Archive for October, 2012

How glad I am to write about puff pastry again. Since the last post about it (vols-au-vent) two years ago, I have made it puff pastry many times. That first time was nerve-wracking, with a few failed attempts along the way, but then after a few tries it all came together and then the lightbulb goes off and you realize that it isn’t difficult at all, just time consuming. While I will never judge anyone for using store-bought puff pastry, I use it myself in a pinch, there is a deep-rooted sense of satisfaction when you open the oven door and pull out a tray of perfect, flaky pastry that you made yourself.I’m not kidding.
The October Bakers Challenge was hosted by  Suz from Serenely Full and she chose a  French , though “wildly popular in Morocco”, dessert called mille-feuille, which translates into” cake with a thousand sheets”. It is a very elegant looking dessert that is absolutely delicious. All of your friends will love you for making this. Trust me on this.

This makes a pretty large quantity of puff pastry, but I find this recipe perfect for two reasons.
1.) It is actually easier to handle a large piece of dough
2.) Since this is such a labor of love (time consuming labour intensive), isn’t it easier to freeze half (up to 2 months) for the next time you need it?
This makes enough for three 11 x 17 pieces. I know this seems like a lot, and it is, but the few times I have made mille feuille in the past year it has been requested for a crowd, so this was perfect. You can easily cut the pastry down to fit the size pan that works for you. When doing this it is best to roll out the entire dough to about 1/8″ inch, cut off what you need, then roll the rest up in wax paper and freeze.

While I used to do the “diamond on the square” technique for making puff pastry, I have switched to a much simpler method.This is since discovering the amazing book “Bourke Street Bakery”. I have found their recipe/method to turn out perfect every time.

Part 1

4 3/4 oz ( 135 g) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
4 1/2 Cups (675 g/1 lb 8 oz) all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon (20 g) kosher salt
1 Tablespoon (20 ml) vinegar, chilled
10 1/2 oz (300 ml) water, chilled
1 lb (500 g) unsalted butter, for laminating, chilled

Take the 4 3/4 oz cubed butter out of the fridge about 20 minutes before starting, so it is soft but still cold
Step 1
In a large food processor, place the butter, flour, and salt together and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until it is crumbly and has a fine sand texture. Combine the cold vinegar and water and pour into the bowl, pulsing until the dough comes together into a ball. Take the dough out, pat it into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Placed in the fridge for 30 minutes (or overnight).
Step 2
Take the other one pound of butter and place it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Gently pound it with a rolling-pin into a 8 x 8 inch square. What I usually do is start between 2 pieces of wrap and then as I’m getting closer to the 8×8 I switch to a piece of parchment paper folded in half. You can use the folded inside edge to get a clean line on the one side of butter and then use a bench scraper push the other edges in place. Watch this video for good demonstration of this. Once you get your 8×8 square place it back in the fridge until your dough is ready to use.

Step 3
Take the dough out of the fridge and lay it on a lightly floured counter. Roll it out to 8 x 16 inches. Place the chilled 8×8 butter square at one end of the dough and fold over the other to cover it. Firmly pinch the edges together to completely seal in the butter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and begin to roll the dough out in long, even strokes. You want to end up with a 8 x 36 rectangle. Try to only roll in one direction to help promote lots of layers. I roll on one side then swivel the dough and continue rolling on the other end. Be patient, this takes a few minutes.
Once the dough is 8 x 36, fold the two short ends into the middle to meet, then fold it once again like you were closing a book. Dust very lightly with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. congratulations, you have just completed your first turn!

Step 4, 5,6
Repeat the folding process 3 more times, turning the dough 90 degrees each time. Every time you finish a completed fold you must place the dough back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling again. Myself, I complete 2 turns then place the dough in the fridge overnight and complete the next 2 turns the following day. You can do it all in one day, but you cannot skip the resting/chilling time between turns. This is crucial for relaxing the gluten and keeping the butter cold so you will end up with gorgeous, flaky, mile high pastry.
After the completed 4th folded turn, you now must wrap up your pastry and chill it overnight.
The next day….
Okay, now your pastry is ready to use! Yeah!!! Take the dough out and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you begin rolling it out.
Part 2


2 Cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla bean

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Whisk together the corn starch, egg yolks, and sugar; set aside

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk (and vanilla seeds, if using) until it is hot and steaming, but not boiling. Take the pan off the heat.Very slowly, and whisking constantly, pour some of the hot milk into the egg mixture (this is called tempering) then pour this back into the hot milk (keep whisking!). turn the heat to medium low and place the pot back onto the heat. Whisk the mixture until it thickens and begins to slightly bubble; simmer, whisking,  for one minute.

Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. If using vanilla extract, stir in now. to prevent a “skin” forming on your custard, you can either place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface or dust the entire surface with confectioners sugar. Let cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool completely.

