Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My first English muffins!

Not long ago Steve and I had lunch at one of our favorite local haunts (Nick's on Broadway) where Steve ordered a fish sandwich served on the house-made English muffin.  Boy was it good!  Nothing at all like the store-bought varieties - thicker, flavorful and a wonderful vehicle for sandwich fixins.

I decided it was time to try my hand at making some, and what better day than when we were expecting (and ultimately getting) a blizzard here in Providence.

only the beginning

lots more comin'

Whenever I'm making something new, I enjoy reading and reviewing a number of recipes for whatever that something new might be.  I checked out Rose Levy Beranbaum, Bouchon Bakery, Peter Reinhardt and King Arthur Flour and settled on Peter Reinhardt's recipe as my initiation into English muffin making.

Little did I know that English muffins are "baked" on the stove top - I had no idea!  Plus I find it so intriguing to compare techniques and processes - Rose's uses a poolish, Bouchon bakery uses a liquid levain, whereas the one I chose to follow is a straight forward direct dough that is easy as pie to put together and can sit in the fridge for up to four days!  I like that.  Thanks Peter!

On to the recipe.


Whisk 14 gm (2 teaspoons) honey and 14 gm (1 tablespoon) olive oil into 1.5 cups (340 gm) of lukewarm milk.  In a separate bowl whisk together 340 gm (2 2/3 cups) unbleached flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and 6 gm (2 teaspoons) instant yeast.

the dry and the wet

Now blend the wet into the dry, mixing for a minute or so to moisten all the flour.  Scrape down the bowl and mix the batter for a few more seconds.

ready to cover and refrigerate

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.

On the day you plan to bake the muffins remove the dough from the fridge a good 2 hours ahead of time.  I chose to bake the following day, so my dough had an overnight rest in the fridge.

just out of the fridge after an overnight rest

After a couple of hours you should see that the dough has bubbled a bit.  It's subtle, but it's there.

can you see the difference?

Now it's time to dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 3 tablespoons of warm water and fold that gently into the dough.

Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.  In the meantime prepare your English muffin rings (in my case I used my 7/8" high, 80 mm tart rings) by oiling them and coating the insides with corn meal (I used semolina).

Heat a flat griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat and place the prepared rings on the cooking surface.  I'm using a non-stick flat griddle, but if you're using a classic cast iron "stick" pan or griddle, mist or coat it with oil first.

Sprinkle cornmeal in the rings . . . .

Lightly oil a 1/3 measuring cup and use it to scoop the dough into the prepared rings.

The dough is a bit sticky but just go for it - scoop away!  Sprinkle a little more cornmeal on top . . .

and cook the muffins for about 12 minutes over low-medium heat - the dough will start to rise and fill the rings.

away we go!

Then it's time to flip them over, rings and all . . . .

all flipped

You want them to be golden on the bottom before the flip, and then you cook them for another 12 minutes or so to achieve the same golden-ness on the flip side.  You can peek underneath to check for the degree of browning, and they should also feel springy to the touch.

At that point remove them from the pan, let them cool a couple of minutes and then remove the rings.

Based on some of the techniques I gleaned from reading different recipes, I decided to pop them into a 325 oven for 5-10 minutes to finish them off.  Since I haven't made these before, I wasn't sure how they should feel when they're done, and there's nothing worse than an under baked end result.  Think of it as "baking insurance"!

the finished goods

After a good 30 minute cool down Steve and I simply had to do a taste test.  I performed a "fork-split" and found the interior to have that quintessential "nooks and crannies" appearance that one hopes for in an English muffin . . . .

First we toasted one and topped it with a little butter . . .

and then a second one with butter and cherry jam . . . .

yup - that's good!

So the English muffin test was a success.  Crispy outside yet tender with an almost custard like interior, a medium-coarse crumb and a just right taste.

Yes, I would make these again!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sablés au praliné

The next recipe in the Biscuits Secs section of Philippe Conticini's book La Pâtisserie des Rêves is a sablé, a classic buttery, crisp cookie.  As I reviewed the recipe I came to realize that, even though he doesn't identify it as such, this is actually a sablé Breton, which happens to be one of my favorites!

the recipe

This dough differs from a basic butter/sugar/flour sablé by the addition of egg yolks and baking powder, giving the end result a somewhat different texture and flavor.  And, depending on how thick you roll the dough, it will come out crisp (rolled thinner) or softer with a more prominent crumb (rolled thicker).

The dough is very easy to put together and should be chilled before using, so make that part of your plan.

les ingredients

Mix 250 gm flour, 125 gm room temperature butter, a couple of pinches of fleur de sel (I use my favorite "Beanilla" vanilla fleur de sel) and un paquet de levure chimique (see side note below) to a coarse, sandy consistency (you can do this by hand or on low speed in the mixer).


Side note:  typically one finds baking powder sold in packets in France.  I can't recall the weight of one of those packets, but when I've made other Breton doughs, I've decreased the amount of baking powder called for.  For this one I added one teaspoon.

