World egg day!

Maple pot de crème

Maple pot de crème

How many of you knew that October 12 was World Egg Day? I wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for Kim, the activities director at Heron Manor/Woods just down the street from our home.

It all started in 1996 when the International Egg Commission set the second Friday in October as World Egg Day to increase awareness of the benefits of eggs and how important they are in human nutrition. Who knew?

Needless to say, eggs are utilized in many different ways in the baking and pastry world. For a morning event this past Friday, October 12, I decided to really go for it in the egg department.

Never one to turn down pot de crème, I thought others would enjoy a maple version of this unctuous delight, topped with maple mascarpone cream, a sprinkle of walnut praline crumbs and a petite maple walnut shortbread cookie on the side. So lovely and so delicious.

The base is essentially a crème brulée type custard made with cream, yolks and sugar (maple syrup here). I used 3 ounce ramekins which I find to be a perfect portion for a just right taste.

To yield 14 portions, whisk together 9 yolks, 3/4 cup REAL maple syrup (don’t you even dare use “pancake syrup“!), 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract; heat 3 cups heavy cream to barely simmering and temper it into the egg/maple syrup mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a pouring measuring cup then fill the ramekins to 1/4” below the rim.

Bake in a water bath at 325ºF. I use a clear pyrex glass baking dish, set the ramekins in, pour hot water into the corner of the dish and fill to about half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover loosely with foil and bake about 30-35 minutes, checking it periodically - you want the custard just set with a hint of a jiggle in the center. Once out of the oven, lift them out of the water bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.


Then refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with whatever you’d like! If not being consumed the same day, I cover them with plastic wrap to enjoy over the next few days.


Now for a tart!


As always, having some version of a tart in the mix is right up my alley and thus a ricotta custard raspberry tartlette was born - buttery blind baked short crust filled with a few raspberry pieces and an easy to make ricotta filling.

For the filling whisk together 2 cups ricotta/3 eggs/one tablespoon cornstarch/3/4 cup sugar/zest of a lemon/ 1 teaspoon vanilla. Et voilà, très simple!


Bake at 350ºF until the filling is set and a bit puffy, about 20-25 minutes.


To give these babies some panache I made a lightly gelled raspberry coulis and pooled it on the top.


Then a nice string-of-pearls crème Chantilly rim and a fresh raspberry to top it off. Smooth and berry delicious !


The World Egg Day table also held browned-butter pistachio crumb cakes (egg whites) . . . .


. . . . and apple pecan brioche (we all know that has eggs!).

Note: more on revisiting brioche recipes later - it’s an ongoing task.


An enjoyable egg day it was!! Can’t wait until next year.

Brioche feuilletée

I've been wanting to make this delectable version of brioche for some time now, and so it was that a recent online reference to Guy Savoy's new venture in Paris, Gout de Brioche, finally got me going. The shop offers individual as well as "grand" brioche feuilletée in a variety of flavors both savory and sweet. 

This particular dough is another in the family of laminated dough - puff pastry, croissant and Danish being the standards.  Here we have an egg enriched brioche dough which is put through similar laminating steps to create buttery, flaky layers of goodness.

It seems that every time I make brioche I look back at various recipes and compare ingredient amounts and ratios.  This time I reviewed the recipe from the Le Nôtre class that I attended in Paris during our recent September trip. Using it, as well as an online recipe attributed to Philippe Conticini of Pâtisserie des Rêves fame, I came up with my own version to launch my attempt at brioche feuilletée.

Brioche dough can be lean to rich and may contain amounts of butter that are anywhere from 20-80% of the quantity of flour in the recipe.  With the laminated approach one reduces the amount of butter in the basic dough but then uses a larger amount of butter for the butter block that becomes incorporated into the dough.

Here's the dough: 500 g flour (450 g all purpose and 50 g bread); 10 g salt; 50 g sugar; 8 g instant yeast; 90 ml whole milk; 250 g egg (about 5 large); 50 g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes.  

Place the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low for a couple of minutes.  Add the eggs 1-2 at a time until each addition is incorporated.

Increase speed to medium and mix for 12-15 minutes until the dough is coming away from the sides of the bowl.  

Add the butter piece by piece until incorporated. The dough should be shiny, smooth and silky.

