Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kouign Amann - Part 2

Joe Pastry rocks !  Remember yesterday I tried David Lebovitz's recipe for Kouign Amann ?  It came out like the buttery cake I thought it would.  But it didn't come out like the Kouign Amann that I remembered from La Reve Bakery. Joe Pastry's recipe did.  It was light and airy and crisp and caramelized with those beautiful puff pastry layers as I peeled it apart to eat it .

Isn't it amazing how you can get 2 completely different results for the same pastry ?   Just a warning, if you use the recipe from Joe Pastry it makes a ton of dough-which is never a bad thing-just preparing you-it can be frozen or you can do what I did.  Bake it all !  Bon Appetit.

Click here for Joe Pastry's recipe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kouign Amann

I tasted Kouign Amann (queen a-mahn) for the very first time a few weeks ago at a wonderful bakery on Queen Anne called La Reve.  I had read rave reviews about the croissants and pain au chocolat but the crisp caramelized looking pastry in the corner of the case caught my eye.  I pointed to it,because I wasn't sure how to pronounce it and Sharon, one of the owners sweetly informed me of it's pronunciation: queen a-mahn. All I can say is long live the Queen !  As soon as I got home home I Googled the Internet for a recipe and the first one I ran across was Pierre Herme's. I thought well the King of Pastry baking the Queen-it must be magic.  Unfortunately some of the reviews of his recipe said it came out like a stale dry sticky bun-not the way I wanted to start my  Kouign Amann experience. So I put Pierre on the back burner and I continued to search.  I came across David Lebovitz's recipe.

 I trust David, the way you trust a good friend not to steer you wrong. And bonus, he has lots of photos to walk you through the process and wonderful tips to keep you from making any mistakes. Even reading the 100+ comments on his Kouign Amann I knew I was in for challenge.  The underlying message throughout the comments was follow the steps exactly and you will succeed. It became my mantra for baking my Kouign Amann.The descriptions by others and their photos linked to David's blog encouraged me -I could taste the crisp sugary caramel pastry already and I was only setting up my mise en place. I encourage you try this-even if you don't think you can do butter pastry-you can and you must.  And trust David like you trust your best friend-follow his recipe and instructions and Voila !  The most beautiful,incredible tasting Kouign Amann created and baked in your kitchen. 

The bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan

It's butter and sugar and caramel oh my.  Really, I don't exaggerate try it you will become addicted-I promise. Mine turned out more like it's namesake -butter cake - than a laminated sugared pastry- I think it's from layering in the butter with the sugar.  If you Google images of this cake you will see all types ranging from something that looks like a croissant with sugar to my flattened little circle of sweet caramel cake loaded with butter.

 The one at La Reve was more like a croissant (check out the Cakespy photo and you'll see what I mean). So I'm now going to try Joe Pastry's Recipe-he keeps his butter separate from the sugar when laminating his dough. And just like David he gives you wonderful instructions !  Stay tuned for tomorrow's results using Joe Pastry's recipe and instructions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New York Crumb Cake-Baked Sunday Mornings

This was an easy uncomplicated recipe and it produced one of my favorite types of cakes-the morning coffee cake.  It also produced a beautiful batter-one I couldn't quit tasting.  I ended up adding a tablespoon of vanilla bean powder to my recipe-just because I love vanilla !  Baked Explorations  recommends making "large" crumbs for the crumb style topping.  I started out large and ended up crumbling the topping into more manageable pieces .  While I love that cinnamon sugar style crumb topping I love the cake even more and that's what I wanted to taste. 

I recently broke my glass 9x13 pan so I did bake this in a metal pan.  I didn't want my sides to crispy so I lined my pan with parchment paper, which made it really easy to remove once it was finished.  I had thought of making this like little individual cakes but then figured I liked the thought of a large coffee cake better.  I think this would have worked beautifully in a bundt type pan too.

My kitchen smelled like I remember my grandmother's kitchen smelling when I was growing up.  That cinnamon cake smell wafted throughout all the rooms.  It was very hard letting this cake cool, I just wanted to slice right into it. And as soon as J got home from work he asked what that wonderful smell was.

We both really enjoyed this.  It was a great way to spend the morning.  Sitting in this wonderful Seattle sunshine, a good cup of espresso and a fresh slice of cake.  Life doesn't get much better, does it ?

Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings and see how everyone else did with this cake. I'm going to have another slice with a cold glass of milk as a late night snack !

Friday, April 22, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Creme Cheese Frosting

Easter is just a few days away and thinking of it reminds me of all the Easter baskets we had as kids,overflowing with chocolate bunnys, pink and yellow marshmallow peeps, foiled wrapped chocolate eggs, jelly beans and chocolate malted balls that looked like robin eggs.  It's no wonder I have struggled with weight issues all my life-I blame it on the Easter Bunny ! I think it's because of all the chocolate overload during my childhood Easters that I tend to not care for chocolate as Easter. I know you must be horrifed by that statement because you know how much I love and am addicted to chocolate.  But it's only at Easter time that this aversion kicks in. 

So I was thinking what could I make J for Easter that was sweet, but not chocolate.  I kept thinking of those bunnys and those thoughts led to : carrots. I mean it's what real bunnys like right ? 

This has to be the very best carrot cake recipe I have ever tried.  Carrot cake is funny-it seems to have 2 camps, love it or hate it.  Folks who hate it tend to dislike the shredded carrot thing and raisins-too bad. Although I did make my cupcakes without the raisins (only because I didn't plan ahead and thought I had some in my pantry).  This recipe creates a moist, slightly spicy and nutty version and will be THE carrot cake recipe for me.  The Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is perfect.

 Not that cloyingly sweet topping that people tend to use to mask the fact they are serving veggies in a cake !  This has a hint of maple syrup and just enough powdered sugar to take the edge off the tartness of the cream cheese. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for sharing this crazy incredible recipe with everyone.  And if you haven't visited the Smitten Kitchen blog stop by -it's bloggerwonderful.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrot Trim
Smitten Kitchen Carrot Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional-I did add the walnuts-they gave a great crunch to the cake)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour the molds.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Candied Carrot Ribbon Trim
1 large carrot, peeled
2 cup(s) sugar

For ribbons: Using a vegetable peeler, shave carrot into long ribbons.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 1 cup water and the  sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add carrot ribbons and simmer until translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let ribbons steep in syrup for 30 minutes more. With a fork, transfer ribbons to a wire rack placed over parchment and let drain.

Before I transferred these to parchment paper I put on my food gloves and pulled each ribbon gently between two fingers to squeeze off the excess simple syrup.

After I let the carrot ribbons set for  30 minutes, I took each carrot ribbon and rolled it tightly like a little cigar and then pressed it gently into the center of the iced cupcakes. Voila !

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bread-No Knead with Fantastic Results

I'm a fan of the bakery book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day so when I spotted Jim Lahey's book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No Knead Method  I figured I had everything I needed in the 5 minute bread book and shouldn't buy Jim Lahey's book because it would just duplicate what I already had.  But I was drawn to the beautiful bread on it's cover.

I thumbed through the book and found myself looking for a place to sit down so I could read a little bit of the recipes.  But I kept returning to the cover.  Could I bake a bread that looked so beautiful and crusty ?  Could I bake a bread that would sing in my kitchen ?  Could I bake a bread that had such a beautiful interior it could almost bring you to tears ?  Could I bake a bread that tasted better than bread I had tasted in Paris ?  A resounding YES to all of those questions !  You know I tend to get very enthusiastic about things I love, especially in the Culinary Arts . Don't let that enthusiasm stop you from buying this book or Googling one of Jim Lahey's recipes on the Internet.  I have baked bread before and I love baking bread.  During my short stint at pastry school it was my favorite part of the day-Bread.  Chef Harris instilled a bread passion in  me, I loved the flour and the mixing and the fermenting and the aromas that surrounded me.  And texture-from the sticky and wet poolish to the smooth elastic dough slapping around on the inside of the mixer.  It's laziness that has stopped me from baking more of my own homemade bread. That coupled with that fact that just 6 blocks away I can find some of the most delicious baguettes and bread this side of Paris at Bakery Nouveau. I've chosen to spend most of my baking time concentrating on desserts and all things chocolate. But no more.

 With Jim Lahey's book I will be baking bread daily.  The recipe really is no work, no knead and produces the gorgeous bread we all love.  I could barely wait for it to cool last night.  But I did and when I sliced through that crunchy caramelized crust I knew I was in for bread ecstasy.  There are no words to describe it-the crunchy crust, the slightly fermented aroma and flavor of the bread, the beautiful texture, the butter melting into the little holes-heaven or pretty close to it. I'm off to mix up some more batter-it really is so simple-ingredients into container-ferment (about 16-18hrs), turn out onto to towel and shape into round form, cover and let rise (about 2hrs), place into a ceramic or cast iron pot ,cover and bake. No kneading, so you don't get the chance to overwork the dough.

