Friday, December 07, 2012

Layers!! Oh and BUTTER!

I cook & bake a lot.  Nick, my son and awesome sous chef, and I like to try out things that we have not made before.  One of these is croissants.  There is an awesome little bakery about 20 minutes down the freeway - thank goodness because if it was any closer we would be in big trouble with our jeans - they have these wonderful flaky croissants.  They have plain that are super buttery and light and they always have stuffed - bacon egg and cheese to chocolate to apple and everything in between.  

I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by making croissant and puff dough.  I have yet to come across something that I can't make.  That doesn't mean I don't fail but that I make it until I get it right.  So I am not sure why I have avoided making croissants.  Whatever the reasons, they are no longer a factor because we conquered making croissants... and did it quite tastily I might add.

I like to spend time on If you haven't checked out his site please do so and take the time to sit and read his many wonderful posts. What I love is how he breaks down what could be thought of as complicated into simple and easy to follow instructions.  

His three pieces of the puzzle ~
the recipe
laminate the dough
the final product

This will be a long post so go ahead and get a cup of coffee to drink while we go through this.  Coffee really does go so nicely with a croissant.  Waiting....

Ok let's make flakiness happen!

I slightly warmed the milk and let the yeast sit on the warmed milk for a couple of minutes before I added the rest of the ingredients and proceeded to mix it all up in my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.  

Switched to the dough hook and kneaded the dough.  It came together very nicely.  Covered with plastic wrap and into the fridge for an hour rest.

This is the part that Nick was looking forward to.  The beating of the butter!  Such a simple thing that can bring such a smile to people. 

Put the butter onto a couple of layers of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle the flour over it then top with a couple more layers of plastic wrap.  Now whack it!  One thing that kept happening to our whackable package is the flour would scoot to the edge of the butter and then get poofed out when whacked.

We found that if you held the plastic at the edge and folded the butter in on itself, you could get the flour to work in easier. Fold, cover, turn, whack whack whack!

Bahahaha!  Listening to music as I type and Ottis is singing Tenderness in my ears!  Which is opposite of what Joe says - "when making pastry, violence is always the first resort."  Not quite tenderness eh?! LOL!

Once the butter and flour are making nice nice form it into a square and cover with the plastic wrap again and set it in the fridge while playing with the dough.

You might think this dough will need more flour for handling but it needed a surprisingly small amount to be worked.

Roll out the dough to make a square a bit larger than your butter square.  Bring your butter back into play.  Set it into the center of your dough. (Joe shows this next part well - which is good because I forgot to picture it! I would face palm myself but then I would make my son's day and well I am just not that nice of a mom!)

Grab a corner of dough and bring it around the butter up to the center. Do that with all for corners - remember making cootie catchers?!  Yeah!  Then pinch the seams together. If they don't want to stick dip your finger in some water and get the seam just the teeniest bit wet and that should help.

Now you have your nice package of dough with that flat of butter inside.  Time to whack it again.  Whack it in an asterisk pattern. Corner to corner, turn 45 degrees, whack, turn 45 degrees and you got it - whack!  Do this for a few go a rounds.  Your butter will become a nice layer in your dough and it is now time to roll.

Roll it out to a nice rectangle.  You should be able to feel lumps of butter all around the edge. Yay for butter lumpies!  Brush off excess flour - you don't have to be totally OCD about it but there shouldn't be any particles thick spots of flour on your dough. 

Using your pastry blade - great tool, get one if your tool bin doesn't have one - tri-fold the dough.

Like when you send a fancy letter to a lawyer or someone you care to impress.  If there are spots where the butter is trying to poke through just sprinkle with a bit of flour and pat it in.  

Turn the dough and roll it out again.

Tri-fold the dough once again and transfer it to a baking sheet, cover and let it rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. 

I was surprised by the puffiness when I pulled it out for the next step.  That is just happy yeast!  
If you are making croissants then this can be your final turn.  It is up to you.  Mine came out just right with three turns.  
Time to roll and fold again.  You want to do a book fold this time. Roll out the dough in a long rectangle. Take one end and fold it to the center. Take the other end and fold it into the center to meet the other end.  Now simply close the book by taking one side and folding it over to the other side.

Using your pastry blade cut your dough into desired amounts.

Look at those layers!  Ahhhhh!

I finished with three pieces of dough just over a pound each.  I wrapped one in plastic wrap for use the next day and I bagged the other two and put them in the freezer for later use.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours - I let it chill overnight.

Next morning .... puffy in da house!!

