Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Homemade Bagels

Update Feb. 4: I made these again this weekend (third batch), yummy. This photo is of batch 3.

For Update Feb. 28, see below.

Tackling two of my favorite breads
Thanks to Nicky of Delicious Days, I no longer have to travel far to sample two of my favorite breads. I've described before how pleased I was to make Liguria-style crunchy-tender, olive-oily focaccia. And now New York seems a little closer as I've just discovered I can make bagels in my own kitchen. Not only that, but gone is my fear of baking with yeast. Both of these recipes were very easy. I don't even have a Kitchenaid, and still managed to knead the bagel dough to the right consistency.

But are they authentic?
At least I think they're the right consistency. I'm not a New Yorker (though I did live in Brooklyn for over a year), and will have to defer to my friends from over there to judge whether these bagels pass muster. I know a bagel should not resemble bread in a doughnut form. I know my friends feel strongly that the only way to warm a bagel is to heat it uncut, in the oven. I suppose this preserves its chewy inside texture. But as a bagel novice, I think these homemade ones may be the right combination of chewy and tender, not too bready, with shiny slightly crackling crusts that aren't too crunchy. I look forward to submitting them to the experts' opinions.

First batch, first mistake
I made two batches. The first came out too crunchy, but perhaps that was because, busy with making dinner while at the same time taking pictures, I left the plastic bowl with the rising dough on a hot stove top.
It melted, as I was taking this photo to the right (after one hour of rising). The bottom of the dough didn't burn, but basically baked into a crust. I threw out the bowl and any of the dough that didn't seem supple and elastic, but I still think the extra heat from the stove did bad things to the yeast.

The following two photos were taken of this first batch. Left: the bagels simmering before baking. Right: the final result, tasty but hard lumpy things.

Quick learning curve
So today I made another batch, and it rose beautifully. I was worried my kitchen was too cold (25 to 27°C I believe is the ideal rising temperature) so I put the dough in the cold oven. I also used my new thermometer that beeps if it gets too hot, which was lucky, as the oven started heating up, apparently simply from the fermentation process. I opened the oven door a crack and all went well.

Shaping still a challenge
I still have to work on improving the shapes of the bagels. Nicky's bagels are so smooth and rotund, they make me think of my children's cheeks. My bagels were much more uneven in shape.

But otherwise I would say this batch was a total success. And easy to make.

Changes to the recipe
The following are the changes I made to the recipe after my first semi-successful batch. I know the major culprit was probably melting the mixing bowl... Still, I do like to cross-reference recipes and found the following ideas in several recipes from the internet. It's hard to say if these changes are in any way responsible for the better results I had the second time around.

- I added about 1 or 2 tspn of sugar to the dough, as all other recipes called for some sugar
- After kneading I placed the dough in a slightly oiled bowl and turned the dough around in the oil to coat it so it wouldn't dry out during the rising process. My first batch was somewhat dry, but again that may have been from the burst of heat to which it was subjected...
- I used a warm wet towel to cover the bowl during the rising, again in the hope the dough wouldn't dry out.
- I made slightly larger bagels than Nicky recommends. While I agree small is cute, I don't like too high a crust-to-inside ratio.
- I added two tablespoons of molasses to the simmering water. Many recipes talk about malt syrup, which I certainly don't possess, and a few suggested molasses as an alternative, which I happened to have on hand. Sugar might also do the trick it seems.
- I turned over the bagels after 30 seconds of simmering to make sure the other side was simmered as well. I actually tried simmering them longer for my first batch, as many recipes suggest 3 minutes on each side, but it appears a total of 1 min. is sufficient as my second batch had a nicer crust. Then again, so many variables changed from one batch to the next, it's hard to tell which factor caused the better crust.
- I brushed the bagels with a mixture of egg white, water and salt, to make the sesame seeds and/or salt adhere better, and to make them more shiny and brown.
- I increased the heat to 220°C, then quickly became nervous and lowered it back to 200°. For some reason my oven, which is usually quite regular, browned the bagels unevenly, so I had to turn the pan around at the mid-point. Perhaps I shouldn't have fooled with the temperature.

Below is the recipe directly copied from Delicious Days (without the changes listed above). Thanks again Nicky!

Recipe: Bagels
Source: Delicious Days

Mini Bagels

Recipe source: Fingerfood (Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell), p. 121, adapted

Prep time: 30min., rising time: ~90min., baking: 10-15min.