Turn the dough out into a lightly greased bowl, cover and let it rise for an hour.

Deflate the dough gently then cover snugly and put into the fridge for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Form a butter block with 340 g unsalted butter and hold it in the fridge overnight as well.

The following morning take the butter out to take the firm chill off and allow it to become more malleable for the beurrage et tourage.

At this point the process is the same as for croissant - envelope the butter and then put it through three single, or business letter, folds with 30 minute rests in between. Here's the first fold.

After the three folds give it a good hour rest in the fridge before rolling it out for its final use.

Take a look at my finished dough below - it felt great even though the butter isn't uniformly distributed in the dough. I pushed on nonetheless!  

Roll the dough out into an approximately 16"x13' rectangle.  At this point you can do any filling your little heart desires.  I opted for a simple mix of crushed raw sugar cubes with lemon zest which I sprinkled over the dough, leaving the upper edge clear.

Brush the upper edge with a little water, milk or egg wash to help seal the seam once you've rolled it up.

Now slice into twelve 1 1/4" slices.

You can tuck these, cut side up, into buttered standard muffin tins, but I decided to use lightly buttered panettone papers.

Let these rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, depending on your ambient temperature.  They should look poufy with increased prominence of the laminations.

Heat the oven to 400ºF.  

Brush the tops with a bit of egg wash or milk and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes then decrease the temp to 350 for another 10-15 minutes until nicely browned.

Once cooled a bit I pulled them out of the baking papers and brushed the surface with lemon syrup.  I find that brioche often look a bit dry coming out of the oven and the syrup gives them a nice sheen.

They look a bit like a conch shell!  Or some kind of snail.  Some of them tried to rise up and escape from their houses, looking like a slinky going down the stairs.

Once a bit cooled it was definitely time for a taste test. In the photo below the smaller pieces in the background are a couple of end scraps that I baked separately, and the sliced brioche in the front is one that slink-ied out of its paper.

The thing that always strikes me about a good brioche is how LIGHT it is!  The eggs and the butter don't seem to weigh it down at all.  Although remember that an important part is making sure you give these babies a decent rise - if they don't rise long enough they'll end up heavy and dense.

The flavor and texture were just right and the lemon syrup gave these a nice little zing.  But next time I'd punch the lemon zest up even more.

I can't wait to try some other versions!  Yessiree!!

It's all about the journey.

A pastry year in review and looking ahead

Wow!  It's already January 4 (one of Steve's favorite lines after the new year is "this year is flying by!), and I'm excited about a couple of recently purchased pastry books, compliments of a Schuler's gift certificate from my book lover husband.

Here's a little new-book-preview before I look back at some of the favorite things that I baked in 2015.

Dominique Ansel's The Secret Recipes caught my eye, not because of his cronut fame, but because he shares the history of his pastry profession as well as some of his innovative recipes.  I've just started working my way through the book, and I'm already inspired.

Samantha Seneviratne's the new sugar & spice spoke to me since I'm always trying to think a bit outside the box when it comes to spices and flavor combos.  And her stories of family life in Sri Lanka only serve to enhance the collection of recipes that focus on specific spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and more.

And so I look forward to plunging into some new baking adventures.

The cover recipe of Samantha's book is first on my list - pistachio and chocolate butter cake.  Of course I must get some cardamom in the house!

Dominique's "magic soufflé" looks really interesting (and challenging) - brioche dough wrapped around a chocolate ganache filling - man oh man, that should be fun.  I love doing new things with brioche dough, so stay tuned folks!

Now here's a brief pictorial of some of the favorites from this past year.

Galette des rois . . . .

served with chantilly, toasted almonds, fresh citrus and caramel drizzle.

My first English muffins . . . .

served toasted with butter and jam.

Brioche craquelins . . . .

oh so citrusy and crunchy with a crumb to die for.

 Chocolate génoise entremet . . . .

Golden raisin toast apple tart . . . .

Millefeuille chocolat . . . .

 Tarte aux fruits rouge pistache. . . . 

Cannelés bordelais . . . .

Crunchy topped choux  . . . .

Rustic summer crostata . . . .

Gateau Breton . . . .

au naturale
and . . . .

avec crème d'amandes et confiture
Tea flavored shortbread . . . .