 All it requires is patience and good scheduling for the fermenting and rising. Take the time, you will be rewarded, trust me. Until you buy the book for the rest of his incredible recipes, you can find the recipe for the No Knead Bread here published by Mark Bittman, The Minimalist,  in the New York Times. Bon Appetit.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sugar and Spice Brioche Buns and the Song of a Bird

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I woke up Sunday morning to the sound of a bird singing just outside the bedroom window.  It gave me a sense of calm and brought back a flood of memories.  Every time I hear a solo bird singing I think of my dad.  Many years ago on the day of his funeral,  I woke up in his home in Tampa, and heard such a  beautiful song from a bird out on his dock.  I don't remember the type of bird it was, I just remember I felt it was singing to me.  Singing to me to be joyful that my dad was no longer in any pain, that he had gone on to a place where he would find calm and happiness.  I always felt like it was my dad's way of telling me everything would be all right.  And to this day I get that same feeling from the early morning song of the bird. 

My life is in flux right now and maybe I was looking for a sign.  J has been reassuring me that I always rise to the occasion with new challenges and this one would be no different.  But you know how you just have to have that one little message or that one little sign that says it really is going to be all right-and I got that Sunday morning-thank you Dad.  I can see you tilting your head that way that you did and making that funny tsk sound and smiling, putting your arms around me and making me feel that I could do anything I wanted.  It's truly amazing what that little bird did for me this morning. And I'm so grateful to have such a sweet memory of my dad.

I had this brioche dough fermenting in the refrigerator from earlier this week.  I had planned on just making plain brioche but after that beautiful morning wake up I knew I wanted something sweet and special.  I recently bought Joanne Chang's ""Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe cookbook (yes another one to add to my collection -is there a cookbook's anonymous program for us cookbooks addicts ? ) . There are so many delectable recipes -it's a  beautiful cookbook and she has these wonderful little stories about her history as pastry chef along with informative baking tips-buy it ,you'll love it if  you bake a great deal. I wished I lived in Boston so I could take her classes - maybe some day I'll make the trip .

Anyway in her cookbook is a recipe for Sugar and Spice Brioche Buns.  Can I tell you how addictive these are ?  First of all the smell of the brioche baking will knock you out.  I ran some things out to the compost bin while they were baking and when I opened the door and came back into the kitchen-wow-I thought I had just walked into a bakery in Paris-I wish I could bottle that smell.  And the sugar spice mixture-cinnamon,ginger,nutmeg and cloves oh my !  That's a nice little mix that I plan on keeping on hand for beignets and doughnuts. If you don't finish these off the first day fresh from the oven-just pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds to freshen and they return back to that wonderful soft buttery brioche with the sugar and spice topping. Buy Chef Chang's book or visit Dessert First for the recipe. Bon Appetit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chocolate Tiramisu-Chocolate with Francois-Triple T Week

I should have titled this Triple T-Tiramisu, Tears and Taxes.  It's been that kind of week-and I've been gone from my blog for too long.  Time this week has been spent making the tiramisu, getting my taxes together (yes I always wait until the last minute) and getting ready for my last day at Victoria Clipper. 

Well as you can see I finished the Tiramisu and it's delicious.  I was a little hesitant since it doesn't contain the addition of any type of alcohol like most tiramisu does. But I found I didn't miss the alcohol, and the espresso  enhanced the ganache and chocolate cake even more. I'm always hesitant in starting out with Francois Payard's recipes-a lot of them tend to be multiple steps (as this one is) and a little complicated.  I knew I didn't want to make a quart size dish of Tiramisu so I made individual portions in muffin tins-kind of like cupcakes but not exactly.

 The mousse in this is to die for-really-it is one of those things that you taste, then taste again and again and decide you better quit tasting or there won't be any left for the recipe itself.  It is definitely a mousse recipe I will keep with my "favorite recipes".

