Monday, September 22, 2008

Croissants - My First Attempt

I've been wanting to try croissants for a long time now but have always been afraid to try. I searched and found a recipe on La Cerise. I was even more excited try these when I noticed that it was a recipe by Pierre Herme. I decided to give it a try and they didn't quite turn out the way I expected I was happy with the outcome.

Mixing the dough was easier than I expected. My dough was a tad bit sticky. I wasn't sure whether to add more flour or not but decided to leave it.

The first problem I encountered was with the butter which was too cold to work with. The recipe called for cold butter so I was afraid that if I worked it too much it would become too warm and soft. The butter was difficult to spread and it was pulling the dough as I tried to get it to cover all two thirds of the dough. I wished then that I had worked the butter some more to make spreading it easy.

Because the butter was a bit chunky I had problems with it when rolling the dough. It kept falling out. I wanted to give up at this point but considered the costs of the butter that would be wasted.

I enjoyed rolling these up cause they made me feel like I'd accomplished something huge even though the dough didn't turn out as great as I expected. You can see how the chunks of butter were falling out of the dough.

My idea of a perfect croissant is light, flaky, crisp on the outside. Mines didn't turn out that way. They were crisp but not flaky and a bit dense on the inside.

I will not give up though. I wasn't too disappointed since I didn't think that they they turned out all that bad for a first try. I will try these again and include more details and pictures. I will have to wait a while though otherwise my hips won't forgive me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Tart for Tiana

Ever since my niece's mom bought her the first set in the strawberry shortcake collection I have been promising to bake with her but never got the time. Finally I decided to make time with her this past weekend.

Her set included a plate, mini tart pan and a mini rolling pin all of which she wanted to use. It was tough deciding what tart to make since I didn't want to choose one that would be too difficult or one that she wouldn't eat.

The only tart that they've ever enjoyed is the peppermint fridge tart that is a dessert staple with my family. At first I didn't consider this tart since it's made with a biscuit base which meant that she wouldn't get to use her rolling pin. After much deliberation I decided to make the tart but with a crust that would allow her to use her rolling pin.

I wasn't sure how it would turn out since I've never done it before. I decided to use the caramel/mint chocolate cream topping from the peppermint fridge tart and add a ganache layer at the bottom of the tart.

Because I was baking with Tiana I had to really go slowly doing one thing at a time. For the crust we used a sweet tart dough. I forgot to pack my kitchen scale so I had to do a lot of estimations. I decided to make the dough myself while the kids were out so that I wouldn't be left with a great mess to clean up afterwards.

The dough turned out really soft but I decided to leave it that way so that it could be more crumbly once baked.

We rolled the dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper but because the dough was so soft we had to just break off pieces and line the mini tart pans using our fingers. Surprisingly the crust turned out quite well.

Dontae, her older brother wanted a piece of the action too...

...Meanwhile on the other side of the house little brother Ezekiel was ransacking their rooms and playing dress up. Here he is wearing Tiana's boots.

Tiana was so excited to use her little tart pan.

After we had baked all the crusts we went on to make the ganache. Since it was a peppermint tart I decided to use a combination of dark and mint chocolate for the ganache.

We then whipped the fresh cream. Because it was quite warm in the kitchen I decided to whip the cream in an ice water bath to keep the cream cool. We whipped the cream until it was just a little stiff. I was too afraid to mix it any further - I've had bad experiences with fresh cream.

Once the cream was whipped we grated about 140 grams of mint chocolate over the cream. We used a little garlic/zest grater but Tiana thought that it was part of her baking set so I let her have it.

Next we added a can of caramel treat which is basically caramalised condensed milk. If you can't get your hands on caramel treat then just follow the instructions in my previous peppermint fridge tart post to make your own.

We gently folded the chocolate and caramel into the whipped cream until it was well combined.

By the time we were done with the cream the tart shells were already cool so we assembled the tarts immediately after that. Tiana enjoyed this part but I had to watch her otherwise she would have filled the entire tart with just the ganache since she loves chocolate so much.

We made some for the adult folk as well.

After filling the base with ganache I topped the tart with lots of the caramel/peppermint whipped cream. By the time the tarts were completed I was so tired that i forgot to take pictures of the finished tarts.

Go here for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Glorious Apple Cake

I've been wanting to try an apple cake for a very long time. I like the taste of apple pie but always find myself picking out the chunks of apple since I'm not a fan of cooked apples. Because you can't make apple pie without apples I thought that making an apple cake would be the next best thing for me to try.

With hundreds of recipes to choose from I settled on the Double Apple Cake from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I chose this recipe because Dorie Greenspan has a good reputation and also because it calls for grated apples instead of apple chunks. I have never come across apple butter here in South Africa so I made my own using a recipe that I found on the myrecipes website.

Although I found the cake rather pleasant I don't think that apple cake is something I would reach for very often - I'm a chocoholic can you blame me.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs1 cup store-bought apple butter – spiced or plain
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup pecans chopped or walnuts
½ cup plump, moist golden or dark raisins
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Butter and flour a 9-10 inch bundt pan. Don’t place pan on a baking sheet; you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt.

Working with stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl as needed, for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, thick, and pale.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition; you’ll have a light, fluffy batter.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the apple butter – don’t worry if it curdles the batter.

Still on low, add the grated apples and mix to completely blend.

Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and raisins.

Turn the batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with the spatula.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Unmould and cool to room temperature.

Allow the cake to stand overnight to improve the flavour of the cake. Wrap well in cling wrap and leave to stand at room temperature.

Dust with confectioners sugar or drizzle with glaze.

To make glaze:

½ confectioners sugar
Enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a smooth glaze.

Mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Add the juice a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Mix until smooth and satiny.

Apple Butter

The first time I heard of apple butter was a few days ago when looking through some recipes. I remember wondering if it was an apple flavoured butter sought of like garlic butter. I was about to put the recipe away when I decided to google apple butter and discovered that I could in fact make it myself.
I was surprised to see that it look more like jam (jelly) rather than butter. Once I found a suitable recipe I decided to go ahead and give it a try but was later put off when I realised just how time consuming it is. A friend of mine helped me search through recipes until we discovered one that didn't require much time.
The recipe we found was from the myrecipes website. It was easy to understand and didn't require me to use any special pots.

I used starking apples because they are my favourite. I found the apple butter very pleasant but a taste that I would need to get used to especially since I'm not a fan of cooked apples. From what I've read apple butter can also be enjoyed on toast but I decided to make an apple cake. I halved the recipe since I only needed a cup. I also used apple juice instead of the apple cider called for in the recipe and ground cinnamon instead of cinnamon sticks.

Apple Butter

Yield: 4 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup)


4 pounds (1.8kg) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground cloves
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 star anise


Combine apples and cider in a large stockpot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

Place apple mixture in a food processor; pulse 6 times or until chunky. Return to pan.
Stir in sugar and remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat 1 hour or until thick, stirring occasionally. Discard cinnamon and star anise. Cover and chill.

Note: Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 month.