Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart. Sweet tart dough, topped with caramel, honey roasted peanuts, and then a layer of chocolate ganache? What's not to love?

I did have some trouble with the ganache and caramel layer setting. I think some bakers over cooked the caramel and ended up with a brittle, crunchy layer. I seemed to have the opposite problem of a caramel layer that was too soft. I had a candy thermometer and cooked the caramel exactly as indicated, but it didn't really want to set after 30 minutes in the refrigerator. The ganache did not end up setting very well either. Here is what a slice of this tart looked like after several hours in the refrigerator... it oozed everywhere!

After refrigerating it overnight, it looked much better. Dorie warns not to refrigerate it longer but I found that it would get too runny at room temperature. Not sure if that was because I did something wrong, but the tart tasted just great after being in the refrigerator overnight (despite Dorie's warnings not to refrigerate it for too long).

Thanks Carla, for picking this recipe. This dessert reminded me of a fancy version of a snickers bar, minus the nougat :) It was simple and I loved every last bite of it. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this chocolatey, caramel-y treat.

* Recipes notes:
- You may have better luck than me, but if you don't, make sure you refrigerate this overnight before serving, and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
- For more tips, click here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vols-au-Vent and Homemade Puff Pastry (DB)

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Some background information from Steph:
Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Vols-au-vent are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.

I was looking forward to this recipe because after making Cinnamon Apple Danish Braids in June 2008, I was familiar with the general concept of how to make a laminated dough and knew that this daunting challenge of making homemade puff pastry was within my grasp.

I didn't have any major problems with my dough, except that it is still pretty warm in Texas right now so I had to spend quite a bit more time chilling my dough in between turns. I was also only able to turn the dough once (instead of twice) before it required additional refrigeration time.

I filled my vols-au-vent with apples that were sauteed in brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Topped with some whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top, these were delicious. With the extra puff pastry I had on hand, I made a few apple turnovers as well.

Thanks Steph, for hosting this month's challenge. While I will probably stick with store bought puff pastry (so much quicker!), I can now say that I've finally made homemade puff pastry! Make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see how everyone else enjoyed these puffy treats.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

You will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cottage Cheese Pufflets (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes : Cottage Cheese Pufflets. I don't normally eat cottage cheese - I've actually never even tried it. The texture just seems so weird to me that I don't want to try it. But seeing as the cottage cheese is blended into the dough in this recipe, I was willing to give it a try. So this was technically my first time trying cottage cheese :)

The dough is simple enough to make, as long as you have a food processor. Working with the dough, however, was extremely difficult for me. Despite refrigerating the dough overnight, I found that it would warm up and soften much too quickly for my liking. I had to roll it out, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes, and then that would only buy me a few minutes to make a few pufflets before I had to put it back in the freezer. This resulted in a very long and drawn out process... (I even cut my block of dough into 4 pieces instead of 2, working with less dough each time to avoid having to re-roll the dough out in several batches.)

The result? The dough was slightly flaky but a buttery soft, melt in your mouth kind of texture. It was quite delicious and well worth the struggle. I'm not sure how puffy these pufflets were supposed to get, but regardless they were delicious.

I ended up doing two different variations... with half the dough I made triangular pufflets just like Dorie instructs you to. With the other half of the dough I simple folded the edges in and left some preserves exposed. I found that using this method allowed me to get a higher preserves to pastry ratio which I prefer. (Dorie calls these cookies but I think they're more like pastries.)

I made some with orange marmalade and some with apricot preserves. After making several kinds of pastries, I've come to the conclusion that my favorite fruit filled pastry is one with apricot preserves. So if you made yours with another type of preserve, I encourage you to try this recipe with apricot preserves :)

Thanks Jacque, for picking this recipe. I loved the pufflets and they were all gone by the end of the day (I hate to admit it, but my husband only had a few and I ate the rest!) If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed these pufflets.

* Recipes notes:
- I did not poke a hole in my pufflets to vent them and they turned out just fine.
- I would definitely recommend cutting your refrigerated dough into 4 pieces, working with just one piece and leaving the rest in the fridge while you assemble the first batch of pufflets. Make sure you put the dough back in the fridge or freezer if it gets too soft, otherwise it is impossible to work with (also results in very messy fingers!)
- I baked mine for 12-14 minutes, just slightly longer than indicated.

- For more tips, click here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flaky Apple Turnovers (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen: Flaky Apple Turnovers. I love anything apple and this was the perfect way to celebrate the upcoming arrival of fall.

The pastry dough was pretty easy to make, but in my attempt to not over work the dough, I think I under mixed it. After the first refrigeration period, I found it way too crumbly and dry to roll out... in fact, I went to double check the recipe to see if I had messed it up somewhere along the way. Turns out I had followed the recipe to a "T" so my only conclusion was that I needed to mix it more thoroughly. So kneaded it together with my hands to more fully incorporate the flour, and then I was able to roll it out without any problems. Thankfully this did not ruin it and I still ended up with a nice, flaky pastry.