This dough is such a delight to work with.  Not too much fight but you can tell it will stand its ground.

As you can see I am not so good at that precise corner thing ha!  But I did get out the ruler to try to get that dough as rolled out as instructed.  

Using my pizza cutter I cut out half of the dough in triangles for croissants and half in rectangles for pain au chocolates.  
Pull the little points out a but and cut a small slit to give it a bit of a bend.

Fold the slit end up and tug those points again.

Roll 'em up!

Place your croissants on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bend them or leave them straight. Time to rest for about an hour until nice and puffy looking.

I wasn't quite sure about how to roll up the PAC.  (Now with more information I could have done it a bit differently.)  I put the chocolate on the end and folded the sides over and hen rolled it up.

Makes for a neat little package.  But maybe a bit smaller than I like.

Place on a lined baking sheet and rest like the croissants.

Puffed and then brushed with egg wash for shininess. Pop into the oven and bake!

Golden brown puffed flakiness!

Croissant recipe from Joe Pastry....

For the dough (d├ętrempe):

22 ounces (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) instant yeast yeast
14 ounces (1 1/2 cups) milk at room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 cup) half-and-half at room temperature

For the butter slab:

3 Tbsp flour
12 ounces cold Euro-style (cultured) butter

Go make some croissants!

: )

Saturday, December 01, 2012


As Wiki says....
Mise-en-place (pronounced [miz on plas]) is a French phrase which means "everything in place", as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meatrelishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare during his/her shift.

Mise-en-place sounds all sorts of fancy but what it should sound like is the first step to success.  Success with your time in the kitchen. Mise-en-place is not just for professional chefs and sous-chefs but everyone with a spatula in their hands.

Mise-en-place is simply put ~ getting ready to cook.  Here is my take on mise-en-place, not a fancy certificate on the wall explanation but rather an everyday kitchen user's explanation. 

  • Clean your kitchen.  A clean kitchen will afford you the luxury of moving around and finding items easily.
  • Print out your recipe or set you cookbook up on a stand that makes it easy to read.  Read through your recipe several times.  Then read through it again until you have the major points stuck in your brain.  Nothing in the recipe should come as a surprise to you as you are executing the recipe. 
  • Prepare all of your tools.  Not only if the recipe says to prepare a pan but also if you need more than one bowl or a scraper... have these items handy or know right where they are before starting.  Realizing that your 1/2 teaspoon measure is sitting in the dishwasher dirty when you need to add the baking soda to a waiting batter is just not conducive to an easy and stress-free time in the kitchen.
  • Ready your appliances.  Need a hand mixer?  Take it out and find the beaters.  Need to preheat your oven?  Well turn it on.  Locate your timer.
  • Time to prepare your ingredients.  Wash, chop, lay out, count... whatever the recipe says do.  If your recipe calls for '1/2 cup walnuts, chopped' don't wait until you are supposed to incorporate the nuts to do the measuring and chopping.  Instead measure, chop and put the nuts into a bowl and set it aside.  Now they are ready for when called for in the recipe.  No scrambling to get an ingredient ready at the last minute.
  • Think you are ready now?  Nope. Read your recipe once again, get yourself a nice glass of water and then wash your hands.  Now you are ready to cook!

Sounds like a lot of work even before you start to cook?  Maybe but it really does make a difference in how well your recipes turn out and how much stress you have while cooking.  Cooking shouldn't be stressful, it should be enjoyable and I hope this helps make it so for you.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

We all have this recipe, don't we? Yet when I wanted to make - actually Nick wanted me to make it - I couldn't find my recipe.  Ok fine I know what goes in it just wing it!  So I did and when we finished eating that evening we all decided that it was yummy enough to have again.  Just in case you don't have a tried and true recipe you are welcome to give mine a go.

But one thing I think made the difference - the temperature outside.  It has to be on the chilly side and a bit of wind and/or mistiness really does enhance the flavor of a chickenbeefturkey pot pie.

Unfortunately this is not a mix together and pop it into the oven pot pie. You have to saute, boil, whisk, roll, then mix and pop into the oven.

I must confess I used *whispering* store bought unroll pie crusts.  But I did have to roll them out a bit!  I hope that counts for a wee bit!

When baking any sort of closed crust 'pie' be sure that you have some sort of vent - the steam will find its way out one way or another and it may not be pretty.

No egg wash and it came out just fine - crispy and brown.

Tasty. Warm. Homey.

