Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tuiles - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 107th installment. The recipe is Tuiles (baked in July, finally blogged now!) 
This is one of those recipes that I have been dreading/anticipating.  I remember my first attempt to make this kind of cookie (I believe the recipe called them Lace Cookies) back in high school or college, and how unsuccessful it was! No photos of the occasion, but I remember it well. The picture in the book was enticing, but the reality of getting those cookies off the baking sheet was a disaster.  So, this post is dedicated to baking parchment and Silpat baking mats!  
The recipe in the book says "as easy to make as drop cookies" - I would call that an exaggeration.  Even with the amazing non-stick technology we have now, I think this are somewhat challenging, as they are fragile.  
The batter is very interesting - melted butter and heavy cream, coarsely ground almonds, sugar, a couple of tablespoons of flour, and orange zest.  It needs to be chilled overnight.
After chilling, you drop a teaspoon of batter for each cookie onto your parchment-covered sheet, leaving two inches between each cookie.   They are baked at 325°F for just 5 minutes - no multi-tasking while they bake, because you need to yank them out of the oven as soon as they turn slightly brown.  

Once out of the oven, you lay them on the rolling pin to make the curved shape of the "tuile" (French for "tile"). They cool into this shape quickly, and you take them off the pin to make room for more.

Once cooled, they are drizzled with melted semisweet chocolate.  

I found the edges of the cookies were still very fragile and prone to breakage as you handle them after baking. I wonder if it's possible to make these slightly thicker, so they are a little bit more sturdy.  I definitely want to try this one again to get the technique down.

Cocoa Nests with Caramel Mousse - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 106th installment. The recipe is Cocoa Nests with Caramel Mousse (baked in July, finally blogged now!) 
This is another multi-component pastry chef-style dessert. As described in the book, none of the components of this dessert are terribly difficult and it's a good chance to practice using the pastry bag!   This dessert was delicious,  and the directions are very clear, although it is not terribly practical for a home baker with time constraints (aka me :-)
Components are:

  • Cocoa meringue shells, the "nests"
  • Caramel mousse
  • Crunchy caramelized pecans (praline), chopped into small pieces
Meringue: beat the egg whites, and add sugar, beating until shiny (so far, so good):
You then fold in a combination  of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  This seemed to really deflate the meringue - here it is after adding those dry ingredients:

You pipe this mixture with a star tip into 4" ovals you have drawn on your parchment, with a raised edge of stars to make the nest edge.  These are baked for two hours at 200°F, so they are super crisp.

This is one of the points at which things get slightly  impractical for the home baker - you now need a large surface area to store these pretty, but fragile shells. The recipe states that you can wrap them airtight and store them in a cool dry place for up to a week - good to know that they will keep, but how do you wrap these airtight without smashing them, and where is the mythical cool dry place with this much horizontal surface ? :-)

The remaining components both involved carmelizing sugar.  The praline involves carmelizing sugar on the stove until it colors to light brown, tossing in pecans to coat them with caramel, and then spreading this onto an oiled baking sheet (I used my Silpat silicone baking mat, because NOTHING seems to stick to that :-)   Once this is hard, you chop it finely in the food processor (sounded like chopping up rocks, but the blade did the trick).
Final component - the caramel mousse:  Again, carmelizing sugar on the stove, but for this, you add water to the caramel after it browns, and then some gelatin which has been dissolved in water with some dark run added.  You beat up six egg yolks and then drizzle in the caramel gelatin mixture, beating for an additional 5-10 minutes to cool the mixture down.  Fold in whipped cream, and you have the mousse.  
Assembly (pretty easy - most of the work is already done!): Pipe or spoon mousse into each shell, and then sprinkling with praline.  If you've got the time and space, this is definitely impressive, and the combination of flavors and textures is wonderful.

Crispy Cocoa Cookies - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 105th installment. The recipe is Crispy Cocoa Cookies.  (baked in June, finally blogged now!)
The time stamps on these photos say it all - I prepared the dough for these cookies on May 31st and baked them on June 4th.  This was a month of high school graduation and associated activities, so our household was very busy (in a good way!).