Ingredients (yields 16-20 mini bagels):

250g white flour (I used type 450)
1 tsp salt
165ml lukewarm water
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dry yeast
poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.

1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a little depression in the middle. Then pour water and olive oil into the depression and sprinkle dry yeast on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes.

2. Either use your kitchen machine or knead by hand until the dough becomes smooth, shiny and elastic. Add some more flour if it feels too sticky. Again, let the covered bowl rest at a warm place for about 60-90 minutes (size of dough should have doubled by then).

3. Preheat oven to 200°C (392°F). Punch down the dough, and shape about 16 to 20 equally sized little balls. Now comes the fun part: You can either use your index finger (poke it in flour first) or the handle of a wooden spoon to create a hole in the middle and try to give each bagel a nice look. Be sure to make the holes a notch larger than you’d think is necessary, they tend to quickly close up as the bagels rise and bake.

4. Heat up a pot of saltwater and bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer. Send bagels into the hot water for about a minute (they’ll float on top) and remove with a skimmer. Imagine wrinkled fingers after a long hot bath - yep, that’s what they look like now.

Note: You could now brush some egg yolk over the bagels to give them a darker (and more yellow-ish) color. We tried with a few and found the original color to be much nicer looking.

5. Sprinkle with sesame, poppy seeds or other seeds/spices of your choice and bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooled down a bit you can serve right then and there, but they also taste phenomenal the next morning, straight from the toaster with cream cheese and jam.

Update Feb. 28:
Below is batch number 5. I'm really enjoying baking bagels, the smell of yeast in the kitchen, and seeing the kids enjoy them as much as we do. I've learned a bit more about making pretty shapes thanks to detailed descriptions on All Recipes. These were shaped with the help of my four-year old, who loved poking her finger in the dough and swinging the dough around her finger (or trying to).

These contain about 30% wholewheat flour (which I find is a little too much). I make a double batch now and divide the dough in 12 pieces for larger bagels, or 16 for small bagels (but not tiny). I include 2 teaspoons sugar in this double batch, and boil them in water that contains two tablespoons molasses.

I still have to figure out how to prepare them so we can have them fresh for breakfast. I've tried forming the bagels and storing them in the fridge overnight before boiling, but the yeast must have continued its work for too long and they kind of deflated, making rather flat if tasty bagels. This time, following All Recipes advice, I've frozen a few bagels before the boiling stage, and will thaw them overnight in the fridge, then bring them to room temperature before boiling and baking. We'll see how that turns out. I'm also counting on my friend Tanya who is making multiple trials of this recipe to figure out how morning bagels can be achieved with minimal morning work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Celebration Cakes and Another Video

Update August 2009: I posted the recipe and process photos for the meringue d'automne here.

Eureka! After various attempts, I've found a recipe for a fancy chocolate cake that is both beautiful to look at and very good to eat. And Sugar High Friday offers me a good occasion to post about it.

I used a recipe from Pierre Hermé (Meringue d'Automne) and instead of his icing, used an Alice Medrich technique for wrapping the cake in chocolate and decorating it with chocolate ruffles.

A word about the chocolate
Given the cake is wrapped in pure chocolate, quality is essential. I used Valrohna Manjari, 64% cocoa. Though initially quite passionate about very dark chocolate, I've lately been finding 70% is a bit much in anything but small quantities or unmixed with other flavors. Manjari is fruitier and no matter how many ruffles you eat with your cake, you do not feel overly saturated with cocoa. At least not if you like dark chocolate. And I certainly don't want to feel saturated, as the last time I was in Paris I bought a 3 kg bag of it at G. Detou...

More videos and recipes to come
I had great ambitions of giving the detailed recipe(s), detailed videos etc. But given the deadline for posting for the Sugar High Friday, I will have to update this post later with further information and videos. To start with, below is a video I put together on making the chocolate ruffles.

How-to video for making the chocolate ruffles

(Sorry about the background noise, I unthinkingly left my microphone near my computer's fan.)

I also encourage you to view the master herself, Alice Medrich, on the PBS website, from "Julia Child Cooking with Master Chefs." Watching Alice Medrich on video is how I learned to make the ruffles, and what inspired me to try my own hand at video demonstrations.

