Tuesday, September 27, 2011

French Croissants

When I joined The Daring Bakers several years ago, they had just made croissants.  I was a bit jealous, thinking that would be something fun to try.  Well, we got the chance to do it again!  That's right, the September challenge was to make croissants.  The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Now, if you look at the recipe it could seem a bit daunting.  However, a lot of the time involved is spend waiting!  Lots of rest periods.  I made mine over two days, letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight.  To me, the hardest part was rolling the dough.  Even after allowing the dough to rest so that the gluten loosened, it still pulled and didn't get as large as I would have liked.  Another thing that made the dough difficult to roll was the butter.  First it was squirting out of the side.  Then, as I completed more turns I had some thin layers that continually broke.  I guess you COULD consider that a good thing because I meant that I had nice layers...on the other hand it made my life more difficult.  In the end, it all came out fine.

At first I was going to simply make plain croissants.  Then, I decided to make half of the dough into "mini" croissants and the other half into blueberry cinnamon croissants.  Both of them were good, though I do think that my dough needed more salt.  I was really pleased with the blueberry version.  The berries added a nice tartness that mixed well with the buttery dough.  They would have been really good with a glaze.

  For the "mini" versions I simply took the triangle for a normal sized croissant and cut it in half.  They were more the size of a canned roll than a bakery roll. I forgot to add the egg glaze, and when I realized it was too lazy...so my croissants don't have that nice golden color, but I think they still look nice!  Thanks, Sarah, for the chance to try my hand at these French rolls. 
Croissants from Julia Child
¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.

Measure out the other ingredients. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar. Place the flour in a large bowl.  Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl. Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below). It’s a little difficult to explain, but essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter (lots of fun if you are mad at someone) and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper.

Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the bowl in the plastic bag. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.

Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches (20cm by 30cm). Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up). Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter.

Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).

Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). Fold in three, as before. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising)

It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter.
Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½ cm by 12½ cm)). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm)). Place two of the squares in the fridge
The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour

Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely. For mini croissants bake 8-10 minutes. Remove croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

3 Down 1 to Go

One week left!  That's it and I'm DONE with nights.  Yes, I'll still have some night shifts in the ER and some overnight calls but my MONTH of nights will be done after 4 more shifts.  Whew.  Hasn't been as bad as I was thinking it would be.  I definitely have not done any cooking.  But tonight, I'm throwing together a spaghetti squash concoction!  YES!  Though I do miss the summer veggies when fall come, I really enjoy the spaghetti squash that comes with fall.  However, today's recipe has nothing to do with spaghetti squash...it is another stuffed recipe.  Apparently, last month was all about stuffed veggies.

I had a bottle of Verde sauce that I bought on clearance sitting in my cabinet.  I decided to use it, instead of tomatoes, for the base of stuffed peppers.  Oh my!  This turned out SO good.  There was a nice spice and "twang" to the sauce.  It made for several yummy meals!  For the filling, I used a bag of frozen fajita veggies (onions and bell peppers), zucchini, squash, and black beans.

  I added a little salsa for some spice and tomato flavor.  Topped with just a sprinkle of cheese and it was perfect! 

Stuffed Mexican Peppers
3 peppers (I used red, yellow, and orange), seeded and cut in half
1 jar of Verde sauce
1 bag frozen fajita veggies
1 can black beans, drained
1 zucchini, sliced
1 squash, sliced
1/3-1/2 cup salsa
2% sharp cheddar cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Place halved peppers in the water and parboil for 10 minutes.  While they are cooking, saute fajita veggies, squash, and zucchini in a saute pan until softened.  Add beans and salsa  Cook until warmed through.  Remove bell pepper from water and allow to drain.  When drained, gather a casserole dish large enough to hold all peppers.  Pour the sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Place all peppers cut side up in the dish.  Fill each pepper with the bean and vegetable filling, you might have some left over - great on salad!  Top each pepper with a sprinkle of cheese.  Place in oven that has been preheated to 325.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese melts.  Remove from oven and enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

If you Have Time to Bake

So far, my month on nights is going well.  We've gotten to sleep at least a little bit most nights...so thankful for that.  This weekend is one of our short off weekends, go back to work on Sunday.  Tomorrow I'm going to see Les Miserables with a friend!  I've seen it before but am quite excited about seeing it again; unfortunately, that means that my only full day off this week is completely taken.  That doesn't leave much time for cooking or baking....

but if I was to do some cooking, this would be something that I would make again - Nutella Swirled (or peanut butter) Banana Bread.  This is a recipe from Emily at Sugar Plum.  The bread is SO moist.  Another plus...it actually BAKED completely in my oven!  Woo Hoo!  I loved the texture so much that when I went  home, I made a similar version with peanut butter instead of nutella.

  The Nutella is definitely more full of flavor and provides a more exciting visual effect as well.  See?

  Please try this...and more of Emily's recipes too.  She makes great ones!

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread from Sugar Plum

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large eggs
1/2 cup Nutella

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together banana, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined.  I used a regular bowl and spoon but Emily suggested a mixer. Beat in egg until well combined. Stir in dry ingredients.  Place 1/2 of of the batter into a medium bowl; stir in Nutella until combined.

