixer with the yeast and milk mixture. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball.
  3. Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the pan and cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.
  4. Immediately make the Beurrage. In a clean mixer bowl with clean paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more. Transfer the butter to a lightly floured surface and press any remaining lumps out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan next to the détrempe and refrigerate all together for about 15 minutes.
  5. Flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the end of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. [For a visual on the dough making process, I highly recommend looking into Sarabeth’s cookbook, as she has fantastic step-by-step photos and I neglected to take any.] You will notice four quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 ½ inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves”. Use a tapered rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to demark the square.
  6. Place the butter in the center, on top of the dough square. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away excess flour. Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so that the open ends now face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the now north- and south-facing flaps of dough to completely cover the butter, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
  7. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough so the four folded over flaps face down, with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like you would fold a letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  8. Lightly flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn, also known as a book turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  9. Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn (see step 7 for a reminder). With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
  10. The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted it will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.

Egg Wash

Croissants
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
½ recipe Croissant Dough, thawed overnight or for 8 hours in the refrigerator
1 large egg, well beaten
You will also need: two large kitchen bags, two tall glasses, and very hot water

  1. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust the work surface well with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the open seam of the dough facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heaving rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press the dough too hard; let the weight of the rolling pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling, it is important to keep track of which side contains the seam.
  2. Turn the dough with the seam facing you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully as the sides of the dough – you should be able to discern it, even though it is faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, neatly trim the rough edges. Cut the dough in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On the lightly floured work surface, unfold the dough strip and gently roll, allowing the weight of the rolling pin to smooth the creases created by folding the dough. Using a pizza wheel, starting at the top left corner of the strip, cut down to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base; set aside. Measure 3 ½-inches from the top left corner of the strip and make a notch with the wheel at this point. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 ½-inch base. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will also yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch wide base.
  4. Place a triangle with a 3 ½-inch base on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissant. Place on one of the prepared half-sheet pans. Curve the croissant by bringing the two ends closer to each other, crossing the two ends over each other and pressing together if needed. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them on the half-sheet pan with decent space between them. Overlap the two 2-inch base half-triangles at their long sides and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangle and add to the half-sheet pan. Alternatively , gently stretch the 2-inch base half-triangles into modified triangles, with a large base and small tip, and roll as described for smaller, slightly odd croissants.
  5. Repeat cutting and rolling croissants with the second half of the dough. Once all croissants have been cut, shaped, and set on the two half-sheet pans, choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the glasses from the bags, then the pans. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes longer, rotating the pans halfway through. Serve warm or cool to room temperature, if you’re able to resist the flaky goodness.

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Beans in a Cheesy-Lemon Broth – aka A Big Bowl of Comfort

Beans Edited.jpg

I’ve been noticing lots of posts and photos circulating of beans – dried, soaked, and set to simmer on the stove top until perfect. With a bag of precious Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans stashed in the pantry, I thought it was about time I give this old comforting classic a shot.

The last time I recall having dried beans, now so many years ago I was barely able to see over the stove, they had been on the shelves so long that, even after a good soak and a slow simmer, they were still crunchy. Not in a good way, either. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to try my hand at beans, but after reading up on the subject and seeing the precious heirloom legumes at a local natural and gourmet food store, I was excited to see what would come from the little bag of jewels.

All I can say is – I have been placed under the dried beans magical spell. I’m already excitedly planning to scour the dried beans aisle to see what I can find for my next batch, and plotting other things to do with these delectable little pods of wonder. Mixed with some fresh herbs, a bit of Parmesan rind, a squeeze of lemon, and bacon, the beans transformed into tender, nourishing bits of comfort wrapped around intense flavor. Do yourself a favor and grab a bag next time you’re at the store and prepare yourself for a truly transforming experience.

*Please forgive the photos – I grabbed my camera in excitement at what my dutch oven held and realized that my battery had become exhausted over the holidays, leaving me stuck with nothing but my iPhone to rely on.

 

Beans in Cheesy-Lemon Broth

6 slices of bacon
1 1lb bag of Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans (or similar), soaked in water overnight
4-6 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
1 3-inch piece of Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf, torn in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary – 1 whole, 1 finely chopped
1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated Parmesan and your favorite olive oil for topping

  1. Cut slices of bacon into ½ inch wide piece and render in a 4-qt dutch oven or other sturdy pot on medium heat, cooking bacon in batches if necessary. Cook bacon to your crisp-ness preference, but be sure the fat renders and is left in the bottom of the pot. Remove cooked bacon and set on a paper towel to absorb excess fat, set aside for later.
  2. Add beans to pot, stir to coat with the bacon fat, and add 4 cups of liquid (I used a half chicken stock/half water mixture). Bring beans to a full boil and let cook for five minutes, skimming foam off the top as needed.
  3. Lower heat to a simmer and add Parmesan rind, bay leaf, the whole sprig of rosemary, and kosher salt. Set beans to simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Check on bean tenderness and, if necessary, add more liquid and allow to simmer longer as needed.
  4. When beans are nice and tender, remove the Parmesan rind, what is left of the rosemary sprig, and the bay leaf pieces. Add the finely chopped rosemary and oregano and lemon juice. At this point, taste the broth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Just before serving, add cooked bacon pieces to beans and stir. Serve warm with plenty of both beans and broth in each portion. Top with grated Parmesan and a hearty drizzle of olive oil.

Beans Cooking Edited.jpg

Aperitif

Hi. Remember me? It’s been a while. I’ve been busy. Work…life…some technical problems…how difficult is it to have a reliable computer? Maybe more difficult than it should be, for me at least, but I digress.

