Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - 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!

Another Daring Bakers challenge where I am coming in just under the wire! It seems to be a busy time of year for me and I ended up putting my challenge off until the last weekend of the month, not knowing that I would be attending my grandfather's funeral this weekend nor that my son would be hosting preschool snacks on Monday and would want to take homemade sugar cookies. Baking did end up being a bit cathartic for me, but it also meant that it didn't get all of my attention.

Here I am, two and a half hours before the challenge deadline starting my write up while my croissants are in their last few minutes of proofing as the oven preheats to it's scorching temperature of 475 degrees F. I will admit right up front that I did get a bit frustrated with this experience toward the end. I have no idea what my croissants are going to look like in 7 minutes when they come out of the oven. There is definitely a smell of cooked egg wafting through the air right now as the countdown continues on.

I would consider myself an experienced bread and pastry maker, but I really bristle when a recipe tells me to roll an item out to a certain shape or size. Really, how many people can get it to the size the recipe calls for let alone the shape? I don't know about you, but my dough seems to have a mind of its own when it is sitting on my counter resisting my methods of carefully shaping and measuring. That being said, a few of my croissants are less like croissants and more like little puff pastry footballs and crescent moons and dolphins jumping out of the water.

Can I get a drumroll, please, as these come out of the oven? The bottoms smell a bit toasty. Burned or is it just the egg wash around the edges and on the pan? They are a little dark but the burnt taste is not there so that's a sigh of relief. And to the most important question: how do they taste? Great! They are light and flaky with just a hint of buttery flavor. I think I can count this challenge as a success, even though the dough rolling had me glaring at my rulers and uncooperative dough. Enjoy!

Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck

1¼ teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (less than 100°F)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup milk
1½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 3/4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons tasteless oil
½ cup chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

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

Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and 2 teaspoons 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. Knead the dough eight to ten times only by smacking the dough on the counter and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towl. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F 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. Fold the dough rectangle in thirds, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up). Place the dough letter back in the bowl, cover with the plastic wrap and towel. 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. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little until 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. Remove the butter from the board and place it on the dough rectangle, spreading the butter across two-thirds of the rectangle but keeping it a ¼ inch from all the edges.

Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). Roll out the dough (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, 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 out until it is 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three, as before. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

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 a lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out to a 20 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into half which will yield two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches ). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge to keep the butter cold.

Roll the rectangle to a 15 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches). Place two of the squares in the fridge. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime so roll it out again until 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 on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in all. Leave the tray of croissants on the counter, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475°F. 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 or until the tops are browned nicely. Take the croissants out of the oven and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars

Super sweet! That is an appropriate description for this tasty treat.We started out with bars cut to the size you see, but after our first round of dessert we cut them in fourths. Yep, they were that sweet. They sure were yummy though. Enjoy!  

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Beat flour, butter, and brown sugar in small mixer bowl until crumbly. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Beat together eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, butter and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Stir in morsels and walnuts; pour over hot crust.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes 3 dozen bars

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zucchini Bread Galore

Doesn't this picture look great! This is one day's worth of baking, minus a dozen muffins that were eaten before this photo was taken. Not only that but all of those delectable baked goods came from one squash and one zucchini (similar in size to the two in the picture). I love monster squash and zucchini from my garden!

I used my basic zucchini bread recipe and just added different extras to the mix. Some of the batches have just raisins, some just nuts, some raisins and nuts. All but the dozen muffins went into the freezer so we are ready to go with zucchini bread for the next few months! So much easier to freeze the baked bread than to freeze the shredded zucchini.

Zucchini Bread 3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of loaf pans. Mix zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pans. Bake 50-60 minutes (25-30 minutes for mini loaves, 20-25 minutes for muffins) or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Makes 2 loaves

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup

Besides baking the potato this soup was a pretty quick fix. Somewhat bland, but it works for a quick meal. Not a whole lot to say about it. Enjoy!

Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup
2 cups skim milk
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, baked
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded + some for garnish
1/4 small onion, sliced, sauteed
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces turkey bacon, cooked, crumbled

Place milk, potatoes, cheese, onion, dill, rosemary, and salt in a stockpot. Heat thoroughly and break up potatoes. Add crumbled turkey bacon. Serve with shredded cheese garnish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Birthday Bones

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Najia, happy birthday to you! Our beloved puppy dog turned 7 years old today. In her honor I baked my very first batch of dog bones. Call me lazy because these were some of the easiest things out there and I have been putting it off for years.

I can't really give you a thumbs up or down because, well, my dog doesn't have thumbs and she also doesn't have a very discerning palate. While she doesn't eat "people food" she does hoover up anything she can find on the ground when we are camping, out walking, or just about anywhere. I think she is pretty willing to eat just about anything.

