The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

hanseata's blog

  • Pin It
hanseata's picture
hanseata

Americans and Germans have a lot in common. One is their love for cheese cake. Though both pastries taste great, Käsekuchen is distinctly different from its US cousin.

Cheesecake crust is made with cookie crumbs, very practical, and a good recycling of even stale cookies. German Käsekuchen has a short crust, more fuss, but buttery decadence.

The real difference, though, is the filling. American filling, made of mild, more neutral cream cheese, can be varied with many different flavors (like Limoncello-Cheesecake). Käsekuchen is made with quark, a fresh cow milk cheese that is less creamy, more acidic, and contains more water.

Quark (curd cheese), the base for many different types of European pastries and desserts is unfortunately hard to find in the US, or outrageously expensive - and it doesn't taste the same.

German Käsekuchen with sour cherries - my husband's favorite

Though in desserts quark will be often paired with fruits, German cheese cake bakers tend to purism, the filling might have raisins, and sometimes other fruits, like sour cherries or apples.

Another important difference: German Käsekuchen is notably less heavy and dense than its somewhat massive American counterpart (in spite of the short crust!).

Though I do like American cheese cake with its seemingly endless variations, I love my German Käsekuchen. But how to re-create it in this sadly quark-less country?

Here is how I did it - and you can, too!

No quark needed to make this Käsekuchen, lighter and less dense than it's US cousin

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

When I first caught sight of these pretty rolls in a Mexican bakery, I was totally smitten. But my enthusiasm quickly deflated when I took the first bite - the cute little shells were overly sweet, but other than that: no taste whatsoever! 

Sadly, this was the case with almost all the pastries we had at the Riviera Maya: they looked very appetizing, but tasted only bland and sugary.

 Conchas in Mexican bakery: pretty but bland

But shouldn't it be possible to bake Conchas whose attractive exterior matched a delicious interior? The idea intrigued me and kept me thinking. Back from our trip, I started searching for a recipe.

A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate didn't only have a recipe for this Pan Dulce, it also had a very entertaining story about a nightly encounter with a mysterious woman and her ardent desire for revenge! 

Before we flew to Mexico this year, I finally wanted to tackle the Conchas. Remembering the "Mujer Misteriosa" and her dark desires, I dug through several pages with recipes until I finally rediscovered Clementina's blog post.

Mexico's Mayan ruins are worth a trip - here the recently discovered Ek Balam

Mexicans seem to have a real sweet tooth. All Concha recipes I had googled, contained lots of sugar. Being a gringo, I cut it down drastically, and, also, exchanged some of the flour with white whole wheat.

And how to force taste into even the lamest bread dough? Two words: overnight fermentation! I reduced the yeast, stretched and folded the dough, and put it to sleep in the fridge.

Rolling and cutting out the chocolate and cinnamon toppings evoked an early Christmas spirit, but with a little patience (and the help of a large cookie cutter) this was achieved, too (though some misshaped cookies had to be crushed, cooled and re-rolled.)

Baking brings out the pretty two-colored pattern

After their rise the Conchas looked already quite attractive, the cuts in the toppings had opened, and after baking the two-colored pattern had fully emerged.

Of course I was extremely eager to see whether my Conchas had escaped their compañeros' fate of bland and boring sweetness. We tried them, and - here they were, delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp sugar cookie: a real treat!

Delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp chocolate or cinnamon cookie

 

You find the recipe on my blog "Brot & Bread" here.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

In September I offered this challenge to my fellow TFLers: to recreate an ancient grain bread I had enjoyed during my recent stay in Potsdam, in Cecilienhof Palace, where Churchill, Truman and Stalin met for the Potsdam Conference.

Several of you rose to the occasion, and came up with your own versions of this interesting bread.

Inspired by all this activity I sat down with my Breadstorm program to create my own formula. Except for the emmer, I had all the ingredients from the list in my pantry.

The bread turned out to be one of the best loaves I ever made, we absolutely LOVED it! Whether it was the complexity of the ingredients, or just an optimal process to develop and marry the different flavors I can't say.

Here you find my post with my formula and the links to all TFL friends' who took the challenge.

Thanks, Janet, DBM, Brian, Jürgen and Ian for your enthusiasm!

 

 

 
hanseata's picture
hanseata

Dear fellow TFL bakers, I have a challenge for you!

During our recent trip to Germany we spent a few days in Potsdam, to visit Frederick the Great's Sanssouci. We stayed at Schlosshotel Cecilienhof, a wonderful hotel right inside another historic site, Cecilienhof Palace.