Thanksgiving citrus cream tart . . . .

And last but not least a Christmas coconut cream tart . . . .

But I simply can't sign off without a reminder of the perennial favorites . . . .

croissant et pain au chocolat

chausson aux pommes

croissant aux amandes


Here's to a fantastic year of baking and pastry for 2016!!

Craquelins - a Belgian brioche treat from Thomas Keller

I've been salivating over Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery book that's been sitting on my pastry library bookshelf for several months now.  Thus far I've made a few of the shortbread recipes and have read through a good deal of the book, soaking in the advice and tips from Sebastien Rouxel, the head patissier.  His way of presenting things is right up my alley and is so in line with how I've come to view my own approach to pastry and the French way of doing things.

His energy, passion and attention to detail come through loud and clear, especially on the heels of my ever growing disillusionment with Philippe Conticini's La Pâtisserie des Rêves book, it's imprecision and sloppy editing.

The craquelins recipe was calling my name, and, as usual, I did some research on this enriched dough treat.  It is classically a Belgian specialty made by mixing citrus zest and sugar cubes into brioche dough.  Lemon is most commonly used, but some versions use orange and add some orange liqueur as well.

The method that is described in a number or recipes involves mixing sugar cubes into brioche dough and then covering and enclosing the shaped dough balls with a smaller disc of brioche dough.  This apparently acts as a seal to keep the sugar cubes from popping through during baking.

Bouchon's version calls for candied orange rind, orange zest and orange liqueur, and I figured I'd follow their lead on this one.

First I made my candied orange rind, which can be done ahead and kept in the fridge for several weeks.  It's a straightforward process with the fussiest part being the separating of the rind from as much of the white pith as possible.

I typically slice the rind off the orange, then remove any remaining pith before cutting the rind into narrow strips.

Make a simple syrup and set it aside.  Place the rind in cold water in a separate sauce pan, bring it to a boil, then strain it.  Do that two more times (this helps reduce the bitterness of the rind),

boiling the rind

then place the rind into the simple syrup and simmer until translucent (that might take 20-30 minutes).

the candied rind

Let the rind cool to room temp before refrigerating it in its syrup until you're ready to use it.

Time to make the brioche!  Every time I make this enriched dough I am amazed at the transformation that occurs.  What begins as a somewhat dry, firm dough develops into a satiny, shiny, buttery mass of goodness.  Whoa baby!

This recipe has a starter made with 60 gm whole milk, 8 gm instant yeast and 90 gm all purpose flour.  It's dry and not terribly attractive.

Mix it, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour.


Meanwhile, get the orange rind mixture ready:  finely chop the candied orange rind, mix with orange zest and liqueur.  The recipe calls for 150 gm candied rind, 15 gm orange zest and 1.5 tsp orange liqueur.  I used 80 gm rind, 10 gm zest and 1.5 tsp hazelnut liqueur, since that's what I had on hand.

Proceed with the mise en place for the remaining dough.

all the ingredients

Place 390 gm all purpose flour, 52 gm granulated sugar and 12 gm kosher salt (see side note below) in the mixer bowl.  Give it a quick whisk, then mix in the starter dough and blend for 30 seconds or so.

Side note:  in the book 12 gm of kosher salt is equated to 4 teaspoons; however my 12 gm was closer to 2-2.5 tsp; remember - not all kosher salts are created equal!!  And that, folks, is just one example of why weighing trumps measuring!

Add 225 gm eggs in three additions,

starting to add the egg

. . .  then mix on low speed for 15 minutes to develop the gluten.

The dough at this point feels kind of tough and not at all satiny smooth.

Start adding the butter, several pieces at a time, incorporating each addition before adding more.

Once all the butter is added, mix for a couple more minutes . . .

and voila!  What a beautiful piece of dough!!

At this point it's time to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape a rough rectangle, onto which you place the orange rind/zest mixture.

Knead the orange mixture into the dough and then pat into a rectangle again.

Do a fold-over of the dough, side to side . . .

then top to bottom . . .

then flip it over, form a ball and place in an oiled bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temp for an hour.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, pat it into a rectangle and repeat the side-to-side/top-to-bottom stretching and folding process.  Place the dough, seam side down, in the bowl, cover and refrigerate over night.

