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pastry

Remembering Whence I Came and Egg Puffs

Remembering Whence I Came and Egg Puffs

Somehow, since moving here and the puff pastry becoming ubiquitous, I had forgotten my own humble origins. How a bite of a simple pastry could make my life feel rich and sumptuous. Because in the 10 minutes that I took to eat the egg puff (for at least an hour after), I forgot about how I was the awkward one in class, that my skin was too brown for a fairness obsessed culture, that I had no pretty clothes (OMG! that horrendous high waisted jeans I had! :O), that I was the weird kid in class who wore so big an A-line skirt that it looked like a ball gown because my mother chose the cheap tailor. No, for those minutes, I felt equal to the nobility who probably were the only ones who could have afforded such a pastry, only 50 years prior!

But Instagram brought it up! That community of food obsessed and passionate rekindled me. It all started with Giulia’s post on the Puglian rustici…!

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And life begins ... again

Lady Apple Frangipane tart
Old things change.... new choices made.... memories retained .... Life anew...

Spring - that time of the year when new decisions are taken, the closets cleaned out, unwanted junk thrown out, life restructured... in short, turn over a new leaf...

spoons
I am back and many ways I intend this blog to change a new leaf. Ideas are still shaping up in my head and I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this simple tart with frangipane, lady apples and a chocolate pastry crust.
Lady Apple Frangipane tart1

Chicken Curry Puffs

Chicken Curry Puffs

The British left behind many legacies when they quit India. The most perceived is, of course, the pervasive presence of the English language in the average Indian's life, which, has largely contributed to the country being catapulted as a significant player on the global scene.

I am indeed thankful for the many other subtleties that are not always mainstream. Being married to a Parsi, these little things are brought much more often to my notice. Parsis were the most anglicized during the British Raj and perhaps, even maligned for their adoption of many English traditions. But, they are a lot more clued into the Queen's culture than most Indians. Besides being originally Persian also helps!

Chicken-Curry-&-Puffs

One of the little things that I am glad was a fallout of colonization, is tea with pastries. Bakeries are a true delight to me and the smell of fresh, baking bread and pastries is the best ever mood booster! And, I love the fact that the bakeries have savory and sweet treats for the so inclined.

Tea, as you all know, is my favorite time of the day. Since I was a kid, I have loved having something warm with my tea. At home, mum would make a simple snack, like upma or more exotic stuff on weekends, like masala vadai. And, some days, when she stepped out for errands she would stop by a bakery and pick up fresh Puffs!! Those were my absolute favorites!

Chicken Curry Puffs close

Chicken or Egg puffs;spicy stuffing encased in flaky pastry. Hard to ask for more pleasure in life! In India, making pastry isn't that easy but here it's a simple joy, especially with frozen pastry sheets so easily available. I made these puffs on a cold day recently with leftover chicken curry, spicy, aromatic and warming. The curry itself makes for a great main course with rice or roti...



Chicken Curry Puffs

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk whisked with 1 tsp milk for egg wash

Chicken Curry
(you won't need all of it for the puffs but you can make a meal of it with rice/bread/roti)

1/2 kg boneless chicken thighs
1 large onion, diced fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala or curry powder
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
salt per taste

Cut the chicken into bit size pieces and marinate in the spice mix, salt and yogurt. Refrigerate for an hour.

Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add the chicken and saute uncovered for five minutes. Cover and cook stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. If there is a lot of water, cook uncovered till the sauce/gravy is thickened.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice/roti or use as stuffing

To Assemble:

Roll out the pastry to one inch wider on each side. Cut 3 inch circles of the puff pastry. Place a bit of filling in the center. Brush the edges with egg wash and cover with another circle of pastry. Crimp the edges with a fork.

Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes but serve warm. Store in an airtight container. They are yummy cold too :D

Baked! Homemade Croissants

Fresh Baked Croissants

If I ever go on a diet, the one thing that I would really find hard, if not impossible, to give up would be the flaky, buttery, mood boosters, Croissants. And, I am willing to gamble that this delicate French pastry evokes similar allegiances in many. A friend of mine who recently decided to turn vegan still cannot give up these delicacies, neither does he plan to! :-)

I remember reading somewhere on the blogosphere that this particular pastry has been ranked high on the list of the Most Difficult Recipes. Since then they have been on my mind, tucked away in a corner, but never forgotten.

Then, a few days back, I came across Tracey's gorgeous blog listing her top 10 favorites from 2010. And, the pride and joy of the list was.... you guessed it, flaky Golden Croissants. I decided then and there that these beauties would be one of the first things I baked this year!