Cecilienhof Palace

Named after a crown princess, this palace was also the place where those three jolly old guys met:

Churchill, Truman and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference

To honor the history and importance of this heritage, the hotel's pastry chef came up with the idea to create a special bread for the guests' breakfast buffet:

Bread buffet at Schlosshotel Cecilienhof

An ancient grain bread, "Urbrot", a rye sourdough with a lot of different grains and seeds. To educate their guests, the hotel had placed a little brochure on the table, with informations about the bread: "Taste meets Tradition", including a list of the ingredients:

Ingredients of the Cecilienhof Ancient Grain Rye Bread

Rye meal

Water

Sunflower seeds

Ancient wheat meal: emmer and einkorn

Wheat flour (white or medium, not whole wheat)

Rolled spelt

Chestnut flour

Rolled oats

Barley meal

Barley malt extract

Vital wheat gluten

Rolled barley

Flaxseed

Steel cut oats

Spelt flour

Potato flakes

Sea salt

Vegetable fat (shortening)

Whole spelt sourdough

Table salt

Yeast

Unfortunately they didn't supply the bakers' percentage!

We really enjoyed the bread, and I think it would be wonderful to have another bread in my repertoire, associated with an important historic event (like the wonderful Wild Rice Sourdough - The Bread That Ended The Cold War.)

A moist, very flavorful loaf - created to honor the history of Cecilienhof Palace

I couldn't stop thinking about it, and see this as a challenge worthy of my talented fellow bakers at TFL. Certainly not all ingredients will be available for us, and we have to come up with a formula, but that is the fun part of it.

WHO WANTS TO JOIN ME AND TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE?

Happy Baking

Karin

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I'm baking a lot, but, since it's summer, mostly for sale.

And then there are other time consuming projects like painting windows (with some tireless mosquitoes for company), massaging my husband's cramped neck (after installing aforementioned windows), and hunting for those friggin' Japanese beetles that turn my raspberry leaves into lace.

  Beetle "Lace"

My list of "Equal Opportunity Breads" still waits for more items to be checked off - I did some more, but got a bit listless after a few stubborn loaves just didn't turn out the way I liked.

But in a recent weekend edition of "The Guardian", master baker Dan Lepard published an interesting bread made with whey instead of water. From my last batch of Greek yogurt I had a lot of whey left over, sitting in my fridge, while I wondered what to do with it.

Pumpkin Whey Bread was just what I was looking for!

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds and Whey - main ingredients for this autumn loaf

Dan Lepard cooked fresh butternut squash for his puree, but here in the US good quality canned pumpkin is readily available, and preparing and draining pumpkin puree a time consuming process.

I always have a supply of pumpkin puree in my pantry (to satisfy a sudden craving for pumpkin pancakes or pumpkin chocolate chip muffins). But for those who don't (or prefer making their own), here is a link to the procedure.

The dough looks a bit dry still, but will be soft and a bit sticky after brief kneading

What I like about Lepard's loaves is his minimalistic approach to kneading. Much as I admire Richard Bertinet's breads: compare his 30-minute-complete-upper-arm-workout to Lepards 10 seconds of gentle handling.

Normally I would use a stand mixer, but this soft dough can be easily (and less fussy) made by hand.

Threatening dough overflow - next time I will reduce the yeast!

Preferring longer fermentation I mixed the dough the day before, and let it slowly rise overnight in the fridge. It rose so mightily that it almost popped the lid. A sure sign that the instant yeast can be safely reduced to 5 grams down from the 7 grams the recipe requires. 

And, (for the good conscience) I substituted some of the white flour with whole wheat.

Ready for the oven

My Pumpkin Whey Bread turned out really nice. It had a delicate crisp crust, and a rich, dark golden crumb. Very flavorful, it is a true multi-purpose bread, and can be enjoyed with ham as well as jam. It is also good for toasting.

Stored in a brown paper bag, it kept fresh for several days.

Dan Lepard's formula you find HERE.

 

MY CHANGES:

  • Use good quality canned pumpkin (like Libby's or One-Pie) instead of fresh
  • Reduce the amount of instant yeast from 7 g to 5 g
  • Substitute 100 g of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour
  • Cold bulk fermentation in the fridge overnight (remove 2 hours before shaping)

Striking gold with this wonderful tasty loaf!

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Finding American equivalents or substitutes for foreign ingredients can be quite challenging. Whether you move to Europe, or like me, come to the US from Germany, you naively expect common products like flour or milk to be the same.

