Kouign-amann pudding

Now here's a good one - essentially a bread pudding made with leftover Kouign-amann.  What?!

Of course some might argue that once Kouign-amann are made they'll be gobbled up and there won't BE any leftovers.

Not so in my case.  A couple of months ago I decided to make a batch of K-a, but, instead of baking them in open tart rings, I baked them in flexi-molds.  I thought it would lend itself to much easier release of the final baked goods from their sticky, caramelized holders.

Nuh-uh.  Because the dough was essentially "shielded" by the silicone molds, the K-a exteriors did not caramelize, the dough layers did not bake through and were pale and floppy.  It was a gooey mess.

Note to self: certain things bake and brown much better surrounded by metal.  Yup.

Some of the edges were actually OK and the flavor was there, so something wouldn't allow me to throw them all away and into the freezer they went.

After the holidays I was visiting Schuler Books here in Grand Rapids, looking of course at baking books, and was excited to find a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible (with Kouign-amann on the front cover no less) for "souffled French toast".

It uses day-old K-a baked in an egg, milk, cream, vanilla custard.  What's not to like.

I removed 480 grams of K-a from the freezer some hours ahead and let them thaw at room temperature.  Notice the misshapen K-a lumps in the photo below.

notice the doughy interior layers

Cut the K-a into cubes and place them in an 8"x8" glass baking dish.

Mix 6 large eggs, 160 ml heavy cream, 60 ml whole milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Pour the custard over the K-a, cover and soak the mélange in the fridge over night.

ready for an overnight soak

Heat the oven to 350º F.  Bake covered with foil for 10 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the pudding is puffed, set and nicely browned.

We ate this for dessert au naturale, still slightly warm (when it's at its best, by the way).

I can just imagine it topped with a little chantilly cream, a drizzle of maple syrup and some fresh berries, either for dessert or for breakfast or brunch.  YUM.

So now you know what you can do with those leftover or not-so-perfect Kouign-amanns that you just might have lying around.

Thanks Rose.

A chocolate génoise entremet

When we're invited to someone's home for a weekend supper, I always (almost) volunteer to make dessert.  Thus it was that I was on the hook again to provide something tasty and not too heavy for the meal's finale.

My dessert leanings tend to veer towards a simple tart (classic apple, fruit/almond, lemon, caramel nut, ganache to name a few) or something custardy like pots de crème, perhaps served with some buttery shortbread.  But, every now and then, I like to create a layered entremet.

The word entremet is actually translated as "between servings" and can refer to a small dish served between courses or to a dessert.  In the modern pastry world it most often refers to a layered dessert made with some type of cake along with various creamy, crunchy textural components.   The possibilities are pretty much limitless - just look in any French pâtisserie window and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!

Since Steve and my brother Dick are both chocolate lovers (truth be told Dor and I don't mind the stuff either), I focused on a chocolate plan.  I had it in the back of my brain to utilize the leftover "duja" that I had made for the sablés au praliné post on 1/2/515, so I popped it out of the freezer and into the fridge for an overnight thaw.

a mixture of chocolate and ground hazelnuts
 Whenever I have a cake question or need ideas for the type of cake I might like to make, I turn to Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible.  The information in this book is exhaustive, and just in the section on génoise alone, you'll find many variants with detailed explanations about the differences.

Génoise belongs to the sponge cake family and is typically made with eggs, sugar and flour.  It tends to be on the dry side and thus is imbibed with a syrup to moisten it before being layered with cream or mousse of some sort.

I chose the "moist chocolate génoise", a recipe I've made several times before.  It calls for bittersweet chocolate, so I got out my favorite array of chocolates.  I like to mix and match, combining different percentage chocolates to achieve about a 60-62% result.

This recipe utilizes an interesting technique with the chocolate (described below) - Rose says this releases the chocolate's flavor.

The ingredient portions here are for 1/2 recipe since I only wanted to make one cake (the full recipe makes two 9" cakes).  In the picture below you see the chocolate mixture in the forefront, made by pouring 120 gm (1/2 cup) boiling water over 113 gm chocolate, then simmering it until it achieves a pudding like consistency.  It has fully cooled and is ready to go!

half the recipe

Remember - this is 1/2 recipe!  Beat 4 eggs and 100 gm sugar in the mixer using the whisk on high speed until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.

Amazing how eggs and sugar transform from a yellow, grainy mixture to a light, pale and airy froth of goodness!

Then sift 75 gm of cake flour over the mixture and fold it in gently.  The flour has a tendency to fall to the bottom, so pay attention so you don't have lingering clumps of flour in your batter.

Then fold in the chocolate mixture until incorporated.

Pour the batter into a 9" cake or springform pan that has been lined with parchment then buttered and floured.

just a hint of a flour streak in the center

Bake at 350º for about 30-35 minutes.  I use the touch-the-center technique to decide if the cake is done - it should feel firm, set and spongy (get it? Sponge cake!).  I also gently jiggle the pan, and if there's movement in the center, it needs more time.

just out of the oven

Loosen and remove the outer ring of the springform (if that's what you've used) and let cool on a wire rack.

Then invert the cake onto a rack, remove the pan bottom and re-invert.  Once cooled you can wrap it and hold it at room temp or in the fridge for a couple of days OR freeze it for a month or so.

Earlier in the day I had made my go-to ganache-for-whipping using 3 parts heavy cream to 1 part chocolate (240 gm cream and 80 gm chocolate in this case).  Once the mixture is chilled it is whipped to a spreadable consistency and ready for layering.

I also created a thin round with the chocolate/hazelnut ("duja") mixture by softening it over a bain marie along with a tablespoon or so of butter, then spreading it in a 220 mm circle on silpat .  Into the freezer it went until assembly time.

the "duja" round

Now it's time for assembly.  My components, seen below, are the genoise (split in two layers), vanilla simple syrup, the "duja" round, whipped chocolate ganache, plus a mixture of hazelnut nougatine and chocolate crumbs which I had in my freezer from previous projects.

ready for assembly

First a layer of genoise; brush it with simple syrup; top it with the round of "duja".

My thin round is a tad too big, so I took my kitchen scissors and trimmed around the edge.

Then I spread a layer of whipped ganache . . .

 topped it with my crunchy mixture . . .

then my second cake layer topped with more ganache and crunchies.

all layered up

looks pretty tasty!

The assembly can be completed a day before serving - just store the entremet covered in the fridge.

One can take this a step further and coat the sides with additional whipped ganache and crunchies, but I decided to leave it au naturel.  Nothin' fancy here.

ready to slice

and there you have it

The consensus was all thumbs up on this lovely blend of chocolate and hazelnut, not too heavy and not too sweet - just delicious!

OK, so I admit I didn't go the extra mile as far as any garnish for this dessert, but some great accompaniments would be a dollop of chantilly, some chopped candied hazelnuts and a flourish of candied orange rind.

Or how about a nice pool of apricot coulis and a drizzle of caramel?  Or a dose of warm créme anglaise and some fresh raspberries?

You get the idea.  Now get into that kitchen of yours and create your own entremet!

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 (dough starter), Bouchon bakery uses a liquid levain (another version of a starter), whereas the one I chose to follow is a straight forward direct dough that is as 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!