Here's the dough after its overnight chill . . .

ready for shaping

Turn the chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface, shape it into a rough log . . .

getting ready to divide

and divide it into 12 approximately 100 gm portions.  Have 12 sugar cubes at the ready.

all weighed out

Now form each portion into a ball . . .

then push one sugar cube into the bottom of each.

Turn them back over and re-roll to push the sugar cube more centrally into the dough.

Now place them in lightly oiled paper baking molds on a sheet pan and brush with egg wash.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let proof for 1.5 to 2 hours.  I turn the proofing setting in my oven on at 85º for just a few minutes and then turn it off.  It makes for a nice proofing environment (I think about 75º is ideal).  Of course, if it's summer and your kitchen is nice and warm, just proof at room temp!

With brioche it can be difficult to appreciate a dramatic rise due to the quantity of butter which tends to weigh the dough down.  However I think you can see in the photo below that the dough has indeed filled out in the baking cups compared to the photo above.

After proofing brush again with egg wash and sprinkle each with pearl sugar.

ready for the oven

Bake at 325º convection for about 20-25 minutes - and don't forget to watch what's happening in that oven!

c'est fini!

 These rose beautifully and baked to a lovely golden color - and the aroma - oh la la!

like little moonlit nuggets

Once they had cooled I simply had to try one.  I didn't feel too guilty since I'd already had my morning oatmeal and berries - and it was lunch time, after all.

The crumb is moist and soft, the crunchy sugar a treat like none other and the orange rind and zest adds the perfect note.  I can't wait to try these with lemon.

And, of course, Steve liked them too.

Yes indeed!  Thanks Bouchon Bakery!!

Artisan bread class at King Arthur Flour, Day 1

On Sunday, October 26, 2014 I wended my way north from Providence amidst beautiful autumn colors, arriving at the Hampton Inn in White River Junction, VT several hours later. My purpose - to attend a 4 day artisan bread class at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT, just a few miles north of my lodgings.

When Steve and I lived in Vermont some years ago, I visited the King Arthur baking store on a few occasions, but little did I know what awaited me this time around. The new Baking Center is a stunning piece of VT architecture, right down to its quintessential metal roof.

Inside one finds a cozy café, the bakers retail store and a couple of large production kitchens where you can watch what's going on - so cool!  I especially got a kick out of seeing the large blocks of butter being formed for croissants and danish, followed by the butter being enveloped in the dough in preparation for sheeting - bordering on massive compared to my small, hands-on batches of croissants!

Then there is the baking center where many have honed their skills and enhanced their knowledge as they pursue their passion for baking.

I and 10 fellow students were warmly greeted by Robyn, our instructor for the first day. Free coffee cards were handed out as we each settled in at what would be our "bench" spot for the remainder of the class.

The teaching kitchen is open, airy, extremely well equipped with impressive tiered deck ovens, proofing cabinets, roll in refrigerators, cheery red KitchenAid stand mixers and more. What a great place to learn!

The plan for the week:

We began with a couple of "straight" doughs (also known as direct doughs) which are made and baked the same day. We made pissaladiere (a classic southern French pizza-like dish typically topped with caramelized onion, olives and anchovies) and grissini (bread sticks).

Both of these doughs were very user-friendly, came together smoothly with a silky feel.  Then after kneading, some resting/rising time and shaping, they were baked in the hot deck ovens. Since I'm not an olive lover, I chose to top my pissaladiere with only the caramelized onions (seasoned with herbes de provence and pepper), although my classmates all happily embraced the olive-onion combo.

The grissini were a bit chubby, some twisty and crooked since everyone put their own spin on the shaping process:

We had the option of keeping our results or leaving them on the wire racks to be donated to a local food cause. Since there wasn't any chance I would (or could) eat all of these, I chose the second option, both for the pissaladiere and the grissini.

Day 1 also included making brioche dough which would be refrigerated overnight for use on Day 2. I found the recipe and process less time consuming than the recipe I normally use (from my stage days at Pâtisserie Pascal Pinaud), and the end result was as silky and smooth as could be.  I'll show you what we did with this dough in Day 2's post.