Sure, my American whole wheat breads turned out just fine, I was happy that they rose so nicely. But when I tried baking everyday German rolls, Weizenbrötchen, with all-purpose flour (wasn't that for all purposes, after all?) I was in for a surprise.

From the outside they were the same, but when I cut the rolls, there was no fluffy, soft inside, but a chewy, lean crumb with irregular holes that looked distinctly like Paris, but not like Hamburg or Kiel.

Baking German breads in Maine was a challenge - not all flours are created equal

I had learned a lesson, all-purpose flour is not like all-purpose flour. Everything is bigger in the US, and so is the protein content of the wheat!

So, a while ago, I came up with an EUROPEAN/AMERICAN FLOUR "TRANSLATION", one of the most popular posts on my blog.

This summer I prepared a favorite dessert, St. Colomba Cream, for the first time in Maine, but I didn't quite know what to use instead of the sahnequark (cream quark) the recipe requires.

Well, it has cream in it, I mused, and so has mascarpone. And that's what I took.

St. Colomba Cream - with mascarpone instead of quark?

But instead of creating a smooth, velvety dessert, I ended up with a dense and uber-rich vanilla cream. With 30% more fat than it should have had, the saintly Irish gooseberry dessert weighed down our stomachs like a stone.

Some European dairy products seem to be just the same as their American namesakes. But are they, really?

If you find an interesting recipe in a German, Austrian or Swiss website or blog, don't think Google translate will be any help: Saure Sahne, Sauerrahm, Schmand: all of them are "sour cream" - but no sour cream!

 

It's "sour cream" - but is it sour cream? No!

The difference is often the fat content, like with saure sahne and sour cream, though in many cases you can exchange a full fat into low-fat dairy to make a leaner version of a recipe, and vice versa. And some European dairy products are more acidic as their US counterparts, like yogurt or buttermilk.

To find American equivalents for some, and workable substitutes for others, check my: CREAM OR SAHNE - DAIRY CONVERSION

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Errötende Jungfrau - Blushing Maiden

 

During these hot and humid days - very unusual for Maine - I didn't bake much, only the breads I sell to A&B Naturals, our local organic market. But, instead of talking about breads, I'd like to share some fruity, tangy summer desserts I made.

You'll find the recipes on my blog "Brot & Bread".

My family has two favorite summer desserts, both very light and refreshing.

One is the famous ROTE GRÜTZE, made of at least three different kinds of red berries, a summer treat so popular that it slowly made its way from Denmark and Northern Germany to the South, even welcomed by Bavarians (who notoriously despise everything even remotely "Prussian").

 

Popular German summer dessert Rote Grütze

 

The other goes by the poetical name of ERRÖTENDE JUNGFRAU (= blushing maiden), referring to the delicate pink hue of the dessert. It is made with buttermilk and lemon, and we enjoy it even when the temperature goes up to 90, and we don't feel like eating anything heavy.

Blushing Maiden is, like Rote Grütze, a traditional North German specialty, not only Pommern (Pomerania) (homeland of my mother and grandmother), but Ostpreussen (East Prussia) and Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein claim it as their own.

Light, fruity and lemony, Errötende Jungfrau is the right dessert for hot summer days

 

BLUEBERRY HAND PIES , cute portion-sized pies from King Arthur Flour website, combine two major food groups: buttery pastry and fruit!

When I made them, our native wild Maine blueberries were not ripe yet, so I combined (less flavorful) frozen blueberries with rhubarb from the garden and fresh raspberries, a very fruity and tangy combination. They didn't earn their 5-star reviews for nothing - the were absolutely delicious!

Berry Hand Pies combine two major food groups: buttery pastry and tangy fruit

 

I had never visited the South of East Germany before, but in May we went on a trip to Saxony. Checking out the bakeries we found a wonderful Saxon specialty, EIERSCHECKE, a three-layered cake with sweet crust, quark filling and custard.

Of course I had to try it at home, using rhubarb in the filling, and cream cheese instead of quark. The result was everything I had hoped for! The tangy rhubarb made a pleasant contrast to the sweet custard, and the whole thing was so airy and fluffy that I'm sure it didn't have a single calorie!

 

Eierschecke - a traditional three-layered cake from Saxony and Thuringia.

 

More about these delicious summer desserts and the recipes you can find here.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Gerd Kellner, aka Ketex, is not only an accomplished baker, but, also, writes one of Germany's best bread baking blogs. A book with his recipes: "Rustikale Brote aus deutschen Landen" is available as e-book at Amazon.