A few step-by-step photos
The meringue disks were not perfect, but this doesn't show underneath the combination of mousse and ruffles.

My first attempt at making the cake exactly as per Hermé's recipe (ie no ruffles, just his shiny smooth icing).

The problem for me was two-fold: the icing is a nuisance to make -- not that the ruffles aren't work, they're just more fun -- and I don't know how to get a sleek finish, especially when you consider the building blocks of the cake were approximate spirals of meringue, clumsily covered with chocolate mousse. Hard to turn something lumpy into something slick. Chocolate ruffles do a good job of hiding imperfections. And they taste delicious!

The advantage of a classic icing is you can write a message in white chocolate. Alas, my white chocolate clumped up, probably from having been melted at too high a temperature.

But lumpy or not, the cake tasted good. I just had to improve its appearance. That's when I decided to try it with ruffles.

A few more shots of the version with the ruffles
When I make a celebration cake, I never seem to have time to take good pictures once it is finished. At that point we have to rush it to whatever party it's being brought to. Luckily some guests took the following pictures.

While the flash is harsh, it shows the shiny chocolate wrapping.

I had to crop the following shot out as the background was very cluttered. I'm including it here to give an idea of the inside of the cake.

Another less successful attempt
For the same occasion as the cake above, I also made a chocolate génoise filled with whipped chocolate ganache and raspberries, inspired by an Alice Medrich recipe, and which I've posted about here:

This one wasn't as popular as the meringue cake. I personally found it a bit too strong and flat in its chocolate flavor. But then, I made it with 70% cocoa chocolate (not Valrohna). I should try it again with the 64% chocolate for the filling, or with more sugar mixed into the ganache. A. Medrich gives some tips on different percentage chocolate substitutions, and I'm not sure I followed them. Perhaps also the icing needs a lighter touch in terms of cocoa. Again I had trouble spreading the icing in a smooth pattern. The wrapping in chocolate technique is really a good way to get shiny smooth sides.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Home Cooking Videos

I've decided to try to make a home-video of one of the recipes I often make, Brown Sugar Cookies. If you want to skip the caveats, go to the bottom of this post to view the videos.

Why a video? Because I personally really enjoy and learn a lot from being able to view and view again cooking videos on websites such as PBS Julia Child Lessons with Master Chefs or the NY Times Minimalist (click on Style / Dining & Wine in the left-hand Channels column).

And I figure we amateur cooks publishing blogs can also contribute with our home-made videos. True, the production quality of what I am about to show you is abysmal. I know nothing about making movies. I hope to improve, as I just found these tips, though the little I've read already intimidates me. But most of all, I hope that the homey quality of the video will help to reassure home-bakers that they too can obtain good results.

I would be very interested in your opinions or suggestions. Is it worth making home cooking videos? Even if I've minimized fuss as much as possible (only filming one work area, with a camera on a tripod, using the original audio rather than doing voice overs, using free editing software such as Windows Movie Maker...), it still takes a certain amount of time to produce a clip. Does this kind of film give more information than detailed, step-by-step photos?

Have a look here and let me know. Oh and also, if you know of good cooking video web sites, I'm always eager to discover more videos.

Video: Brown Sugar Cookies I - Making the Dough (4:06)
Nothing revolutionary shown here: just me and my hand-held mixer mixing the ingredients together.

Video: Brown Sugar Cookies II - Rolling out the dough for cut-out cookies (3:08)
Here I show how to roll dough between sheets of parchment paper, before it's chilled. This lets you roll the dough very thin.

Video: Brown Sugar Cookies III - Cutting out and baking the cookies (2:11)
Once the rolled-out dough has been chilled, it's very easy to make crisp shapes. (You'll notice my kids and pregnant belly were not far on this video... this is real-world baking, no prep chefs or fancy kitchens or studio equipment here!)

Sunday, January 14, 2007


If you have some puff pastry leftovers, these attractive cookies are extremely easy to make.

Recipe: Palmiers
(*All asterisks refer to changes I've since made to this recipe, see bottom of post for an update)

- Puff pastry scraps (or store-bought puff pastry)
- Sugar
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little salt)

Carefully superimpose your puff pastry scraps. You don't want to roll them in a ball or you will lose their layered structure. Then roll the dough into a rough rectangle. I would guess about 20 to 25 cm wide? I should have measured it. Brush the dough with egg wash*, and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

Then start folding the dough over itself on both sides, vertically and symetrically, until the two rolled* sides meet each other in the center. Place in the refrigerator or in the freezer until quite firm (15 minutes in freezer, more or less).

