Breakfast Breads – Butter Croissants

Croissants. A fairly common and easy to eat breakfast food. So good when eaten warm. The best ones are flakey, light and buttery. Much work goes into making croissant dough. It was a busy class for us this day.

To get the flakiness in the croissants once baked, the dough must go through lamination. Lamination is the process of rolling fat into the dough through a series of folds and turns. And because the fat being used here is butter, it is necessary to give the dough time to rest and allow the butter to chill slightly before each roll out, fold and turn. The butter should not be melted and soft.

We spent half of our last class laminating our dough and then processed the dough this week. First we flattened our butter. This is the fat that will be rolled in. We simply used a rolling pin to flatten butter between some parchment paper.

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The croissant dough is made of yeast, water, bread flour, butter, salt, sugar, milk powder, eggs. We then rolled the dough out, fairly thin but wide enough that we could place our butter in the middle and envelope it with dough.

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This week we cut the dough and began forming our croissants. We had chocolate, cheese, almond and of course, plain.

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Here’s the croissant haul after baking.

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I love being croissant rich! =)

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Playing with Dough…oh, and baking bread too.

I am not sure why I am so apprehensive about baking bread. I think it is because my dough handling skills leave something to be desired. I simply need to learn how to handle dough. Day one of bread class put me on that path to learning these skills.

We spent part of the class literally playing with dough. Learning how it feels with too much water or too little. Learning how to knead it to break down the gluten proteins and get the right elasticity. I was told that if my dough looks like it has cellulite, it has been man handled.

There are 12 steps to fermentation when making bread:
1. Scaling – measuring out your ingredients. A simple bread dough has 4 ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt.
2. Mixing
3. Bench rest – allowing the dough to rest after being handled. Helps in maintaining elasticity.
4. Punching – releasing the air, eliminating bubbles.
5. Dividing – cutting the dough into the pieces to be baked.
6. Rounding – smoothing it and rounding the edges.
7. Bench rest
8. Shaping – depends on the type of bread you are making – Bun? Loaf? Baguette? Round?
9. Proofing – allowing to rise
10. Scoring – cutting lines to allow steam to escape especially if using a steam oven. Also a decorative addition. People will score differently, it is like a personal bread signature.
11. Baking
12. Cooling

Today we made a simple white bread dough which we could shape into buns, loaves, baguettes or rounds.

20120923-213528.jpg Told ya there would be flour.

Using fresh yeast and warm water we make a slurry to proof the yeast, making sure it is alive. When the yeast is alive it will react to the warm water and begin to bubble. This is the ingredient that gives a bread dough its rise.

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On top of the slurry, we add flour, shortening (butter is better), sugar, milk powder, and salt is last. Using the mixer and dough hook, we mix until the dough pulls away clean from the sides.

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The dough is then left to rest and rise, hidden under a bowl or wrapped in plastic to keep from drying out. I got so caught up playing with our molding dough, I forgot to snap shots of the dough ball as it grew. In any case, it doubled in size and then we divided, rounded and shaped the dough.

I went with a loaf and some buns. Dough proofing.

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20120923-214404.jpg See how it has risen and filled out the pan more?

There are the giant rotating ovens.

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They bake for about 25 minutes or an internal temp of 200 Fahrenheit. Colour is not a clear indication of done ness. Bread fresh from the oven.

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Ugh, took all my willpower not to rip up and devour it right then and there. I waited until I got home to slice it up.

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My parents scored the loaf, I kept the buns. Nice soft white bread with a nice crust. I had my piece with some garlic butter. Then I had to hide it to keep from eating them all tonight.

I am quite proud I made bread today. To me it seems like such an ancient art lost to modern day bread machines. My class is off to a good start. Again, I am lucky to be tabled with 3 other very nice people and actually, the entire class seems very friendly, eager to chat, help and offer compliments. My teacher is witty and extremely informative. She said we would be given tidbits of theory if we wanted or not. I accept willingly.

I am happy to be back =)

Pecan Tarts….a metaphor for life?

Mood: Gaining some clarity.

In the air : Adele – Take it all – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xLIb7KopyY
Adele – Turning tables – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J4L4FP1WDY
Cee Lo Green – F**K You – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17eSUnQ-_ek                                           

Remember that line from Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”? Well, I think life is like a pecan tart. At least my life is.

Sometimes life is hard, crusty and it falls apart like the shell but sometimes it has its sweet and nutty moments like the filling but in the end you realize it is just big gooey albeit yummy mess. Once you’re done, all you can do is wash your hands and move on.

Pecan tarts are a 2 step process.  First step is to make the tart shells.  The crust on these pecan tarts is a standard crust made with shortening, butter, flour, salt and water.  Let me re-iterate that I suck when it comes to making dough and I don’t appear to be getting better.  My dough was soft but very crumbly and I could not roll it out without it breaking apart.  Frustration began to set in but I refused to let this dough go to waste.  I was not able to roll it out to fit the tart forms so instead I rolled the dough into balls and molded them by hand into muffin tins instead.  I then set them in the fridge to chill while I worked on part 2. 

Now time to make the filling.  The filling was made with butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and eggs.  I mixed the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup over a double boiler just until the butter was melted.  I let it cool for a few minutes then mixed in 2 beaten eggs and vanilla.  This mixture was then poured into the tart shells.  Before placing the tarts into the oven, I sprinkled pecans on top of each.

The tarts were placed in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  I watched the filling bubble and I could smell sweetness in the air as they baked.  My only issue was that the crust was not turning as golden a hue as I had hoped.  Even the last-minute egg wash I completed did not help. 

As soon as I took them out of the oven, I placed them back in the fridge to set for 2 hours.  I was still very disappointed in the tart crust and lack of colour but how did they taste?  Damn sweet!  The filling was a good consistency, not too runny and the pecans had a nice contrasting crunch.  I suppose it made up for my lackluster crust.  I definitely will need to practice these again.