When I saw his post on Bauernbrötchen, I wasn't only attracted by the attractive look of these rustic rolls, but, also, intrigued by his use of old dough as leaven.

"Old dough" in bakers' lingo means a piece of dough, cut off before shaping the bread, and kept in the refrigerator for later use. After I learned how to make a wild yeast starter, and bake my first bread from a French cookbook, I had always saved a portion of the dough for my next loaf.

Advancing from a series of weapon grade, dense and chewy "bricks" to more edible breads, this method had worked very well for me, until I branched out and started baking other types of bread than just my everyday German Feinbrot.

German Feinbrot - originally made with old dough

The old dough was replaced by a whole wheat mother starter, and all but forgotten as a viable rising agent.

With Ketex' beautiful Bauernbrötchen in mind, I reserved a piece of dough from a yeast bread I made, and put it for later use in my basement refrigerator - and then promptly forgot all about it!

About 3 months later, when I was looking for something in the depth of the fridge, I came upon the little container, and remembered what it was.

 Though I was rather suspicious about how this might affect the taste, my distrust was unfounded, the rolls, though not looking as nice as Gerd's, rose well and tasted surprisingly good. And I had a new, interesting formula to work with.

I opened it gingerly, expecting nothing good after all the time, and the old dough, indeed, looked, shall we say, "antique", and didn't smell very nice, either. At least there was no mold on it!

Rose Hip Levain - made from accidentally fermenting jam

Always curious, and open for experiments before I throw something in the trash, I just wanted to see whether there was any life left in the mummified relic, and proceeded with the recipe.

For my second bake I did just the opposite: my old dough had slumbered only for 3 days in the fridge. With my first batch of Bauernbrötchen, I had followed Ketex recipe to the t, using a poolish as preferment and adding the piece of preserved dough later to the final mixture.

"Old dough" - refreshed and ready to go!

I didn't quite see the rationale for an additional poolish, especially since the dough was to be retarded in the refrigerator overnight. Why not, instead, feeding the old dough up front, and let it act the part of the poolish?

And, since the percentage of rye flour in the dough was not so high that a change would influence the crumb, I used whole rye instead of medium rye (easy to come by in Germany, but, alas, not readily available in the US.)

Rather than kneading the dough for 15 minutes, and folding it only once, I followed Peter Reinhart's procedure in "Artisan Bread Every Day" (my default S&F) with a brief mix, an autolyse, and 4 stretches and folds over a period of 40 minutes.

Measuring spoon for very small amounts

Ketex adds a tad of yeast to his dough. For these very small amounts (that, nevertheless, make the rising time more predictable) you need a special scale, able to accurately weigh a few grams or ounces.  Mine looks like a big spoon, and is easy to use (about $15 at Amazon)

The second batch, without the poolish, performed just the same, but tasted a bit heartier with the whole rye. I had to adjust the baking temperature and time, but every oven is different, and you have to adapt to this, anyway.

We found these crusty rustic rolls great for open faced sandwiches, and they, toast well, tool. You can easily freeze them, therefore it's worth it to make a double batch.

But don't forget to save a piece of the dough: for your next Bauernbrötchen!

My first batch of Bauernbrötchen - made with truly "antique" dough!

 

BAUERNBRÖTCHEN WITH OLD DOUGH  (adapted from Gerhard Kellner/Ketex) 

OLD DOUGH
100 g/3.5 oz old dough
    5 g/1 tbsp whole rye flour
  42 g/3 tbsp water

FINAL DOUGH
147 g/5.2 oz refreshed old dough (all)
400 g/14.1 oz bread flour
  45 g/1.6 oz whole rye flour
258 g/9.1 oz water
    8 g/0.3 oz olive oil
  10 g/0.4 oz salt
 1.8 g/0.06 oz instant yeast (or 5 g fresh yeast)
 3.5 g/1 1/2 tsp barley malt
 rye flour for sprinkling

 

  

Rejuvenated old dough

DAY 1:
In the morning, feed old dough with rye flour and water. Cover, and leave at room temperature until lively and bubbly (like poolish.)

In the evening, mix final dough ingredients at low speed (or with wooden spoon) until all flour is hydrated, 1 - 2 minutes. Let dough rest 5 minutes. Then knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 2 minutes, adjusting with a little more water or flour if necessary (dough should be a bit sticky.) Continue kneading for another 4 minutes. Dough should be still more sticky than tacky.