Brush the rolled dough with egg wash, then sprinkle again with sugar. Cut into slices. Take each palmier and dip bottom and possibly top* in sugar, depending on how sweet you like them. The dough is unsweetened, so you don't have to be shy of the sugar. Also the sugar on the bottom and outside of the cookies will caramelize, which gives the cookie its distinct look and flavor.

Place the palmiers on a sheet of baking paper. Place them a bit wider apart than on this photo, as mine expanded and touched each other during baking. They shouldn't be rolled* too tightly or the centers of their spirals will tend to rise up (as was the case with some of mine). Then again, if they are too loose the two sides will not stick together and the cookies will unroll. It doesn't really matter either way, they will be good. One recipe I read suggested pressing down on the palmiers with your thumb to weld the two sides together, but I didn't really dare do that (afraid of ruining my precious puff paste layers!)

Bake in a 190°C* oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They should be caramelized, but if you want them soft in the center bake them for the shorter duration.

Let them cool on a rack and then store in a tin with a tight-fitting cover.

* * *

Update Jan 16
These were made by my friend Claire:

"Et voila ! Ils sont delicieux et tout le monde a adore. Merci pour la recette."

Thanks Claire!

* * *

*Update November 2008

Sorry for all those annoying asterisks, but I made these a couple times since this post and wanted to suggest a few changes to my recipe:

- No need for egg wash

- Fold, don't roll the sides: the folds shown here turned into rounded coils during baking

- I only dip the bottom in sugar, which makes the cookie caramellize underneath but keeps the top side crisp and neat. (In the photo below, the bottom right-hand palmier is displayed caramelized side up).

- I try to bake them quite dark, but I have gone too dark with a few, which makes them taste bitter. Careful.

- Finally, and I haven't tested this yet, but I think the slices should be cut a little thicker than on any of these photos.

* * *

Puff Pastry recipes
- Traditional pâte feuilletée
- Pâte feuilletée inversée

Recipes that use puff pastry
- Galette des rois or Pithiviers first post
- Galette des rois second post and third post
- Palmiers (particularly good for using up the precious scraps of dough) (This post)
- Cheese straws or puffs (also good for scraps of dough)
- Caramelized puff pastry
- Fig and goat cheese tartlets
- Lemon millefeuille

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Galette Number 2 Was Almost Perfect...

I had a little leftover frozen puff pastry and filling from my galette, and decided to try again, making a small galette for two.

What went right: The designs came out sharp, the galette was browner, the frangipane filling was a little more firm, the galette seemed crisper, and overall it was one of the best we've had.

What went wrong: the filling leaked on both sides! I don't know what I did differently from galette number 1. Was it the slightly higher temperature of the oven? The fact that the filling was chilled, and expanded with the heat of the oven, causing more pressure on the seams of the galette? Or was I less careful about sealing the dough? (I don't think so). Other reasons might be dough that is too thin, or filling that is too thick, but I don't think either of these was the cause.

Lessons for my next galette (in a year!)
- Make sure to trace a design on the galette after glazing it with egg wash. For some reason I think that as the recipe calls for two layers of egg wash, for galette number 1 I may have traced my designs after layer number one, and before layer number two...
- Use a knife to make your decorations: and don't bother using the back of the knife, galette number 2 was marked (carefully) with the tip of a sharp knife
- Bring the filling to room temperature before filling and sealing the galette (then chill the whole galette 30 min. before baking)
- Be extra careful about leaving a wide rim around the filling and chasing out any air bubbles from the inside out (but I really was careful...)
- Don't roll the dough too thin (3 mm no less)
- Don't use too much filling (even with the loss through leakage this galette had plenty of filling)
- Glaze with sugar syrup, as described in my last post, not with confectioners' sugar (as recommended by one recipe, which suggested simply to sprinkle confectioners sugar on the hot galette and return it to the oven. The sugar did not liquify and the result was dull. The photos in this post were taken before this attempt with confectioners sugar. Arguably the galette didn't need any extra glazing at all.)
- Bake in a 190 or 200°C oven. Perhaps start higher and lower the temperature later if you feel the galette is browning too fast. I think this higher temperature made the galette look better but also it was more thoroughly baked, and as a result less greasy from the butter.

