Monday, September 28, 2009

Cinnamon-Sugar Puff Pastry Twists

025Don't throw away those puff pastry scraps!  A lot of work goes into puff pastry, so every piece is precious.  After making the vols-au-vent for the Daring Bakers September challenge, I saved the dough after I cut out the rounds and rerolled them to make puff pastry straws.  These are twisted with cinnamon sugar, and so good.

If you don't have any fresh puff pastry or scraps, the storebought dough in the freezer section would work great, too.

Rerolled puff pastry doesn't rise as high, but that isn't required for these straws, so it's a good way to use up scraps.  After I finished cutting out the rounds, I stacked the dough and gently rerolled it.  The dough was wrapped and chilled in the freezer for a later use.

After a thaw in the fridge, I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, trying my best to get it in a straight rectangle.  I beat an egg with a bit of water, and in another bowl stirred 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  Brush the egg wash over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough.

Using a tape measure and pastry wheel, cut strips of dough 1/2 inch wide.

The strips are then twisted by hand.  Aren't they pretty?

Lay them on a silicone mat and press the ends down into the mat to help the straws hold their shape.  Chill in the fridge to firm up while the oven preheats to 375 degrees.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are puffed and golden.

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They're really attractive for laying out at a party.  Simply place a bunch of straws on a platter, or stick them upright in a glass or vase.  Try other variations of puff pastry straws with spice mixes, poppy seeds, jam, or chocolate.


I also made a Parmesan version on another try, here on the left.  Hmm... they kind of look like french fries.  The ones on the right are cinnamon-sugar.  Make them the same way, sprinkling an ounce of shredded parmesan over the dough.  But fold the top half over the bottom, gently reroll a few times to seal, and then lightly brush your new surface with the egg wash for some color.  Cut, twist, and bake just like with the cinnamon-sugar twists.  I can tell you, those glasses are empty now.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Vols-au-vent


I've learned how to make puff pastry!  I have to admit that while I'm snobby about some baked goods, like a prejudice against storebought frozen pie crust, I've always fully supported buying frozen puff pastry.  It's laborious to make, and the stuff in the freezer case is pretty good.  This month's challenge called for making vols-au-vent.  They're the round cases of puff pastry, and the fillings were up to us.  I chose Blackberry Mousse, and Warm Brie with Raspberry.


The mousse wasn't the best I've ever had, so I won't post the mediocre recipe, but it did look pretty. The brie vols-au-vent were delicious, and the flavors were offset with tart and slightly sweet raspberry.  I was afraid a slip-up in technicalities might result in flat puff pastry, but these rose nicely.  The hardest part was beating the cold butter flat.  Sometimes you see TV chefs whip out a rolling pin and bang something around, and they talk about how stress-relieving it is.  Not for me!!  I had to use serious muscle to beat the cold, hard stuff into submission, and was glad the neighbors weren't home to hear the racket.  It also made everything else on the counters clang, and I can't say I'll be abusing butter with a rolling pin the next time I have a bad day.

The rest of the process went like this:

 A basic dough without butter is quickly whizzed up in the food processor.

The dough rolls out nicely.

You roll out the four corners to create flaps, with the center remaining thicker and slightly raised.

That is ONE POUND of butter.  Which equals 4 sticks.  This is not for dieters.

Fold a flap over to begin making your "butter sandwich."

Get the remaining flaps as well.

Then roll it all out.  You can kind of make out where the sticks of butter are.  They shouldn't be poking through like that, but it's hard to work it in evenly.  And it turned out all right.

Fold the sides in like a letter.  This is what's called a turn, the first of six to incorporate the butter evenly.  You roll it out again and repeat.

Bakers poke holes in the dough when resting it to remind them how many turns it has undergone.  Here, the three holes represent three turns.  It's imperative that the dough remain cold and not start oozing butter or sticking, and that you brush off excess flour.

You can attempt two to four turns before sticking it in the fridge.  I made it to four, but it was starting to get melty so I quickly stuck it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I rolled the dough through the final two turns, for a grand total of six.

You cut out small rounds of dough, and then poke holes in half of them.  I didn't have a cutter small enough for the holes, so here I used a cannoli mold.

The rounds make up the bases of the vols-au-vent, and you poke them with a fork for steam to escape.  The rounds with holes make up the sides of the upper half.  The cutouts can be saved for another use that doesn't require high rise, or saved as caps to top the filling with.

They're brushed with egg wash, and for the first part of their stay in the oven they're covered with a silicone mat.  The light weight helps them bake up evenly, and they come out beautiful and golden.  On subsequent uses I found that waxed paper wasn't ideal and stuck to the dough, so a silicone mat or parchment paper is better for the sheet pan.

Look how tall and flaky this beauty is!  Stay tuned . . . I'll tell you what I did with the leftover dough!

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Greek Lamb & Tzatziki

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I was telling my friend Aisha that I had seen a Barefoot Contessa episode on Greek food where she made lamb, and that I was going to make it this week. She asked if I would be blogging the dish, and I said, "Nah, I won't be doing anything different or putting a twist on it, and the recipe's on the Internet." But it was really good!

I won't bother going about the recipe, but you can find it here. I followed it most of the way, but I added smashed cloves of garlic to the marinade, and used 0% Greek yogurt where the "Contessa" called for full-fat. Partly because that's what the store had available, partly because the fat-free stuff is so rich anyway, and partly out of consideration for my arteries. I also added the last of my homegrown grape tomatoes to the skewers, made her recipe for Tzatziki, and broiled a side of eggplant slices brushed with olive oil. The grill wouldn't light up and I'm too afraid of the propane tank to replace it or otherwise fuss with it, but the broiler worked fine. The texture of the eggplant becomes almost creamy (I loathe spongy eggplant), and the lamb was delicious with flavors of rosemary, garlic, and lemon.
This tzatziki was a cinch to throw together, and I made it the night before while creating the marinade.
I also threw in some lemon thyme, since the recipes had lemon zest and juice.
I used a boneless, butterflied leg of lamb that weighed just over a pound and a half, but it made enough for 2 nights of dinner! That sure made Joe happy. Here, on the second night, I served it over roasted potatoes.
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On a side note, I grew zucchini plants for the first time this year. Except there were never any zucchini! The leaves on trees have started to change color and fall, but last week I discovered there were zucchini a few inches long on the plants! I wonder if the delay was due to the wet (more like drenched) and cool summer we've had. Better late than never, huh?