2019 - here we go!

Chocolate chip brioche swirls

Chocolate chip brioche swirls

Wow! We’re already a full week into 2019, and I’ve baked barely a thing, much less written a blog post. After the busy-ness of the mid-November through Christmas hustle and bustle, I’ve been taking a little stay-cation and easing into the New Year. You know - tidying up the house, putting away holiday decorations, starting some financial summaries for tax time (THAT’S vacation you ask??), working on a jigsaw puzzle, going for my walks and contemplating the weeks and months ahead.

I recently learned that in France it’s not proper to wish anyone Happy New Year until January 1st and then you have the entire month to express that particular wish. But come February 1st - nuh-uh, not allowed. So I still have plenty of time, right? Happy New Year everyone!!

At the start of a new year it’s fun to go back over the past year and look at various projects completed and goodies baked. Here are just a few.

My current favorite cookie - Raspberry almond thumbprints

My current favorite cookie - Raspberry almond thumbprints

Maple  pots de crème  with maple walnut shortbread

Maple pots de crème with maple walnut shortbread

Quiche Lorraine -mmmmm good!

Quiche Lorraine -mmmmm good!

Raspberry pistachio spirals and  chausson aux pommes

Raspberry pistachio spirals and chausson aux pommes

Pistachio orange cakes with orange honey Swiss meringue buttercream

Pistachio orange cakes with orange honey Swiss meringue buttercream

Caramel apple  tarte

Caramel apple tarte

Cheesy  gougères

Cheesy gougères

Blueberry custard buns

Blueberry custard buns

Melt-In-Your-Mouth chocolate cakes/white and dark ganache

Melt-In-Your-Mouth chocolate cakes/white and dark ganache

And Let’s not forget the ever favorite  croissant aux amandes

And Let’s not forget the ever favorite croissant aux amandes

Just before Christmas I returned to Sur La Table here in Grand Rapids as Pastry Chef Instructor. So far, so good - macarons, croissants, cast iron desserts (tarte tatin, cherry/chocolate bread pudding, bananas foster) - and more to come in the upcoming weeks. Each month’s schedule almost always has macaron and croissant classes, with seasonal variations in the other baking topics offered. Just visit Sur La Table’s class page to see what’s on the calendar. While the chef instructor schedule isn’t posted until a week ahead, chances are I’ll be teaching a decent percentage of the baking and pastry related classes. Hope to see you there!

So what might 2019 bring? As I age and we experience the loss of the generation before us as well as some of our own generation, it becomes more and more clear how important it is to enjoy each day, take care of ourselves, revel in the company of family and friends and remain upbeat about the future and all that we have. As Steve often says “life is short - go to Paris”.

And of course, here’s to many new baking adventures (sorghum flour anyone?), continuing to learn and teach others this craft that I’ve come to love so much.

Once again - a big Happy New Year to all!

Raspberry custard  tartelettes

Raspberry custard tartelettes

Ahhhhh croissants - old favorites and a chocolate trial

I held a croissant class recently, and, in preparation for that event, I baked a couple of croissants and pains au chocolat for class tasting purposes.

Just imagine that flaky, crisp exterior and lovely airy, not-quite-bready interior.  So good.

And for a special treat I had to do croissant aux amandes, bien sûr.  A big hit with the group.

In addition to the classics, I'm periodically on a path of discovering different things to do with croissant dough.  On one of my morning walks I started thinking chocolate, and, since I had recently finished a batch of chocolate pâte feuilletée, it seemed only natural to try croissant dough with a chocolate twist.

I made a half batch of my usual recipe, adding in some Dutch process cocoa powder (10% by weight of my flour amount) with the dry ingredients.  I increased the milk just a bit, since I find that cocoa powder tends to have a drying effect on dough.

the détrempe

In addition I worked some hazelnut flour into my butter block hoping to give it a nutty flair.  Yup!  Definitely wingin' it!!

hazelnut butter block

Ready for the beurrage . . . .

Finished dough after the three turns . . . .

Not long ago I added a new flexi-mold to my Silikomart collection and was itching to use it.  I had visions of dough spirals dancing in my head.  Even though these silicone molds are non-stick, I brushed them with soft butter so I could coat them with vanilla sugar before placing the spirals in to rise.

I rolled the finished dough out to allow for shaping a couple of typical croissants . . . .

plus a block of dough topped with vanilla sugar and mini chocolate chips . . . .

that I cut into 3/4" strips, rolled up into spirals and popped into my buttered/sugared molds.

I gave them a 1.5 hour rise . . .

after the rise

after the rise

and then on to the bake!  One thing's for sure - the chocolate makes it much more difficult to assess whether they've baked long enough, but I could appreciate some browning and the croissants had the "feel" of being fully baked (once you've felt it, you just know).

rather interesting, eh?

 I wanted to give the spirals a bit longer in the oven to make sure the interior layers were done.  I took them out of the molds, drizzled them with caramel, baked 'em another 5-10 minutes and called it a day.

Taste test time!!

Cutting into the croissant resulted in the hoped for shower of crispy exterior shards.  The inner laminations looked OK and the texture was good, but the taste wasn't much different from a regular butter croissant (although Steve thought it on the dry side).  And this is the key for me - minimal (if any!) chocolate flavor and no hint of hazelnut.  So much for that.

The spirals, however, offered a pleasant, crispy caramelized texture and flavor, and the mini chips added just the right touch of chocolate.


In the end, this attempt at chocolate croissant dough was not worth the effort.

Perhaps an increase in the amount of cocoa powder, or adding the chocolate to the butter block rather than the détrempe might make a difference, but at this point I'll stick with the classic dough from here on out.

Chocolate bread pudding here I come!