Tag Archives: pastry

Pastry Ring with Dark Chocolate and Cardamom

Chocolate Almond Filled Pastry Ring

One of the techniques I’ve shied away from has been making puff pastry.  Although I can be fairly tenacious, when I feel like I’ve worked diligently on something and it doesn’t turn out, I’m not willing to jump back to the task to get it right.  Let me adjust that — when it comes to something that isn’t important in the grander scheme of things, that is.  Making puff pastry would fit into that category.  If you’re a pro at making puff pastry, then you’re most likely thinking, “What a quitter.  It’s not that challenging…” and I would agree temporarily, but being the contrary person I am by nature, I’d come back with, “Yes, but when’s the last time you tore down a fence in your pajamas on the spur of a Monday morning moment while enjoying your first cup of coffee?”  And then I’d go inside and start a not quite puff pastry dough, but yeasted laminated dough all the same.

I think what annoys me most about my failings as a cook is the waste.  Yes, I absolutely learn something in the process of failing and know it to be an extremely important aspect of learning, but it’s the time invested when I’ve put off doing something else.  It’s the waste of product if it’s not eaten, and therefore, a waste of money as well.

Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  It’s really because I don’t like having my butt kicked by a recipe.

A good strategy after a colossal failure is to break down the task.  Perhaps begin again with something similar, but not quite as involved.  After success once, give it another go and pat yourself on the back.  Bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then instead of tackling the dreaded initial failure again, try another recipe, again similar, but a bit more involved.  Practice developing patience with copious amounts of deep breathing.   Think about those turns and all that butter nestled between those layers.  Still not quite puff pastry, but getting close.

So very close.  And some chocolate never hurts in the process, right?

I’ll get there.  I will.  You wait.

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Blueberry Peach Galette

<img alt="Blueberry Peach Galette"/>

What do you make when you have fresh peaches on the counter and some blueberries in the fridge?  You make a tart to share with your mother who’s coming over to have coffee, talk, and help dig through my dusty crafts box.

I used to spend quite a bit of time cutting and pasting, gluing and pressing, but time got away from me and my materials were shoved into a corner in the garage and pretty much forgotten the past five or six years.  It’s funny how one interest can replace another as time passes, and not just because my attention span is at times not as great as I’d like it to be.  It’s more about how technology continues to provide opportunity for diversion and that that opportunity, at least to me, is more intriguing than what used to interest me.

My mother and I spent time playing around with images, using Photoshop, and then drawing by hand while we watched a movie.  At one point, she mentioned that she felt like a third grader since we were parked each at a card table placed side by side in front of the television, markers and pens strewn across both tables.

Although we didn’t exactly finish what we’d started out to accomplish, we enjoyed messing around, and eating the tart which is perfectly simple to put together.  Make sure you allow at least two hours for the dough to chill ahead of time…


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Banana Caramel Cream Eclairs: Daring, but…

When I saw this month’s Daring Baker challenge posed by the extremely talented hosts Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey?, and Tony of Olive Juice, (you should see their sites — Oh, my goodness…) I thought, great!  No problem.  We were given the freedom to explore the classic eclair with a recipe by none other than Pierre Herme — and Chocolate Eclairs to boot.  Perfect, if you ask me.  The first time I made pate-a choux was when I was in junior high and it’s never posed a problem until now.  It figures.

Okay, so honestly, there was that crocquembouche one year…

I know the the flour goes into the butter which has been melted in the liquid — this time equal measures of water and milk.  I know the eggs go in one at a time and that you beat them like hell, watching the mixture go from globby to smooth.  Velvety.  I have seriously weak wrists, but I always make pate-a-choux by hand because I actually enjoy working with it.

But sometimes it really doesn’t make a difference if you know these things, because well, Murphy shows up when I least want him to.  Like this time.  That’s his job.

Maybe I should have spent more time in the Daring Bakers’ Kitchen scouring the non-procrastinators’ comments and questions.  After all, that would be the whole point of a forum, right?  But did I?  No.  So was I able to find out whether others noticed something strange about the cooking time?  No.


