• 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!

  • Conchas!!

    I would like to mark down March 10th, 2019 as a very special day in my life calendar, because it was the day that I made my first Concha, and I can already tell that we will have a long and happy life together. Also called Pan Dulce, these beautiful works of art are a Mexican bakery staple known for their intricately patterned tops, often resembling the swirl of a shell. A concha consists of two parts: a sweet cinnamon roll, and a crisp, colored (and sometimes flavored) streusel-like topping, which forms the crackly pattern on top. Whenever I used to come across pictures of these, I just assumed that some kind of baking pan or stamp was required and so I never really gave it much more thought. THEN, I came across this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, and suddenly they were so attainable!!! No stamp needed, just a pairing knife, a steady hand, and some patience, and since I have two of those things, I once again took a bread-making quest that paid of incredibly well!

    Almost as soon as you start this recipe, you will start to wonder why no one has managed to make a candle that can capture this scent exactly. No offense but the combination of fresh bread and cinnamon is the only thing that matters in this world. Truly. Anyway, if you thought these treats couldn’t get any better, boy do I have news for you! Something that is very fun and special about this recipe is that it’s totally customizable! By mixing different flavors and colors into your streusel topping, you are opening up so many possibilities here! You can add cocoa powder for a hint of chocolate, lemon zest, freeze dried berries, or combine several food colors for a rainbow pattern, and it’s 100% up to you! I kept mine on the simpler side for my first try, and used a red gel food coloring to give my Conchas a bright pink finish. From there, you could follow the traditional concha shaped top by cutting a shell pattern into the top (the bun rises and expands while baking to form the crackled top that these are known for), but you can also add concentric circles, stripes, grids, or any number of patterns and see how they turn out!

    Before we get started, let’s all take a moment to appreciate these 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Falling asleep in the car on the way home from a long day.
    TWO. Using something you had been saving for a special occasion.
    THREE. An evening of zero productivity.
    FOUR. An evening of extreme productivity.
    FIVE. Asking for a booth at the restaurant.

     

    MAKES: 12 buns with topping
    PREP TIME: 30 minutes
    RISING TIME: 2½ hours (divided)
    BAKE TIME: 18-20 minutes

    DOUGH INGREDIENTS

    3 Tbsp. warm water
    2½ tsp active dry yeast
    1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
    1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1/3 white sugar
    ¾ cup evaporated milk
    2 tsp kosher salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 eggs, at room temperature
    4 cups all purpose flour

    TOPPING INGREDIENTS

    ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
    2/3 cup white sugar
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Gel food coloring of your choice or 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

    STEPS

    ONE. Warm the bowl of your stand mixer by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a minute. This will allow you to add warm water with the yeast and not have the heat change when it touches the cold metal bowl. Once the bowl is warmed, remove that water and add in the 3 tablespoons of warm water and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom and get foamy, about 5-7 minutes. If it doesn’t foam up, your water was either too hot or too cold, or the yeast is no good, so you’ll have to start over.

    TWO. When the yeast is ready, add in the oil, melted (and slightly cooled!) butter, sugar, evaporated milk, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs. Using the dough hook attachment, mix until the eggs are slightly broken up and everything is incorporated.

    THREE. Add the flour all at once, and mix the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth, and a little sticky. Coat a large bowl with oil or cooking spray and transfer the dough. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

    FOUR. While your dough is rising, you can make the buttery streusel topping! Mix all the ingredients in your stand mixer until smooth and incorporated, then decide whether you want the topping to be chocolate (add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa) or colored (add gel food coloring of your choice!), or both! I went for pink this time but you can do whatever you want! Scoop out about a tablespoon’s worth of topping for each bun, I did this ahead of time so that the topping was ready when the bread was!

    FIVE. After the bread dough has doubled, turn it out onto a baking mat or countertop and section it into 12 rolls. If you want to weigh them individually so that they’re even, you can, but I just eyeballed it. Shape them by hand into uniform, round buns and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

    SIX. Take each topping round and flatten it into a disk in your palms, then lay it over the top of each bun so that the top is totally covered. Repeat for all. Using a pairing knife, cut some patterns into the top- you can research some of the more traditional patterns here, but you can also do whatever you feel like! When all designs are done, cover the whole tray with a towel and allow the buns to rise again for another 30 minutes, until doubled in size again. Preheat your oven to 350ºF halfway through this second rise.

    SEVEN. Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, until they are lightly golden and the topping has spread into the classic concha shape. Best eaten soon after baking, with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate!!

    YAY! xoxoxoxD

     

  • Spaghetti al Limone

    If you remember last week’s post, I mentioned that I have recently been introduced to the world of Bon Appetit Test Kitchen videos, and I can’t believe I survived this long without them honestly. Aside from being incredibly informative, they’re so wholesome and everyone is super lovely and nice to each other and I love it so much.

    Of the test kitchen chefs, I keep finding myself going back to the videos done by Molly Baz, because they’re simple in procedure, but packed with flavor, also I’m fascinated by her collection of cross-back aprons. So much so that I definitely also bought one and I’m in LOVE with it. But anyway, back to food because that’s why we’re here, this recipe comes from Molly herself (original can be found here), and it’s literally so good that the first time I made it I gasped out loud. I’m not kidding!! It’s rich and cheesy like a fettucine alfredo, but with a bright zing of lemon so that it doesn’t feel heavy, it’s a dream come true. Plus it’s done in under half an hour so what more could you possibly want from a pasta dish??

    Because I can barely contain my excitement, we’ll get right to it, but not before I give you five things to be happy about today!
    ONE. A book so gripping that you read it from start to finish in one sitting, well into the night.
    TWO. Iced coffee with coffee ice cubes.
    THREE. A three day weekend.
    FOUR. Drinks served in mason jars.
    FIVE. Clothes that you can wear from winter to spring.

    Let’s cook!!
    SERVES: 3-4 people
    PREP TIME: 10 minutes
    COOK TIME: 15 minutes

    INGREDIENTS

    1 lemon
    12 oz. thick spaghetti
    Kosher salt
    ¾ cup heavy cream
    6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    ¾ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
    Fresh ground black pepper

    STEPS

    ONE. Before starting, place your pot of water on the stove to boil, so that it’s ready when you are. Set out all of your ingredients in their correct measurements (called a mise en place!) because once you get started, you won’t have time to stop and grate cheese or juice a lemon on the go.

    Waste not! We use this whoooooole lemon!

    TWO. Using a vegetable peeler, cut one wide strip of the lemon peel and slice it into thin strips and set aside (this will be a garnish for later!). Zest the remaining peel of the lemon into a dutch oven or large saucepan, then juice the same lemon and reserve 2 tablespoons of juice.

    THREE. Pour the cream into the dutch oven with the lemon zest, and cook on medium heat until the cream is heated through and just about to simmer. *Start cooking your pasta now!* Lower the heat and whisk in your butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, then remove the pot from the heat.

    FOUR. When your pasta is very al dente, about 3 minutes earlier than the package instructions, scoop out 1½ cups of pasta cooking water, and add ¾ cup to the cream sauce. Transfer your pasta to the sauce pot using a pair of tongs (it’s okay if some pasta water drips in as well), and return to medium heat. Cook the pasta for 3 minutes, adding the parmesan cheese gradually until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth and glossy. Feel free to add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the reserved lemon juice now, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

    FIVE. To serve, swirl a generous pile of pasta onto the plate, garnish with more fresh black pepper, and the reserved lemon peel strips. Enjoy!!!

    xoxoxoxoxoD