Secrets, uncovered.

March 14, 2010

Oh my god you guys. You won’t believe what happened today! No, it’s not the fact that I am gracing this space with my gracious presence, altho that, too is noteworthy, but rather the fact that I have uncovered a secret. And this secret means that I may never wish that I could move back to Vancouver again. Totally major.

Ok, let’s back up a second. I am not going to explain why I have been gone so long (3 kids, full-time job, any questions?) but allow me to refresh your memory: do you remember my obsession with these? And my attempt at filling the void left when I didn’t have a constant supply of them? Well a recent post over at foodbeam has come to my rescue!

The lovely Fanny has opened a new world of possibilities by bringing to my attention that you could use feuilletage — a technique that folds a whole lot of butter into a sweet dough and results in delicious and buttery puff pastry — with other dough as well! And seeing those gorgeous green layers made me feel like I was on to something. To wit: this is Solly’s cinnamon buns’ texture. Do you you see the crazy layers of buttery-cinnamoney goodness? Do you see how flaky the dough is? Well I believe that I have unlocked the first secret in putting 2 and 2 together and making cinnamon buns with a feuilletage. Yay me!

I have to admit, the rolls I am about to share with you are bringing me but one step closer: the dough, which I copied from Orangette isn’t buttery enough, and I think i’ll have to try with croissant dough next time. But thanks to the feuilletage, the ratio of filling to dough was dead on.
This means, dear friends in Vancouver, that after figuring out how to make green onion pancakes worthy of this place and now being thiiis close to OWNING cinnamon buns, I feel that my need to go to Vancouver in order to eat certain foods will soon be fulfilled without leaving my own home.

Before I move on and share this life-changing recipe (call me obsessed all you want, if it brings me good food, i am game!), allow me to post a totally gratuitous shot of me and a random dude in front of Solly’s last year. That weird look on my face? Jet-lag. The 2nd thing we did after arriving from a 14h trip from Berlin was haul ourselves over to solly’s for coffee and buns. I am not even kidding!

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Please excuse the poor quality of the photos, our camera isn’t working too well and the pictures were all shot with my phone. But it’s not like you come here for the pictures, right?

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Cinnamon Buns

Adapted from Orangette and foodbeam

prep time: 30min, rising time: 2h30, baking time 18 min

equipment: mixing bowl, dough hooks, rolling pin, 1 big square baking pan or 2-3 round small ones

for the dough

1 cup of milk
2.25 tsp of active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm milk
1 egg at room temperature
3 tbsp butter

for the filling

1/3 cup of milk
5 tbsps of butter
1/3 cup of sugar + 1 tsp of molasses
2 tbsps cinnamon
2 tbsp of flour
1 egg white

heat the milk and butter together until hot and melted.

Pour the liquid into your mixing bowl and add 1 cup of flour, the sugar, salt, egg and yeast. Beat on low speed for about 3 mins or until the mixture is smooth. Slowly add the rest of the flour and beat until all is combined. Take it out of the mixing bowl (it’s a good idea to stop your mixer before you do that!) and knead on a floured surface until it’s shiny, smooth and elastic. I had someone help me do that as you can see! Take a bowl, coat it slightly with vegetable oil, cover with clingfoil and a towel and stick in in your oven with the pilot light on. Let it rise for two hours or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the filling: boil the milk in a small saucepan. Put the egg, sugar and molasses in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and cinnamon. By this time, your milk should be boiling. Pour the boiling milk over the eggmix and keep whisking. Repour everything into yur saucepan and heat it all up, whisking constantly. The mixture should thicken nicely, just like a solid bechamel. At this point, remove from the heat and add the butter.
Pour the mixture into a small baking pan (20x15cm) lined with clingfoil and stick it in the fridge util solidified.

When the dough is doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out with a rolling pin to a rectangle. Unwrap the square of filling and put it in the middle of your dough rectangle. Fold the dough 3 ways unto itself like a letter. Roll out the letter into a long rectangle again and fold it unto itself three ways again. (I kind of messed up my teqchnique here, so I recommend you take a good look at Fanny’s instructions) Roll the dough out into a long rectangle again and roll the rectangle in a tight and regular roll (FAIL!). Slice the dough neatly into rolls and place those, cut side up in one or to baking pans. I ended up with a total of 14 rolls.

Cover the pans and place them in the oven with just the light on (creating enough heat for the rising) for about 30 min. At this point, you can remove the cover and turn on your oven, to 180°. The rolls will take 20 min from this point on.

Strawberry Cuteness

May 10, 2009
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As a child, I went to school with two girls who were sisters (one of which incidentally shared my name, something I’ve never encountered again), and whose mother was intent on delivering their every fantasy and protecting them from every evil. To her, that meant that the girls wore lacey white socks and mary-janes with a tiny heel (a heel, imagine my envy dismay) and had access to all the girly toys a girl in the eighties could want: barbies, my little pony, every single hello kitty accessory ever dreamt of, care bears (get to the point already!) and the smelliest bestest of them all: strawberry shortcake. She (strawberry) was cool, because she smelled of strawberries and basically had no real back story as far as I remember expect for being cute and pink, and well, smelly.