I used a fluted tip to pipe the soft dough onto my baking sheets, making plump little fingers lined up diagonally — 24 of them.  But when the "about 20 minutes" of suggested baking time came and went, and I had diligently timed and repositioned pans and placed a wooden spoon in the door of my oven like directed, then examined the "puff" and scrutinized the color, and poked for "firmness" and even broke one open to peer inside, I knew that there was no way 20 minutes was enough.

I referred to other recipes for pate-a-choux to see what the differences were just in case I’d missed something — like pate-a-choux isn’t made now has it always has been.  I struggled not to think about the idea that I’d learned to make "cream puff dough" from an old Betty Crocker cookbook and you couldn’t get any more basic than that.  So I watched those chubby fingers of pate-a-choux re-puff after I checked them and decided to bake them longer, and longer, and longer.  I lost count, but can estimate that they were in the oven about 35 minutes total, and still, they weren’t quite as I thought they should be.

The interiors were far too moist. They were not such chubby fingers after all.  They were flat.

And if that wasn’t bad enough?

Let’s.  Talk.  Filling.  Shall we?  *Let’s not and say we did…*


I thought caramel with bananas and chocolate glaze would be heavenly.  A few almonds sprinkled over it all.  Sooooooo….I experimented with Sherry Yard’s Whipped Caramel Cream.  I figured since the Daring Bakers have done caramel until the cows come home and I even longer, that this, too, would be a cake walk. What a total fat head.

Well.  After whipping the heavy cream with the creme fraiche and other ingredients, the cooled caramel sauce never quite allowed me to "carefully" fold it in.  Somehow, I knew this.  I knew that it wouldn’t work since I also know that folding anything as thick as peanut butter into fluffy cream (hahahahaha, Sherry Yard — you’re just kidding us, aren’t you?) would be a complete miracle.  I’d thought of making a stabilized whipped cream, knowing that it could work, but I’m usually game to try anything once, even when I suspect something is wrong.  Certainly, it couldn’t have been moi….right?  After all, I’m not Sherry Yard.  There just wasn’t enough whipped cream to hold up the density of that caramel that was so decadently, deliciously spiked with lemon, and just the thought of the creme fraiche with it had me nearly swooning while thinking of the final taste.


But it began to separate, so I decided to whip up quite a bit more heavy cream, then slowly incorporate the almost broken caramel creme, and it held up.  But the sacrifice was huge.  There was no deep caramelly flavor that would have been in the original.  I ended up with an ivory colored whipped cream that I’m not sure I’d think was caramel flavored if I hadn’t made it myself.

But, I persisted and put some cute eclairs together anyway, and we each ate a few, experiencing what always happens when I’ve bitten into an eclair — everything squishes out the sides.

Such a beautifully decadent and glorious mess after only one small bite, don’t you think?


When I asked my hunkster what he tasted, the response was, "Chocolate….and bananas."  No caramel.  But after he left, I drizzled some of the caramel sauce I made the whipped filling with over the top and oh, my goodness.  It was heavenly.  Fresh peaches and strawberries were also nice, but the chocolate glaze I made was too strong for their flavor, in my opinion.  Pretty, though.  A better idea would have been to leave the chocolate off of the top, and either sprinkle powdered sugar alone, or drizzle caramel over — especially with the peaches.



Clearly, I need to whip up some more pate-a-choux so that my ego doesn’t stay bruised for long.

To take a gander at 12 million more eclairs, please visit the other Daring Bakers.  For the recipe I used to make the caramel filling…


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Danish Braids: Daring Bakers June Challenge


Call me Murphy because if anything could go wrong, it already has.  You know when you get to the end of a very long post and you see that spinning wheel?  The one that indicates that something’s not quite right with your browser?  Yes.  That would be me about 3 minutes ago.  And now I’m supposed to start over because the whole freaking thing is gonzo. *sob* It all happened when I clicked on that link for the Daring Bakers Blogroll…Can you believe it?

It’s 12:46 am, and it’s posting day for the Daring Bakers, something I can’t wait for each month.  And this month in particular, since I’m one of the hosts, you’d think I’d have things all wrapped up.  I’ve had Danish Braid on the brain for about three months now, from thinking about choosing the recipe, to choosing it, to testing it, and baking it four different ways…and now it’s time to raise the curtain and what do you think?


My browser quits on me and my post is lost.  Crappity crap crap.  It’s kind of like not showing up for your own party.

