• Croissants

    Hello! I know I usually post my recipes on Tuesdays, but I was too excited about these not to share earlier. This weekend, I attempted what I deem to be one of the most technically difficult home-baker undertakings- the croissant! These buttery, flaky pastries can only be paired with a coffee and maybe some jam, but are also pretty perfect just warm from the oven. To be honest, making these croissants wasn’t hard per se, just labor intensive. It’s important before you take on this project that you read up on the process, and read the recipe through in its entirety, maybe twice.

    The main technique used in the making of croissants is called laminating, so before we get into the recipe, I figured I would outline it for you. When you laminate in baking, you are folding a flat sheet of butter into a dough, to create alternating layers of dough and butter. In doing so, the butter melts while baking to create the classic flaky texture of the croissants you know and love. It’s a time-consuming process, specifically on a warmer day, which it was when I tried it on Saturday. It makes sense, the warmer your environment, the quicker the butter starts to soften and/or melt. So, you fold a few times, roll out a few times, then the dough goes back into the fridge until the butter is chilled enough to continue, and the gluten is relaxed enough to keep rolling. It’s a delicate balance- if the butter is colder than the dough, it can break into pieces and distribute unevenly. If vice versa, the butter will start to seep out of the dough as you roll.

    After learning all this, you can imagine my surprise that my first attempt went so well. As a matter of fact, I popped them into the oven (which doesn’t have a window in the door), and said a quick prayer because I was so nervous. When I opened the oven ten minutes later as the suspense was killing me, I promptly burst into tears upon seeing them. My sister happened to arrive home from dinner and, seeing my tears out of context thought everything had gone wrong, sorry for the mini heart attack Kathleen!!

    Anyway, this is quite a project, but I’m here to tell you it’s doable! The dough can be prepped and laminated in one day and then assembled into croissants the next, as well as frozen for the next time you need a croissant fix. The recipe, originally from King Arthur Flour, makes 24 and since I live with only 1 person, I put half the laminated dough in the freezer for the next rainy day. Trust me, the feeling of knowing you can make a croissant from scratch is remarkable, I’m basically a french pastry chef now you guys. Except for, you know, the culinary degree, the accent, and the ability to make any other kind of fancy french pastry.

    Before we start, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. A productive weekend.
    TWO. A Sunday afternoon stroll with a late lunch.
    THREE. Re-watching old Disney movies on a gloomy day.
    FOUR. Heavy fountain pens for handwritten notes.
    FIVE. Organizing your drawers and finding a piece of clothing you forgot about.

    Let’s do this!!!


    Dough Ingredients

    2 eggs + plus enough warm water to make 2 cups
    ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
    5 ½ to 6 cups all purpose flour, I recommend using King Arthur brand
    2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
    2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, I recommend using Kerrygold
    1 scant Tablespoon salt

    Butter Ingredients

    1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch, I recommend using Kerrygold
    ¾ teaspoon salt
    ½ cup all purpose flour, I recommend using King Arthur brand


    How To:

    For the Dough

    Add the eggs and water to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until there are no dry spots and the mixture is blended. Set aside.

    For the Butter

    Cut the cold butter in 1 inch pieces and add one at a time to the bowl of a stand mixer, combining with salt and flour. Beat on low speed until just smooth, without whipping air into the butter. Make sure all the butter is incorporated evenly.

    Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and shape into an 8 inch square. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

    Finishing the dough

    Pour the melted butter onto the yeast and flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, 2½ cups flour, and the salt. Mix the dough until a dough forms, and knead for 5 minutes. If it’s too sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat/ roll it into a 9 inch square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Laminating the dough

    Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll into a 12 inch square. Unwrap the butter square and place it on the dough at a 45 degree angle, so that the butter looks like a diamond shape in a square shape. Gently pull the corners of the dough over the butter block into the center, pinching the seams with a little water so that they’re secure. Once the butter is totally enclosed, dust the top lightly with flour, then flip the whole packet over.