 Whisk together 3 egg yolks with 100 gm sugar plus the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean . . .

the yolk/sugar emulsion

and add this to the flour/butter mixture . . .

mixing just until it comes together.

like really coarse cornmeal

squeeze some to see that it's holding together

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight if your schedule demands it.)

ready for the fridge

That part was easy.  What became a conundrum was the duja preparation which is meant to serve as a garnish for the baked cookies.  I determined that the word duja is a shortened form for gianduja, that classic mixture of nut (typically hazelnut) paste and chocolate (what many of you know as "Nutella").

Here the recipe calls for grinding 140 gm hazelnuts with 60 gm powdered sugar, followed by the addition of 35 gm milk chocolate and 2 carrés de chocolat noir (both melted.)

The carrés de chocolat noir threw me a bit, not knowing how much a carré weighs.  On to the trusty (?) internet to find a reference stating a small carré weighs 5 gm and a large one weighs 10 gm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I decided 20 gm of chocolat noir just might do the trick.

ground hazelnuts, powdered sugar and chocolate, waiting to be melted


There was no way this mixture would hold together to be piped as any sort of garnish!

So I added another 60 gm of melted chocolate so that it at least formed a cohesive (sort of) ball.

I still had my doubts.  So I turned back to the internet and found a source describing DIY gianduja made by processing equal weights toasted hazelnuts and chopped milk chocolate to create a paste.

I did a little figuring and ended up adding an additional 80 gm of melted chocolate to my ever developing gianduja . . . . and my paste was born.

my duja paste

Time to bake the cookies!  An interesting note about this recipe - the yield is reported as pour 6/7 personnes.  Now what the heck is that supposed to mean?  Typically a cookie recipe tells you how many cookies you might expect, rather than how many people it will serve.

So for the instructed 5 mm thick, 6 cm round cookie I determined that each cookie weighs about 16 gm. The total dough quantity is 525 gm which should yield about 32 cookies per batch.  So  pour 6/7 personnes means everyone gets 4-5 cookies each.  A goofy way to look at it à mon avis!

6 cm round, dough about 5 mm thick

Heat the oven to 325º.  Roll the dough out to the above mentioned thickness and cut 6 cm rounds.  Place on a parchment lined sheet pan and put into the freezer for 10 minutes or so before baking for 12-15 minutes selon votre four.  Ahhhh - those oh so important words - depending on your oven!

ready for the oven
My cookies baked for about 18 minutes . . .

and came out nicely set and golden brown.

Once the cookies are cooled it's time for the garnish.  The recipe instructs one to pipe a dome of duja on each cookie, sprinkle on some chopped hazelnuts and then pop them in the fridge.  Then it mentions that one has the option of "enrobing" the cookies in chocolate (no further instruction as to how to pursue that one!).

My duja was definitely not pipe-able, so I rolled it out between two layers of plastic wrap and cut circles of a smaller diameter than the cookie.

I placed the duja round on the cookie but realized it wasn't going to stay put - there wasn't any chocolate-to-cookie sticking power.  I tried a little schmear of chocolate glaze on the cookie to act as glue, but no way.  I then sprinkled some hazelnut nougatine on top but knew that I was not going to be able to dip the whole thing in "enrobing" chocolate unless prepared for total demolition.

So I simply used some ganache I had in the fridge, squiggled some on top of the cookies, sprinkled some hazelnut nougatine on top and called it a day.  The cookies accompanied Steve to work the next day.

So much for sablés au praliné!  And the batch of duja?  Into the freezer along with the crushed tuiles from my last post.  Maybe I'll mix the two together and create something new!

Oh, and by the way, the flavor of these was OK but nothing to write home about.  Another recipe I would not make again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuiles au caramel et gingembre confit - trials and tribulations

Now that I've resumed working on the recipes in Philippe Conticini's book La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Biscuit Secs section, to be exact) I am reminded of the frustrations I encountered with some of the previous recipes.  Editing?  Recipe testing?  Who's doing it??

the recipe

I've made tuiles on rare occasions, and, since I'm always up for doing something that isn't in my usual repertoire, I approached this recipe with a light heart and an excitement for a unique version of this crisp cookie.

Tuile is the French word for tile and refers to a light, thin cookie which is usually formed over a rolling pin while warm, giving it a curved, terra-cotta-roof-tile appearance.  It's a great dessert vehicle, particularly as an accompaniment for mousses, ice creams, sorbets or what-have-you.

Most tuile recipes are very straight forward and come together in a flash!  Some use ground nuts and most use egg whites, not yolks or whole eggs.  You refrigerate the mixture until you're ready to bake.  What's not to like?  This one, although not really time consuming, takes a bit of thought before putting it all together.

In a nutshell, it requires making two different caramel sauces (la sauce au caramel and la ganache au caramel) in addition to the pâte à tuiles.  The sauces are then incorporated into the pâte.

A word about caramel sauce: it isn't difficult - it's a matter of cooking sugar (110 gm here) and a little water (3 tablespoons here) to an amber color, removing from the heat and adding cream (in this case 25 ml of milk and 35 ml of cream ) and a bit of butter (10 gm), creating a lovely, smooth concoction that is so good for sooooo many things!  And it keeps for weeks in the fridge.  I always have a batch of caramel sauce on hand (I've been using the recipe from Emily Luchetti's "Star's Desserts" for years and love it!).

les ingredients pour la sauce au caramel

Pay attention!  Wear gloves, particularly when adding the dairy, since there's a lot of bubbling going on - and this stuff is hot, hot, hot!!!

adding the dairy - notice the oven glove!