Ready for S & F on oiled work surface

Transfer dough to lightly oiled or wet work surface. With oiled or wet hands, pull and stretch it into a rough square. Fold dough from top and bottom in thirds, like a business letter. Then do the same from both sides. Gather dough together in a ball, and place it, seamside down, in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Repeat this stretching and folding 3 more times, at 10 minute intervals. After the last fold, reserve 100 g/3.5 oz of the dough (for the next "old dough".) Refrigerate reserved piece (container with lid.) (Ketex recommends using it within 10 days, but it keeps longer.

Place remaining dough also in an oiled container with lid, and refrigerate it overnight.

I find these kinds of containers very practical for overnight retardation

DAY 2:
(Since these are small pieces, you can shape them cold.)

Divide dough into 8 pieces (à 100 g/3.5 oz) and shape them into balls. Let them relax for 20 minutes, then roll them into strands with pointed ends. 

The dough pieces are first pre-shaped into rolls

Place rolls in a couche, seam side up. Sprinkle with rye flour. Cover, and let proof for 1 - 2 hours. (Preheat oven 45 minutes before baking.)

Preheat oven to 500ºF, including steam pan. 

Bauernbrötchen are proofing on a couche

Place rolls, seam side down, on perforated or parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle them with whole rye flour, and score lengthwise.

Bake Bauernbrötchen for 20 - 26 minutes at 450ºF, steaming with a cup of boiling water. (Rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees after half the baking time, and remove the steam pan). They should be golden brown, and register at least 200ºF.

Submitted to YeastSpotting

Submitted to Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico

                                          Indovina chi viene a cena                                             

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

 

Visiting my hometown Hamburg in May, I didn't really expect to bake anything. But our little Airbnb apartment in Schanzenviertel, Hamburg's youngest and dirtiest most colorful quarter, had a fully equipped kitchen, and I had some time on hand.

Occupied house in Schanzenviertel

Richard was attending a full immersion German language class: "so that you can't say nasty things about me on the phone anymore!"

Some mornings I visited my Mom, helping her detailing her car - my mother is 93, her Honda Civic 19 years old, and both in great shape! Some mornings I enjoyed coffee and quality time with my son (who lives around the corner and works from home.)

Enjoying the sun with my Mom at the Alster river

My ABC baking group's project of the month were ENGLISH MUFFINS, so, rather than going cold turkey on baking withdrawal, I bought eggs, milk, flour and yeast, and started mixing the dough.

Out of habit, and to save tedious waiting time, I mixed the dough in the evening, and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight.

It is a bit tricky to handle the soft and stubbornly sticky dough, but oiling your work surface, hands and tools, and generously sprinkling your pan and baking sheet with semolina helps quite a bit.

The cooking was easy, each time it took about 15 minutes for one side, but only 4 to 5 for the other.

Nooked and crannied - English muffins taste best when toasted

The muffins split open into nice, nook-ed and crannied halves, toasted well, and we ate them with butter and raspberry rhubarb jam. According to my spouse they were "exactly as English muffins should be."

Just the right snack for a hungry, homecoming "school boy"!

Richard wrestles with his German homework, while I enjoy leisurely mornings

ENGLISH MUFFINS  (16 large muffins) adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 3/4 cup/397 g lukewarm milk

3 tbsp/43 g softened butter

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 tsp salt/6 - 8 g (I used 1 1/2 teaspoon)

2 tbsp/25 g sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 1/2 cups/539 g bread flour (I used, of course, German 550 flour)

2 tsp instant yeast (6 g was plenty)

semolina or farina, for sprinkling the griddle or pan

German ingredients for English muffins

DAY 1

Combine all dough ingredients in bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle (to handle the very soft dough). Beat at medium-high speed, until dough starts coming away from sides of bowl, and is satin-smooth, shiny, and very stretchy (about 5 minutes.)

Using a bowl scraper, transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, fold it from all sides to coat with oil, then cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator overnight. (Or, if you want to bake the same day, let it rise until it's nice and puffy, about 1 to 2 hours.)

 

DAY 2

Sprinkle a large well-seasoned or non-stick pan or griddle heavily with semolina or farina. Also, sprinkle a baking sheet generously with semolina (or farina.)

Remove dough from refrigerator, and scrape it onto an oiled work surface (it is quite sticky!) With oiled hands and bench knife or large kitchen knife (also oiled to prevent sticking) gently deflate dough, and cut it into 16 pieces.

