Category Archives: French pastry

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bread 3

For the month of May’14 Aparna chose beautiful looking French Rolls/Bread for the We Need To Bake Group. Petit Pains au Lait simply means small or little breads. They are classic French Milk Rolls. These rolls are very easy to make, it took me about ten minutes to make the dough and another ten minutes to shape them. Ofcourse they take time to rise…about 1.5 hrs.
Bread 1

Usually these breads aren’t very sweet, the pearl sugar which is sprinkled on top just before baking adds to a little sweetness and crunchiness; not to forget the visual appeal:). The liquid in this bread is purely milk, it also has about 4 tablespoons of butter .

Bread 2

I believe these can also be baked with either sweet or savory fillings. When I think of sweet, chocolate chips are the first thing that comes to my mind. I plan to make a savory one soon with herbs and cheese filling:). Once baked these have a beautiful golden outside and a flaky inside ( because of the way these are rolled). You can see the inside texture in the below picture. The beautiful pattern which is made using a pair of scissors makes it even more interesting. This dough can be shaped in any form as per your choice.

bread 4

The original recipe is adapted from Gourmet by Kat.

*If you don’t have bread flour, put 2/3 tsp vital wheat gluten in your 3/4 cup measure and top up with all-purpose flour. Mix this well.
If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, then just use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.

**This topping is optional. The pearl sugar looks pretty and adds a little crunch. If you can’t find pearl sugar, use large crystals of sugar or even regular granulated sugar.

Petit Pains au Lait ( French Milk Bread/Rolls )

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm milk (you might need a little more; I used milk with 2% fat)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup bread flour*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoon butter, soft at room temperature
  • Extra milk for brushing
  • Pearl sugar for topping (optional)**

Instructions

In the bowl of a stand Mixer or Food Processor put the warm milk, yeast and sugar.Pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add all the flour and the salt and run the processor until it looks crumbly. Add the butter and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that’s not sticky. Add a little more milk (in teaspoonful at a time), if your dough is dry, until you have the required consistency of dough.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat with oil. Cover loosely and set aside to rise until double in volume. This should take about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto your working surface. You shouldn’t need any flour, but if you feel the need, just lightly dust your palms with it. Deflate the dough gently, and divide it into 10 equal pieces. Let them rest for 15 minutes.

Roll out each piece of dough, one at a time, into a circle about 4” in diameter. Slowly roll up the circle from one end, Swiss roll/ jelly roll style into a cylinder. Pinch the seam closed neatly, and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet with the seam side facing down. Cover loosely and let them rise for an hour or so till almost double in size.

Brush them lightly with milk and using a pair of sharp scissors, make diagonal cuts (not too deep) on the top of the rolls. Sprinkle pearl sugar/ granulated sugar.

Bake them at 400F for about 15 minutes( mine took about 12 mins only) or so until they’re golden brown. Let them cool on a rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature with coffee or chilled flavoured milk, or at breakfast.

http://www.thefoodielovers.com/2014/06/petit-pains-au-lait-french-milk-breadrolls/

They’re best eaten the same day, though you could warm them up and serve the next day.Thanks Aparna for the recipe:)

Enjoy

Nina!

 

 

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CR 1 main

CROISSANT is arguably one of my favorite pastries and it can make me drool any time of the day! Simply love this crescent shaped buttery pastry. Usually Croissant and Puff Pastry are considered to be most difficult to bake and I was under the same impression for a very long time.

Over the past two years, I have enjoyed making these at home. One needs to have loads of patience while working with the dough. It takes lot of time and energy as well. After baking Croissant and Puff Pastry a number of times I have come to believe that making these at home does not require a whole lot of skill but it most certainly is time consuming, tedious and needs a lot of effort. My first attempt was not very successful, I think over the years I have mastered the technique.

CR 3 main

There is no such thing in the world called “a low fat croissant” or “low fat puff pastry”. At least that is what I feel! Both these recipes use oodles of BUTTER which is one of the key ingredients!.

CR 4 main

In my humble opinion,the BEST CROISSANTS are the ones which are flaky, with lots of layers, buttery taste, which doesn’t leave any grease in hands( inspite of all the butter), crunchiness till the last bite and soft inside. You need a perfect recipe for making one at home. Thanks to Aparna who shared with us an impeccable recipe for this month’s “We need to Bake”. The original recipe was adapted from here.

Before you start make sure you have all the ingredients at home and mainly have “TIME” in your hands. I can never say “No” to Croissant, so when I came across this month’s recipe I was thrilled. And since I had already made them earlier, I baked a few Croissants with the first batch and some Danish Swirls, Rolled Danish Pastries and Pain au Chocolate with the second batch.