Baking the pastry

preheat your oven to 400 F. You will need two 11 x 17 baking pans (or 2 baking pans the same size)

Line one baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out your dough to 1/8″inch into a 11 x 17 rectangle. Cut the pastry into 3 equal pieces (drag the knife through as opposed to straight down- this can ruin your lovely layers) and place side by side in the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Place another sheet of parchment paper over the top and then the other baking pan on top. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the top tray and parchment, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. You might need to gently pull the 3 pieces apart.


Lay down one sheet of puff pastry. Cover with half of the pastry cream, spreading it as evenly as possible. Now take another piece of pastry and place it over this, pressing down gently. Spread the remaining pastry cream over this layer and finally top with the remaining piece of puff pastry.

Place this in the fridge while you prepare the topping (or you can just dust the top with a little sugar if you choose)

2 ¾ cups (660 ml/ 12⅓oz/350gm) icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large egg whites
½ cup (2¾ oz/80gm) dark chocolate

To make the icing, whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.Whisk in about (2 cups)  of the icing sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface. If it’s too thin, whisk in a bit more icing sugar.Once ready, immediately pour over the top of the mille-feuille and spread evenly. I found that I didn’t quite need all of the icing. Still working quickly, pipe a row of thin chocolate lines  along the widest length of your pastry sheet (see below). You can make them as far apart/close together as you like.Take a sharp knife and lightly draw it down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. A centimeter (½ inch) or so further across, draw the knife up the way this time, from bottom to top. Move along, draw it down again. Then up. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.

The Switch-Up

As I have mentioned before, we have a monthly dinner supper which  I host every month (it’s easier and I enjoy it). The menu this month:

Pear and endive salad with blue cheese and pecans

Osso Bucco

Roasted butternut squash risotto

Pineapple infused napoleons with sauteed fresh pineapple

To make this dessert, I cut the pufpif pastry into small rectangles before baking and I did not place another baking sheet on top. I wanted these to rise to the heavens.  I had in my pantry some freeze dried pineapple, which I ground into a powder with the grinder. I then stirred this into some pastry cream. I then mixed up some whipped cream and slowly added this to the pastry cream to lighten up the whole mixture. OMG this was so good!! This was then piped (using a star tip) between the layers. I then diced up some fresh pineapple and sauteed it in a pan with brown sugar and rum. this was served on the side. Deluxe!!!!

Helpful links


Puff pastry video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg-ybzGok3U Mille-feuille/Napoleon video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGQCWuKU7Co Vegan puff pastry: http://veganbaking.net/pastries/718-puff-pastry Gluten-free puff pastry (plus a chocolate mousse & raspberry mille-feuille): http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2010/04/recipe-gluten-free-puff-pastry.htm… Vegan pastry cream: http://vegandad.blogspot.co.uk/2011_08_01_archive.html

Read Full Post »

Russian Braid Bread


The host of this months Bread Baking Babes is Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups and since they posted on the 16th it also coincided with world bread day. Being a buddy we were requested to bake this by the 26th, which is today…. I actually baked this last week… I just didn’t get off my ass and post it…. I am happy to say though that the huge outdoor art project that I have been working on at Scarlet’s school is finally finished as of 2 days ago so I can start getting back to my life…..

I was excited to see this bread since I have had my eye on a similar bread made with the exact same method. The technique is pretty simple to master and the final outcome is gorgeous. The filling choices are endless with only your own imagination holding you back.  Please make sure you go and check out the roundup on Tanna’s page for some great ideas to inspire and tempt you.

For my filling I chose tomato jam mixed with sour cream, minced garlic and fresh rosemary. This bread is similar to Povitica in that the dough is thinly rolled out, filled, and then rolled up, jelly roll style.  That is where this bread takes a twisty turn! You slice down the middle of your roll, lengthwise, exposing the inside layers (kind of like a leek) and  then gently  twist or braid these together.  I found that I was nervous about slicing this open with such a moist filling that I covered the very long rolled rope and place it outside for 40 minutes to firm up. Oh, did I forget to mention that we have about 7 inches of snow on the ground right now? And that it is about -7C????  It’s my own giant freezer out there. You warm lucky ones could just use the freezer in your kitchen for this but I actually found it much more convenient considering the length of my rope. Next time I think I will roll up the short end instead to make life easier. I can’t wait to try this again filled with pesto or a roasted garlic-walnut paste. Maybe even some sriracha, one of Lisa’s favorite fillings….. Bake on my friends!

Russian Braid Braid

Recipe Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Makes one large loaf
400 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams white whole wheat flour  (total flour should equal 600 grams – try different combinations)
3 tablespoons wheat germ

1 heaping tablespoon dry yeast
10 grams Sugar 10g (0.35oz)
10 grams Salt 10g (0.35oz)
50 grams olive oil 50cc (1.7 fl oz)
1 tablespoon White Vinegar, I used white Balsamic Vinegar in my 2nd loaf
450 – 500 grams Water (10 fl oz) (I used potato water)
– Filling – whatever you want

Take a 8″ springform pan (no bottom) and place a piece of parchment paper inside of it.Crimp tightly around the bottom of the springform, oil the sides. Place on top of a baking sheet.