* * *

Again, I remain in awe of how folding butter carefully into dough can generate such volume.

Before baking:

Afer baking:

* * *
Recap of all puff pastry-related recipes on this blog:

Puff Pastry recipes
- Traditional pâte feuilletée
- Pâte feuilletée inversée

Recipes that use puff pastry
- Galette des rois or Pithiviers first post
- Galette des rois this post and third post
- Palmiers (particularly good for using up the precious scraps of dough)
- Cheese straws or puffs (see above, under "First Test")
- Caramelized puff pastry (pâte feuilletée caramélisée)
- Fig and goat cheese tartlets
- Lemon millefeuille

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Galette des Rois

Update, January 17, 2013: I've been making galettes every year since this post, and I must add a comment and a photo: make sure you bake your galettes until they are dark golden brown, and don't bother with a grill to limit expansion, or with glazing.

3 of the 5 galettes I made for Epiphany 2013

The first galette, illustrated in the post below, was clearly underbaked...

----------- Original post -----------

My first galette -- also known as a Pithiviers -- was a success. Not as beautiful as this one. But very puffy, and very tasty. Below are some photos and explanations of the step-by-step process. The recipe itself is farther down in this post. [Please also read my later post on galette number 2]
(Apologies, all photos were taken at night, in a badly lit kitchen, in a bit of a rush due to the impending arrival of guests.)

Roll out the puff pastry quite thin (3 mm) in two disks. I found it hard to keep the circular shapes once I transferred the disks from the table to a mat to store them briefly in the fridge.

The "frangipane" filling is spread in the center, leaving a wide rim of dough uncovered for sealing the top and bottom layers. My filling was a bit on the runny side, perhaps I should have chilled it first. I found this amount sufficient but some may prefer a thicker layer. The "fève" (in this case a porcelain Minnie Mouse, perhaps not very traditional but to the liking of part of my audience) is inserted in the filling. For those who don't have a fève, a whole almond could be used.

Sealing the two disks of dough carefully is important (isn't it!). Chase any air bubbles from the inside out. Again I had trouble believing this flat crèpe of a cake would ever become a substantial galette. But that is the magic of puff paste...

The recipe suggested placing a grill over the cake to limit and stabilize its growth, as described here and illustrated here. I placed it about 4 or 4.5cm above the bottom of the galette (try enlarging the photo to the right to see what I mean), thinking I had left more than enough room. But the dough did puff up to the grill. I was worried it would push through the grill but luckily it stayed neatly tucked in.

I had made designs on top of the cake but they were practically gone by the time the galette was baked. In part because they were overwritten by the print of the grill, but also perhaps because I used a toothpick held at a low angle (to avoid piercing the dough) rather than the inverted knife as suggested.

I found other recipes that suggested glazing the top of the galette with a sugar syrup. I tried this with success. Take a small amount of sugar and the same weight in water, let them boil together for 2 or 3 minutes, then brush the baked cake. Put the cake back in the oven for two minutes and voilà, you have a shiny cake. The additional sweetness is welcome as the dough is not sweet.

The galette flattened when cut. The filling was quite moist, more flavorful than store-bought versions thanks to the vanilla seeds and the touch of rhum. The overall impression was very rich and buttery.

I was pleased when a very picky eater chose to wolf down an entire slice. I had thought the children wouldn't like the galette, so with some of the leftover dough I quickly made "palmiers," shown in the background of the top-most photo (post to come soon, hopefully).

For another great photo illustration of the step by step process, see the post about galettes on Le hamburger et le croissant.

Recipe: Galette des Rois
Source: Frais!

Ingredients for two galettes
[I chose to halve the recipe, thinking we wouldn't want to eat two galettes, but now there is none left I regret this decision...]

For the crust
- 1 recipe puff paste from the Frais! post above, briefly translated to English in my previous post.
Or use ready-made puff pastry (make sure you have enough for 4 28-cm disks if you are making two galettes). Try to find puff pastry made with all butter.

For the "frangipane" filling
The filling is made of a mixture of crème pâtissière and almond cream.
[It sounds complicated but it's not really. I've seen other recipes with a simpler version of the filling but this one seems quite authentic. And it tastes very good. This coming from someone who's not a frangipane fan.]