Roll pieces in your hands (re-oil, if needed) into fairly smooth balls, flatten until they're about 3" to 3 1/2" in diameter, and place the first 4 muffins on the prepared (cold) pan (or as much as fit, on the griddle,) the others on the baking sheet (they can be fairly close together.)

After their 20 minute rest the muffins look a bit puffed, but not much different

Sprinkle all muffins with more semolina or farina, cover them with parchment or plastic wrap, and let them rest for 20 minutes. They won't rise much, but puff a bit.

Cook muffins over low heat for 7 to 15 minutes per side, until crust is golden brown, and interior cooked through, registering about 200°F. (If they are brow, before they're done, place them into preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or until they're thoroughly cooked.)

English muffins are baked on a bed of semolina or farina on the stove top

Let baked muffins cool on wire rack, and cook remaining muffins in batches, until they are all done.

REMEMBER: use a fork to split, not a knife to cut. Fork-split muffins will have wonderful nooks and crannies; knife-cut ones won't.

First of May holiday in Schanzenviertel - it couldn't be more idyllic

For the First of May we were warned to stay indoors as there might be riots in the streets, by occupiers and their supporters. But absolutely nothing happened, and the mood of the crowd was festive, not ugly.

Time for another visit at our favorite café around the corner. Their wide selection really needed several trips to decide which one of their tortes and bars we liked best. After all, inquiring minds want to know!

Chocolate Mousse Torte and Cappucchino at Cafe Stenzel, around the corner

Did I mention that our apartment was "athletically located", on the fifth floor? Without elevator! We took that as a pass to unrestricted intake of pastry, brötchen, böreks, döners, and other delicacies that the surrounding eateries had to offer.

Eateries in Schanzenviertel have whimsical names, like "Four Fists"

Recently, occupied houses and graffiti covered back yards have become regular stops for tour buses. Their punky inhabitants are not too happy to be viewed as interesting tourist destination!

Tourist destination: graffiti covered occupied houses and backyards

So they put up this sign:

"In this back yard there is absolutely no: dealing, pissing, photos, police patrols! "


hanseata's picture
hanseata

 

When my husband decided to open up a furniture store in Portland, ME, he found a big old garage in Fore Street. After spending a month with scrubbing, painting and cutting new panes for each of the high windows, he turned the dark and dirty place into a beautiful, light space, to showcase his contemporary furnishings.

Eventually Richard Parks Gallery moved to Commercial Street, and the first floor of the old store became Fore Street Restaurant, one of Portland's foodie temples.

The souterrain was turned into a bakery, and, instead of housing French sofas and bistro tables, it's now home of Standard Baking Co., maker of the best French breads and pastries in Maine!

Richard Parks Gallery on Fore Street in the early Nineties

Whenever we visit Portland, we get Pain au Levain, Seeded Fougasse, Croissants, or, on Fridays, Rugalachs.

Last time we came into the bakery, I saw a pile of books: Standard Baking Company had published "Pastries" with many of their recipes, including those of the croissants and rugalachs we were just about to buy. Of course I didn't hesitate one second, grabbed one of the little books, and, while driving home and munching on a walnut filled rugalach, studied the recipes.

Though I bake (and sell) lots of breads, I have little experience with French baking, and couldn't wait to try making one of those mouthwatering pastries myself.

I was also wondering whether Alison Pray and Tara Smith had dumbed down their formulas to make them "everybody's darling". Or, jealously guarding their secrets, changed them so that the home baked pastries would never taste the same as their professional counterparts at the store (try finding the original Sachertorte in Hotel Sacher's pastry book!)

Worth every penny!

To my utter delight neither was the case. Every piece of pastry I made so far was outstanding - and tasted as good as its sibling at the bakery. (No, I don't get a kickback for my gushing!)

Croissants, with their multi-layered, buttery dough, are the gold standard of pastry baking. I had made them only once before. Those had turned out quite nice, and I was curious how the Standard Baking ones would compare to them.

I found the formula easy to follow, with clear, detailed instructions and explanations for every step of the way. Involved as the process is, it's not rocket science, and you really can do it at home!

You have to plan ahead, though, because you'll achieve your best results when you allow the dough sufficient time to rest. As with most of my breads, time and the refrigerator are your friends, achieving three important goals: relax the gluten (readying the dough for the next turn), keep the butter cold (preventing it from seeping out) and develop the taste.

Therefore, make yourself familiar with the whole procedure before you start! This is your schedule for the 3-day process (no worries, the actual hands-on time is much less!)

Pure buttery, flaky goodness!