Well, I’m hoping to come back. I’ve been wanting to come back. Will you have me?

Something happened at work today that made me think of you and all the good times we’ve shared. I’ve been longing to login again and leave a little something for you.

Like this – here’s something I did earlier this year, I hope you enjoy it, Food52 Community Piglet Cookbook Review: Death & Co.

I’ll see you again soon, I promise.

Please remain on the line…

I’ve been wanting to get back to posting on here again. You know, before another year goes by and I haven’t written anything. So hey, I think there’s still a few weeks left until it has been an actual year since my last post! Win!

Ahem. Sorry.

While the blogging bug has been nipping at my fingertips again, my lovely gadgets have been no help.

I am currently in the middle of a system restart on my computer. It may be out of commission for a while. Time will tell.

Needless to say, while I want to share things with you lovely lot, until my computer is feeling better I’ll more than likely be silent.

Until then, check out a “review” of mine which was posted on the wonderful Food52!

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Happy Anniversary?

Apparently today is my 3rd blogiversary…who knew? I certainly didn’t…

Although it is a tad funny, to me at least, that I’m here writing about a blogiversary when my last post was about my parents tree they planted for their anniversary…back in September. Whoops.

What? I never said I was good at this.

Anyway, I have been in the kitchen rather constantly, but once again sans camera. However, now that the spring is finally starting to show up here in AK and the light is coming back into our lives perhaps I’ll get some more going again.

Oh! Here’s something for you as a little treat, although no recipe as of yet. Some Pi Pie for Pi Day! It’s blueberry!

Pi on Pi-e

I’d like to be able to post more. Until then, if you follow along on twitter you’ll at least be able to hear about all the things coming from the kitchen these days!

“Oh, well. Guess the marriage is over!”

It’s been an odd week. This past Wednesday a big wind storm hit our fair city of Anchorage. Gusts built up to Hurricane speeds, and some people are even admitting to winds hitting 130 miles per hour. But, as the city has been joking since, it wasn’t really a hurricane. It was just Wednesday.

There was a lot of awesome damage around town. No, like really awesome. Totally cool. Visit the Anchorage Daily News site for some cool photos. I haven’t heard too much about lots of serious damage or injuries, though, which is a good thing. The biggest issue people have had since the storm is power. Lots of people are either still without or are just getting their power back at their houses.

Our damage here at our house was minimal as well, and luckily nothing happened that will take money out of our pockets. We lost a few shingles (which is fine because we’re signed up to replace the roof anyway) and we were smart enough to protect all our outdoor plants and such beforehand. There is only one, sad, difference to our house before and after storm.

This was how the front yard looked last winter, here’s what it looks like now…

Something’s missing…

Now, this tree wasn’t just any tree. It was a Blue Spruce. But beyond that, it was special.

When we first moved in, the tree wasn’t there. It was planted years later, by my parents.

Not being much for tradition, or even celebration, they decided on their 10th wedding anniversary to actually do something – they planted that tree.

My parents are celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary this September, and that tree has stood in front of our house for 17 years: enduring the cold, bracing against the wind, sparkling with Christmas lights until it grew too tall to cover, providing homes and resting places to birds. The yard looks empty without it.

Yet, when it first happened (at about 10:30 at night, just after beginning to head up to bed), Smidget joked [hence the post title] and we all laughed, but with a heavy heart and tired eyes.

It think this photo sums the whole storm up rather well…

Slowly but surely, we’re picking up the pieces. The city is coming back together again. Wood lots around town are filling up, and fence and roof repair companies are getting plenty of business. The wind, although still around, has died down. And, don’t worry, Smidget and Dad are still all lovey-dovey. It’s disgustingly wonderful.

Make A Wish…

It’s birthday time again!

This past weekend the family celebrated Smidget’s birthday. For the special occasion, I wanted to make something tasty and different for dessert. We had some apricots that needed to be eaten up, and since they are Smidget’s favorite, I figured it would be great to have a cake that used the fresh flavor of the apricots. Remember that time I made the plum cake that was a Dorie Greenspan recipe? Well, that’s just what I did again, but this time with apricots!

Dorie does say in her cookbook that other stone fruits can be used instead and even gives some directions on her favorite combinations of fruits and spices. Since the plum cake was such a success, I decided to barely mess with the perfection of Dorie’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about the cake was the subtle hint of spice that came from the cardamom. Dorie recommends using cinnamon with the apricots, but I knew it was all about the cardamom.

Needless to say, it was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with that hint of spice thrown in. The apricots that delicately dimpled the top were sweet, juicy, and just a tad tart in the best possible way that apricots are. Instead of just leaving the cake un-topped like I had previously, I took some of the mascarpone cheese we had (anybody else tempted by the cheese’s recent appearance on the shelves at warehouse stores?) and whipped it together with a hint of honey for sweetness, creating a delectable and not-too-sweet frosting.

The birthday went well, Smidget seemed to really enjoy the day and her present load. I’m actually listening to one of her presents right now…SMASH soundtrack, anyone? But it was the cake that really ended the whole day on a high note. Plus, with the fresh fruit and cheese and honey topping, it was actually a rather healthy cake! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Dimply Apricot Cake with Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter, jiggling the apricots a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the apricots’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

 

Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
Splash (about 1 tsp.) of whipping cream

1. Whisk together the Mascarpone cheese and honey, adding a splash of whipping cream to smooth and loosen the cheese. Whisk until thoroughly combined and reached desired consistency and flavor.