September Daring Bakers–Julia’s Croissants

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I must admit it–had I not been dared to make these wonderful croissants–I never would have.  Because I have a little secret.  I’ve never really been into French cuisine.  Mostly, because I generally dislike the taste of butter–a primary ingredient in much of French cooking.  But against my greater expectations—and need-more-practice-to-perfect my croissant-baking skills—the addition of butter (sometimes) really does add a little something special.  Mind this recipe is time and labor intensive–but if you love croissants, making your own will truly be a rewarding experience!

As you’re rolling out your croissants, feel free to add some tasty fillings.  A common variation is to add a square of chocolate.  I chose to go savory, however, and inserted a small log of cheddar cheese into a rectangular piece of extra croissant dough.

1¼ teaspoon of dry-active yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (less than 100°F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups of strong plain flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoon salt
½ cup  milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup (1 stick/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash


1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
2. Measure out the other ingredients.
3. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
4. Place the flour in a large bowl.
5. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour.
6. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl.
8. Knead the dough eight to ten times only.
9. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the bowl in the plastic bag.
10. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.
11. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips. 
12. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches.
13. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).
14. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag.
15. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.
16. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
17. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter.
18. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
19. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. 
20. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
21. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
22. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches.
23. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.
24. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch across from all the edges.
25. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up.
26. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
27. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches.
28. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
29. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours. 
30. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
31. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little.
32. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
33. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches.
34. Fold in three, as before.
35. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches.
36. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).
37. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.
38. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready.
39. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter.
40. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle.
41. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches).
42. Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
43. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches.
44. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches).
45. Place two of the squares in the fridge.
46. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square.
47. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
48. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
49. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
50. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet.
51. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
52. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.
53. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F.
54. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water.
55. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. 
56. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely
57. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

July Daring Bakers– Strawberry Marionberry Fraisier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Fraisiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook, Tartine.  According to Béa over at La Tartine GourmandeLe fraisier is a classic French cake made with a basic sponge cake, which is then sliced in two halves, and brushed with kirsch liqueur. The cake is traditionally filled with butter cream and fresh strawberries, and topped with red almond paste or Italian meringue.

Jana’s version was slightly different, yielding cups of sweet pastry cream for the filling and a simple syrup in lieu of the liqueur.  And then I added sweet Oregon marionberries bursting fresh from the market, and opted out of the almond paste, dusting instead with a light pass of sugar.

In French, fraisier literally means a strawberry plant.  And what better time of year to celebrate strawberry plants than in this month when, after an especially cool spring, strawberries are still in season, and oh so deliciously wonderful, eaten fresh from the fields.

Last year in July, I actually was in the strawberries fields–or tunnels really, as I worked on a strawberry farm in Ireland, where most strawberries are grown under cover  to protect them from the characteristically cool days and summer rain showers.  I worked as an intern, hoping to learn more about horticultural practices using greenhouses and tunnels.

Back home, this year my strawberry garden encompasses a large pot on our third-story balcony.  But my, how wonderful are little pot of berries tasted.  (We did eat them all, in fact, and are waiting for the second round of berries to be here again shortly).

So I headed to the market downtown where every kind of berry seems to be available this month.  And because marionberries, those sweet concoctions developed in the next county over, mean summer in a very special way, I just had to add them in to this wonderful challenge.  As we walked downtown, we saw people everywhere, standing around with their berry pints in hand, eating with greedy relish.  I am willing to bet most of the berries that were bought did not make it home before they were gone!  But that, like this wonderful Fraisier, is summer at it’s finest.