 TIME PLANNER

DAY 1 (Mixing the dough)
Hands-on time: 20 minutes mixing           Resting time: 1 hour plus 1 night

DAY 2: (Laminating the dough)
Hands-on time: 2 to 2 1/2 hour                 Resting time: 2 hours plus 1 night

DAY 3: (Shaping and baking)
Hands-on time: 30 minutes                       Resting time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
            

If you don't want to use all the dough for regular butter croissants, use part of it for Pain au Chocolat or Ham & Cheese Croissants or Morning Buns. You can also freeze the laminated dough up to 10 days, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking.)

And if you have leftovers, recycle them into utterly delicious Almond Croissants!


BUTTER CROISSANTS   (12)  (adapted with Alison Pray's permission from Standard Baking Co. "Pastries")

Dough
630 g all-purpose flour (4 1/2 cups)
    7 g instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
  14 g salt (2 1/2 tsp)
  28 g unsalted butter*) (2 tbsp), cool, cut in pieces
186 g water, at room temperature (about 70ºF) (3/4 cup)
186 g milk, at room temperature (about 70ºF) (3/4 cup)

Butter Roll-In
280 g/10 oz unsalted butter*), chilled

Egg Wash
1 egg
2 tsp. water
1 pinch salt

*) If you have the chance, get European style butter with a higher percentage of fat (like Cabot's European style butter or Plugra)

DAY 1
For the dough, whisk together flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until it is evenly distributed and coated with flour mixture.

  
Rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients is easy

Using a stand mixer with dough hook: Combine water and milk in mixer bowl. Add dry ingredients on low speed and incorporate for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Increase to medium speed, stopping mixer after 2 minutes to check consistency of dough. It should be medium-soft. (If it feels stiff, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.) Resume mixing for 2 minutes more. Dough will not be completely smooth, but hold together. (Don't over-mix, you don't want the dough to become tough!)

Using a food processor: Pulse for about 2 minutes, or until dough comes together in a ball. (Don't over-mix, otherwise dough becomes more difficult to roll out, and result in less tender croissants.)

 

Place dough in lightly oiled container, turn around to coat with oil, cover, and let rise in a warm spot (ideally 75ºF) for about 1 hour, or until it has grown by about half.

The dough has risen 1 1/2 times its original size   

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a rectangle about 2 inches thick. Wrap it in plastic and seal it well to prevent it from escaping when it rises. Refrigerate dough overnight (or at least for a minimum of 4 hours.)

(I placed the dough on lightly floured cutting board, sprayed it lightly with baking spray,  put the whole thing first into an unscented garbage bag, and then in the fridge.)

 


DAY 2
About half an hour before rolling out the chilled dough, prepare butter roll-in: cut cold butter into large chunks, and place them in mixer fitted with dough hook. Beat butter on medium speed until completely smooth and pliable, but not warm (about 3 minutes.)

(You can also pound the butter with a French rolling pin until it is flat and pliable, but the mixer works great.)

After kneading the butter is pliable but still cold

Transfer butter to a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Press it into a 6-inch square, 1/2 inch thick. (I measured and marked parchment paper at 6 inches, and folded it into a square, then closed it with the butter inside, and pressed on the package until the butter filled the edges.)

Chill butter square in refrigerator for about 15 minutes (it should be just firm, but not hard.)

Folded parchment paper helps pressing the butter into a square

And now the fun starts: you are about to create something absolutely wonderful, a tender, buttery, multi-layered (laminated) croissant dough.

Room temperature and work surface should be on the cool side, and each step should be done as quickly as possible, to prevent dough and butter from getting warm. Put everything you need (flour for dusting the work surface, roller pin, brush for excess flour, and ruler for measuring) within easy reach.

The butter square covers half of the dough rectangle.

If the chilled butter feels too firm, take it out of the fridge a few minutes before using. Dust work surface lightly with flour. Remove dough and butter block from refrigerator. Roll dough into rectangle twice the size of the butter square: 12 x 6 inches. Brush off excess flour from top of dough. Place butter square (unwrapped) on one half of rectangle, so that edges are neatly stacked.

Fold other half of dough over butter, and press open sides together to seal butter in. Lightly re-flour work surface, if necessary, and roll out dough rectangle into a square, about 1/2-inch thick and twice as long as it is wide (the long side should be facing you.) Brush dough surface to remove loose flour.

Roll out dough into rectangle twice as long as it is wide

Fold dough lengthwise in thirds like a business letter, always brushing any loose flour from the surface before you fold: first fold left third over center, then right side over left. Using a bench knife, straighten and square edges, so that layers are neatly stacked. Congratulations! You just made your first turn (aka envelope fold.)

