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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chocolate Tartlets - Tuesdays with Dorie

I really wanted to produce a nice Chocolate Crunch Tart this week, and even planned Chocolate Crunch Minis, but my caramel with nuts turned out as hard as a rock and my Chocolate Ganache was too soft. So I ended up making the minis with just white chocolate and milk chocolate from a recipe I found in Recipezaar:

10 oz. white chocolate (I used Callebaut)
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
Melt white chocolate and cream in a double boiler, then beat in cream cheese.

I'll just have to try the tart again soon. In the meantime, I think the little tartlets will go down well with the work team.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vols-au Vents - Daring Bakers

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

My first try at Puff Pastry. It seemed awfully tricky but I believe my next production will be much less stressful as I have learned a lot from Trial l. The pufflets didn't rise as high as I wished, mainly because I didn't make a nice, evenly spread "butter sandwich." My biggest hassle was banging the frozen butter - even put it in the food processor, chopped it down with a meat tenderizer, and ended up with pockets of butter between the layers as it was still very hard. Tip to self: use butter from fridge, not freezer - it will handle more easily.

The rest of the challenge was really rather lovely - making the envelope folds (used quite a bit of flour to keep the pastry dry), rolling the dough (really soft and pliable), and cutting the little rounds and seeing how the blobs rose in the oven to show delicate layers. My filling is cream topped with blueberries and I'm looking forward to munching once my pics are taken.

I'm putting all the instructions right here, on my blog, as a ready reference. Thank you Steph for this super challenge.

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:
-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cottage Cheese Pufflets - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tricky sticky dough but really delicious little pastry bites. I found making and rolling the dough to be quite straightforward - used lots of flour to keep the pastry dry and rolled the dough into two shapes that ended up looking like ink blot tests - there was no chance of getting a rectangle! But preparing the squares was another matter - really sticky and soft to handle.

At any rate, I had enough to cut out 42 two-inch squares. They baked in around 10 minutes, in fact, a couple even caught a bit on the bottom. The office team will get them tomorrow and I wonder what their response will be - they are so tiny! Maybe it will be like eating peanuts, just popping them down the hatch.

Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes picked the Pufflets for us. Great choice, Jacque! Thank you. The recipe is on the Daisy Lane Cakes blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flaky Apple Turnovers - Tuesdays with Dorie

I'm very excited about this lovely sour cream pastry and can't wait to taste the Apple Turnovers. I halved the quantities in the recipe and found that I needed to add about 2 TBS sourcream to the dough, otherwise it would have been too crumbly to handle.

Chilling and rolling - just fine. Forming the turnovers - not so good. I rather foolishly tried mini turnovers (3 ins. in diameter) and that's just not large enough for a neat turnover. I had to mince the apple mixture to get it small enough to place on the dough circles and folding the circles was not fun at all - I don't have nice turnover shapes.

That being said, I am hoping for success at the Office on Tuesday, but I'm a bit nervous about them. I have put them in the freezer (about 20 minis) ready to bake Monday evening.

Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen picked this week's recipe - thank you, Julie, for introducing us to another wonderful Dorie pastry recipe.

Later in the day: They are wonderful little pastries! I love the crisp, slightly sweet pastry and the simple apple filling. They disappeared at work in about 30 minutes - some people came upstairs asking about the Tuesday cakes and I had to tell them they were all gone. Make again, and again...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pistachio Meringues and Chocolate Mini Morsel Meringues

Time for a Church Reception tonight, September 14. This time I did not play the over-reacher and cater all the sweet stuff; I offered to make meringues (over 100 small meringues). I did Pistachio Meringues, colored the palest green, and Chocolate Mini Morsel Meringues.

Most of my recipe is adapted from the Fine Cooking website except I had to change the baking times. I found that putting the meringues in at 220 F for 1-1/2 hours, followed by 175 F for 1-1/2 hours seemed to give a nice crisp meringue on the outside with a sticky toffee consistency right in the middle. I really like this but others might prefer a real crisp French meringue that snaps when you take a bite of it.


3 oz. (3/4 cup) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Pinch table salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped medium fine/or 1/3 cup Nestle Mini-Morsels.