Instead of making a 10 x 15" cake I scooped equal portions of the cake batter into greased and floured 12 regular size muffin tins. I had some batter left over so I filled 12 regular size cupcake papers half way with the rest of the batter. I'll tell you why I did that in a bit. I watched the baking time carefully and in my oven it took 10 minutes to get to the "top springs back when touched" doneness.

After cooling I took the individual "muffin" cakes and cut them in half horizontally. I then took a dozen of the giant muffin paper cup liners and filled them with a scoop of mousse .  I took the bottom half of the "muffin" cakes and pressed it into the mousse.  Next I soaked each piece of cake with espresso using a pastry brush. After that was done I carefully spread the ganache over the cake about 1/4 inch thick (this is where I think I erred-ganache too thick for the size of the cake-still yummy though). Then another scoop of mousse over the ganache, pressed the top cut half of the "muffin" cake into that,again soaked it with espresso,and topped it with ganache.

 Remember those half filled cupcake holders of cake batter-they made the perfect topping for what I already had put together. I set one on top of each cake and sprinkled everything with cocoa powder. Yes I know Chef Payard's recipes have more than enough steps in them, why add to it?  Because I wanted individual servings that I could take to work ! And they loved them at work. It was my little goodbye gift to my friends.

So the tiramisu was  a hit, my taxes are done and I don't owe money. That's always a plus and the final T in my Triple T week was saying good bye to friends that I have made over the last 2 years.  It was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated when today came.  I knew I would be sad to say good bye but I didn't know it would be such an overwhelming experience.  I've been so excited over my new venture that I really thought it wouldn't be difficult to leave. Yes it was great fun doing what I did and I loved it and I thought because I was leaving to do something that has been a passion for me that saying goodbye wouldn't be so hard. I was so wrong, saying goodbye to people who made me laugh, who shared their hearts with me, who made me feel so special was so much more difficult than I thought it would be.  I will miss them and  I know we will stay in touch and I hope to see their smiling faces when the bakery opens in May. It still doesn't take away the sadness, so tonight I'll sit quietly and reminisce over my friendships and be grateful for what they have brought to my life and hope in some way I too have brought something to theirs.

So if you want to make something special here is the recipe for the Chocolate Tiramisu.  All of my fellow bloggers will be posting their results with this recipe over at Chocolate with Francois , so stop by and see their results-Bon Appetit.

Chocolate Mascarpone Ganache
9 ounces (250 grams) 64% chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (100 grams) mascarpone at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (100 grams) heavy cream

Chocolate Cake
1 cup (100 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (32 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
6 large egg whites

Mascarpone Mousse
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (130grams) sugar
3 large egg whites
2 cups ( 500 grams) mascarpone, at room temperature
1 tablespoon ( 12 grams ) heavy cream

3/4 cup (180 grams) strong coffee
3 tablespoons (18grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder

Make the Ganache:
Put the chocolate and mascarpone in a medium bowl and set aside.
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.    Remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate and mascarpone.  Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Transfer the ganache to a bowl, and refrigerate until it thickens to an icing like consistency, 30-60 minutes.  Stir it every 15 minutes to speed up the process.  You can make the ganache 1 day ahead, but you will have to warm it slightly in a microwave or over a double boiler before using so that it has a pipe able consistency.
Make the Cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a 10x15 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder together over a bowl or a piece of wax paper.  Set aside.
Combine the egg yolks and 1/2 cup (100 grams) of the sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the mixture turns a very pale yellow and doubles in volume.  (If you own two electric mixer bowls, you can whip the yolks in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment)
Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed.  Once the whites start holding soft peaks, gradually sprinkle the remaining  1/2 cup ( 100 grams ) sugar over them, and continue beating until they hold peaks.
With a silicone spatula, fold the whipped yolks into the meringue, and then fold in the dry ingredients.  Spread the batter in the prepared sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you gently press the palm of your hand on it.  Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the baking sheet.
Make the mascarpone mousse: Fill a medium pot one-third full with water and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Put the egg yolks and 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 grams) sugar in a bowl that will fit snugly on top of the pot but not touch the water.  Reduce the heat to low and place the bowl over the pot.  Whisk until the mixture is very hot and starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, and continue whisking until the mixture cools.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium-high speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup ( 50 grams ) sugar, until the whites hold stiff peaks.
Put the mascarpone in a large bowl, and whisk in the cream to soften it.  With a silicone spatula, fold half of the yolk mixture into the mascarpone, and then fold in the second half.  Fold the meringue into the mixture.
Assemble the dessert: You will need a 1 quart or 1 1/2 quart bowl or dish.  With a knife, cut 2 rounds out of the cake; one a little smaller than the base of the bowl, the other a little smaller than the widest part of the bowl.
Spoon about 1 cup of the mousse into the bowl, then place the smallest of the cake rounds over the mousse and press it down gently so that it spreads the mousse.  Spoon one third of the coffee evenly over the cake.
Spoon a 1/4 inch thick layer of ganache over the cake, then a 1/2 inch thick layer of mousse over the ganache.  Press the larger cake round over the mousse, pressing it down slightly to even out all the layers below it.
Spoon the remaining coffee evenly over the cake.
Spoon another 1/4 inch thick layer of ganache over the cake, and then spoon the remaining mousse over it.  With a silicone spatula, slightly smooth the top of the mousse to make it even and flat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 2 days.
Remove the tiramisu from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving, to bring it to room temperature.  This will prevent the ganache from being too firm.  Sift the cocoa powder directly over the top of the tiramisu.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Croissants ala Tartine