Alternate spoonfuls of batter into loaf pan until all of the batter is used up - I did mine in a checkerboard pattern. Swirl batter gently with a knife (not too much!). Bake 1 hour or until well risen, deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fun Stuff

One week of nights down, but I'm technically 1/3 of the way done!  Woo Hoo!  Have had a busy past couple of days.  Thursday afternoon before work, I was eating a salad when, "crunch," there was something there that wasn't supposed to be.  My front tooth bonding had come off.  Yay, now I had a chipped tooth and couldn't get to the dentist until the next day (thankfully they could get me in the next day at 10am).  So, I had to go to work with part of my tooth gone.  I felt like parents were staring at my mouth!  Oh well. 

Then, instead of sleeping, I went to get crowns put on my front teeth (I'm now hesitant to eat things I had to bite into...just bit into something and felt like they temporary crown was slipping off!).  Today I went to a wedding...30 minutes AFTER the wedding occurred.  Then tonight I went to a get together with some friends!  A fun two days...something else that's fun...these cookies!  What's better that oreos?  Oreos in a cookie!  I had seen several recipes but used the one on Anna's site.  Turned out pretty good.  Try them out for yourself!

Oreo Cookies from Cookie Madness
Oreo Chunk Cookies
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (8 1/2 oz by weight)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (LOVE this!)
10-12 (broken into small pieces) Oreos (I used the ones with one chocolate and one vanilla cookie)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat butter and sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until combined.  Add flour, soda, salt, baking powder and cream of tartar to butter mixture and stir until incorporated. Stir in oreos by hand.

Place dough balls (tablespoon sized - like a walnut) on parchment lined or non-stick cookie sheet and flatten tops slightly. Bake for about 12 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool slightly on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to set: remove from baking sheet. Cool on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mango Muffin

Have you ever had dried mango?  If you haven't you should try...especially the pieces that are a little thicker...oh, so good!  When I got the mango, I decided that I should try to make a mango muffin.  So, the other day when I got a bit of a baking bug, I decided to go for it. 

These are a little on the healthier side but you can adjust for your tastes.  I've made them twice and the upper end of sugar is just about right but if you like muffins that don't taste sweet at all go for the lower end.  I love a good bran muffin and this one is just that...not too heavy but an obvious bran flavor.  Try them out!  I'm taking some with me tonight to work.  We've had two good nights but I know that a busy one is coming soon, so having something quick to snack on (I made mini muffins) will be good!

Mango Bran Muffins by me
1 egg
1/2-2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup fat free buttermilk
1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3-1/2 cup dried mango, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Whisk together egg, sugar, oil and buttermilk.  In another bowl, stir flour, bran, baking powder, cream of tartar, and cinnamon together with your hands.  Slowly stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir in mango.  Spray the wells of a mini muffin tin (or regular sized if you prefer).  Scoop batter into wells.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes (17-23 minutes for regular sized).  Remove from oven and remove muffins to cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

When Life Hands you Lemons...

...make Lemon Bars!  We had our last most recent (yep, just found out someone else is pregnant!) baby shower in the peds department last week...we love baby showers!  Isn't this cute?!

  I decided to take some lemon bars that are in my Southern Living Incredible Cookies book.  I wasn't so sure how they would turn out but they were great.  In fact, Bob, one of the chief residents this year, sent me a page saying they were the best thing he had eaten in a while!  Definitely shared the recipe with his wife so she could make more for him.

I did have to cook a bit longer than the recipe stated but that was due to using my baking stone pan (I have GOT to remember to "preheat" the pan!).  I just made simple bars, but the book recommends cutting them into fun shapes...hearts, flowers, etc.  This would be great...and would leave you with "unusable" scraps to snack on!  YES!  They tasted great with the perfect flaky crust and tart lemon filling.

What is my "lemon" right now?  Starting a month long stint on the night shift!  Yes, I will alternate between four and five day work week of 14 hour days nights. Me thinks I will be tired at the end of the month.  This is new for my program this year, all due to the new duty hour requirements by the ACGME...so far, I see NO benefit in the changes, but we shall see!  Oh, well.  I've got lemons...now I need to make more lemon bars... ;-) ... and trust that God will give me the energy and wisdom I need to best take care of my patients while also sharing His grace and love to those I meet!  Has life handed you some lemons?  Make these!  I promise...they're GREAT!

Lemon Bars from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter/margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind (the zest...it's the best!)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) lemon juice
powdered sugar to garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla until well blended.  Pat into a 13 X 9 pan that has been greased.  Place pan in oven and bake for 18 minutes or until golden crust.

Combine sugar and cornstarch,  mix.  Add eggs, zest, and lemon juice; beat well.  Pour this over the baked crust.  Bake in the 350 oven for 20-25 minutes or until set (I had to bake about 30-35minutes).  Cool completely then chill.

When ready to serve, sift powdered sugar on top.  If desired cut into decorative shapes with cookie cutters.  Enjoy!!!