    Tap the dough with the rolling pin, gently encouraging it into a rectangular shape, with the long sides vertical to you. Once it’s pliable, roll this dough packet into a 20 inch x 10 inch rectangle. If the dough starts to stick, dust with a little flour. If any butter looks like its about to start leaking, seal the edge with a little water.

    Sweep the excess flour off the dough and fold the whole thing into thirds like a letter. It’s very important that all the sides line up exactly, since the more folding you do, the more unaligned they would become if a fold was off. This is your first “turn”.

    This dough is in “book about to be opened” stage.


    Rotate the dough so that it looks like a book about to be opened. Once again roll the dough into a 20 inch x 10 inch rectangle and fold like a letter, aligning all the edges. This is your second “turn”. At this point, wrap the dough and return it to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, to firm the butter and relax the gluten.

    After this resting period, repeat the rolling and folding for two more turns, then wrap tightly and refrigerate the dough for another hour. At this point you can also leave it overnight and then shape the croissants tomorrow, or freeze the dough for later use.

    Shaping the croissants

    Cut the dough in half and return one half to the fridge or freezer. Roll the other half into a 13 inch x 18 inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or long sharp knife, trim the edges of the dough a ¼ inch all the way around to expose the laminated insides. This will allow the dough to rise fully.


    Cut the dough into thirds lengthwise and then in half crosswise to give you six roughly 4 inch by 9 inch rectangles. Cut these pieces in half diagonally and arrange them so that the points face away from you. Stretch the dough of each triangle slightly and then cut a 1 inch notch at the base of the triangle.


    Roll the two inside corners of the notch up towards you, then roll the dough towards the tip, building the classic, curved croissant shape. It’s important that the tip of the triangle ends up underneath the croissant so that it doesn’t puff up. Place the shaped pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining triangles. If you’d like, curve the ends of the croissant inwards to make a half circle shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Remove the shaped croissants from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for at least 1 hour. You should notice them rise noticeably over this hour long period.

    Peep those laminated layers!!

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush each croissant with egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water). Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until deep golden with no raw dough visible in the overlapping layers.

    Allow to cool on a baking rack for 20 minutes before eating. Serve with lots of jam and a cup of coffee please!!

    Congratulations, you just made croissants!!! xoxoxo

    Looking for another baking challenge? Try here, here, or here!

  • Making Sourdough (From Scratch!)

    Hello my friends, I hope your Thanksgivings were full of pie and that the work week hasn’t gotten you down too much already. I am here today about a very special topic already revealed in the title of this post: SOURDOUGH! Remember when I said I was making my starter from scratch? Well, this weekend at my parents house, with a dutch oven at my disposal, I finally used it to make bread. AND IT WORKED! And now, I will pass everything I have learned on to you, in case you too are crazy enough to make your own bread. Please keep in mind before we begin, it takes a few weeks and some determination, plus many a cell phone alarm reminding you to feed your starter!! But with that being said, let’s get to work!

    First thing’s first, I’m going to share with you the resources that I used along the way. I will type up the steps that I took as well, but in case you want the unabbreviated version, I will include it here.

    Step One: Making Your Starter

    To make sourdough starter from scratch, you’re essentially growing your own yeast in a container. So cool, right? This way, no dried yeast is necessary, and the process of mixing the flour and water over a period of days produces lactobacilli (friendly bacteria!) and wild yeast which give the sourdough its classic tangy flavor.

    To adequately give the yeast and bacteria time to grow, you will need at least 5 days of routine feeding. After those initial 5 days, you can put unused starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, but once you intend to use it, it will need to be fed daily again for at least 3 days.

    For creating my sourdough starter, I used this step by step guide from King Arthur Flour. For extra info on sourdough, you ca also read this beginners guide here! I found this to be the simplest but also most extensive set of instructions, which basically guarantees results.