My main problem with most turnovers is wanting to overfill them. I really like a lot of fruit filling but then I have trouble sealing up the turnovers! I made some smaller turnovers about the same size as Dorie recommends, but then I made some much larger ones where I was able to get a higher fruit to pastry ratio :) (I only got pictures of the smaller ones with less filling.)

I have to admit that I ate the vast majority of these apple turnovers myself! (I like to use the excuse that I am eating for two.) The pastry was super flaky and buttery... and the apple filling was sweet and delicious. I did add four times the amount of cinnamon recommended, and thought it was just right... so I think it would be a bit bland if you didn't increase the amount of cinnamon. Otherwise this recipe is spot on.

Thanks Julie, for picking this recipe. The turnovers were great and I would definitely make these again. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this wonderful fall treat.

* Recipes notes:
- I used 1 tsp of cinnamon in my apple filling (instead of just 1/4 tsp).
- These can be frozen after they have been assembled (but have not had had the egg wash applied yet). You can freeze them up to 2 months. Just bake them straight from the freezer without defrosting and add a few minutes to the total baking time.
- For more tips, click here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Perfect Pound Cake (SMS)

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Michele of Veggie Num Nums: Perfect Pound Cake. One of the few recipes I've been less than impressed with in baking along with Tuesdays with Dorie has been the Perfection Pound Cake. It was a bit dry and I would chock it up to baker error but several others made the same observation as well. So I was curious to see how this pound cake compared.

I must say that this recipe is much better. Now I'm not sure if that's because it truly is, or because I got lucky. You see, in my rush to get this done today, I only added 1-1/4 cups of cake flour instead of the 1-3/4 cups that you're supposed to add... oops! (I didn't even notice this until I peeked into the oven and it seemed a bit small - I then double checked the recipe and realized my error!) So while I found this pound cake to be nice and moist, I am not sure if that is because it's really a moist pound cake, or because I left out 1/2 cup of flour! I guess you'll have to visit the SMS Blogroll to see if everyone else found this pound cake just as moist as I did :)

Thanks Michele, for choosing this recipe. I may have found my go-to pound cake recipe (just have to make it again as directed to see if it's still just as great).

If you would like the recipe, you can find it here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chocolate Souffle (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Susan of She's Becoming DoughMessTic: Chocolate Souffle! This week's post is going to be short and sweet because I am short on time...

I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated by Susan's choice because I have never made a souffle before and have always heard about how temperamental they are. The recipe was actually rather simple. Heat some chocolate and sugar over a double boiler, add some milk and egg yolks, and then some whipped up egg whites. You just have to be careful folding in the egg whites so you don't deflate them too much. Who knew it was so simple? :)

Unfortunately I burned my souffles a bit, though they did rise quite nicely. I was in such a rush to photograph these that I forgot to dust them with some confectioner's sugar to pretty them up. I also didn't have any time to make a creme anglaise sauce, which would have been spectacular with these. So I'm afraid I have some mediocre photos to share with you this week :(

Thanks Susan, for picking this recipe. The souffles tasted great and I'm so glad I didn't chicken out of this week's challenge. I can't wait to try other souffle recipes now. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this chocolatey treat.

* Recipes notes:
- I halved the recipe and got 3 servings out of it.
- Turn on the oven light towards the end to check on your souffles to make sure they don't burn like mine did!
- For tips, click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies. There's a bottom brownie layer, topped with a cheesecake layer with swirled in brownie batter, topped with a sweetened sour cream glaze.

These were pretty simple to make, but do require several long periods of refrigeration - I wanted to eat these straight from the oven! I'll admit I was a bit unsure about this recipe, but it really surprised me. They're definitely not as chocolately as I thought they would be, but this is a great way to satiate a cheesecake craving without having to go through all the trouble of making a cheesecake. I'd probably describe these more as cheesecake bites than I would brownies, probably because the chocolate flavor is pretty subtle.

The sour cream topping was just barely tart and slightly sweet and was an excellent contrast to the cheesecake and brownie layers. I know several people omitted this, but I would really recommend giving it a try. If I make it without the sour cream topping in the future, then I'll probably cut them into bite size pieces, dip them in chocolate, and then freeze them like those Sara Lee cheesecake bites! :)

Thanks Melissa, for picking this recipe. I enjoyed trying something new. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this creamy, chocolatey treat.

* Recipes notes:
- I used 1 tsp of espresso powder instead of 1.5 tsp and felt this had plenty of coffee flavor!
- I baked my brownies in a dark pan and they were done right at 35 minutes.
- Wrapped well, these will keep in the freezer for 2 months (without the glaze).
- For tips, click here.