Chicken Pot Pie
by My Sisters Table

3 or 4 chicken breasts, cubed
2 tablespoons butter

6 ounces baby carrots, cut in half
3 new (red or white) potatoes, cubed
8 ounces (1/2 bag) frozen peas
8 ounces (1/2 bag) frozen corn

1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 tablespoons butter*
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour*
1 1/2 cups milk*
White wine - enough to make 1 cup with chicken broth

Salt & pepper to taste.

2 unbaked pie crusts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
Start 2 pots of water to boil. Put a pinch or two of salt into the water.

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a fry pan and cook the chicken over medium heat until just done. You should get a lot of broth out of the chicken during this cooking. With a slotted spoon take the chicken pieces out of the pan and put into a large mixing bowl. Many of the ingredients that will be going into this bowl will be quite hot so choose a heat proof bowl. Pour off the juice into a heat proof measuring cup. I got about 1/2 cup but your measurement may be different.

When the pots of water come to a boil add your carrots to one and the potatoes to the other. Cook both until just tender - you may want to stop at al dente depending on how you like your vegetables. They will cook for a bit longer in the oven so keep that in mind. Once the potatoes are done drain them them add them to the bowl with the chicken. When the carrots are just tender add the corn and peas. Bring back to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes then drain and add the carrots, peas and corn to the bowl.

Top off your chicken broth with white wine so that you have 1 cup together.
Your fry pan probably has a bunch of bits all over the bottom and that is a good thing this will add yumminess to your sauce! Add the butter, onion and garlic to the pan and over medium heat cook until the onions start to get soft. Using a whisk, add the flour and whisk and cook for about 1 minute. Add the broth/wine and the milk slowly while whisking continuously. Bring this to a boil still whisking until it has become thick and sauce-ay! Salt and pepper the sauce to your taste.

Pour the sauce into the bowl and mix all of your pie filling together.

Roll out your pie crusts to fit a 9''x13'' pan. If you use the pre-made crusts they will roll out rather thin for this size but work just fine. Put in your bottom crust and and let any excess just hang over the edge. Put your filling into the crust and moisten the edge of the crust with your finger dipped into water. Top with your second crust and crimp the edges together by pinching with your fingers or using a fork. With a sharp knife cut a few vent holes in the top crust.

Bake in the 350 degree oven for 40 minutes until the top crust is golden brown. If you used a glass pan the bottom and side crust should be light brown but not too dark. Let set for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

*If you want your filling to be saucier use:
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
(wine/broth amount is the same as above)
Follow the above directions.


: )

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shoo-Fly Cake...

I recently joined a group called The Cake Slice.  A cake cookbook is chosen then each month a recipe is voted on and the group all make the decided on cake.  What a great way to try out new recipes and to meet new bakers!

The cookbook that we will be working through is Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson .  And the first cake that we are baking is the Shoo-Fly Cake.  You like Grandma's kitchen and warm gingerbread?  You will enjoy this cake... for dessert or with coffee in the morning.

I love that the recipes give weights for the ingredients! Folks get yourselves a scale and weigh your stuff - it is the best way to insure consistent yummy results.

Let's get going with the topping.  Butter, flour and brown sugar is not a bad way to start off!

Now the recipe says to use your fingers to get the topping to a crumb.  Well I have fingers nails and that just isn't a pretty mess so in my house we use a pastry cutter.  Quite the handy tool - try it for mashed potatoes sometime. Once crumbled put the mixture into the fridge for some chill time.... then remember that you haven't turned the oven on to preheat and do that.

I also don't do much sifting.  I use a whisk for the dry ingredients first then move onto the wet. Did I mention weigh your ingredients?!

Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  At this point I realized that I had actually drank the coffee that I need for the cake and take a break to make a new cup. Gives the oven more time to heat up. ; )

So for the next part of the recipe we whisk together all the gooeyness!  Melted butter, molasses eggs, sugar and vanilla. The sugar likes to clump up so be sure to show it some gentle muscle.


Time to make it all work together.... coffee, gooey, flour, coffee, gooey, flour.  Scrape and whisk.

Pour into a buttered pan and sprinkle the topping all over.  Time to get baked!

The Shoo-Fly Cake Recipe can be found in the cookbook Vintage Cakes.

A couple of side notes....
I used a 9" square pan.  The recipe calls for a 9" round pan.  Neither of these pans is big enough for this recipe.  Due to the small pan size my cake did not bake evenly.  When all was said and done it was yummy served with a dollop of whipped cream but I will remake this cake and use a more appropriate sized pan.

Visit the other Cake Slice Bakers here.