Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers September 2011- Croissants!

 The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Croissants have been on my to-bake list ever since I got the Julia Child cookbook for Christmas. I looked at the recipe and thought to myself "12 hours is much too long for a just-any-day recipe. I'll make them for Christmas next year". Then the September challenge was posted, and I was so excited. And a little nervous. This recipe takes a long time to make (if you're counting all the rising times, which isn't active baking time, so don't count it). It involves making layers of dough and butter and getting it all rolled out and perfect so it will be flakey and delicious. Don't worry so much about that. Make sure your butter is cold and you're good to go. And that you didn't just begin a weights program for your arms the day before rolling all this stuff out.
Cinnamon-Sugar flaky deliciousness!
I made the original Julia recipe and two off-shoots. The first was fairly straightforward: cinnamon and sugar croissants. The second was in homage to my husband, who for whatever reason loves white chocolate: raspberry white chocolate croissants. Because really, I didn't get to work with chocolate enough in the last challenge.  The raspberry white chocolate croissant definitely won the day. Everyone who tried it at our Packer Party loved it and it was by far my favorite of the three. Even with white chocolate. I found it fairly easy to just roll whatever filling into the croissant, so the possibilities are truly endless. Next time I'll try some different variations!
Look at that yummy raspberry oozing out!

Croissants (basic recipe, ala Julia Child)
One dozen 5½ inch croissants

1¼teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 Tablespoons warm water (not over 100℉)
1 teaspoons sugar

1. Proofing the yeast: mix the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and let liquefy (a foam should form on the top of the mixture, this shows that the yeast is "alive")

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup milk warmed to tepid in a small sauce pan
2 tablespoons tasteless oil (such as vegetable oil)

1. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the sugar into the tepid milk.
2. Combine oil, yeast and milk mixture into the bowl with the flour. Blend with a rubber spatula until completely combined.
3. Turn dough out onto a surface that has been lightly floured. Let rest for 2-3 minutes while you wash and dry the mixing bowl.
4. Start kneading by lifting near the edge, using a scraper or spatula to help, and flipping it over to the other side. Rapidly repeat from one side to the other and end over end 8-10 times until the dough feels smooth.

5. Place dough back into the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or plastic bag. I then placed the bowl into the oven, slightly ajar, with the oven light on. Allow the dough to rise for about 3 hours, or until tripled.
6. Deflate by loosening dough with a rubber spatula, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat and push the dough into a rectangle (8x12 inches) with the palms of your hands. Fold the bottom third up, and the top third down, like a business letter. Return dough to bowl, cover again with plastic and let rise for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled. (At this point, the second rise may be done overnight in the refrigerator)
7. Loosen dough from edges of the bowl and turn out onto a plate. Cover airtight and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

1- 1¾ sticks chilled unsalted butter

1. Julia advises that if this is your first try at making croissants, use only 1 stick of butter. If you've done this a few times the larger amount may be used.
2. Beat butter with a rolling pin to soften it.
3. Smear the butter out with the heel of your hand or a scraper or spatula until it is an easy spreading consistency but still cold. If it gets too warm (i.e. oily and soft), return it to the refrigerator for a bit.

4. Place the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Push and pat it out into a rectangle 14x8 inches.
5. Spread butter as evenly as possible over the upper two thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch unbuttered boarder all around.
6. Fold the bottom third of the dough up, and the top third down (again, like a business letter).

7. Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right, as though it were a book. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 14x7 inches. Roll rapidly, starting an inch from the near end and going to within an inch of the far end.
8. Fold again in three. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1- 1½ hours.
9. Unwrap dough, deflate by tapping lightly several times with a rolling pin. Cover and let rest 8-10 minutes.
10. Being sure that the top and bottom of dough are lightly floured, roll dough into a rectangle 14x6 inches. If you notice that butter has congealed into hard flakes, beat dough with firm taps for a minute or so to soften.
11. Fold rectangle in three again. Wrap and chill for 2 hours, or leave overnight (put something heavy on top so it doesn't rise too much)

12. Forming croissants: unwrap chilled dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Deflate by tapping several times with rolling pin. Cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes.
13. Roll dough into a rectangle 20x5 inches, cut in half crosswise, chill one of the halves.
14. Roll the piece of dough into a rectangle 15x5 inches, cut into three equal pieces. Chill two of the pieces.
15. Roll the piece of dough into a 5½ inch square and cut into two triangles. Stretch the triangle to transform from a right triangle to an isosceles triangle.
16. Roll the croissant first by folding the large end forward onto itself. Then, holding the point with the fingers of one hand, roll the larger end up with the other.
17. Bend the two ends down to form a crescent shape and place on a lightly buttered baking sheet, with the point resting into the curve and against the surface of the baking sheet. (Formed croissants may be wrapped airtight and frozen for a week, if the dough was not previously frozen.)
18. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Cover croissants loosely with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Let rise for 1½ hours.

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

1. Just before baking, paint the croissants with the egg wash.
2. Set in the middle of a preheated 475℉ oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until croissants are nicely puffed and brown. Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Sugar Croissants: Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on dough just before rolling to form croissant.

Raspberry White Chocolate Croissants: Spread dough with raspberry preserves and roll a piece of white chocolate in the larger end of the croissant.

Edit: I forgot!! I thought that since I'm  a musician by trade it might be fun for me to upload a playlist of music I listened to while making each challenge. This one is decidedly French, full of artists I love to listen to regardless of whether or not I'm knuckle deep in croissant dough and covered in flour. So here is a link to my "croissant" play list on Spotify. Let me know what you think about this idea- I'm still playing around with how to share the playlists, so if you have any tips on that, do share!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beef with Couscous

The school year has started, Autumn is making itself known, and my time in the kitchen has been greatly diminished. This last week I only had one night that I was home before 9pm, and that was Monday. I can't say that I'm not enjoying all the activity that is keeping me out of the kitchen, I love my new job at the school and am having a good time networking with people. I simply miss having all the good cooked food that is the result of fun time in the kitchen.

Last weekend, my husband and I finally had some time to spend together, and in the kitchen. My goal for this fall is to get him more into cooking, since I'd be happy spending the whole weekend in the kitchen and the weekend is the only time we get to spend together. It is a bit selfish, I know. But I go to his gigs!! So, Dave spent Saturday and Sunday evening in the kitchen with me, helping me cut up vegetables and making rice (I can make truffles, but I cannot make rice that isn't soggy and gloopy to save my life!)

We had this dish on Sunday and it was a nice change from our usual Italian and Tex-Mex dishes. Also, I got to go to Penzey's and buy a new spice mix.
I just love that place! I'm sure you've noticed. I picked up some of their Garam Masala mix, which smells like heaven. I'm looking forward to using it in future Indian-inspired recipes. Chicken Tikka Masala, here we come!

Beef with Couscous
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed with garlic press
1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon curry powered
1 teaspoon garam masala spice mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (I think you could substitute whatever is currently in season)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas (I forgot to pick these up, so we used corn. it was still good!)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup plain couscous
1/2 cup golden raisins

1. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes or until golden. Stir in garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute.

2. Stir in ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with side of spoon, about 5 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink. Stir in curry powder, garam masala, and salt; cook 30 seconds. Add squash and cook 2 minutes.

3. Add broth and frozen peas; cook until slightly thickened and flavors blend. Stir in cilantro.

4. Meanwhile, prepare couscous as label directs but add raisins with water.

5. Fluff couscous with fork and serve with beef mixture. Enjoy!