This recipe is one of those "hidden" ones in this book - there is no photo of it in the book (at least in my edition).  It's a very simple recipe for a chocolate crunchy rolled cookie. One of the surprising aspects is that only two tablespoons of cocoa provides all the chocolate flavor for 6 ounces of butter, 1.75 cups of flour and 1 cup of powdered sugar.  Rather cool, considering that some super chocolatey intense desserts have ounces and ounces of unsweetened and semisweet chocolate. 
The dough comes together easily - you combine butter with sugar, cocoa, vanilla and egg yolk (I wonder if this creaming is part of the secret of intense chocolate flavor):

Dough with dry ingredients added
and then add the dry ingredients all at once to turn the batter into a dough. The dough is chilled (in my case for several days :-) and then rolled out as thinly as possible.  This was the only tricky part, as this dough is not terribly sturdy. Being so think, it bakes quickly (6 minutes in my case), and you're done.  The cookie was very tasty, and  the chocolate flavor develops as it cools off.  It would make a good base for some kind of filling or icing.  After baking from Baking Chez Moi, I keep thinking of variations as "Bonne Idées", as Dorie Greenspan titles her side notes in that book.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Persian Naan - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 104th installment. The recipe is Persian Naan.
A basic Naan bread (yum!) from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. We made the Oasis Naan version topped with salt and scallions back in 2012.  This version has sesame seeds, and is formed into a very long oval.   The dough is the same for both recipes - very easy, and few ingredients (water, yeast, bread flour, salt).  It is mixed by hand and then rises for two hours, although the recipe says it's perfectly OK to let it go longer (good to have flexibility there!
Before rising
After rising
After rising, the dough gets divided into ovals and rests for a few minutes, and then you shape the long oval (16-18 inches), sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake.  I baked this on the pizza stone, which seems to improve the texture.   It is really tasty!  This bread dries out fairly quickly, so it does not necessarily keep well, although I did toast some leftover pieces the next day, and it was certainly edible.  It is good to have another shot at this recipe, as I would like to really be proficient in making this bread.

Danish Pastry Pockets - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 103rd installment. The recipe is Danish Pastry Pockets and Danish Slices.  (baked in May, finally blogged now!)

Dough after overnight chilling, before rolling
This was another opportunity to practice with Danish Pastry Dough.  Back in 2013, we did the Danish Braid, which uses the same dough and the same fillings.  This time I made the dough, plus almond and raspberry fillings, and I made two different shapes - the "Slice", which is a long rectangle with sides folded over, and Pinwheels.  Planning ahead is necessary - this isn't a last minute recipe. First the basic Danish dough - takes time, although it's not too difficult.  You use the food processor to mix dry and liquid ingredients and cut in the butter, which stays chunky.  You chill that dough overnight.

The next day, you roll and fold the dough to get the layers that make it puff.   There is only one session of rolling and folding (not as involved as some butter-layered puff pastrie doughs), followed by another chill of as little as 30 minutes and as much as two days.  This helps a lot with timing - you can actually make these for a weekend breakfast, as long as you make the dough the day or evening before.
During the rolling process - butter chunks get folded into layers
Once you've got your chilled dough, get out the rolling pin and ruler - it's important to pay attention to dimensions if you're planning to do the small pastries like the pinwheels.  A pizza wheel helped with cutting the dough.

The slice was very easy to shape - a long rectangle with almond filling down the center, followed by raspberry on top of that, and then fold in the sides. During baking, it unfolded a bit and kind of lost its symmetry.

It was easier to make the pinwheels nice and neat - each square gets four slits cut diagonally, a dollop of each filling (nut and fruit), and then you fold the points over the center.  I had pearl sugar (it's been hanging around in the cupboard forever) so sprinkled that on top.

 I would love to get this type of pastry a little neater looking, especially the slice shape, so more work to do there, but it sure is delicious.  This is definitely one that I would make again - I love the variety of shapes you can do with the same ingredients.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chocolate Cinnamon Beignets - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 102nd installment. The recipe is Chocolate Cinnamon Beignets.
These were a bit of a project (beware - frying pan full of oil to manage), but they turned out great.  They are a cross between filled doughnuts and cream puffs - a chocolate cinnamon dough wrapped around vanilla/carmelized banana filling.
You start with a chocolate cream puff dough - this could be useful in the future just for making chocolate cream puffs or eclairs.  The chocolate flavor comes from cocoa, and it calls for the usual method of heating butter and liquid, stirring in flour over the burner, and then beating in eggs.
At this point, it goes off in a different direction from the usual.  You chill that dough, wrapped in plastic, and then once chilled, you fold in flour to make it more solidly dough-like and able to be rolled out.  This dough is chilled again. This photo has the basic chilled cream puff dough on the left, and the flour-added dough on the right.

After the dough is chilled again, you roll it out and cut out large (4 inch) circles.  These are chilled again before it's time to assemble the beignets.
Meanwhile, you prepare the filling - a basic vanilla creme anglais (i.e. vanilla sauce/pudding) with egg yolks and some cornstarch to thicken - and chill that.  The filling is enhanced with bananas that are carmelized in melted sugar in a frying pan.  Those get cooled, mashed up and put into the creme anglais.
Time to assemble the beignets.  The recipe calls for using a potsticker press to close up the beignets.  Here was the setup when I optimistically started:

Alas, the potsticker press did NOT work well for this (maybe I have a substandard potsticker press :-) and perhaps my circles were a little too small for this press.  I ended up changing gears and just pressing the edges closed with hands and crimping with a fork.  
Here's the sheet of dumplings after assembly. You can see a couple of poorly shaped ones at the top of the frame - oops!  I also had lots of filling left over - didn't need so much as the recipe made.

The assembled dumplings are frozen for several hours (I just did one hour, and all was fine) and then fry them on the stove top.  One of life's little victories - I didn't have a thermometer for the oil, but was able to guesstimate when it was ready for frying.
The recipe also includes a walnut sauce - ground walnuts, butter, heavy cream, sugar, and walnut oil.  It didn't look fabulous, but tasted very nice, and the beignets themselves had a great combination of flavors and textures - crunchy exterior, cream-puffy interior, banana/vanilla creamy filling.  We ate most of them immediately, but there were a few left, which we had the next day for breakfast - surprisingly good as a leftover!  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pain de Campagne - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 101st installment. The recipe is Pain de Campagne.
This bread was made from dough with no added yeast and no one is more amazed than I am that it actually rose, and was delicious to eat :-)
The recipe is an "old style" bread, prepared with no yeast other than "airborne wild yeast".  I'm not sure if the yeast is floating around the kitchen, or arrived in the flour bag, but it definitely got going and made the starters ferment and the bread rise.  It takes four days, and the timing was a little tricky to fit around life.  I started it on Thursday night, and then was able to work on it over the weekend, culminating in baking the bread late on Sunday afternoon.
Step 1 - the "chef", initial starter with whole wheat flour, warm water, 1/2 t. milk and a tiny amount of cumin.  This initial starter sits for 2 days at room temperature, covered in plastic.  
Start of step 1
After two days of sitting
It went from a smooth firm dough to a stretchy gooey dough.

Step 2 - the "levain".  Mix a small quantity of the chef with warm water and whole wheat flour.  The traditional method, according to the recipe, is to make a "volcano" of the flour, tear the chef into small pieces and put it in the center of the volcano to soak and soften in the warm water, before mixing everything together into a firm dough.
the "chef" - you remove the crust and
use 2 T. of  the interior
Volcano of flour with chef in center
The levain before rising
The levain after 18 hours of sitting

Step 3 - Refreshing the levain.  You repeat a similar process - small amount of whole wheat flour,  some white flour, warm water, and a portion of the levain (in this case, 1/2 cup) torn into small pieces, and use the "volcano" of flour to soak the levain in the water before mixing and kneading in the flour to form a firm dough.
"Volacano" with soaking levain - for Step 3
Refreshed levain before rising
Refreshed levain after 8 hours of sitting
This refreshed levain sits for 5-8 hours (I did this step overnight - it seemed fine to leave it a little bit on the longer side).
The levain is now ready to be used to make dough.

Again, the levain is soaked in warm water to soften (1 1/2 cups of levain - all of it), and then white flour plus salt is mixed in to make the dough.  I used the Kitchen Aid with dough hook to do this step - very straightforward.  This dough rises for five hours before shaping.

Dough before rising

Dough after rising
After rising the dough is shaped into a large round and placed in a form - the traditional one is a basket or bowl, and since I don't have that, I used the suggested substitute of a colander lined with a flour-coated tea towel.

Dough ready for baking
The suggested method is to bake the dough on a pizza stone, using a spray bottle to add humidity to the oven.  At the point I put the dough into the oven, it struck me that it was very dense and not rising very high.  However, it really did gain some height in the oven.  It's definitely a firm and dense loaf, but we really enjoyed it, especially the first night when the crust was really crisp and delicious.

Overall, I was really glad I tried this one - I started out with low expectations, so it was fun to see it actually succeed.  I also took a small chunk of dough to use as a starter for another loaf - looking to try continuing the experiment and see what happens next!