Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kouign Amann



I haven't posted in a while.  It's not as though I haven't been baking.  I have.  Like tons.  The truth of the matter is that I've been obsessed with making two particular things that I just can't seem to get right.  The infamously finicky Parisian macaron and laminated dough.



I don't even want to discuss the former of the two because I'm still irritated about it.  And plus, how many more posts about macarons do we need in the food blogging world?  Macarons are easy, they're not easy, blah blah blah.  Instead, this post is dedicated to laminated dough--and moreover one of the wonders that can arise from it, the kouign amann.



Kouign amann is almost like a candied croissant. It's quite buttery but also sweet because the dough has been sprinkled with sugar so it caramelizes when baked. Because of my extreme sweet tooth, I think I enjoy them more than actual croissants.  In the past month I've made them twice using two different recipes.



The first batch had some successful aspects but I was convinced that its flaws could be traced back to a problem I consistently have with laminated doughs which is that the dough tends to tear at certain points when I'm rolling it out.  It's a real fucking annoyance.  I've read all about why this may happen--the dough gets too warm maybe because the room is too warm so you have to let it chill.



Or, maybe everything is too cold.  I've tried to make sure my butter block and my dough are the same temperature and all that but I still get some tearing.  However, this last batch of laminated dough that I used to make the kouign amann started tearing at first but fortunately--maybe because I learned how to better roll out the dough--seemed to cease tearing.



And so most of those oh so delicate layers seemed to have remained in tact.  Which is what I like to see.  At least I think.  I know that the purpose of laminated dough is to create those layers and for pastries, like croissants and mille feuille, it's usually clearly visible if you're successful at it.



But I'm not sure I'm convinced that it's equally as important with kougin amann.  And I only question this because for one thing, you usually don't turn the dough as much as you would for something like croissants.  And, I've been doing some...uhm..."research" from some trusted bakeries that make kouign amann and I've noticed that perhaps their laminated doughs that they use to make them aren't quite as layered.



They're delicious no doubt but comparatively not layered like a croissant.  So I don't know what the deal is with all that but as long as my kouign amann come out light, buttery and caramelized--I'm ok with it.



Recipe slightly adapted from The Kitchn

1c water at room temp.
2 tsp instant yeast
2 3/4c all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold salted butter
1 1/2c granulated sugar--divided

The first thing that needs to be done is making the dough.  Mix the water, yeast, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook, mix everything together on medium speed until a tacky, not sticky, smooth dough forms.  If the dough is too sticky after mixing it, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it's tacky feeling.  Alternatively, if it's too dry then you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the reverse occurs.  After you've got a nice smooth tacky feeling dough, let the dough rest and rise until it has doubled in size at room temp.  Once it has doubled in size, place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile, you can make the butter block.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap on a cool/cold work surface. Take your 2 sticks of butter and place them atop the plastic wrap.  Now, you want to form a pliable butter block that when folded it won't crack--it should act like modeling clay does when it is folded over on itself.  So, you will go through a series of pounding butter and folding it in an effort to make a more cohesive and pliable butter block.  So, sprinkle some flour on the butter and--using a rolling pin--start pounding the butter so that you have one cohesive piece of butter and then pound it into a rectangular shape that's about a 1/4 inch thick.  Then--preferably using a bench scraper or something other than your warm hands--fold the butter in half and pound it again until you have a rectangle that's about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle some more flour on the butter and fold it in half with the bench scraper, pound it back into a rectangle that's a 1/4 inch thick AND is approximately 6 inches wide by 10 inches long.  Wrap the block in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for use BUT, ideally you want your dough and butter block to be at the same temperature.  So, if your dough has already been chilling in the refrigerator for a while and you are getting ready to roll it out, you probably only need to chill your butter block for just a little bit--maybe 15 minutes.  You still want your butter block pliable and if it sits in the fridge for too long it will become rigid again and will likely crack when you start making your turns.

To roll out the dough, remove it from the refrigerator.  Sprinkle your work surface with flour.  Roll out the dough over the flour into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle.  Place your butter block in the middle of the rolled out dough so that the long side of the butter block is parallel with the short side of the dough.  Fold the top half of the dough over the butter block and then fold the bottom half over it as well--like folding a letter.  Press and seal the edges of the dough together and then fold it into thirds again.  Rotate it so that narrower side is facing you--like a book.  Roll the dough out--using more flour as needed to prevent any sticking--into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle. Fold it into thirds again--like a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the narrow end is facing you and roll it out again into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle.  Fold it into thirds again, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  After the 30 minutes is up, remove the dough from the fridge, sprinkle more flour on your work surface and roll it out to a 12 inch by 20 inch rectangle. Then, sprinkle half of the sugar over the surface of the dough and lightly press it into the dough.  Fold the dough into thirds, rotate it 90 degrees and then roll it out into another 12 inch by 20 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the dough and lightly press it into the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare 12 - 4 inch pastry rings or a muffin baking sheet.  Grease the rings or muffin cups with butter and sprinkle granulated sugar on the insides of them.  Set aside.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out again onto a well floured work surface into an 8 inch wide by 24 inch long rectangle.  Then, cut the dough in half along the long side so that you now have two 4 inch wide by 24 inch long rectangles.  Then divide each rectangle into 4 inch by 4 inch squares--you'll have 12 total. Next, push each square into its own pastry ring or muffin cup and fold the corners of each square over to the center of the square so that they all meet in the middle and then press lightly to seal.  Then, cover the kouign amann and let rise for 30-40 minutes until they have risen and are puffy.  Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350 F.  Once you are ready to bake the kouign amann, sprinkle the tops of each one with some more granulated sugar and then place them in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.  Once done, remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly before removing from the rings.  Consume.