We then focused on the group of doughs called "pre-ferments". These are portions of dough that are typically made a day ahead and then incorporated into the final dough the following day. They are important for flavor, structure and extended shelf life, and many feel that doughs made in this manner are superior to "straight" doughs for those very reasons.

There are many types of "pre-ferments" and many more references available to explain the difference and variables among these, including King Arthur's web site. Or you could sign up for a class yourself!!

The three we made today were pâte fermentée (for roasted potato bread), biga (for ciabatta) and poolish (for baguette). 

They mix together in the nick of time, are covered, held overnight at room temperature, and then incorporated into the final dough the following day. You can see below that they have different structure and moisture content, the poolish being the wettest.

We were off to a great start! Next up - Day 2!

Brioche mousseline

The fourth recipe in Philippe Conticini's La Pâtisserie des Rêves is Brioche mousseline.

I typically associate mousseline with brioche that is baked in a tall cylinder mold with a parchment collar so that it rises above the mold.  It’s then sliced and used for canapés, and the leftovers can be used to make Bostock, that delicious syrup-imbibed, almond cream covered, twice baked delight.

Brioche Nanterre is another version in which dough balls are lined up in a loaf pan, proofed and baked so the balls essentially fuse together, creating a "pull-apart" look.

Since Philippe's recipe instructs the Nanterre type of line up, I was intrigued by his use of the word mousseline. My research revealed that the word has several meanings, depending on its context. In the culinary world it’s a sauce, such as a hollandaise, to which butter is added, whereas in the pastry world it’s crème pâtissière to which butter is added.

In this brioche recipe it has to do with the flour to butter ratio.  A classic "medium" brioche has a 2:1 flour to butter ratio, whereas a brioche mousseline has closer to a 5:4 flour to butter ratio.  So that's what makes Philippe's recipe a mousseline.  In a word - butter!!  Some call this "Rich man's brioche" due to the high butter content.

Now on to the process!

When making brioche dough, use a heavy duty stand mixer.  I generally plan on anywhere from 20-30 minutes of mixing time, so it's helpful to have a number of minor tasks you can perform while waiting for the process to finish.  Just be sure you keep on eye on your mixer, because it can start "walking" around your counter during the butter addition.

This recipe is straight forward.  Have 190 g cool, unsalted butter diced and ready to go. Mix 250 g all purpose flour, 40 g sugar, 6 g salt and 4 g instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Starting out with the paddle (NOT the dough hook), add 4 large cold eggs and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.  Then continue mixing on medium speed for up to 10-15 minutes until the dough becomes very elastic and starts to clean the sides of the bowl.

Above: diced butter ready to be added

Now switch to the dough hook and start adding the butter, 1/3 at a time until each addition is incorporated.  

Above: the dough can really creep up the hook!

Above: after the butter addition, ready for a rest

The dough should be shiny, elastic and smooth.  This is one of the things I love about brioche dough at the end of the mixing - so silky and wonderful!

Cover it with plastic film and let it rest 1.5 hours at room temp.

Above: dough after room temp rest

Then place the dough on a lightly floured surface, form a rough ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. I typically make brioche dough in the evening, let it rest in the fridge overnight then shape, proof and bake the next morning. Works for me!

Above: rough ball ready to be wrapped and chilled

After the chill time (in which the dough becomes quite firm), remove the dough from the fridge and get ready to shape!

It’s important to work with the dough cool so, if you have a big batch of dough, it’s helpful to work with half of it at a time and keep the other portion wrapped in the fridge until you’re ready. This recipe makes approximately 680 g (1.5 pounds) of dough which is good for one loaf pan.

I divided the dough evenly into four 170 g pieces.

Then shaped each piece into a boule.

Have a well buttered loaf pan ready and place the boules snugly into the pan.

Cover the pan with a lightly buttered piece of plastic wrap and let rise 2 hours at room temp.

Above: after the rise

Have your oven heated to 350ºF and bake about 35 minutes.  Remember!  I'll harp on this again and again - pay attention to what's happening in your oven!!

Nice and golden brown, just waiting to be tasted.

This is one delicious brioche!  I must admit that over the years as I've tried various brioche recipes, I've been put off by the ones that have a higher ratio of butter.  But this one has changed my mind.  It has a tight, yet light, delicate crumb, and a rich buttery flavor.  Who could ask for more?!