    INGREDIENTS TO START:

    1 cup whole wheat flour (it must be whole wheat!)
    1/2 cup cool water

    INGREDIENTS TO FEED:

    Scant 1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup cool water (adjust temperature based on the temp of your kitchen)

    STEPS:

    1. In a 1-quart non-reactive container (glass, food-safe plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel), mix together the initial amount of flour and water. There should be no dry flour left and the mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter, I found that I needed to add a tiny bit more water initially to hydrate all the flour. Cover the container loosely and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

    2. After the first 24 hours, regardless of whether or not you see any activity, discard all but 4 ounces (a 1/2 cup) of the starter. (Here’s a hint, make this cake with it!) Feed the remaining starter with a scant 1 cup of all purpose flour and the half cup of water. Stir so that there is no dry flour left. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.

    3. By day 3, you should be seeing some bubbling and it should have a fresh, fruity smell. Once this happens, it’s time to begin a twice daily feeding schedule, spacing the feedings as far apart as you can. For example, I would feed my starter at 6:30am before I left for work, then again at 6:30pm when I came home. Continue feeding as usual, discarding all but 4 ounces and replacing it with the scant 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, twice a day.

    4. Repeat step 3 for days 4 and 5. By the end of day 5, the starter should be doubled in volume, with many bubbles and a tangy, slightly acidic smell. If your starter doesn’t look like this, continue a twice a day feeding scheduling for another day or two until you get there. At this point, give it once final routine feeding, and let it sit for 6-8 hours. You have grown mature starter, congratulations!! From here, you have 2 choices: you can take the starter you need for a loaf of bread immediately, (skip down to the bread making section for this), or you could transfer it to its permanent home if you’re not quite ready.

    5. To transfer it to its permanent home, transfer 4 ounces and feed as normal, leaving out overnight to rest before covering it. This starter can now be kept in the fridge, but will need to be fed as usual once a week.

    Required Viewing!

    Right here we’re taking a quick break to watch an important video about making sourdough. From the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, Brad Leone and Claire Saffitz show us how to make fancy loaves of sourdough bread, and how much work goes into it. We won’t be making a loaf with a process this extensive, but the technique and science behind it is certainly worth knowing! Plus it’s hilarious and exactly what you deserve right now.

    Making the Sourdough!

    To prepare our sourdough loaf, I followed Cooks Illustrated’s “Almost No-Knead Sourdough”. While still a two day process, it cuts out some of the longer steps and yet still produces a perfectly tangy, crisp loaf of bread.

    To start, you will need the following:

    INGREDIENTS:

    3 ⅔ cups All-Purpose Flour
    1 ½ cups plus 4 teaspoons room temperature water
    1 ¾ teaspoons salt
    ⅓ cup mature sourdough starter

    TOOLS:

    A large Dutch Oven
    Parchment Paper
    A sharp pairing knife or bread lame

    STEPS:

    1. To begin, make sure you are using mature sourdough starter. If your five days of feeding have just finished, you are set to go. If your starter has been in the fridge, you must feed it once a day for at least 3 days before it’s ready to use.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until combined. In a larger bowl (this will be the bowl that holds the rising dough), whisk together the starter and the water until the starter is dissolved. Add the flour mixture to this mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until there is no dry flour left and a ball of dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.


    3. After the initial rise, spray a large piece of parchment paper with vegetable oil and set on the counter. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead 10 to 15 times until smooth. Pinch the edges into one middle seam at the bottom so that the top is smooth and rounded. Place this dough seam side down onto the greased sheet of parchment paper, then lift the paper carefully and transfer into the dutch oven.

    4. Wrap the top of the dutch oven in plastic wrap and place on the middle rack of your OFF oven. Place a cake pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water. Close the oven door and let the dough rise here for another 2 to 3 hours, until it has doubled in size. To test that it’s ready, the dough should not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.

    5. Once the rising is complete, take the pot and pan of water out of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a sharp knife or lame, make one long cut down the center of the loaf, as smoothly as possible.Place the top on the pot and return to the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the pot inside and start a timer for 30 minutes immediately. Do not wait for the oven to reach 425 before you start the timer, as the bread will burn.

    6. After the first 30 minutes, remove the top of the dutch oven and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden and crisp, and the internal temperature is 210 degrees. Remove the bread from the pot and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

    YOU MADE BREAD! I’m so proud of you!!