Crème pâtissière
- 1/4 liter milk (250g)
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
- 60g sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 20g corn starch

Almond Cream
- 160g butter [I assume it must be soft, not melted]
- 160g confectioners' sugar
- 160g ground almonds
- 4g corn starch
- 2 eggs
- 30g rhum [I used about 25% less]

Egg wash for before baking. Mix together:
- 1 egg
- salt
Syrup for after baking [my addition, inspired by other recipes]
Boil together for 2 or 3 minutes:
- 30g sugar
- 30g water

Make the crème pâtissière
Boil the milk with the vanilla bean and seeds and half the sugar. Mix the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks and the corn starch. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the boiling milk on the egg mixture then return to the stove and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Count 1 minute from boiling, whisking vigorously the whole time [I couldn't quite tell when it reached boiling point as I was whisking the whole time, but basically when you see the cream thickening you can stop.] Pour into the bowl and cover with saran wrap so no skin forms. Let it cool.

Make the almond cream
Mix the butter, the confectioners sugar, the ground almonds and the corn starch. Mix the eggs in little by little and combine thoroughly. Add the rhum. Cover and set aside.

Assemble the galette
(Instructions for a single galette)
Slice two quarters of the puff pastry if you made it yourself and roll each out to about 3mm. Cut out a 28cm disk in each. Store in the refrigerator.
Whisk the cooled crème pâtissière, and add the almond cream.
Take one of the dough circles out of the refrigeterator and paint a 1.5 cm rim of egg wash around the edge, making sure the egg doesn't dribble over the side (where it would inhibit the rising of the puff pastry).
Pour or pipe the frangipane cream into the middle of the dough circle, taking care to leave a 1.5cm rim uncovered.
Add a "fève" or a whole almond to the frangipane at this point. (Don't forget!)
Place the second disk of dough on top. Seal the edges very carefully so there are no air bubbles, thereby preventing leakage of the filling (see comment above).
Flip the cake over [this I believe has something to do with improving its rising propensities, I'll spare you the details].
Brush with egg wash, again making sure none goes over the sides of the galette, to preserve its full rising power, and store in refrigerator for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C [correction: 190 or 200°C, see this post]. Put the galette on a sheet of baking paper or silpat sheet. Again brush with egg wash, and make a design with the back of a knife. Place in oven with a grill placed above it (see comment above). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Glaze with sugar syrup and place in oven for another 2 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Serve lukewarm, reheating the galette briefly if necessary.

* * *

So again, is it worth making from scratch?

In a recent article in Le Monde (Jan 3rd, 2007), the following was written about bakery galettes:

"La galette des Rois est devenue une sorte de gâteau familial qui fait le bonheur des enfants avec sa fève et sa couronne. Mais son prix frise parfois l'extravagance. Dans cette boulangerie parisienne du 3e arrondissement, rue de Bretagne, il vous en coûtera 43 euros le kilo, soit autour de 30 euros pour une galette à la frangipane pour six personnes."

Or summarized in English: Galettes have become ridiculously expensive. In a bakery from the neighborhood where I used to live, the price was 30 euros for a galette for six people.

My conclusion: if you enjoy the process, it's definitely worth making yourself. It's fun, the final result is delicious, and you save money.

Then again, the article did go on to say that you can get a very good and inexpensive ready-made galette from Picard Surgelés (French frozen goods supermarkets). Make sure you choose the one that has to be baked, not the one that is simply reheated. The latter is faster to serve but not as good. For those of you lucky enough to live near a Picard store...

* * *
Recap of all puff pastry-related recipes on this blog:

Puff Pastry recipes
- Traditional pâte feuilletée
- Pâte feuilletée inversée

Recipes that use puff pastry
- Galette des rois or Pithiviers first post
- Galette des rois (this post) second post and third post
- Palmiers (particularly good for using up the precious scraps of dough)
- Cheese straws or puffs (see above, under "First Test")
- Caramelized puff pastry (pâte feuilletée caramélisée)
- Fig and goat cheese tartlets
- Lemon millefeuille

Saturday, January 06, 2007

729 Layers

Update January 2008: I've posted here about another puff pastry recipe.

Overcoming Intimidation
When I was 15, I met a baking apprentice who was only a little older than I was. I was fascinated, and one of the first questions I asked was, "isn't it hard to make puff pastry?" (pâte feuilletée). Not that I had tried making it myself, but at the time I already loved reading cookbooks and had read all about the time-consuming process.

It has taken me almost 25 years to finally try to make one myself. To celebrate la Fête des Rois (Epiphany?) the French way, we need a galette des rois. This is a puff paste cake with a layer of "frangipane" (almond cream) in the middle, as well as a "fève" (small porcelain figure) hidden inside. Whoever gets the fève is crowned king or queen for the day.

First Test
So far I've only made the puff pastry (the galette is scheduled for tomorrow), but I was itching to test whether it would indeed swell up into layers of buttery dough. So I made a quick batch of cheese puffs: I rolled out a small portion of dough about 2 mm thin, brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled it with grated cheese and cut it into thin wedges. Then baked it at 180°C for 15 min.

The miracle happened before my eyes in the oven: the thin, limp little slips of dough puffed and puffed and puffed, till most of them fell over onto their sides, having grown taller than they were wide. Success!

Is It Worth the Trouble?
The only thing is... they taste good, but not "oh my goodness I'll never be able to buy frozen puff pastry again" good. I'll give my final verdict tomorrow based on the galette. But in the meantime, I'm delighted I overcame my fear of puff pastry. And it was fun to make.

My 2 Cents on How to Do it
The recipe I used was a combination of this source and this one. As they are in French, I'll provide some basic instructions in English below, but look at the step by step photos on the second source to learn how to roll out and fold the dough.

It really wasn't very hard or time-consuming at all (sorry, no process photos). I'm amazed. I started last night around 7pm, making the "détrempe" (the flour and water paste) and letting it rest for 2 hours. At about that time I took the butter out of the fridge so it wouldn't be too cold. Then around 8pm I put the butter in a plastic ziploc bag and banged it up with the rolling pin to make a malleable square. I put it back in the refrigerator for half an hour? Then around 9 pm I folded the square of butter into the dough, rolled the package out and folded it in thirds, turned it, then rolled it out again, folded it, wrapped it in plastic and went to watch TV for 2 hours. Around 11 pm I took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it out, folded it, rolled it out and folded it again, wrapped it and put it in the fridge. This morning I let the dough warm up about 20 minutes, then rolled it out, folded it, rolled it out and folded it for the last time. End of story. If my math is correct, since each fold creates 3 layers that's 3^6=729 layers of dough...

Recipe: Puff Pastry
Source: Frais!
I'm only giving ingredients and basic instructions here. To view a step-by-step process, have a look at Mercotte's great illustration.

- 180g cold water
- 14g salt (too much. I used 10g)
- a few drops of white vinegar
[This was inspired from Mercotte and other recipes, it lets you spread the making of the dough over several days with no alteration of the flour]
- 60g soft butter
- 150g cake flour ("type 45")
- 250g all purpose flour ("type 55")
[I used Swiss Zopfmehl and Weissmehl, not sure if that was a good substitution]
- 340g cold butter

Dissolve the salt in the water. Add vinegar. Mix both flours with the 60g butter and the salty water. Knead until you get a soft ball that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl.
[I had to add some water. Careful you don't overknead for fear of toughening the dough]
Flatten this dough (slash it with a knife to break its elasticity, as Mercotte suggests), wrap it in film and store it in the fridge for 2 hours.
Take out the butter to soften it somewhat. Beat the butter in a plastic bag or in film so that it becomes malleable. The ideal temperature of the butter to roll it with the dough is 14°C.
Roll out the dough in a square (see pictures in the Mercotte post), place the square of butter in the center, wrap it, then roll into a long rectangle, about 60cm by 20cm. Then fold it in thirds, as described in the post.
Make sure you chill it thoroughly every two folds, and fold it in all six times.

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By the way, the apprentice answered that no, puff pastry wasn't that hard to make, and brioche is a lot harder. I guess that'll be the next challenge!

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Recap of all puff pastry-related recipes on this blog:

Puff Pastry recipes
- Traditional pâte feuilletée (This post)
- Pâte feuilletée inversée

Recipes that use puff pastry
- Galette des rois or Pithiviers first post
- Galette des rois second post and third post
- Palmiers (particularly good for using up the precious scraps of dough)
- Cheese straws or puffs (see above, under "First Test")
- Caramelized puff pastry (pâte feuilletée caramélisée)
- Fig and goat cheese tartlets
- Lemon millefeuille