CR 7 main

Some tips that might help:

1. Ensure that your butter is cold – cold enough that it is pliable enough to smoothly roll out; not hard (or it will break) or soft (it will melt). If the butter is too hard and breaks while rolling out the dough, you will not get the layers in the croissants.

2. Do not over-knead / develop the dough too much, too much gluten will not help during the lamination process. The lamination process itself is a kind of stretch and fold anyway and will strengthen the dough. So keep to the 3 minutes the recipe says. You want a soft dough, not an elastic one.

3. When you cover the butter square with the dough, make sure you seal the dough well, otherwise the butter will leak out when you roll out the dough, and there’s no way you can manage to put the butter back in. You will also end up with butter leaking during the baking.

4. Always, always make sure your dough and butter inside it are cold. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Once the butter has melted, it is difficult to get the dough to produce layers because the dough tends to absorb the butter and will make greasy croissants. So, while working with the dough, or when rolling it out, if at any point you feel the dough becoming warm and soft, put it back in the fridge immediately. Also work as quickly as you can so the butter stays cold.

5. During the lamination of the dough (rolling and folding repeatedly), chill the dough in the freezer and NOT the fridge. The overnight refrigeration is to be done in the fridge NOT in the freezer. Resting the dough is an important part of the croissant making process.

6. Plan ahead and make sure you do all this when you have the time for it. You will need more time than you think you, believe me. You cannot leave this and attend to something else, unless you want to set yourself for failure!

7. You also need a lot of patience to keep rolling out the dough with just enough pressure to stretch it. The rolled out dough before shaping should be somewhere between 1/4” and 1/8” thick.

8. Make sure your dough is shaped with straight lines and square-ish corners. All the time you are rolling your dough out, keep this in mind. This way you will minimise waste of dough. More importantly, the edges where there is no butter would get folded in during lamination and affect your layers. So trim off those bits if you have any of them.

CR 9 main

9. Keep lightly flouring your work surface (not too much), just enough to keep working smoothly without tearing the dough. However, dust with a light hand or you could end up adding more flour than desirable.

10. Do not be tempted to fold more than three times. A fourth fold will give you more layers, but thinner butter layers between them, and your croissants will not puff of as much as you would like them to.

11. And most important, as funny as it sounds. If you like to and do wear rings on your fingers like I do, take them off while working with this dough and the dough will thank you! Rings have a habit of inadvertently tearing the dough. If the butter comes out, patching it up by dusting a little flour can help but doesn’t always work.

CLASSIC BUTTERY CROISSANT, PAIN AU CHOCOLATE, DANISH SWIRLS & ROLLED DANISH PASTRIES

(Adapted from Jeffrey Hammelman’s recipe at Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

For the dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour, and a little more for dusting/ rolling out dough
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
40gm soft unsalted butter
1 tbsp plus scant 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt

For the butter layer:
250 gm cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup of cold milk (or 1/8 cup of cream + 1/8 cup cream) to brush the dough
Or 1 egg for egg wash

Method:
Day 1: Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand. Mix everything on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate. And place the ball of dough on this.
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: Make the butter layer
The next day, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10” squares each. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough.

Laminate the dough
Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour. Take the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable.If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. This so that when you roll out the dough with the butter in ti, neither should it be soft enough to melt, or hard enough to break. Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the center, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed. Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3: Divide the dough
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half. I just used one half of the dough to make croissants and with the second I made the rest of the pastries.
“Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour.
Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.
Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.
If you’re good at “eyeballing” and cutting the dough into triangles, then forget the measuring rule, marking and cutting instructions. Otherwise, lay a measuring rule or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all). Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.
Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles and a scrap of dough at each end.

Shape the croissants
Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.
Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.

Proof the croissants
Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.(mine took about 3.5 hours) They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof. The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.

Bake the croissants
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 400F. Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.
Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 25F. Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks. Serve warm. This batch makes 7 croissants.

PAIN AU CHOCOLATE
Roll the pastry into a long strip(width of atleast 4 inches); I didn’t measure the length( am assuming it was about 8-10 inches long). Place a small piece of chocolate ( I used ghirardeli squares – chopped each into two) ;roll over and place another piece of chocolate and roll again. Place on a baking sheet. Brush with either egg wash or milk+ cream. Proof for about 3 – 4 hours. Brush over again and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

DANISH SWIRLS
Cut the pastry and roll into long strips ( width just about an inch). Twist both the ends in opposite direction. Roll them into round, tucking the ends under – which would act like a base. Press the base on all sides (it should form like a small cup). Place ¼ teaspoon of apricot preserves, sprinkle toasted pecans(chopped). Brush with egg wash/milk+cream and allow it to proof for about 3-4hours. Brush over again and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

ROLLED DANISH PASTRY
Roll the Croissant dough in the form of a rectangle. Sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar all over it. Spread some raisins( soaked and plumped) and chopped pistachios. Roll the dough and with the seem side below cut them into slices. Place it on a baking sheet. Brush with either egg wash or milk+ cream. Proof for about 3 – 4 hours. Brush over again and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden . Ideally almond cream should be used to spread on the base, but I was in a hurry so used a simple combination of cinnamon and sugar.