Wrap the dough "envelope" in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 45 - 60 minutes, so that you and the gluten can relax and cool down. In the meantime, clean your work surface from any remaining bits of dough, and dust it again lightly with flour.

After its workout the dough needs another break in the fridge

Unwrap cooled dough and place it on work surface, the long, folded side facing you. Roll out dough as before into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Fold it again in thirds, always brushing off excess flour between folds. The second turn is done! Re-wrap and re-chill dough again for 45 - 60 minutes.

Now you're already a pro, and know how to handle the third and final turn. Unwrap, roll out, fold, and use the brush in between! You don't want flour to keep the layers from adhering.

Brushing off any flour from the top of the dough is important

So, that's it for the day, wrap your (beautifully laminated) dough in plastic and place it in the freezer. Before you go to sleep, take it out, and put it in the fridge so that it can slowly thaw overnight. (Or, if your mouth waters too much, and you need to bake it the same day, give it at least 2 hours chill-out time before shaping.)

TO MAKE AHEAD: You can also freeze the dough up to 10 days, thawing it in the fridge overnight before baking.

DAY 3
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into 12-inch x 25-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick.) Re-dust with a little flour, if needed, to prevent sticking. If dough springs back and is difficult to lengthen, let it rest a few minutes, before you continue. When desired length is reached, trim and straighten narrow ends with pizza wheel or chef's knife.

A same size piece of parchment paper with markings helps with the cutting

Cut rectangle into long, skinny triangles, 4 inches wide at base and 10 to 12 inches long on sides. (It's easier if you cut parchment paper into a same size rectangle, and measure and mark bases and tips of triangles on it. Place paper over dough, and then mark dough in the same way with little incisions.)

Make a 3/4-inch incision in the center of each triangle base (this notch helps to create the desired length in the final shape.)

To shape each croissants, pick up a triangle, holding base edge with one hand. With the other hand about 1 inch from base, pull dough gently to lengthen it slightly, without causing any tears. Place triangle down again, base towards you, and gently but firmly roll it up towards the tip. (If done properly, you should have 6 to 7 tiers.)

Leftover dough scraps: Place cut off half-triangles from both edges side by side, pinch the middle seam together, put any other small scraps on top, and roll this patchwork triangle up, too. It will be a little "malfatti" (badly made) as my half Italian spouse calls it, but nothing of your precious dough will be lost.

The triangles get a notch at the base to make lengthening easier

Put shaped croissants on prepared baking sheets, evenly spaced, the tips should be tucked underneath.

For the egg wash, whisk together egg with water and salt in small bowl until smooth. Brush croissants lightly with egg wash, carefully avoiding open edges, so that the egg can't glue them together and prevent tiers from rising. (Refrigerate remaining egg wash for the second application.)

The croissants need to proof for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Place baking sheets in the (unheated!) oven, then put a pan with hot, steaming water on the bottom to provide the ideal rising environment: humid, to prevent a skin from forming, and warm, but not too warm - you don't want the butter to melt, resulting in less flaky, greasy croissants.

Half an hour before baking, remove proofing croissants from oven. Position racks in upper and lower thirds, and preheat oven to 430º F.

Cover croissants, and continue to let them rise, until they have almost doubled in size, and dough springs back slightly when pressed gently with a finger tip, but the dimple should remain visible. Each tier should still hold its distinct shape. (Check croissants frequently after the first hour of rising, if they overproof, they will have loose their flakiness and have a bread-like structure. The room temperature should not be too warm.)

Proofed croissants. The "malfatti" on the upper right is not much different from the others
  

A few minutes before they go into the oven, brush risen croissants again with a thin coat of egg wash, carefully avoiding the edges (you don't want to screw up now!)

Bake croissants for 10 minutes, then quickly rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back, for more even browning, taking care not to leave the door open too long. Continue baking for another 4 - 6 minutes, until they are evenly baked, with deeply browned, crisp edges.

Remove sheets from oven, and transfer croissants to wire rack, to cool a bit. They are best when eaten while still warm, or shortly after baking.

 

If you cant eat all of the croissants right away, you can wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and re-crisp them at 375ºF for a few minutes.

OR YOU TURN THEM INTO HEAVENLY ALMOND CROISSANTS!

There is no such thing as stale croissants when you recycle them into these!

Submitted to YeastSpotting

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - hanseata's blog