These bones are great in that they only require 4 ingredients and there is a lot of flexibility even within that. If you go to the source website you can see that there are many variations that people have made and they have all turned out well. Again, what dog is going to turn up their nose at food being offered to them, definitely not mine.

I used whole wheat pastry flour (because that's what I had in the cupboard), crunchy peanut butter (maybe you can see the peanuts in the bone), and almond milk (because that's all the milk I had in my fridge). At first I was a bit worried as I was scooping the peanut butter into the measuring cup. As my peanut butter jar became more empty I started to wonder if this really was a cheaper way of doing things. I finally convinced myself that our dog would take the place of our son as the fourth peanut butter consumer in our family since our son does not like peanut butter and it would work itself out. After cutting out 84 little dog bones and one bigger bone I decided that the one cup of peanut butter is definitely worth the sacrifice.

From our dog to yours, enjoy!

Birthday Bones
Source: All Recipes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted natural peanut butter
1 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. 

Stir together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and milk. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. 

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. 

Note: Baking time is dependent on size and thickness of dog bones. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bushels of Apples Sugar Cookies

What better way to mark the start of the school year than with a bushel of apples. Or maybe I should say a batch of apples . . . sugar cookies that is. These cookies were made in honor of me going back into the classroom after an almost 5 year break and my son starting preschool.

All but one was either green or yellow, with just one red apple to complete the trio. I had planned to divide the cookies evenly into red, green, and yellow but after adding too much red food coloring for my taste and conscience I decided that all but one would be green or yellow. They turned out quite nicely, beautiful thick icing evenly coating the apple and a bit of glitter dust to finish it off. They were a hit at work and already have me thinking about what other cookies I am going to be baking this school year. Enjoy!

Note: This is the same recipe I have used for all but one of my sugar cookies. It is the best ever. Not overly sweet and the royal icing is a great compliment for decorating but doesn't add to the taste.
Sugar Cookies
Source: Treats

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix until egg is completely incorporated. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; mix until no trace of dry ingredients remain.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thickness and cut shapes using cookie cutters.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup meringue powder
slightly less than a 1/2 cup of water
food coloring

Mix powdered sugar and meringue powder until well blended. Add water and mix until you get the consistency that you want. Add food coloring to achieve your desired color. Use pastry bags with #1 and #3 tips or plastic squeeze bottles to decorate.

For outlining: consistency should be like glue paste
For flooding: add enough water so that when you lift a spoonful of icing it runs back into the bowl and blends into the other icing in about 2 to 3 seconds

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to admit that when I was flipping through the Better Home and Garden magazine while waiting for my son's appointment at the pediatrician I was either really  hungry or these cookies looked way better than they came out in my kitchen. Not that they were bad, but I wouldn't say that they were stellar either. Pretty much your average run of the mill chocolate chip cookie with some dried cherries thrown in. (You can see I added a few white chocolate chips as well as semi-sweet but that didn't do much for it.) I do have to say that one of the positives is that they seem to freeze well. We had a few fresh out of the oven and then threw the rest in a bag in the freezer where they still sit today waiting for us to get in the mood for chocolate chip cookies once again. Enjoy!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup snipped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 minutes. Transfer to racks. Cool.

Makes 6 dozen

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cinnamon-Pecan Bread

I really didn't intend to make another loaf of swirl bread. In fact, until I started making it I didn't even realize that it would be a swirl bread. For some reason I thought when I saw this recipe in a magazine (without the picture, I guess) I was thinking it was going to be a quick bread. Never mind that yeast is listed as an ingredient. I guess I just wasn't paying close attention.

I made three different batches of swirl bread within a pretty short timeframe and this was the one that we liked least. It ended up being pretty dry. The powdered sugar glaze added to the bread but it still couldn't make up for the dryness and lack of flavor. I will pick one of the other two recipes when I make swirl bread again, but if you decide to try it, enjoy!

Cinnamon-Pecan Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cut up
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons milk

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan, heat and stir milk, the 1/4 cup butter, the 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt until warm (120 degree F to 130 degree F) and butter almost melts. Add to flour mixture. Then, add the egg. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that's smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a smooth ball.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (1 to 1-1/4 hours). Punch dough down.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to form a 12-inch square. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle over the butter. Sprinkle with pecans.

Roll up, jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams and the ends to seal. Place, seam side down, on a greased baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 30 to 45 minutes).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Remove to wire rack to cool. Prepare Powdered Sugar Glaze in a bowl to drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bread. Makes 1 loaf.