Thanks Aparna for such a lovely recipe…I thoroughly enjoyed baking them. This recipe was just perfect; met all the criteria – it is surely the BEST CROISSANT:)

Bon Appétit

Nina

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CLAFOUTI pronounced as kla-fu-te is a French Country dessert and is very easy to prepare. Since Bing cherries were in season, I couldn’t think of anything other than “Cherry Clafoutis”.

Oh boy working with the cherries was a nightmare; I am talking about pitting it. I don’t know if its just me or is it something common for everyone.The right approach is usually to relieve the cherry from its pit without completely mangling the flesh. I wanted to keep the cherry whole but removing the pit was quite a task. So I took the easier way out. Simply cut it open and removed the pit!!

I was watching an old episode of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa in which she was baking Pear Clafoutis. She mentioned that clafoutis are like “ pancake batter over fruits” and followed a recipe of her own with flour, eggs and milk. What she said sounded simple and therefore I went about using my readily available pan cake mix. I did add couple of eggs and milk to make the batter. I filled the batter upto the end ie to the rim, and there you go-while baking it began to flow all over the sides. Luckily I had placed the tart pan on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once baked, all the cherries settled in the bottom and looked as though a sponge cake was covering it. It tasted OK but definitely nothing to write home about. So I tried something on my own.

Ceramic pans work the best for this one, I used the one that I picked up at Daiso in SFO. All it requires is six easy ingredients.It took me about ten minutes to put everything together.The most time intensive part was pitting the cherries. Here is how I made it:

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

Makes two 8” pan
Time – 1 hour(including baking)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups bing cherries, washed, pitted and cut into half
2 eggs
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoon milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven at 350F. Grease a quiche or tart pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar; whisk until light and yellow. With the motor running, add in the vanilla extract and milk. Gradually add in the flour. You will end up with a smooth batter.

Toss cherries with a tablespoon sugar and spread it on the greased pan. Slowly pour the batter over the cherries and place it in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Just before serving garnish with powdered sugar. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Do not over bake it.

The Clafoutis tastes like a cross between custard and a pancake. If you have sweet tooth do add a little more sugar.We loved this dessert,it was delicious.

*updated – My husband remarked that there were too many cherries in the clafoutis. The next time I would reduce it to 1 cup.

Bon Appetit!

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Whipped Cream is something which kids definetly love. As a kid,I used to love the cream biscuits actually used to just eat up the cream filling and throw away the biscuits. My little one is no different. She does the same with Oreo cookies. The reason I chose to use a whipped cream fillng for these puffs is because of my kid. As expected she loved it, fortunately not just the cream even the puffs:-)

A cream puff is hollow choux pastry ball filled with either whipped cream, pastry cream or ice cream. When they are filled and glazed with caramel and assembled like a Piece Montee they are called Croquembouches. I remember making Piece Montee for one of the Daring Baker’s challenge. We loved it and from then on Cream Puffs has been on my to do list. Finally I get to strike this off!

CREAM PUFFS WITH WHIPPED CREAM FILLING

Ingredients:

1 cup water
a teaspoon sugar
a pinch salt
1/2 cup( 1 stick) butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 egg white(optional)

Filling:

3/4 cup whipped cream
3 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar + 2 teaspoons for decoration

Cut the butter into very small pieces. In a pan mix water,salt and sugar, bring it to a boil. Add in the butter, reduce the heat and allow the butter to melt. Add the flour all at once and keep mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a stand mixer and beat for about 2 minutes. Add in the eggs one by one. You will end up with a yellow color dough. Once the eggs are well incorporated add the egg white and beat for about 2 – 3 minutes. (Add the egg white only if the dough doesn’t droop when dropped from a spoon, this is something I read in some book I dont remember the name).

Preheat oven at 400F. Using a spoon drop tablespoonful of dough on a greased baking sheet, use another spoon to scrape. You may also use an ice cream scoop or a pastry bag with a plain tip( which is what I did). Form mounds. Dont make it too flat. Bake the cream puffs for about 20 minutes until golden brown and then reduce the temperature to 300F and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool on rack.

For the filling, beat the whipped cream,sugar and vanilla extract in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Cut the puffs horizontally and pipe in a spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom, cover it with the top half (just like a burger). Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately.

The dough can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. However, its best when baked the same day. When you make the mounds ensure you have atleast an inch height in the centre.(I ended up with a few flat ones).

Sending this to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle hosted by Jamie’s Lifes a Feast. Jamie choose Paris as her theme, so here is a french pastry for the mingle:)





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