Saturday, October 27, 2012


OoooOoooo! Almost Halloweeeeeen! I'll school. Maybe working at the writing help desk. Maybe having some spookytimes. Maybe I'll steal a child so I can systematically organize their candy into neat piles. That was always the best part. Halloween was great as a kid. I have so many fond memories. Refusing to participate in the Halloween parade in kindergarten (I was a lobster, by the way. How many kids are lobsters these days?), standing awkwardly on people's porches after they'd given me candy because I couldn't see out the eyeholes of my robot costume, and....having all the adults and teenagers who answered the door laugh hysterically when I came around dressed like this. I had a silly upbringing, haha. 

But that is all past, and Halloween in college is different and not really my thing. I think I'd appreciate it more if it was less like this and more like this.  Anyway...time for super challenge food! Check it: 
Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully (gah, that woooooord) delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

Mille-feuille is also known as custard slice or, more familiar to me, Napoleon. It really has no connection to the tiny conqueror though. 

Puff pastry had been on my list of things to make for a while, so I'm glad I finally had an excuse to take on this labor intensive project. I underestimated how difficult this would be. Rolling and folding and cutting and rolling...okay, also, protip: don't put wax paper in the oven. Just don't do it. The final product was amazing. But so, sooooo hard to cut into neat pieces. I just kind of gave up after a while. Maybe it needed a longer chill time? Bottom line? I have such great respect for bakers who make these everyday for their jobs. I can't imagine how you do it. I aspire to be as skilled as you. 

(read all steps before proceeding. You wanna give yourself enough time for this)
Puff Pastry: 

1¾ cup (250g) plain/all-purpose flour
Scant ¼ cup (55 ml) (1¾ oz)(50g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 teaspoon (5ml) (6 gm) salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5/8 cup)(150 ml) cold water

14 tablespoons (210 ml) (7 oz) (200g) butter (for the beurrage), room temperature
3½ tablespoons (55ml) (30g) plain flour (for the beurrage)

Additional flour for rolling/turning
1. Cut the larger quantity of butter into smallish pieces and set aside at room temperature.
2. Put the larger quantity of flour into a bowl with the salt and the cold, cubed butter.
3. Lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it forms a mealy breadcrumb texture. 

 4. Add the cold water and bring together with a fork or spoon until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl.
5. As the dough begins to come together, you can use your hands to start kneading and incorporating all the remaining loose bits. If the dough’s a little dry, you can add a touch more water.
6. Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth.
7. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

8. While the dough is chilling, take your room temperature butter and mix with the smaller amount of plain flour until it forms a paste.
9. Place the butter paste between two sheets of clingfilm, and either with a rolling pin or your hands (I found hands easiest) shape it into a 4.5”/12cm square. You can use a ruler (or similar) to neaten the edges.

10. Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. If it’s still soft, leave it a bit longer. If it’s too hard and inflexible, leave it out to soften a touch. You want it to be solid but still malleable.
11. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a 6”/15cm square. Place the square of butter in the middle, with each corner touching the center of the square’s sides).
12. Fold each corner of dough over the butter so they meet the center (you might have to stretch them a little) and it resembles an envelope, and seal up the edges with your fingers. You’ll be left with a little square parcel.

13. Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.
14. Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle ¼ inch /6 mm in thickness.
15. With the longest side facing you, fold one third (on the right) inwards, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up

16. Then, fold the remaining flap of dough (on the left) inwards, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip.
17. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16.
18. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
19. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 twice.
20. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill again for at least 30 minutes.
21. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 two final times.
22. Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Crème Pâtissière:

2 cups (450ml) whole milk
¼ cup (1¼ oz)(35 gm) cornflour/cornstarch
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (200gm) (7 oz) caster sugar
4 large egg yolks (if you’re making the royal icing, reserve two egg whites)
2 large eggs
¼ cup (2 oz) (60gm) unsalted butter, cubed
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence

1. Mix the cornflour/cornstarch with ½ cup of milk and stir until dissolved.
2. Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.
3. Beat the whole eggs into the cornflour/milk mixture. Then beat in the egg yolks. Pour in 1/3 of the hot milk, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

4. Now, bring the remaining milk back to the boil, and add the eggy mixture, whisking as your pour. Keep whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) on a medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken. 
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother.
(If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.)
6. Beat in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.
7. If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming.
8. Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken.

