Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade Croissants

Well after a long absence I am back and 16 weeks pregnant (hence my MIA). I guess it was only natural that when I fell pregnant the first thing to suffer would be my cooking. And it sure has. This week is the first time I've cooked in over ten weeks, I have been that sick. But slowly I'm getting back into it and ca face food again. I thought it very fitting to make a comeback with something I love....

I love croissants but I've never thought of making them myself. It's one of those things that I know is done but never thought I could do it. For my niece's birthday my brother and his wife decided to have a morning tea for her birthday. Naturally, I had images of what I could make going through my head. Every year I do her birthday cake (a post about that to come) and this year I decided to try out homemade croissants. My fantastic book, which really is becoming my baking bible, Mastering the Art of Baking, had all the steps I needed to follow (with some handy photos). Of course, it's not as simple as getting some pastry and rolling them out, you have to make what is called leavened pastry (a type of puff pastry that involves a lot of butter). You will need to set aside at least half a day for this. I stayed home all day to get it finished!

Apparently the croissant originated in Austria (my Dad's birthplace!) and was introduced to France in the late 1900s. 

First step is make the leavened pastry, which involves a lot of rolling out, folding and re-rolling. 

What you will need for the leavened puff pastry:
60ml Warm Water
9g Dried Yeast
250ml Warm Milk
1 Teaspoon Sugar (I used white)
500g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
310g Unsalted Butter, softened but still pliable

Combine the warm water and dried yeast and set aside for 6-7 minutes, until it starts to foam. 

Yeast & Water

Mix in the milk and sugar. 

Yeast & Milk & Sugar

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in 60g butter with your fingertips facing upwards (to rub in butter simply mix the butter with the flour and rub between your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is created). Lift the flour mixture as you go to aerate. 

Rub in butter
Make a well in the centre and the the milk mixture. 

Mixing wet & dry ingredients
Gradually mix in the wet and dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms. 

Sticky dough
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. 

Fresh dough
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 - 1.5 hours or until doubled in size. 

Dough after 1 hour
Punch the dough once to expel the air, recover and set aside for another hour. 

Punched dough
Knock back the dough one more time. On a lightly floured surface shape the dough into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Rectangle dough 
Turn the dough out only a lightly flour surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough (away from you) to a 16cm x 32cm rectangle, about 8mm thick. Make sure you keep the rectangle shape as much as possible. 

Rolled out dough 
Place the remaining butter on the dough, leaving a 2cm border and one third f the dough uncovered. Smooth butter down with a palette knife, gently! 

Buttered dough
Fold over the unbuttered third of the dough. Fold the remaining buttered pastry over the top to form a parcel. Pinch the edges together to seal. Turn the pastry 90° so the seal is on your left hand side. 

Butter encased in dough

Carefully roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, retaining the rectangle shape. Repeat the folding process and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  

Rolled out dough 
Repeat the rolling and folding process once more and refrigerate. In total, you want to have rolled and folded the dough 4 times, with two 30 minute sessions in the fridge. 

Now to make the croissants!!!

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle that is 35cm x 53cm, with edges as straight as possible. Using a knife, trim the pastry down to a 32cm x 48cm rectangle. 
Neat pastry
Cut the pastry in half lengthways, but don't separate them. Measure and mark 16cm intervals along either side of the pastry. Then on the opposite sides, first mark an 8cm interval, then 16cm intervals after that. Cut out the triangles (it helps to use a ruler). 
Cut pastry triangles
Put the short side of the triangle nearest to you at all times. Elongate each triangle gently by rolling it out. Make a 5mm cut into the base of each triangle, at the centre. Roll the croissant up by rolling the base towards the tip. Turn the roll so the tip is facing upi and form a crescent shape (like a half moon). 
Crescent shaped pastry
Place on lined baking trays and cover with tea towels for about an hour. The croissants will not double in size but the pastry will become firmer. Brush with egg wash (2 egg yolks with 1.5 tablespoons of water) 
Firm pastry 
Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden and puffed up. 
Baking croissants
Baked croissants
Eat hot or allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Homemade Croissants 
If, like me, you're eating them later in the week, freeze them and reheat in the oven when desired. 

For more updates and photos like my Facebook page here 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I was so excited when I got my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine that I had to try out a recipe as soon as I could. Naturally, I wanted to go with something simple to start with but that was equally delicious - Vanilla Bean Ice Cream! Unfortunately, I had to freeze the freezer bowl for 12 hours before I could even start so there was a lot more waiting involved than I likde! 

What you will need: 
2⅓ Cups Full Cream Milk  
2⅓ Cups Thickened (Heavy) Cream
1 Whole Vanilla Bean
3 Large Eggs
4 Large Egg Yolks 
1⅛ Cups Sugar
2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract 

Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Put the seeds and vanilla bean pod into the milk/cream mixture and sir. 
Milk, Cream & Vanilla Bean 
Bring the mixture to the slow boil and reduce heat to low, simmering for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. The mixture will get a skin forming on the top but if you stir throughout the 30 minutes this will get melted back into the mixture. 

Cooked milk/cream mixture
Combine the eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a medium bowl.
Eggs mixture
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix the ingredients until thick and smooth and pale yellow. This should take about 2 minutes. 
Egg Mixture combined
Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk/cream mixture. Measure out 1 cup of the hot mixture. With the electric mixer on low add the hot mixture to the egg mixture gradually. 
Combine mixtures
Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk/cream mixture. Measure out 1 cup of the hot mixture. With the electric mixer on low add the hot mixture to the egg mixture gradually. When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and stir to combine. 
Combine all mixtures
Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. All to cool completely. 

Mixture coats back of spoon
Pour the chilled custard mixture into the freezer bowl, turn the machine on and let mix until thickened. This will take about 25 - 30 minutes. 
Churning in the ice cream machine
The ice cream will have a soft creamy texture. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight freezer dish and store in the freezer. Don't forget to taste it before you put it in the freezer, the taste is phenomenal. 
Ready for the freezer
If you don't have an ice cream machine, visit this website for instructions on making ice cream without a machine. 

Do you have a favourite ice cream flavour? 

For more updates and photos like my Facebook page here