Croissant-crumb close up

So, I did! That is, once I was done balking over the copious amounts of butter needed in making these pastries as flaky as they are meant to be. :)

I had made puff pastry for my first Daring Bakers challenge, Vols-au-Vents, which, was a fun adventure in itself. The technique to make the croissant dough is pretty similar, actually. So, I was rather comfortable with it.

The layers of flakiness in a perfect croissant (as also puff pastry) comes from the even distribution of the butter into the dough. The method to do that is to tuck a flattened slab of butter into the rolled out dough, fold like a business letter and re-roll. Then, you repeat the process over about 4 more times.

Croissant-crumb

The trick here is ofcourse make sure that the butter stays cold throughout the process and if ever, you find the warm sun streaming in or an overenthusiastic heater cramping your style, pop the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the butter to harden up sufficiently but still remain pliable.

Now, a good question to ask is, if the technique is really the same, what is the difference between the croissant dough and puff pastry? Can one not interchange the two? The only difference I noticed is that the croissant dough has yeast in it. But, unlike typical bread dough, you don't see a significant rise in volume before the dough goes into the oven.

I don't know how the chemistry works, and if someone can explain, I am all ears, but the amount of yeast is really low and even while proofing the rise is just barely there. But, once the shaped dough hits the oven, it rises beautifully creating height and a lot more airiness during the baking process. I also think that the yeast contributes to the softer and cake-ier texture of croissants compared to the crunchier puff pastry.

Croissants

I pretty much followed Tracey's recipe, who in turn used the one by James Peterson, except I used a tad less butter and hid a stick of chocolate in some of the croissants, just to make it a guessing game when I pick one for breakfast :)

Piece Montée (Croquembuoche) - Daring Bakers May 2010

Croquembouche start

Sometime back, I realised that I had not yet baked a few French classics and made a mental note to do so very soon-ly. And, then guess what happens?! Daring Bakers! It's like the host(ess) read my mind! Again! Just like the Macaron challenge..

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a Piece Montée, or Croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Croquembouche before spun sugar

I was super excited when I saw the theme 'coz it killed two birds with one stone; one Classic down and it was just in time for Mr. FSK's birthday! So, I didn't have to rack my brains and stress out about making a cake for him.. :)

Since I had planned my attempt so late in the game, I lived vicariously for most of the month through tweets of other Daring Bakers. Some had made the components before but had not put them all together. I hadn't made any of the components before. So, this was indeed the perfect challenge in many ways...

Pate Choux whole and filled

The trickiest part for me was the Pate a Choux. It was also the part that wasn't a complete success. I think I stumbled at the point where the eggs are whisked in. I didn't do it long enough. So my profiteroles weren't as airy as they are reputed to be. Tastewise, it came out perfect, if a little bland in my opinion. But, apparently, that is how they are meant to be.

As for the filling, I used coffee pastry cream. The idea was from Mr.FSK's cousin who is visiting us from London for a few days. Her face lit up when I mentioned what I was making and she highly recommended the coffee flavor. She was spot on with it! Since the pastry itself is quite flavorless and just a container for the cream, the coffee adds a touch of individuality in essence.

Croquembouche 2

And, finally to the games. I got more practice with the spun sugar that i started experimenting with two months back during the Orange Tian challenge. I surprised myself by actually getting it right in my first try. My practice the last time must have been half decent, after all! I was pretty happy with the toffee I spun. The next step is to try to make the cotton candy stole like effect that I saw on Desperate Housewives, ironically draped on a Croquembouche!

Verdict: Definitely enjoyed the challenge and going to make it again till the pastry comes out perfect. Also, next time, I want to flavor the pastry as well. I don't see the point of having a cover that doesn't add to the pastry's flavor. Of course, once I have the technique pat down, sky's the only limit! :)



Also a reminder, there are only four more days to enter my Anniversary Saffron Giveaway.



Pate a Choux
(Yield: About 28)

3/4 cup (175 ml.) water
6 T (85 g.) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze. Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.


Hard Caramel Glaze

1 cup (225 g.) sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.

Croquembouche


Coffee Pastry Cream
(from
Joy of Baking)

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp instant coffee powder
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/8 cup (20 grams) all-purpose flour
Scant 3 T (20 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)
2 T brandy

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk, coffee and vanilla on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the brandy. Immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Let cool before piping into shells. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to three days.

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