It’s bad enough living in the farthest Southwest corner of the U.S. and always, always, always being the very last to be able to post, counting the minutes until midnight, barely waiting for my time to let it rip.  But have my browser quit on me?  That’s just wrong.

Ahhhhh…..I guess I should have written this post a month ago, right?  Set it to fly when the clock hit midnight?  But no.

I’ve had Italy on my brain along with Danish Braid, because we’re leaving in two days.  Two.  So this is my punishment for not being ready.

Nevertheless, it’s time to give this another go.  To write again that which has been lost.  Right?

Um, nope.  I have no energy at this point.  Forgive me.

With what little grace I have at this point (like, ZERO?), it is so important to me to say thank you to Ben of What’s Cooking? for being my co-host for this month’s Daring Baker Challenge.  THANK YOU BEN!   I know Ben would have more dignity than I do right now.  *sigh* Right Ben?

Okay, enough of the melodrama and on with the pastry.

Danish Braid anyone?

This completely fabulous recipe is Sherry Yard’s from The Secrets of Baking, and what a lovely recipe it is.  Cardamom, orange, vanilla…and lots of options for making it your own.  If you’ve ever wondered about whether you could make pastry, this is the recipe for you to try.  But I’m biased. I could have eaten all of it myself.


Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash:  1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1.    Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  On a lightly floured  surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick.  If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.  Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2.    Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.  Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3.    Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle.  Starting with the top and bottom flaps, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.  Next, fold the bottom flap up to cover filling.  This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.  Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1.    Spray cooking oil (Pam) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2.    Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3.    Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.



Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Combine  yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.  Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice.  Mix well.  Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth.  You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


1.    Combine  butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  Set aside at room temperature.
2.    After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough  into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.  The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.  Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.  Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.  Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third.  The first turn has now been completed.  Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.  Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.    Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface.  The open ends should be to your right and left.  Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.  Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4.    Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.  Make sure you are keeping track of your turns.  Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  The Danish dough is now ready to be used.  If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.  To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.  Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling.  Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.  Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Then add the apple mixture and saute until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid.  (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet.  After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.


  • I made two braids:  one with apple filling, and the other with a combination of strawberry jam & pastry cream.  I took the jam & pastry recipes from the Beatrice Ojakangas recipe for Danish Braid in Baking with Julia.  They are quickly and easily made in the microwave and were very good.
  • I also made Danish Envelopes folded two ways.  Each had the apples described above, but also with a filling of 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. demerara, 1/2 egg,  and 1/2 tsp. vanilla well mixed and dolloped onto the apples. I sprinkled chopped pecans over the filling, baked them, and then drizzled dulce de leche over the top.  Mmmm….
  • Speaking of those apples — they’re delicious.  This would make a beautiful pie filling or ice cream topping, or…add some nuts and just enjoy.
  • The egg wash for the top of the braid will produce a very brown crust, so be prepared.
  • Absolutely read the recipe several times before you begin.  The recipe is very straight forward unless it’s not carefully read.
  • Make sure you don’t cheat on the 30 minute refrigeration times between turns.  The gluten needs to rest, and the butter to chill.
  • If your kitchen is above 80 degrees F, the butter will most likely pose a problem, so make sure all your ingredients are cold to begin with, and if need be, refrigerate when necessary along the way to keep things cold.
  • Make sure the “fringe” on the dough for the braid isn’t cut too long or the filling will ooze out during the proof time, or even worse, during baking.  Hmmm…did I do this?
  • I used green cardamom pods for this — about 16.  It’s time consuming to crack them and grind the seeds, but worth it.  The dough is very aromatic, and the pastry very special.




Please take time to visit the other Daring Bakers to see their sweet and savory, nutty, fruity Danish Braids. They’re amazing, as always, and far more entertaining than I am at this point.

Somebody needs to hose me down.

And here’s a quick look at round two with my Danish Envelopes.  To get the rounded ones, I placed them in a Texas style muffin pan and wrapped the corners up over the filling.  Cute little things if I might say so myself.  Wish I had one right now, and I’d drown my sorrows in that yummy pastry.

Look how much nicer my dough was the next time.  All straight and perfect! Such lovely dough to work with. Okay, forget hosing me down.  Just wrap me in this dough, and I’ll be happy.