Puttin' it Together!

1 x batch pâte feuilletée/puff pastry (see above)
1 x batch crème pâtissière/pastry cream (see above)

2 ¾ cups (660 ml) (12⅓oz) (350gm) icing sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon juice
2 large egg whites
½ cup (2¾ oz) (80gm) dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6.
2. Lightly dust your work space with flour and remove your dough from the fridge.
3. Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard. The recipe I followed specified no other dimensions, but I rolled mine to about 12”/30cm x 18”/46cm.

(I found it easiest to start the rolling on the work surface, and finish it off on a large piece of greaseproof paper. That way it’s easier to move the sheets of pastry around.)
4. Cut into three equal pieces and place on a baking tray. If you don’t have space for all three, you can bake them separately.
5. Prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork.
6. Place another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top and then a heavy baking tray. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much.

( I found my baking trays weren’t heavy enough, so also used a pyrex dish to add more weight. Just ensure that the pastry sheets are evenly weighted down.)

 7. Bake each sheet for about 25 minutes in a moderately hot oven 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6, removing the top layer of greaseproof paper/tray 10 minutes before the end for the tops to brown. Keep an eye on them and lower the temperature if you think they’re browning too much.
8. Remove the baked sheets from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.

9. Once the pastry has cooled, you’re ready to assemble your mille-feuille. Get a sturdy flat board, your pastry and the chilled crème pâtissière from the fridge.
10. Lay one sheet on the board and spread half the crème patisserie evenly over the top.
11. Take the second sheet and place it on top, pressing down lightly with your hands to ensure that it sticks to the filling.
12. Spread the remaining crème pâtissière and place the last sheet of pastry on top, pressing down again. (Don’t worry if there’s some oozing at the sides. That can be neatened later.)
13. Pop in the fridge while you prepare the icing / chocolate.
14. Melt the chocolate in a water bath, stirring periodically. Once melted, transfer to a piping bag (or plastic bag with end snipped), resting nozzle side down in a glass or other tall container.
15. To make the icing, whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.
16. Whisk in about (2 cups) 300gm 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. STILL working quickly (phew), 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. 
20. Once you’ve decorated your mille-feuille, with a clean knife mark out where you’re going to cut your slices, depending on how big you want them to be and leaving space to trim the edges. I got ten out of mine – two rows of five.
21. Chill for a couple of hours to give the icing (etc.) time to set.
22. With a sharp knife, trim the edges and cut your slices.
23. Dig in!  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars

Makes me sad: waking up before the sun rises
Makes me happy: taking a nap after class
Makes me nervous: economics tests
Makes me pleasantly surprised: getting points back on economics tests
Makes me upset: internet trolls
Makes me satisfied: being able to ignore internet trolls by taking a walk in the crispy fall air
Makes me scared: the moth that likes to bang on my window at night (don't judge)
Makes me laugh: haunted house employees (I also feel bad, like I'm ruining their jobs by laughing at them)

Does European butter make things tastier? Beats me. 

See? For every annoying, obnoxious thing that happens, there's probably an equal and opposite awesome thing out there. You just have to be open to finding it. I'm trying really hard to do that. It's working surprisingly well to keep the angst and stress levels down.

And if all else can always fall back on baking. Bonus points for something you've had your eye on for a long time. Triple your word score if you expect to burn/undercook it and it turns out perfectly. Seriously, I'm a little upset I waited so long to make these. Maybe it's because they seemed labor intensive (they aren't). Maybe because I was afraid of all the butter (silly me, butter is ALWAYS your friend). Layer of thick, soft cookie + layer of pumpkin pie-ish + cinnamon sugar + white chocolate. Guaranteed to make you speechless. 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars
from Dozen Flours 

Snickerdoodle Layer
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Layer

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 oz white chocolate, chopped

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan and lay a piece of parchment paper across the pan, so that it extends the pan slightly. The parchment paper is an optional step, but it will make it easier to get the bars out later

To make snickerdoodle layer:

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be thick and cookiebatter-ish.)