Friday, February 27, 2015

Homemade Twix


I only have one or two items under my 'Confections' category of my blog.  So I feel like I'm lacking within this realm.  A few years ago I took a chocolates making class taught by a local chocolatier. It was great fun.  Our instructor--the chocolatier--was a bit of an odd bird, very passionate about chocolate making--which isn't what made him odd by the way--and intent on making us understand the different crystalline structures in chocolate.

Note:  Once you keep chocolate cold and take it out of the cold, it starts to condense and don't look as pretty :-(
Truth be told, the only one I can remember is the beta form which is the one you aim to form when you temper chocolate--the most important form really.  When you get a bunch of beta crystals to form just so, that's when you get that pretty shine and that crisp snap that good tempered chocolate is supposed to have.  Tempering chocolate is the key to making chocolates look professional.  It's also probably the main reason why my 'Confections' category is so sparsely populated.


Tempering chocolate isn't necessarily easy for me in that I'm not always successful at it.  In the class I took we tempered it using an old fashioned method (a.k.a the super messy method) of pouring it out onto a nice marble slab and scrapping it around the slab back and forth with a bench scraper until our instructor--the chocolatier--"knew" it was done.  Well that was all well and good in class but not so much at home without an expert eye to tell me when it was tempered.


Luckily there is another method that's more suitable for home wannabe chocolatiers which is called seeding.  Seeding is less messy and gives you actual mensurable temperatures to shoot for. But, you may have to stir the chocolate until your arm falls off or--at the very least--until it is painfully aching. The way it works is you melt about 2/3 of the of the amount of chocolate you are using until the chocolate reaches a certain temperature.  Then, you remove the chocolate from the heat and little by little start adding the rest of the chocolate, stirring it until it melts and continuing to stir it--somewhat vigorously--thereafter until the chocolate reaches the tempered state temperature.  It seems pretty simple right? Well, evidently not.


I've done it many times and like I mentioned earlier, sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I'm not.  Sometimes, some of my chocolate looks perfectly tempered with an amazing shine and snap. Other times, it's got a few grayish white streaks running through part of it once it sets.  I read an article recently by J. Kenji Lopez  over at Serious Eats about three different ways to temper chocolate.  His recommended method--that he claims is foolproof--is using a sous vide cooker--which I didn't know was possible.  But now I want a sous vide cooker. Sure, they cost of hundreds of dollars but it seems well worth it if I can get a perfectly tempered chocolate in my kitchen.  Plus, I hear them things are good at cooking perfectly juicy meat too so they sound like they are a gift from heaven.  Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago I decided to place my tempering chocolate woes aside and make Twix bars.


I love Twix bars.  Caramel and shortbread cookie encased in milk chocolate is a simple combination but also a magnificent one.  Plus it gave me a chance to practice tempering milk chocolate which I had yet to try.  And I really wanted to make perfect Twix bars that were perfect rectangular prisms--just like you kinda get out of the package.  I thought that if I froze everything just right and used a super sharp knife and a ruler to cut and measure everything up just so nicely that I could do it.  But that didn't work out.  After I assembled the shortbread and the caramel in a baking pan and froze it up for a day or so, I removed it from the cold and then the caramel quickly came to room temperature and then things got messy fast...  Also, I tried to make these Twix bars "healthier"--not healthy--but "healthier" by making a whole wheat shortbread.  This was ok but it made the cookie a little more crumblier so even when frozen it didn't always cut so pretty.  And then there was the first attempt at tempering milk chocolate--which was actually the Caramelia baking chocolate courtesy of Valrhona--which is a mouth-watering chocolate that proves that dreams can come true.


Anyway, the thing about milk chocolate is that it has different temperatures for tempering than dark chocolates--most likely based on the fact that is has different ingredients and thus different properties. What did happen when I tempered it is that it did have a bit of a snap to it but not as much as one that comes along with tempered dark chocolate.  But it didn't have a very big shine to it.  But I have some thoughts on this.  So as for the snap...well milk chocolate is "softer" than dark chocolate so that seemed like maybe it was ok.  I mean, maybe milk chocolate can't form as many beta crystals as dark because of all of the other ingredients in it?  I'm purely speculating here based on whatever makes sense in my head.  Also, maybe that's why there wasn't a shine to it.  Does tempered milk chocolate ever shine as much as dark--like maybe it's just not as glossy?  Maybe.  To make a long story short, I think I was actually successful at tempering this chocolate.  There weren't any streaks and everything was smooth, it had a bit of a snap and some shine.  And I'm comfortable with that conclusion.



Recipe

Shortbread

9T unsalted butter at room temp.
1/4c brown sugar (light or dark)
1 1/2c whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper--allowing an overhang of the paper on all sides so that you can easily pull the finished product out of the pan when ready.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Using the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy--a few minutes.  Then add the flour and salt and mix until just combined and there isn't any dry flour on the bottom of the bowl.  Now, press the dough into the prepared pan evenly.  You can use a small glass or if you have a small rolling pin to smooth it out.  If not, your hands work fine--I just wanted the top of my cookie dough to be smooth.  Bake until lightly browned which may take 25-30 minutes.  Once done, remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.

Caramel

For the caramel, I used my go-to recipe that I found and have fallen deeply in love with from a blog called Baking a Moment.  Double the recipe found here and let it cool completely before assemblage. Another option for the caramel is using a different recipe that will cook the caramel to more of a soft ball stage.  The reason for making a caramel like that would be so that you hopefully avoid the mess I had in using more of a caramel sauce.  So, instead you would use more of a firmer caramel candy...

Chocolate

16oz of a chocolate of your choosing.  I used a milk chocolate but dark would be delicious too.  You can choose to temper it or not.  If you do temper it and would like a good guide, visit Serious Eats.

Assembly

Pour the cooled caramel over the cooled shortbread cookie crust and even out.  Then place the baking pan in the freezer until the caramel is as firm as possible--I let mine sit in there for about a day.  Once the caramel is firm remove the baking pan from the freezer.  Pull the whole assembly out of the pan using the parchment paper overhangs you created when you lined it--you may have to run a knife along the edges to loosen it up a bit.  After it's out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and place the assembly on a cutting board.  Cut the thing up into bars--a size of your choosing.  In retrospect--due to the nature of the crumblier whole wheat dough--it might be easier to cut them into 2 inch square bars.  Basically the wider the better because if you go too narrow then the cookie is more likely to be less structurally sound.  Now that you have everything cut up, put it all back in the freezer to re-firm the caramel.  When you feel your caramel is firm enough, then melt/temper your chocolate in a big bowl.  Once it's melted--and as quickly as possible--dip the chilled bars in the bowl of chocolate one by one--I found that using two forks to lift it out of the bowl was easiest.  Place the finished bars on a sheet of wax paper, parchment paper or a silicone mat and let the chocolate set. Once the chocolate is set, eat voraciously or store in an air tight container.  I've been keeping mine in the freezer but any place would be fine as long as your chocolate doesn't melt.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Croissants


Recently, I was telling a friend about a time when I had food poisoning.  It happened several years ago.  A pizza burger from a greasy diner was the culprit.  I was out of town, staying in a hostel and sharing not only a bedroom, but also a bathroom with multiple strangers.


When I was talking about it, I went into some grave detail about the incident--maybe more than I should have.  It was a pretty horrific experience for me.  Funny enough--and it really isn't all that funny to me--not a couple of days after I was telling him that story it happened again.


But it wasn't a pizza burger from a greasy spoon this time, it was sushi from a supposed reputable establishment.  I don't really even like sushi. I went because my partner loves it and I was trying to be flexible/nice.  Blah.


But now, I have an even bigger aversion to it than ever and what's more--and worse--I have an aversion to pretty much anything I ate or baked the day of said incident.  And sadly I did a hell of a whole lot of baking that day.


I made a king cake for a mardi gras get-together I was planning on having (that never happened because of my food poisoning).  I was in the middle of making homemade twix bars (that are sitting in my freezer half done) that I can't even fathom finishing.  And, I made croissants.


All of these things--as strange as it may be--I associate with the day I ate some bad sushi and have little to no desire to see or taste or touch any of them.  A wave of nausea ensnares my body when the thought of any of them enters my mind.  But, on the plus side, I think this is temporary because as the days go by that aversion seems to weaken.


Which is good because the true subject of this post is clearly one of those normally undetestable but currently semi-detestable baked goods I made on that fateful day.... which was the croissant.  And as difficult as it is, with my waning aversion, I want to share my trials and tribulations with making this pastry--this pastry that can be a real bitch to make successfully.


So croissants begin with another laminated dough--like puff pastry--except different than puff pastry in that it's yeasted and I guess you don't have to make as many turns with it--like three versus five or six.  But it's still a lengthy process.  In addition, the recipe I was using from Bouchon Bakery (their recipes are never easy...) required using something called distatic malt powder.


I had no idea what it was so I had to look it up and found out that it usually is used by breadmakers. In a nutshell, it has enzymes that interact with the yeast to help yield a better rise.  That seemed like a good enough reason for me so I ordered a bag of it online (because I couldn't find it anywhere else). Once it finally got here, I could make my poolish--another thing I had to look up that I found out is basically a starter--which had to sit for 12-14 hours.


Then, finally I could make the actual dough. After you've made the dough--using your distatic malt powder and your poolish--and before you encase your butter block in it, you have to let it sit for a couple of hours.  But I wasn't sure why.  I mean normally for a yeasted item you let it sit in order for it to rise.  But the book didn't state the reason and it didn't really rise?  So I wasn't really sure what that was all about? Maybe it just needed to rest--sometimes dough just needs to rest which is fine but I thought that it would at least rise a bit...I mean my yeast was brand new...