To make this Fraisier, you will need the following:
Chiffon Cake recipe
Simple Syrup recipe
Pastry Cream recipe
fresh strawberries and marionberries
powdered sugar for dusting
Chiffon Cake, adapted from Tartine cookbook
1 cup + 2 Tbs. cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.  Add in all but 3 Tbs. of sugar and all of salt.  Stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon zest.  Whisk thoroughly and combine with the dry ingredients.
  5. Put the egg whites in a clean bowl and with a stand or hand mixer, beat on medium speed until frothy.  Add cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until the the egg whites hold soft peaks.  Slowly add the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and beat until the whites form firm, shiny peaks.
  6. Using a clean rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently.  Gently follow the same procedure for the remaining of the whites, until the mixture is just combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  9. To unmold, run a knife around the sides and loosen the cake from the pan and remove the sides.  Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper.
Pastry Cream, from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
2 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut in tablespoons
  1. Combine the eggs, yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the machine.  Sift in the cornstarch; beat on medium-low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  2. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside.  Combine the milk, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and the vanilla.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, and whisking constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk.  Set over medium heat, and whisk until the mixture reaches the consistency of pudding, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring until melted and incorporated after each addition.  Place the bowl over the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until chilled.  Cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming; let chill overnight or at least 1 1/2 hours before using.
Simple Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve.  Stirring is not necessary, but won’t harm the outcome.
  3. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  4. If there is leftover syrup from recipe, transfer to a lidded container or jar and store in the fridge.
Fraisier Assembly:
  1. Line the sides of your 9-inch springform pan with plastic wrap.  Do not line the bottom of the pan.  You will be putting your cooled and cut cake back into the same pan you baked it in.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared pan.  Moisten the layer evenly with the simply syrup.  When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries and marionberries to arrange around the sides of the pan.  I interspersed marionberries and strawberries.  Place the cut side of the berries against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between berries and a thin layer forming across the top of the take.
  6. Hull and quarter remaining strawberries and place them and marionberries in the middle of the cake.  Cover the berries entirely with the remainder of the pastry cream.  This cake should have a smooth top now to set the second layer on evenly.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours.
  8. To serve, release the sides of the pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; you can use a doily to gain a design like the one above.

Daring Bakers: Rhubarb Compote, Maple Mousse & Vanilla Tuiles

After spending a delightful Easter weekend traveling home to my family, I’m finally beginning to feel that spring has truly arrived!  The April Daring Bakers’ challenge attests to this feeling.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Never having been particularly talented at making edible containers, I decided to attempt vanilla tuiles, a rich cookie, shaped quickly while warm out of the oven.  I wanted to go for a flower effect, to fill with maple mousse and rhubarb compote.  After several failed attempts, I finally witnessed a success.  I then dipped the vanilla tuiles in a colored sugar to give the edges a bit of color.

The Daring Bakers gave two options for maple mousse; I chose the vegan option, since working with gelatin does not really interest me.  I did let my mousse chill for about 24 hours until it was quite firm, and then cut it into little bunny shapes.

The rhubarb was inspired by the beginning of rhubarb season here; in fact I just picked up a rhubarb plant finally, so I can begin growing my own!  The compote has a bit of an orange hint, given that I used an orange syrup still lying around from last Christmas.  This was an excellent use, and a great adventure in testing new kitchen ingredients and techniques.

Vanilla Tuiles, adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the center.  Combine the egg whites and sugar in a large bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, beat until frothy, about 30 seconds.

2. Beat in the flour and salt.  Add the butter, milk, and extract; beat until combined.  Spoon a couple heaping tablespoons of the batter onto a baking sheet.  Using the back of a spoon, spread the butter into a very thin large oval.  Repeat, making three more ovals on the sheet.

3. Bake just until brown around the edges, about 5 minutes, but watch carefully for coloring.  Meanwhile, prepare the second baking sheet.  Working quickly, use an offset spatula to transfer a tuile over a small drinking glass, or a container of your choice, to create a bowl.  You can use your fingers to give it a wavy effect.  Place on a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with the remaining cookies.  If they get too stiff, return the baking sheet to the oven for about 30 seconds.  Repeat until all the batter is used.

4. Once cookies are cool, dip edges in colored sugar.  Store in an airtight container for two to three days.

Vegan Maple Mousse

• 1 package (12 oz.) soft silken tofu
• ¾ cup (14 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup
• 2 tsp agar-agar

1. Let tofu come to room temperature. Using a food processor, blender, or hand mixer, blend tofu until just smooth.
2. Sprinkle agar-agar on the maple syrup and let it rest for 10 minutes. Heat maple syrup on the stove to a boil and then let it simmer 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved.
3. In a food processor, blender, or a large bowl, blend the tofu with the maple syrup until creamy.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove from the fridge, cut into shapes, and divide among your edible containers.

Rhubarb Compote, adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking
  • 1/2 lb. rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup Orange Syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
1. Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces.  Put the cold syrup and water into a saucepan, add the rhubarb, cover, bring to a boil for one minute, and then simmer until thick, mushy, and of the desired consistancy.
2. Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the covered saucepan to finish cooking and then cool.