  • Kimchi Fried Rice with Bacon and Mushrooms

    I’M HERE! I’M HERE AND I’M READY TO COOK KIMCHI FRIED RICE! I would first like to apologize for this extended hiatus, my weekends have been absolutely jam packed and it’s been out! of! control! I ordered Seamless for dinner 3 times last week!! Three!! Unacceptable. So, this weekend, after meeting my baking hero Claire Saffitz (more on that later), I was fully in a Bon Appetit mood. When I moved, I never got around to bringing my stack of cookbooks with me, so the last time I went home, I grabbed one from the stack, Where Cooking Begins, by Carla Lalli Music. I love this cookbook specifically because of how versatile it is. This book not only contains recipes, but also ways to “spin” each one, PLUS detailed pages of some basic cooking techniques. So you see why, if I had to grab one book, it’s this one.

    Me trying to keep my cool in front of my idol NDB

    Before we get into this weeks recipe, let’s quick re-cap the last few weeks since I’ve been here. First, I went to Seattle! And ooooooh I loved it. My sister and I stayed with my brother, who recently moved there, and wow what a wonderful city! I couldn’t get over how perfectly Fall it felt, the trees were changing, it was nice and chilly, and we ate so much food. Highlights include: a hike up Rattlesnake Ledge (I am horribly out of shape), the Chihuly Glass Museum, and an entire bar dedicated to PIE and PIE THEMED DRINKS! Insanity. Then, this weekend, I attended a cake decorating class with none other than Claire Saffitz of BA’s “Gourmet Makes” and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly starstruck. She is so sweet and talented and told me my cake was perfect and I’m still emotional. Also she signed a pastry brush for me and it will hang in every kitchen I ever have, the end.

    Okay so now that we’ve covered what I’ve been up to, let’s talk food. So on Sunday, after sleeping until noon and doing not much besides watching Parks and Rec on the couch (it was raining, what else could I do?) I cracked open Carla’s book and found this life changing kimchi fried rice recipe. I am a huge fan of having eggs for dinner, so any time I find a recipe that includes that, I’m already interested. What’s more, this recipe has crispy bacon, mushrooms cooked in said bacon, and KIMCHI. It’s a perfect combination of salty, tangy, spicy, fresh and I want to eat it forever. I’m getting too excited, let’s start.

    But of course, before we do, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. Your at-home comfy clothes.
    TWO. Doing a week’s worth of grocery shopping in one day.
    THREE. A basket full of blankets in your living room.
    FOUR. Visiting a new city.
    FIVE. “I’m on vacation” as an attitude for decision making.

    Let’s cook!!

    Ingredients

    7 Tbs vegetable oil
    4 strips bacon, cut crosswise into ¾ inch pieces
    8oz. mushrooms, washed, stems removed, and caps torn
    2 cups cooked brown rice
    1 cup kimchi, liquid reserved and roughly chopped
    Handful of chopped cilantro
    2 eggs
    Salt and pepper
    Sesame oil, hot sauce, for serving

    Steps

    ONE. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil until warm, then add the bacon. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and the fat is rendered. Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.

    TWO. In the same pan, add the mushrooms to the bacon fat, seasoning with salt. Cook undisturbed for approximately 5 minutes, until some liquid is released and they get slightly browned. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for another 2 minutes, then transfer to the same plate as your bacon.

    THREE. Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan, then add your cooked rice, allowing to heat for 2 minutes undisturbed. Toss with a wooden spoon and then cook for another 2 minutes, until the rice is warmed and a little crisp, but not dried out. If you need, more oil can be added during this process.

    FOUR. Add the kimchi to the rice, and cook for about 1 minute. Off the heat, add back the mushrooms and the bacon, plus the reserved kimchi juice and cilantro. Mix to combine and transfer to a serving platter.

    FIVE. In the skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high, and add the two eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the eggs whites are set, but the yolks remain runny, for proper yolk-breaking satisfaction. Spoon a generous portion of the rice onto eat plate, then top with an egg and a drizzle of sesame oil and/ or hot sauce.

    Yum!! Xoxoxoxox

    Want more dinners? Look here, here, here, and here!