Anyway, after it had sat for a couple of hours it was time to roll it out and encase the butter block. And from there, things sped up a bit because you immediately start your first turn and then--with this particular recipe--you wait at least 20 minutes between turns because you stick the dough in the freezer.  However, this step wasn't without its difficulties.  The same problem I had when I was making my puff pastry arose here--the dough tore and my butter started to smear on the surface. With laminated dough, you're supposed to have alternating layers of butter and dough but now my layers were becoming one in the same and I knew from experience that this was definitely going to fuck with my end product.


I was thinking about it and I was starting to believe that maybe it was happening because I was rolling it out to hard?  I have a nice heavy marble rolling pin and I take advantage of its weight when it comes to rolling dough out--especially if I am rolling out a chilled dough that needs to stay chilled and I need to do it fast.  But maybe I was being a little too rough with this dough and the tearing was my own fault.  I have a lighter wooden rolling pin too--maybe I'll try using that next time.  Anyway, after that I continued to have torn layers with butter smeared all over the place so I just tried to ignore it and muscle through it.


After the final turn I cut everything up, rolled out the croissants and set them aside to proof.  Finally after a couple hours of proofing--which they did do but maybe not as much as I had hoped--I put them in oven and baked them.  The end results were mixed--both physically and emotionally.  First off, every croissant looked completely different from the next one--which at first I was ok with but soon after I walked into a cafe for some coffee and noticed their glass cloche of perfectly identically shaped croissants and I felt defeated (angry) a bit.  Next, my croissants weren't really as "light" as I had hoped.  I mean they weren't rocks but they weren't feathers either.


I suspect it had something to do with either lack of proofing or the layers combining as one...or both. When I opened one up this was fairly evident.  The layers were there but probably not as many layers as could have been if not for the tearing that took place when I was rolling out the dough.  Instead, I feel like a lot of the layers clumped together and thus prevented thinner, more delicate layers to form. But on the upswing, they tasted buttery and were moist.  And I actually did like the way they looked. They had distinct characteristics and you could see how the layers--that did form--played out.  They looked like contours on a map or tiered rice paddy fields. Nevertheless, it was my first attempt so I'll give myself a break here.  And I'm definitely going give it another go--soon--but probably not until the nausea I feel when looking at one fully subsides.



Recipe courtesy of Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel

For the dough:

Start with the poolish:

100g (1/2c + 3T + 1 tsp) all-purpose flour
a pinch of instant yeast
100g (1/4c + 2T + 2 1/2 tsp) water at 75 degrees F

Using a small bowl, mix the yeast and flour together.  Pour the water in and mix together until all of the dry ingredients are completely moistened.  Loosely place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and set aside for 12-14 hours to sit at room temperature.  By the end of the 12-14 hours, the mixture should have some bubbles on top as well as some smooth cracks.

At some point before you finish the dough, make the butter block.

330g (11.6oz) unsalted butter

Take your butter--whether it be sticks or one solid piece--and place it all on either a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper that's sitting on your work surface.  Then, place another piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of the butter.  Using a rolling pin, smash and roll the butter out until it's one continuous piece that is about a 7 1/2 inch by 6 1/2 rectangle.  Wrap the block up in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Now, finish the dough after your poolish has sat for 12-14 hours and your butter block is made

500g (3 1/2c + 1T + 1/4 tsp) all-purpose flour
75g (1/4c + 2T + 1/4 tsp) granulated sugar
10g (1T) instant yeast
3g (1 tsp) distatic malt powder
200g ( 3/4c + 1T + 1 3/4 tsp) water at 75 degrees F
100g (3.5oz) unsalted butter at room temp.
15g (1T + 2 tsp) kosher salt

Using the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the flour, sugar, yeast and malt powder.  With the dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients on low for about 30 seconds just so they are combined.  Then, reserve about 50g (3 1/2T) of the water.  With the remaining water, pour about half of it around the edges of the poolish which apparently is supposed to help release it from the bowl.  After that, add the poolish into the mixer bowl containing the dry ingredients as well as the rest of the water and the butter.  Mix that on low speed just until all of the dry ingredients are fully moistened.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and sprinkle the top of the mixture with the salt.  Turn the mixer back on low and let it go for about 20 minutes.  After the 20 minutes is up, scrape the sides of the dough, form it into a ball and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.

Next, roll the dough out into at long 7 1/2 inch wide by 16 inch long rectangle.  Place your butter block in the middle of the rectangle so that the 7 1/2 inch wide side spans the 7 1/2 inch span of the rectangle.  Fold each end over the block so that they meet in the middle and then pinch the two sides together to seal it.  You'll have open butter at the sides.  Now comes the first of three turns.

Rotate the dough so that the short side (side with the open butter) faces you.  Using a rolling pin and on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to expand the length--turning it over and rotating it and adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking.  Roll your dough out into a 22 inch long by 9 inch wide rectangle. Then, fold it in thirds--like a letter--wrap it in plastic wrap and into the freezer it goes for 20 minutes. The first turn is complete.

For the second turn, remove the dough from the freezer.  Lightly flour your work surface and rotate the block of dough so that the short side faces you.  Roll the dough into another 22 inch long by 9 inch wide rectangle--flouring, rotating and flipping over to make sure the dough doesn't stick to the work surface.  Fold the dough into thirds again, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it back into the freezer for another 20 minutes.  The second turn is complete.

For the third turn, repeat the exact same steps as you did for the second one.