Arrange oven racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Heat the oven to 220 F. Line a large heavy baking sheet with parchment. Sift together the confectioners' sugar, superfine sugar, and salt.

With an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Begin mixing on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks. Continue beating while gradually sprinkling in the sifted sugars. When all the sugar is added, increase speed to high and whip until firm, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla and the 1/3 cup pistachios and beat just until blended, about 10 seconds.

Spoon about half of the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Pipe shapes as you like (for kisses, about 1-1/2 inches wide and about 2 inches from tip to base) onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake the meringues for 1-1/2 hours at 220 F and then reduce heat to 175 F for another 1-1/2 hours. Remove them from the oven and gently lift the meringues off the parchment. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Tonight will tell if they are a favorite dessert or not. I think they will like them.

Well, "tonight" is now the next day. The meringues were a huge success, particularly the Pistachio Meringues. In fact, for my next venture I will probably leave out the chocolate chip meringues and make almond meringues to go with the pistachio ones.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here is today's treat for the co-workers, in fact, it completes the special requests list I got in July - Red Velvet Cupcakes. They are looking rather nice, just out of the oven, cooling on the rack. I didn't have any cake flour or buttermilk so I used substitutes - vinegar in milk to make buttermilk and cornflour in the AP flour to make cake flour. I'm usually very precise about using the exact ingredients, but what with the long weekend, getting ready to go to see "Julie and Julia," followed by a steakhouse dinner, I didn't get all that much time to shop around. Needless to say, the local supermarket does not know anything about cake flour and has run out of buttermilk.

I have a feeling these are going to taste just as good. I got the recipe from "Simply Recipes" and halved it to make a dozen cupcakes.

Here's the Recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups of cake flour
2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk*
1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

Frosting ingredients

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
*You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes.


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

3 In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.

4 Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.

5 Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.

6 Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

The Frosting

1 Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2 Add the vanilla extract and mix.

3 Add the powdered sugar, continually taste to get to desired sweetness. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Tuesday morning - all in their carrier, ready to deal with the "A" train.

Just a quick review - they loved them at work! Loved the color, the taste, and the cream cheese frosting! MAKE AGAIN.

No TWD This Week

I'm sorry, but there won't be a TWD from me this week. I would love to make a Chocolate Souffle but it's not really portable, so I can't take it to my taste testers. Oneday, oneday, when I have a supper party, I will give it a try. Good luck everybody; I hope your chocolate souffles rise beautifully.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tourrigini - Italian Almond Cookies

This weekend I'm doing my baking for the Troops overseas - I belong to Operation Baking GALS, where, once a month, members send baked goods, candies, etc. to our soldiers in the Middle East. So this month I thought I would try some Italian Almond Cookies or Tourrigini. They are really a soft, sweet biscotti. They should travel well, which is always something to consider as it's so hot over there - no chocolate or delicate crumbly cookies.

They are easier than biscotti as there is no "twice baking" procedure, just forming logs and baking them for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. Very delicious too, nice and sweet but not jaw breakers like biscotti. I'll wrap them in saran wrap and pack them, ready to go early in the week. I'm also making an old favorite, Molasses Cookies, to go with them. These always turn out very well shaped as they are made with Crisco, which apparently stops the cookies from spreading on the baking tray.

That should fill the box. I hope the troops really enjoy them.

Here are the recipes:

Tourrigini (Italian Almond Cookies)

1 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsp. water
1/3 c. oil
3 c. toasted almonds (unsalted)

Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl. (This batter will be very thick.) Roll into 6 equal strips, approximately 6 inches long by 2 inches wide. Use your hands to form strips on ungreased cookie sheet. Only two strips on each cookie sheet. Leave enough room between each one for growing. Brush each strip with egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool and cut in bias strips about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide.

Molasses Cookies

Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.

3/4 cup Crisco (shortening gives a much better shaped cookie than butter in this recipe - I have tried both)
1 cup sugar
1 egg whisked
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
pinch of salt (less than 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cream together Crisco and sugar (about 3-4 mins.) with stand-alone beater.
3. Lightly whisk egg and add to creamed mixture - mix in until just blended.
4. Add molasses.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients.

Use Tbs. cookie scoop (level) and drop batter in balls onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes - cookies must look a nice bronze/ginger color. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire cooler.