In french however, this particular character was called charlotte aux fraises (hum, don’t even think that I would waste my time colouring things on the internet ahem-cough-cough) , which is a completely different dessert and my mentioning it serves no other purpose than showing of my mad language skillz and popculture chops.

So, strawberry shortcake has until today, been something I’ve always wondered about the reality of. And after today, i’m even more confused, to tell you the truth. The shortcakes were really very good, quick to make and the strawberries and greek yoghurt I piled on top worked really well, but… I totally don’t get what the difference is between a shortcake and a scone. The ingredients, you see, were pretty much the same that I use for making scones (recipe here), and aside from the fact that the shortcakes didn’t rise as much as I expected, they tasted just as delicious as those scones do. But they’re shortcakes. Is there another difference besides the fact, that they are served with whipped and not clotted cream, and with fresh strawberries instead of jam? What gives people? Can someone explain?

Delicious, albeit puzzling Strawberry Shortcakes

From Cynthia Barcomi’s Kochbuch für Feste

prep time: 10 min total, baking time: 10-12 min
Mixing bowl, baking sheet

280 g flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
75 g of cold butter, cut in pieces
180 g cold cream*

Preheat your oven to 225°C. Stir together the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl. Add the cut-up butter and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture ressembles coarse crumbs (you could also put this togther in a mixing machine fitted with a steelblade). Add the cold cream and mix until just combined. Don’t overwork the dough, otherwise it will be all tough (and won’t rise properly ahem).

Pat the dough down on a floured surface and cut circles (or flowers or hearts or any cute shape you want) with a glass or cookie cutter.** Put your pretty shapes on a baking sheet with baking paper and bake for 10-12 min or until golden.

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To serve, slice the shortcakes in half and fill with whipped cream and slightly sugared strawberries.

Edited to add: I’ve just realised that Cynthia has posted this exact recipe on her website! go check hers out, they are way more pretty!

* The recipe called for a tsp of salt, but because I like to use salted butter in my baking, I omitted it entirely.

**Try and use up as much dough as possible the first time, reworked dough doesn’t look as pretty and won’t rise as much.

My Grandmother’s Clafoutis

April 26, 2009

Uhm. Hi. Yeah… I know. But, let’s not talk about it, mkay?

Instead, let’s talk about SPRING! And Cake! and my Grandmother! This grandmother, to be exact. The one whose understanding of cooking and baking is close to mine, because it’s about making something very good very fast and with little effort. She is a true homecook and has herself spawned a few more homecooks in my mother and uncle and their children in turn aaaand before I scare you away with more genealogy, let’s get back to the mention of cake made at the beginning of the post.

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One of the desserts my Grandmother used to make for us regularly, was a Clafoutis. The Clafoutis is a cross between a cake and a baked custard to which you add fresh fruits*. As a child we used to be a bit bummed when she made Clafoutis, because it seemed incredibly boring and plain, but now, come SPRING, I could practically make it all the time. It comes to together in seconds and bakes fast, too. You can eat it warm or cold. There really is nothing not to like about it!

My favourite way to make it is to use rhubarb (see also: SPRING!) and to add a teaspoonful of homemade vanilla extract**. The last time I made this, the five of us destroyed it in seconds: the two little ones were howling for more and J. just quietly ate one piece after another while L. and I tried hard to practice moderation. Our friend who was visiting was quickly given seconds before the whole thing vanished. That’s what it’s like at our house: eat it now or someone else will!

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Rhubarb Clafoutis

Prep Time: 5 min cooking time: 35 min

4 stalks of rhubarb (just short of a kilo), peeled and chopped in trunks
3 eggs
6 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp flour
1 Tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
200 ml cream
more sugar to sprinkle on the rhubarb

mixing bowl, wire whisk, 1 gratin dish (23 x 23 cm)

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Preheat the oven to 190°.
Wash, peel and chop the rhubarb. Sprinkle with enough sugar to cover each stalk and set aside in the baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and cream whisking and mixing until well combined. Pour over the rhubarb and bake for 35 min or until set.
Enjoy warm or cold.

* Some fruits worth mentioning are cherries (please pit them, nothing more annoying than pits keeping you from scarfing down enjoying your delicious dessert), tiny yellow plums, apricots, anything really! Some people are partial to apples in a Clafoutis, personally i’m not a big fan but go ahead and try it out for yourself.

** go make this, right now. it’s really easy and the results are spectacular, especially if you use good vanilla, as I did. Come to think of it, I used vanilla sent to me by my grandmother!


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