Now, after the dough has sat in the freezer for 20 minutes after the last turn, place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Rotate it so the short side is facing you and roll it out into a 24 inch by 9 inch rectangle--again flouring as necessary and rotating and flipping over to prevent any sticking.  Also, it's important--evidently at this point--to ensure the dough stays cold.  So, if at any point the dough becomes too warm, place it on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined baking sheet and into the freezer until it's cold again.  Once it's been rolled out into the rectangle, cut it in half using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.  Wrap both pieces in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for 20 minutes. Now, the dough can be used to make croissants.

For the croissants

The dough you just made
1 egg
1T cold water

Make an egg wash by whisking the egg and water together in a small bowl.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.  Next, remove one of the pieces of dough from the freezer. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a 19 inch by 9 inch rectangle--flouring, rotating and flipping the dough just as before.  Trim the long side until it's 18 inches and then rotate it so the long side is facing you.  Starting at the top corner of one side of the rectangle, cut triangles out that have a 3 1/2 inch wide base--you'll get between 6-8 of them depending upon how accurate your measurements are. Take one triangle and stretch it until it's about 12 inches long.  Place it on the work surface so the base is closest to you.  Fold the tip of each corner of the base over and start rolling the triangle up to the tip. Place the rolled croissant, tip side down, on the baking sheet and lightly flatten the croissant so it doesn't roll back over.  Do this for the remaining triangles.  Repeat the entire process for the second piece of dough as well.  Brush each croissant with the egg wash.  Cover them with a tea towel or a box and let them sit at room temperature for 2 hours to proof.  You'll know they are done proofing when you lightly press a finger into one of the croissants and the impression remains.  Once they have proofed, arrange your oven racks so that they are placed at the top and bottom thirds of your oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Re-brush the croissants with the egg wash and once your oven is ready bake them for 35-40 minutes rotating them halfway into the bake time.  Remove the croissants from the oven and let them cool completely.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Rich Ass Chocolate Cake


In another post a while back I mentioned a bakery that my partner and I visit when we make it to San Diego.  They have extremely decadent cakes.  I tried to replicate one of them for my partners birthday this past year to no avail.  All I had to go on was the description from their online menu and my partners questionable memory.


Suffice it to say it wasn't a completely successful representation of the real cake.  However, for my birthday this year, my partner got me the same bakery's cookbook with many of their secrets revealed--including the cake I attempted..  When I started paging through the book I started realizing how in depth these cakes really are--like multiple layers and each layer is a different type of cake.  I don't think any of their recipes are simple sponge cakes with butter cream slathered between the layers.


Nevertheless, I had an occasion (that being my belated birthday celebration with my family) to make one of the cakes.  I chose the most chocolatey one I could find and it was quite appropriately named, Amor Chocolat.  Fancy sounding right?  Well it was. And it was a project.  And I fucked it up a bit.


The cake was supposed to have five layers--three layers of chocolate sour cream sponge cake, one of milk chocolate créme brûlée and the final a chocolate mousse.  The chocolate mousse was what got me and I can only speculate as to the cause of its demise.


First I melted the chocolate.  Then, I whipped up the egg yolks and the sugar until light and thick. And next the recipe said to pour the melted chocolate into the egg yolks and combine.  But once I did that, the egg yolk chocolate mixture formed a big mass.  So either I agitated the chocolate too much and it seized up or maybe I whisked the egg yolks too much and they were too thick?



I'm not quite sure but when I went to go and fold the meringue into it, disaster ensued and the chocolate mixture wouldn't separate and then did separate but separated in large chunks and the meringue went flat.  So I said bye bye to that layer and decided to work with what I had.  The only other problem was that I had to divide the chocolate sponge cake into three quarter-inch thick layers and one of them I cut too thin and then it broke in a few different pieces.


So I was left with two chocolate sponge layers and one milk chocolate créme brûlée.  But, the recipe also included a port wine simple syrup soak for the chocolate sponge cakes, a port wine chocolate ganache, a dark chocolate mirror glaze and last, but certainly not least, the sides of the cake had a wall of chocolate cookie crumbs pressed into it.  Needless to say, even without the two missing layers, the cake was still incredibly rich as all heck.



Recipe for Amor chocolat--accidentally adapted from Extraordinary Cakes by Karen Krasne

Chocolate sour cream cake

1/3c unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into cubes
3 oz (1/2c) unsweetened chocolate chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1 1/2c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs at room temp.
1 1/2c granulated sugar
1/2c sour cream at room temp.
1c water

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  Grease the sides and bottom of a 10 inch spring-form pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper that has been cut to fit the bottom of the pan.  Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and place it over a pot of simmering water--making sure that the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl.  Stir the chocolate a bit until it's melted and then remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside.  In the bowl of stand mixer using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium speed until thickened and light in color--about 7 minutes.  Then add the butter and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Pour in the melted chocolate--still warm--and mix until fully incorporated.  Scrape down the bowl again, add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated.  Now, in a microwave safe bowl--or over the stove top--bring the 1 cup of water to a boil.  When it's at a boil, pour it into the batter and stir just until fully combined.  Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake--50-60 minutes or until the point where a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan.  When it's cool, remove it from the cake pan and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it--up to 2 days--at room temperature until you are ready to use it.  Otherwise, wrap it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it.

Milk chocolate crémbrûlée (Interestingly, you don't actually "brûlée" this so the title is a bit deceiving--it's more of a milk chocolate custard.  But who cares, it's fucking delicious)

5 oz (3/4c) milk chocolate finely chopped (I used Callebaut)
2 oz (1/2c) semi-sweet chocolate finely chopped (I used Callebaut)
8 large egg yolks
1/4c + 2T granulated sugar
3c heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  You'll need a 10 inch cake pan for this *(see note below). In a large heatproof bowl, melt both of the chocolates together over a pot of simmering water--making sure not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.  Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are frothy. Then, place the cream in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the cream and bring it to a boil.  Once it has reached a boil, run your mixer on low and begin to slowly pour the cream into the egg/sugar mixture--again while the machine is running.  Once fully combined, remove the bowl from the mixer and pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the melted chocolate.  Stir until fully combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the center is just barely jiggly.  The book states this can take about 30 minutes but it took me twice that time--at least.  So check after 30 minutes and if it's not done leave it in and keep checking every 5-10 minutes until it's set.  Once it is done remove it from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.  After it's cool, wrap the cake pan tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it until it's firm which can take 4-6 hours. Once frozen, you'll need to remove the cake from the pan.  The cookbook suggests running a hair dryer around the sides and bottom of the cake to help get it out of the pan.  I did this but it seemed to be taking a long time.  So eventually, I used a combination of the the hair dryer, removing the spring-form from the pan and using a long knife to scrape underneath the cake--ever so gently--to try and pry the cake from the bottom of the pan. Eventually I got it out.  Then, I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and kept it frozen until I was ready to assemble the cake.

*The recipe in the book specifically states not to use a pan with a removable bottom--like a spring-form.  But I only had a spring-form so that's what I used.  It worked out ok.  However you'll need to wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in aluminum foil or place the cake pan on another rimmed baking sheet when you put it in the oven.  If you don't the batter is likely to seep through a bit--which may be why the recipe states to not use a pan with a removable bottom.  Nevertheless, I made due with what I had and it worked out fine.

Port reduction

3c of a ruby red port wine

Place the wine in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce the heat so that you bring the wine to a simmer.  Simmer the wine until it's a little thicker and reduced to about  2/3c.  Pour the reduced wine into a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  This took me about a half hour but the cookbook stated about 15 minutes. So again--everyone's stove and oven perform differently--just keep an eye on it while it's over the heat.

Port simple syrup

1/3c port reduction
1/2c granulated sugar
1/3c water

Using a small sauce pan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stir the mixture until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Then, remove the syrup from the heat and let cool completely. Once it has cooled, stir the reduction syrup into the sugar syrup until fully combined.  This can be stored, covered, in the fridge for a few days.

Semi-sweet chocolate port ganache

12 oz (2c) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Callebaut)
1c heavy cream
1/3c port reduction

Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl.  Using a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the cream just to a boil.  Then, pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes gently stir the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is completely melted and you have a smooth mixture.  Add the port reduction to the mixture and stir to fully combine.  Set the ganache aside to let it cool and thicken to the consistency of a pudding.  You can store this for a few days in the fridge as well--just warm it up before you use it to the point where it's a good spreading consistency--or to the consistency of a pudding.

Chocolate shortbread cookie

1/4c + 1T unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into cubes
1/4c turbinado sugar
2T granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2T cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper or just grease it.  In a medium bowl combine both of the sugars and the butter together with your fingers until you have a sandy consistency.  Add the vanilla and combine it using your fingers--again you should have a sandy consistency.  In a small separate bowl, sift together the rest of the ingredients.  Then, pour the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture and stir until fully combined--you can still use your fingers for this.  Lastly, crumble chunks of the batter onto the baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes until the cookies are crisp.  Once cool, crumble them into 1/4 inch chunks or smaller.  Set aside in an air tight container until ready to use.

Dark chocolate mirror glaze

1/4c granulated sugar
2T cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
2T heavy cream
1 gelatin sheet
1T glucose or light corn syrup
2c cold water

Place the gelatin sheet in a bowl submerged under the cold water for 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, using a small heavy bottomed sauce pan bring the sugar, cocoa powder and cream to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Remove the gelatin sheet from the water and squeeze out any excess water.  Stir that and the glucose into the hot mixture and stir until fully combined.  You can use immediately or store for a day or two but you'll need to warm the mixture until it's at a consistency that you can easily pour and spread it over the cake.

To assemble

Unwrap the sour cream cake and using a serrated knife, even the top out if necessary.  Then, using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into two equal even layers.  Place one layer on your cake plate or circle--cut side up.  Using roughly half of the port wine simple syrup, brush it over the top of the cake.  Then, take about 3/4c of the ganache and spread it evenly over the same cake.  Top that layer with the milk chocolate créme brûlée layer (that you've obviously removed from the freezer and unwrapped).  Next, place the other sour cream cake layer on top of the créme brûlée layer.  Brush it with the remaining port wine syrup and then use as much of the ganache left as necessary to top the cake off as well as the sides.  Make sure the top and sides (the sides not as much because you are going to cover them in cookie crumbs) are as straight and even and smooth as possible so that when you pour on that swanky mirror glaze you have a clean smooth finish.  But before you place the glaze on the cake, wrap it in plastic wrap--or cover it somehow--and place it in the freezer overnight.  The next day, remove the cake from the freezer and either make the glaze then--or warm up the one you already made--and pour it over the cake.  It's pretty slick so it does a good job of settling over the cake on its own but you should use an offset spatula to lightly guide it on the top and over the sides to cover evenly.  After you've finished with the glaze, place it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to allow it to set.  Finally, take it out and lightly but firmly press the cookie crumbs into the sides of the cake. If the cake is still kind of frozen from being in the freezer all night, let it defrost in the fridge for a few more hours before serving.  If not, serve immediately and enjoy.





Monday, January 19, 2015

Puff Pastry and Pear Feuilletés



I have a box of puff pastry sitting in my freezer.  It's a good brand, no preservatives or additives that I can't pronounce.  And it's expensive too.

It all starts here...

Pound and roll your butter into a block

Wrap that block up tight and get it cold

I bought it because I wanted to try it and I thought it would be nice to have in a pinch.  But it's still there and I can't bring myself to use it.


Roll your dough out into a big circle
Place your cold butter block in the middle

I feel like I should make my own because anything store bought would be a baking abomination and a lie--like not making your own pie crust.  And I realize this is especially ridiculous with puff pastry because at the very least it takes a full day, from dusk til dawn, to make--it's a process.

Envelope the block by folding the edges over it--like an envelope...

Pinch the edges together to seal them

Nevertheless, I went forward and made it for the third time in my life and documented it.  I used Bouchon Bakery's recipe which might take a little longer than most recipes I've seen.  I love this cookbook but it's one of those where almost every recipe is extensive and time consuming.

Roll the block out into a very large rectangle

Trim the edges square and place the trimmings somewhere in the middle
Fold it into thirds--like a letter

You must read through it thoroughly to understand exactly how long everything is going to take.  The puff pastry recipe is no exception.  But I suppose it's worth it because it does work miracles in the end with an extremely flaky and buttery result.  

Wrap it tight in plastic wrap and chill it

One annoying problem I've had with making puff pastry both in the past and during this project was making sure the butter didn't start re-surfacing during the rolling process.  I tend to keep the dough pretty cold and try and work as fast as humanly possible but I still end up seeing some of the butter smear on the surface of the dough.  I don't know how to avoid this.

After it's chilled for a couple of hours, roll it out into another large rectangle
Trim the edges square, tuck in the trimming, fold into thirds--this is the second "turn."  You'll do this at least 3 or 4 more times...  Chill, roll, fold, chill, roll, fold.

I've used both high quality butter and mediocre brands.  It always happens.  The only thing I can think of to do is to try harder to keep it cold and work even faster.  Or, at the very beginning of the process when you first place the butter block on the dough and fold the dough over it, you are supposed to pinch the four edges of the dough together.  Maybe the pinches don't hold and that's the beginning of the end.  So perhaps I'll try overlapping the dough edges at that stage and hope that the seal won't break.  I'm not sure if that is even the root of the problem but it's worth a shot.



I planned on using the puff pastry to make another recipe from the Bouchon Bakery book--pear feuilletés.  


You poach the pears in a white wine syrup and then let them soak in that syrup for a day or so--I did for about a week.  Then you cut out your pastry, pipe a bed of almond cream onto the bottom crust, spread some sweet wine soaked pears on top of that and then cover it with the top layer of pastry.  

Puff pastry--turned 6 times--ready for use

It's fairly simple and undoubtedly fucking delicious.  The only hard part I encountered with them was using the lattice cutter.  



I had never used one and was excited to.  




I purchased one just for this endeavor.  But it wasn't exactly easy.  It didn't always cut all the way through the dough and the dough would stick to the lattice cutter often.  


So the dough had to be really really cold in order to get a decent lattice cut.  


Since my parents were over for a nice dinner that night and I was making the pastries after dinner, I didn't have much time to keep chilling the dough for every pastry.  



So I made due and in all honesty they all looked a little unique and interesting still.  I wasn't too upset but I definitely want another go at that lattice cutter.



Recipe for puff pastry:

-400g (4 sticks) unsalted butter
-225g (3/4c + 3T) water
-25g (1T + 2 1/2tsp) white wine vinegar
-500g (3 1/2c + 1T) all purpose flour
-10g (1T + 3/8tsp) kosher salt
-50g (1.7oz) unsalted butter melted but cooled to room temp.

To make the butter block, take your 4 sticks of butter and line them up side by side on top of a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap.  Place another piece of whatever type of paper or wrap you are using  on top of the butter.  Using a rolling pin, use a combination of pounding and rolling the butter until it sticks together and you have one giant thing of butter.  Essentially you can mash it all together in anyway you like because you are just going to use the rolling pin to roll it into a block.  At this point you are just trying to get the four pieces of butter to be one cohesive block of butter.   Once the butter is "one" then roll it into a 6x8 inch rectangle that is smooth and of equal thickness throughout--it might help to throw some flour on the butter block while you roll and form it.  Wrap the butter block tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  

For the dough, first combine the water and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Then, using the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour and salt.  With the dough hook attachment, mix the flour and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Then add half of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for another 30 seconds.  Next, slowly add the melted butter into the mixture and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together in the middle of the bowl.  Stop the mixer.  The dough should feel tacky but not really sticky.  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for several minutes.  It won't be completely smooth.  Form the dough into a ball.  Place it into a lightly greased medium sized bowl. Using a sharp knife, score a large 1/2 inch deep "X" into the top of the ball of dough to help it relax. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. 

To encase the butter block in the dough, roll the dough out into a 12-13 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place the butter block in the center of the circle and fold the edges of the dough over the block.  Pull each edge of the dough together at the center of the block and pinch the edges together to seal them--there should not be any butter exposed.  Everything should still be pretty cold at this point. If it's not, put it in the fridge to chill until it is nice and cold again.  

Now that the butter is encased, the first turn is ready to happen.  Using a rolling pin start from the center of the block and roll the encased butter dough rectangle into a 24 inch long by 9 inch wide rectangle. You will want to continually rotate and flip the dough while you are rolling it to make sure it doesn't stick to your work surface.  Again, if the dough becomes too warm, transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill it for about 15 minutes.  Once you have your rectangle trim the edges square. Take the trimmings (make sure the layers of the trimmings are running in the same direction as the dough) and place them in the approximate center of the rectangle.  Now, fold the rectangle into thirds as though you were forming a letter.  Turn the block 90 degrees so it resembles a book.  Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it on a baking sheet and then into the fridge to chill for 2 hours.  This completes the first turn.

For the second turn, you'll do much the same as for the first turn.  Remove the block from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  Roll it into another 24 inch by 9 inch rectangle.  Trim the edges square if they are rounded and tuck the trimmings into the middle of the rectangle--again making sure that their layers are running in the same direction as the dough you just trimmed them from.  Fold the rectangle into thirds like a letter again.  Turn it 90 degrees--like a book--wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for another 2 hours.  This is the end of the second turn.

You will do this same process for 3-4 more times.  After you are done with all of your turns, let the dough chill for at least an hour before using or you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in an air tight container to freeze until ready for use.

For the pear feuilletés:

Poached pears

-150g (1/2c + 3T) sauvignon blanc
-300g (1 1/4c) water
-100g (1/2c + 1T) granulated sugar
-1 vanilla bean split
-2g (3/8tsp) fresh lemon juice
-3 small pears--I used Bartlett

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water and sugar.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and then the pod itself.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.  After the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Let the mixture cool completely. When it is cool, remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.  Peel the pears and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes (the cookbook instructs you to use a melon baller to do this instead but I didn't have one).  Submerge the pears into the wine sugar syrup/poaching liquid, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

Almond cream

-73g (1/2c + 2 1/2tsp) almond flour/meal
-7g (2 1/4tsp) all purpose flour
-73g (2 1/2oz) unsalted butter at room temp.
-73g (1/2c + 2T) powdered sugar
-1 large egg

Using a small bowl, run the almond flour through a fine mesh sieve to break up any lumps.  Add the flour and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Place the room temp. butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then, using the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium high speed until it is light and has the consistency of mayonnaise.  Stop the mixer and sift in the powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on medium and beat for about 3 minutes until the butter/sugar is light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and add the almond/flour mixture in 2 additions scraping down the bowl between additions to make sure you are incorporating everything.  Lastly add the egg and mix on low until fully incorporated--30-60 seconds.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 4 days.

To prepare the whole feuilletés

Egg wash

-1 large egg
-1 tsp cold water

For the egg wash, in a small bowl whisk together the egg and water well.  Set aside.

Line the backs of 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take your chilled almond cream out of the fridge and let it come to room temp.  Take your very cold puff pastry from the refrigerator and cut it in half.  Wrap the other half back up and place it into the fridge.  Lightly flour a large work surface.  Roll out the one half of puff pastry into a large 11x16 inch rectangle.  If it gets too warm and starts sticking to your work surface then place it back in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.  Once it's rolled out, place it on one of the parchment lined baking sheets and then back in the fridge.  Do the same exact thing for the other puff pastry half.  Now, using some sort of a 5 inch sized cookie cutter (the cookbook uses a 5x3 inch pear shaped cutter but I couldn't find one like that so I used a simple 5 inch circle cutter), mark 6 light indentations--not cutting all the way through at this point--on one sheet of the rolled out puff pastry.  Brush the egg wash around the edges of each circle.  Next place your room temperature almond cream into a piping back and, using a plain 1/2 inch tip, pipe the cream onto each of your 6 circled indentations leaving a 1/2 inch border all around.  Then divide the poached pears equally between each circle.  Remove the second rolled out rectangle of puff pastry from the fridge and cut it into 6 equal rectangles--big enough to drape over each pear topped circle. If you are using a lattice cutter now would be the time to use it--if not you can skip it and cut out any sort of design you want on the top piece of pastry.  But for the lattice, roll it on each of the 6 rectangles.  Then lightly pull the sides apart to form the lattice.  Drape each rectangle over each circle.  Using the circle cutter, cut through each layer and lightly press the edges to seal.  Brush the egg wash over each pastry and place them on a right side up parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Bake the pastries for 30-35 minutes rotating the sheet pan halfway at about 15 minutes into baking.  Once done, cool the pastries on a rack to cool completely.