This caramel sauce recipe led me to contemplate some differences.  While Em's recipe uses a 3:2 ratio of sugar to cream, this one uses 2:1.  The end result was indeed a deeper, richer amber caramel due to the lower amount of cream (you'll see it in an upcoming picture.)

The second caramel recipe was a tad more involved.  It called for 80 gm sugar and 3 tablespoons water cooked to 125º C at which time a scant teaspoon of glucose is added.

The addition of glucose (I substituted honey) at the early stage of sugar boiling is intended to prevent crystallization, but I'm not sure why Philippe uses it here and not in the first caramel.  Artistic license?  Perhaps it's to insure a smooth, silky caramel ganache with the addition of the white chocolate at the end?

les ingredients pour la ganache au caramel

Continue the cooking to a nice amber color, then, off the heat, add 65 ml heavy cream and a noisette de beurre (use your judgement - I used a walnut sized piece).

After a bit of cooling add 45 gm chopped white chocolate and a pinch of fleur de sel and blend til smooth.

Both caramel sauces can be made ahead and refrigerated.  Since I was making the pâte à tuiles the same day, I proceeded once the caramels had cooled a bit.

les ingredients pour la pâte à tuiles
This preparation is trés simple:  melt 180 gm butter; whisk together 4 egg whites, 4 eggs and 35 gm brown sugar; add 90 gm flour and the melted butter; after brisk whisking add in 130 gm sauce de caramel (there was just enough!) and 30 gm ganache au caramel (plenty with leftovers) and blend.

In the above photo note the deep caramel sauce on the right and the lighter ganache au caramel below it.

the finished pâte à tuiles

Place the covered mixture in the fridge for a good hour (I left it over night).

Mince 20 gm crystallized ginger and have some fleur de sel on hand for garnish.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350º.  Philippe calls for parchment lined sheet pans and instructs you to form oval discs, the diameter of which you choose.  The recipe claims a yield of 20 tuiles, but there is no guideline as to how much batter to use per tuile or how thin it should be.

 To get a sense of apportionment I divided the total batter weight by 20 and came up with 40 gm (or about 3/4 of a 1/4 measuring cup).  I had to start somewhere, so I used the 1/4 cup as my ladling device . . .

ginger and fleur de sel garnish, tuile batter

and proceeded to scoop the batter onto the sheet pan.  I must admit I was harboring some skepticism, so I only did three on a 1/4 sheet pan as my initial trial.

I spread them out into ovals and sprinkled some ginger and fleur de sel on top.

ready for the oven
 I wasn't sure how long they would bake, since the recipe gave no hint of baking time.  Now I do understand that principle, since I was always taught that "you bake until it's done", but it is a bit helpful to have a general time frame, ne c'est pas?

This first batch baked for about 15 minutes.  The batter ran together and I had to trim around the edges to neaten up the shapes.  They stuck to the parchment paper and were obviously too thick and underdone.  I did proceed to shape them but knew this was NOT the result I was seeking!

the first try - too thick and soft!

For the next batch I used one of my handled ice cream type scoops to dole out a lesser quantity of batter in hopes of making a thinner, smaller tuile.  This batch baked about 15 minutes, and I even bumped up the oven temp a tad;  the batter again ran, requiring some trimming before they finished baking.  Not a pretty picture.

running batter and weird shapes!
However, I was getting there - even though these also stuck to the paper, they shaped up quite nicely and didn't look too bad in the final analysis . . .

the second batch
Finally the light bulb went on - Silpat!!  Why didn't I think of that sooner??

For my final batch I used even less batter and tried to smooth it out thinly on Silpat lined sheet pans.

ready for the oven

This time they baked about 15 minutes, became nicely browned and peeled off the silicone as easy as pie!

and no running!

Onto the rolling pin they went . . .

At last!  These shaped beautifully, came out nice and crisp and didn't look half bad!!

I used vanilla fleur de sel - see the grains?

And finally - what about the taste??  Steve and I agreed that, even though I used a light hand (or so I thought) with the fleur de sel, there was too much salt - and there should have been more ginger coming through.  They were also very greasy, leaving our fingers with a coating that had to be wiped off.

The texture was crisp and the caramel flavor quite pleasing, but overall a disappointment, particularly considering the steps involved for component prep, and the trials and tribulations of portioning and baking times.

Too bad - here's another one that's going into the "don't do again" file!

If I ever makes tuiles again, I'll go to the many basic recipes available in my baking books or on line and choose a straight forward approach.  Live and learn.

And what did I do with the finished product?  Crushed 'em up, put 'em in the freezer and hope to use the crumbs to create a croustillant (a crunchy layer for desserts generally made with ground toasted nuts (or nut paste), melted chocolate and crushed gavotte crepe cookies.)  Yeah!