Have I ever told you how much I love croissants ?  How just biting into one with crumbs flying puts me in the middle of Paris outside at a little cafe.  I can close my eyes and smell the hot steaming espresso sitting in that little white cup at my table. The tabletop is a beautiful worn wood, it's a light chestnut color, worn lighter in some areas from years of usage. It causes me to wonder how many lovers have shared a croissant and espresso while sitting in this very spot.  It's a little chilly to sit outside the cafe today, a slight Spring breeze blows through occasionally dusting me with more croissant crumbs, but I love sitting outside. 

Taking in the smells of the city, you can smell the green from Spring in the air, the melting  Gruyere cheese from the croque-monsieur at the table next to me.  That mild acrid smell of the french cigarette from the oh so charming young Frenchman at the table to my left. I love watching everyone walk by, the grand mama scolding her 2 little grandchildren-just a few quiet words puts them in their place and they walk quietly and politely along side her. She looks so elegant in her grey wool coat with her black beret placed just so on that gorgeous silver white hair.The young couple wrapped in each others arms nipping gentle little kisses at each others faces, the way young horses nip at each other in the Spring-heads back, manes flying in the wind. The blossoms from the trees are falling and scattering everywhere they walk-little flowers dancing around them-happy to be whirling around two lovers. Because Paris after all is for lovers.  And croissants . And lovers of croissants. 

I am striving for that perfect Parisian croissant, flaky,buttery and crisp-the kind I've had at that outdoor cafe, the kind I've had at Cafe Besalu in Seattle and the kind I've read about in Tartine. I've made the pain au chocolate with the croissant recipe and those turned out pretty close to the perfection I strive for,  so I have high expectations for the croissants.  They are in the refrigerator this morning after being removed from the freezer, I will roll them and let them rise when I get home tonight.

I rolled my little beauties for the last time after work last night, set them in the cold oven with a pan of hot water to proof.  I'm thinking these are going to be giant croissants.  I followed the instructions so that the dough was 12" wide and cut the croissants so that they had a 4 inch base-I ended up with 10 croissants ,8 sized according to directions and 2 made up from the scraps.  Once I rolled them into the beautiful croissant shape I knew they were going to be the croissants that ate Seattle-oh well, such is life. They at least looked like they would be the most delicious tasting giant croissants!  The Tartine recipe calls for immediately lowering the oven to 400F once you place them inside and not opening the oven for at least 10minutes, which I did. But when I did open the oven to do the first pan turn (so they bake evenly) I lowered the oven to 375 and baked them at that temperature for the duration.  After another 10 minutes I turned the pan again. It took a total of 30 minutes to complete baking with a total of 3 pan turns but I think they came out beautifully.  It was a challenge to watch them sitting on the rack and not tear into them.  But I was patient and watched the steam escape as they set up on the counter. That first bite-there I was back at the table in Paris, hmm, these were delicious.  They had a slight buttery taste along with that mid yeast taste that comes with good bread.  And oh so flaky and caramelized on the outside.  I have a few other recipes to try and compare to these but it's going to be hard to find one that will match these. I'll let you know, but in the mean time Bon Appetit.

This is another book you really should have in your kitchen library

Until you buy the book you can find the croissant recipe here . And some really good instructions along with a review of the book here.