In a mixer bowl (you can use the same one you used to make the snickerdoodle batter) with a paddle attachment, mix together all ingredients until well combined. This layer will be less thick and more pourable. Pour over the snickerdoodle layer, smoothing out the top.

Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

Bake for 33-40 minutes (maybe more depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted into the *center* of the pan comes out clean. Let the bars cool completely (about an hour). They will deflate a bit and remain a bit pie-like on the top layer.

After the bars are completely cool, place the chopped white chocolate into a bowl or zip-lock bag and melt on low power. When it's completely melted, add the pumpkin pie spice and mix (or knead if using a zip lock bag). Use a spoon or cut a small corner off the bag and drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the bars and let it cool and harden.

Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars. Store in a covered container.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Secret Recipe Club - Chocolate Matcha Caramels!

Oy vey, it's been too long. I'm sorry. Life kind of got in the way...there is a very short window for leaf crunching you know. I've been baking of course. But things that I didn't feel like photographing, or that didn't turn out. And then there was this post, which I've been meaning to write for over a week now, but I just never got around to it, and then I left my camera with all my pictures on it at school, so I had to re-photograph everything with my phone...I shouldn't be making excuses for myself though. Shame! 

Let's get down to business, shall we? My SRC assignment for this month was The Novice Housewife, who has an incredibly diverse and appealing collection of recipes. And is also a great photographer. This is one of the few assignments that I actually knew about outside the SRC. I've been eyeing up her delicious looking Indian recipes :) 

But....matcha. I can't resist. And making caramel (something I hadn't tried before) seemed like fun sugarcrafting practice! There is something magical about candy making....watching sugar transform into something completely different. Nom. To add even more caramel, I actually used some caramel flavored matcha! It's super delicious, drink it, seriously. I cannot recommend this brand enough. Now, the matcha adds a delightful kind of earthiness to the otherwise very sweet caramel. I found that it got stronger over several days. If it's not your thang, chocolate caramel is pretty awesome just by itself :) 

Chocolate Matcha Caramel 

Unsalted butter for the pan
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (99% dark preferable), finely chopped
1 tablespoon matcha powder
1. Line a 9x9 pan with a piece of parchment paper (the paper will droop over the sides) and butter well.

2. Stir together the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt together in a heavy bottom pan. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until it reaches 250F. Remove from heat and let cool for a five minutes. (Be careful when waiting for it to reach 250 F because it might flow over. And since I had to put it on low it took a looooooong time. I would recommend using a really deep pan)
3. Add chocolate and the matcha. Stir together and pour into the pan and spread with an offset spatula. Let the caramel sit for a few hours.
4. Cut apart into 1-inch squares. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 1, 2012

To Daniel - Yogurt Cereal Bars

Though I've had people I once loved fade out of my life in various ways, some more difficult than others, I have never lost lost someone I deeply cared for. It is a pain that I can't possibly comprehend. And when that person is a spouse or significant other, I think the heartbreak magnifies. This is a person you chose, out of all the people you've ever met, to remain faithful to. But sometimes that time is cut short. It's not fair and it doesn't make sense. But it happens.

You are so loved.

I've never met Daniel Saraga in real life. Our only encounters have been through the Secret Recipe Club. But he was always a friendly, welcoming, and vibrant personality. He ran a blog with his wife, Meredith, and I loved that a husband and wife could blend their different backgrounds in cooking together. For Meredith, this woman I have never met and probably never will meet, I am so sorry. Sorry for this devastating loss, and sorry that these words are inadequate. I wish I could take away your pain. No one deserves to feel this. Your love for each other was immediately apparent to anyone who visited your blog.

For my tribute, I chose something that Daniel and Meredith developed together for their young son. Yogurt and cereal bars – simple and sweet, but very deliberate, and filled with unconditional love. To Meredith and her children – hang in there. We're all sending so much love your way. I know I wish I could do more.

Yogurt and Cereal Bars

by The Haggis and The Herring

2 cups corn flakes
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Combine corn flakes, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.
Press half of the mixture firmly into the bottom of a greased 8-inch square pan.
Mix yogurt, egg and 2 tbsp flour in another small bowl.
Spread yogurt mixture over cereal mixture in pan and then sprinkle the remaining cereal mixture on top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool and cut into bars.