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, add the water carefully as you start mixing.  I have my standing mixer on low when doing this and I used all of the water since I live in a dry climate.   Add water or flour if dough is too stiff or too loose (respectively).Knead for 10 minutes. Dough should be supple and not sticky to the touch. When dough is ready, spray a bowl with oil and gently put the dough in the bowl. Spray a little more oil on top and cover. Let rise (80%) about 40 minutes to an hour.

Lightly flour your work area. Flatten the dough gently with your hands. Roll the dough as thin as you can using a floured rolling-pin. When rolling out the dough, try not to lift and move it too much. It rolls quite easily so don’t panic.

Apply a thin layer of your filling (remember, it’s your choice) on top of the dough but leave an edge of about 1/4 inch. Slowly, tightly and very gently roll the dough into a pin wheel. It will be very long when completed. Place in the freezer, if possible, for about 45 minutes to firm up. It makes cutting it so much easier.  Take a sharp chef’s knife (not a serrated knife) and cut the roll lengthwise trying to keep the knife in the middle so you end up with two equal parts.  Place the two halves crossing each other (cut layers facing up) to create and X shape. Gently pick up the two ends of the bottom half, cross them over the top half, and place them back down. Continue this process, taking the two bottom ends and crossing them over the top until all the dough has been used.You now have a two strand rope shape. If for some reason some of the open  layers are pointing down or sideways, carefully turn them so they are facing up. Gently pinch the ends to seal. Look at the braid. If one end looks a little thinner make that your starting point. If not, just start from either end. Slowly and very gently, roll the braid sideways (horizontally) without lifting your hands from the table. You should keep those open  layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately. The end result should look like a giant snail shell . Depending on your filling you may want to sprinkle on something (rosemary,garlic, brown sugar & cinnamon). Keep in mind you don’t want to cover up the effect of the shaping.  Carefully pick up the braid and place in the prepared springform. Keep it flat on the parchment. The bottom of the braid should set nicely. Before you start panicking about this, please Ciril Hitz’s YouTube video and it will ease your mind.

Cover. Let rise until the braid hits three quarters the way up the springform. Depending upon the temp in your kitchen this may take from 20 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425F.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350F for another 25-30 minutes. When removed from the oven feel free to brush the loaf with some melted butter or olive oil (I did neither)

Read Full Post »


While I have not been writing on my blog, I have been accumulating large amounts of zucchini from my community garden plot. We  never tried this before and all I can say is , this is the plant to grow for people who want to do as little as possible in the garden and get amazing results. I might not be inspired to write about something, but I am always inspired to bake something.

This picture does not include the 5 other ones I have already baked bread with, or the countless smaller ones which got sliced and grilled on the BBQ, or diced and tossed with pasta, or baked into whoopie pies…..

This recipe is so simple and yet so tasty. It’s a nice change from the lightly spiced zucchini bread that we are all familiar with in one way or another.  The addition of cocoa powder takes this to a whole other level. That’s if you like chocolate.Which I do. This makes two loaves so you can be generous and give one to a friend, or freeze it for up to 3 months for a later date. If you know someone who shies away from veggies, just don’t tell them – they will never know!

Now, I hate sounding like a chocolate snob, but when using cocoa powder as your sole chocolate, it really is important to use the best cocoa powder that you get afford.  I personally like Cocoa Barry Extra Brute with a little black cocoa mixed in, but I also like the Rodelle gourmet cocoa powder (sold at Costco), Freys, and Hersheys Dark. With all that being said, use whatever you like or have on hand. If you only have a generic brand of cocoa powder then add a cup of mini chocolate chips to boost the chocolate flavor. Or add them even if you use the best cocoa powder….. I also add a little orange oil to my  batter since I love the flavor of orange. If you don’t own this, just skip it. Or add 2 Tablespoons of orange juice concentrate instead. What I’m trying to say is that you can always improvise. Don’t let little things stop you from baking something. Don’t have oranges? Okay, leave it out and fill your pans 1/3 the way with the chocolate batter. Scatter 1/2 cup frozen raspberries tossed with 2 tablespoons sugar over the top. Put the remaining batter in the pans. Scatter another 1/2 cup of berries of the tops. That’s 1 cup berries total per loaf. Easy right? Let your imagination flow and work with what you have in your kitchen. Bake on!


Makes two loaves

4 eggs
2  1/4 Cups granulated  sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil  vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
3 cups flour (750 mL) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups zucchini , finely grated
Zest of 2 oranges
1/2 Teaspoon orange oil (optional)

1/4 cup candied orange peel, divided  (optional, but really nice)

Raspberry loaf

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.
Beat eggs well, then add in sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Add oil, then cocoa to the eggs and sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add into egg mixture. Mix in zucchini ,orange zest. and orange oil (if using)
Pour into two pans and sprinkle each loaf with some candied orange peel.  Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool on racks before removing from pans. Thoroughly enjoy!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: