Shortbreads

shortbreads-11Shortbreads are one of those cookies that don’t seem like much, but are just delicious. My husband loves them (and my in-laws always have a box stashed somewhere), so I occasionally buy them. The other day I was thinking that I really ought to bake some.

I think I a long time ago made some pecan ones, and there are plenty of recipes around with a lot of recipes around for all sort of different flavors. I wanted to make a basic one, where the main flavor comes from the butter and vanilla.

I have this little book called Miss Jensens Five O’Clock Tea. I got it quite a while ago, but I never made any recipes from it. It is a republish of 1902 recipe collection. Miss Jensen was a famous Danish cook (and head of household) and authored a number of cookbooks for ‘the modern house-wife’. According to the foreword this was a collection of cheap and easy cakes, breads and cookies, useful in the many households where the family gathers for tea before or after dinner. The recipes from this book were primarily ones she gathered when she visited England.

This book obviously contains a recipe for shortbreads – and I don’t know about cheap given it called for a real vanilla pod and (of course) a lot of butter – but I guess that in 1902 there weren’t any cheaper fats available.

Most recipes include butter, flour sugar and vanilla, but this one included an egg too, which I found interesting. I was a bit worried to try out a recipe from 1902 – I doubt the butter has the same amount of water content and salt today as it did then, on top of the differences between European and US style butter. I worked out great though!

Since the butter is one of the main flavoring components of this cookie, using higher quality butter would probably make them taste even better, but I just used Safeway brand Organic butter.

Ingredients: (Original recipe from Frk. Jensen’s Five O’clock Tea)

  • 500 g all-purpose flour (17.6 oz)
  • 250 g butter (8.8 oz )
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • 150 g sugar (5.2 oz)
  • 1 egg

Method:

1. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder and vanilla seeds in a bowl.

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3. Add the butter and squeeze the butter into the flour mixture with your hands.

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4. Add the sugar and the egg and mix until a dough forms. Be patient here, it is very crumbly. However, if it needs a little more moisture, I found it useful to wet my hands and keep going – you don’t want to add too much water.

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5. Split the dough in 2 and form it into squares. Let them cool in you refrigerator for 30-60 min.

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6. Preheat your oven to 175-190 C/ 350-370 F, and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.

7. Take one square out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/2 cm thick . Try to make it as square as possible (to minimize waste).

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8. Prick the surface with a fork, and cut out rectangles in the size you desire. I found it useful to use a ruler for this.

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9. Place shortbreads on the prepared sheets. You can place them very close together, as they don’t spread.

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10. Bake for 12-17 min, until golden brown. You have to keep an eye on them, the time will vary with oven.

11. Let cool on a wire rack. Repeat if you could not fit them all in the oven at once.

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I thought the recipe was very successful, and very delicious. Such a simple cookie, and always perfect with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

 

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‘Thömchen’ cake

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This is one of my favorite cakes ever. My mom has an old friend from some time she spend in Germany, and her nick name is Thomchen. This delicious hazelnut-chocolate loaf recipe come from her, so I have always known it as Thomchen-cake.

The cake is typically German in its use of hazelnut meal, which makes it wonderful rich and not overly sweet. You can use toasted or raw hazelnuts with equal success, the taste will be a little different, but I can’t say which is better.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g hazelnut meal (or hazelnuts) (3.5 oz)
  • 125 g butter (4.4 oz)
  • 200 g sugar (7 oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 ml milk (0.5 cup)
  • 150 g flour (5.3 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g chopped hazelnuts (3.5 oz)
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate (3.5 oz)

Method:

1. Grind the hazelnuts to meal, if needed. You can use a regular food processor for this.

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2. Chop the chocolate and the remaining hazelnuts coarsely.

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3. Grease 2 loaf tins and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 175 C/ 350 F.

4. Mix the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.

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5. Add the eggs one at a time.

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6. Mix in the milk.

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7. Add the flour, hazelnut meal and baking powder and mix well.

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8. Add the chopped nuts and chocolate.

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9. Scrape the dough into the prepared tins and spread it out.

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10. Bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. You may have to cover the loafs with foil by the end if they get too dark.

11. Let cool for 5-10 min in the tin on a rack, then take out of the tins and place on a rack to cool completely.

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Rich, delicious without being super sweet – it is easy to eat more than one piece! I think this is a little different than many load style breads and cakes you get in the US.

Chocolate Marzipan Loaf

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Many years ago, my husband gave me The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Chocolate, and this loaf cake is one of the great recipes in the book. It is not too sweet and the marzipan gives it at wonderful flavor.

Ingredients: (original recipe in The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Chocolate)

  • 115 g unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 150 g light brown sugar (5.3 oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 150 g all-purpose flour (5.3 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 130 g marzipan / almond paste (4.6 oz)
  • 100 ml chocolate chips ( 1/2 cup)

Method:

1. Grease a loaf tin and line bottom with parchment paper.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

3. Cut marzipan into small (1/2 inch / 1.5 cm ) cubes. 

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4. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until creamy.

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5.Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.

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6. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa and mix.

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7. Fold in most of the chocolate chips and marzipan pieces, reserve about 2 tbsp of each.

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8. Scrape the batter into the loaf tin and smooth out.

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9. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate chips and marzipan pieces on top.

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10. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. The cake should be firm and the marzipan on top browned.

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11. Let cool in the tin for about 5 min, and them gently remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

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Easy and yummy and a bit different. I recommend using a serrated knife or bread knife to cut it, as it is a bit crumbly.

Walnut Cookies

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These cookies are actually Christmas cookies, but they are good at any time. The recipe is from an old Christmas cookie flyer from a brand of flour in Denmark (Amo), probably from the late 70’s. They are crisp and buttery and very ‘more-ish’.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g flour (14.1 oz)
  • 300 g butter (cold) (10.5 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 50-75 g coarsely chopped walnuts (1.8-2.6 oz)
  • Raw sugar for decoration

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients, except walnuts, to a rough dough. Use your fingers to squeeze the butter into the other ingredients.

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2. Add the walnuts and mix well.

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3. Divide the dough into 6 parts, and roll out to rolls, approximately 20 cm / 8 inches in length. The rolls should be about 2.5 cm / 1 inch in diameter.

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4. Roll each roll in raw sugar – if you don’t have that caster sugar will work too.

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5. Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator for about an hour or more. You can also freeze them and make them later.

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6. Preheat the oven to 220 C / 428 F.

7. Once the rolls are set, take one out at a time and slice into fairly thin cookies, about 0.5 cm / 0.2 inches thick each. There should be about 25 cookies per roll. Keep turning the roll as you cut, so they stay round.

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8. Place the cookies on parchment sheets. They don’t expand much, so you can put them fairly close to each other.

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9. Bake for about 8 min until golden brown at the edges.

10. Cool the cookies on a rack and repeat with the remaining sheets.

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Simply and very yummy. The original recipe calls for butter or margarine, but the butter taste is really prominent, I don’t think they would taste as well without it.

Crisp Marzipan Chocolate Cookies

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When I was growing up, my mom baked lots of different Christmas cookies, usually 10-16 different kinds. I try to bake some different cookies in December, but I usually don’t end up with that many.

This cookie is very tasty due to the marzipan and the use of dark brown sugar. The recipe was from the weekly advertisement from a Danish supermarket where I clipped it years ago. It is not meant to be a Christmas cookie, but I think it has a very Christmassy feel to it.

The portion is not that big (34-40 cookies or so), feel free to double it.

Ingredients: (original recipe clipped from Super Brugsen advertisement)

  • 250 g butter, softened
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 300 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g marzipan/almond paste
  • 100 g dark chocolate chips

Method:

1. Cut the marzipan into small pieces (1 cm / 1/3 inch)

2. Mix butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer.

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3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla sugar or extract.

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4. Mix in the egg to a dough forms.

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5. Use your hands to mix in the chocolate and marzipan pieces.

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6. Roll out the dough to 2 rolls, each about 20 cm / 8 inches long.

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7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

8. Prepare 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or you can switch after each bake). Preheat oven to 200 C/ 392 F

9. Cut each roll into cookies, about 1 cm  / 1/3 inch thick and place on the sheets.

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10. Bake for about 15 min, until golden brown at the edges. The marzipan will brown too.

11. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack.

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As the title says, these are supposed to be crisp, not chewy at all. I think they are really tasty, and they get eaten really fast in our house.

Challah

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One of my favorite breads are challah, and I usually bake it for holiday meals, such as Thanksgiving. Challah is a traditional enriched Jewish bread flavored with honey. Sweet and rich, it is great for special meals, breakfast or anytime.

It is often made without dairy to satisfy Jewish dietary restrictions so it can accompany meals with meat, but this recipe has butter in it for a soft moist crumb. Since I am not Jewish, I happily ate this with my turkey. The recipe is from On Baking, and the crumb turns out perfect every time I have made it.

I wanted to braid it with 6 strands instead of 3, so I found this great video instructions – check it out, it really explains it well. Thanks for posting that!

Ingredients: (original recipe from On Baking)

  • 92 ml honey ( 3 fl. oz)
  • 18 g salt (0.6 oz)
  • 840 g bread flour (1 lb, 12 oz)
  • 15 g active dry yeast (0.5 oz)
  • 60 ml hot water (90 F/ 32 C) (2 fl. oz)
  • 150 ml water, room temp (5 fl. oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 120 g butter, melted (4 oz)
  • Egg & milk/cream for egg wash

Method:

1. Mix the honey, salt and 240 g (8 oz) of flour in a mixing bowl.

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2. Dissolve the yeast in the hot water in a small bowl.

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3. Add the yeast mixture, the rest of the water the eggs and the butter to the bowl and stir until smooth.

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4. Mix in the rest of the flour, adding a little (about 60 g/ 2 oz) at a time. Mix well after each addition. At some point, switch to kneading.

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5. Knead the dough until elastic, about 5-10 minutes

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6. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 – 1.5 hours.

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7. Punch down the dough and divide into 2 parts

8. Divide each part into 6 strands (or as many as you want to braid). When making 6, I found it useful to weigh them to get them to be equal size.

9. Roll out 6 strands to rolls. They will contract a bit, so let them sit for 5- 10 min and rest.

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10. Meanwhile, cover the remaining 6 pieces of dough so it doesn’t dry out.

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11. Roll out the strands again, make them long and thin.

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12. Start braiding the bread. Push the dough strands together at the top and spread them in 3 and 3.

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13. Cross over the topmost strands all the way across.

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14. Take one of the top strands, and cross it over two strands. Then replace it with the strands second closest to the top on the other side. The first crossover might look a bit odd, that is ok. Gently tuck it under a bit when you get to the next one.

15. Repeat with the other side – topmost strand down in the middle (over 2) and the strand second closest to the top on the other side replaces it (ends up topmost).

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challah-1616. Keep going until the end, gently tucking the ends under the bread in the end.

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17. Place the bread on a parchment lined sheet, and repeat with the other half of the dough.

18. Again, roll the strands and let them relax, then reroll, to get long and even ones.

19. Brush both breads with an egg wash of egg and milk. Do a second layer over the first.

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20. Let the breads rise until doubled, about 45 min.

21. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

22. Bake about 40 min, until golden and hollow sounding.

23. Let cool on a wire rack.

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Whether you use a 3 strand braid or 4 or 6, this challah is so delicious. I love it with butter on top for extra richness, and it great for French toast too.

Oat Rolls

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This is a variation on the oat bread I have blogged about before. The recipe is excellent for rolls, and I enhanced them by added some honey, the sweetness works very well with the oats.

Ingredients:

  • 100 ml water ( 0.4 cups)
  • 500 ml milk ( 2.1 cups)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8.3 g active dry yeast (0.3 oz) or 25 g yeast cake (0.9 oz)
  • 150 g rolled oats (quick cook or traditional) ( 5.3 oz)
  • 150 g whole wheat flour (5.3 oz)
  • 500 g all purpose or bread flour (17.6 oz)
  • oats, milk to decorate

Method:

1. Heat the water and milk until lukewarm, about 30 C/ 90 F.

2. Dissolve the yeast in the liquid in a large bowl.

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3. Add the honey, oats, salt and whole grain flour and mix well.

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4. Add most of the bread flour and form a dough.

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5. Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead it through (5 min), add more flour if necessary.

6. Put the dough in bowl and let it rise to double size, about 1 hour.

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7. Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead well, until elastic.

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8. Let the dough rest for 15-20 min.

9. Divide the dough into quarters, and divide each quarter into 8 pieces.

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10. Form each piece into a ball and form a roll. Put on a parchment covered baking sheets (you will need 2 full sheets for 32 rolls).

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12. Let the rolls rise under a tea towel for about 45 min.

13. Preheat the oven to 395 F/ 200 C

14. Brush the rolls with milk and decorate with oats, pressing them into the rolls.

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15. Bake for about 20-25 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

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The honey is a great touch and I like these little rolls. They are small in size, but I think that is great  – if you prefer big buns you can make 16 bigger ones.

Croissants

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I have wanted to try and bake croissants for a long time, but I have held off since it is time consuming, and a bit intimidating. I thought I was going to try a couple of times before I was successful, but this is the first time I made these, and they turned out so good.

I looked at different recipes, and decided I was going to try the one from Tartine Bread, the book from Chad Robertson with recipes from his Tartine Bakery. I got the book last year, and while I have browsed it many times, I had yet to try baking anything from the book. It is a gorgeous book, and I do recommend it, Robertson has very interesting, almost spiritual, approach to baking.

These croissants are made with a bit of sourdough too, which was intriguing, but I have tasted the ones from Tartine the last time I was in San Francisco, and they were delicious. There was one problem though, and that was my sour dough had been somewhat neglected. I discarded most of it, fed it again, and it revived. I think I would ideally had an extra day to revive it, but there was still yeast activity in there. I do in general make it and maintain it a little different than the sourdough in the book, but it should not be an issue however you choose to handle your sour dough.

Ingredients: (original recipe from Tartine Bread (book 1))

Day 1, leaven:

  • 1 tbsp sour dough
  • 220 g all purpose flour
  • 220 ml water

Day 1, poolish:

  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 200 ml water
  • 3 g active dry yeast

Day 2:

  • 450 ml whole milk, at room temperature
  • 300 g leaven (from above)
  • 400 g polish (from above)
  • 1 kg bread flour
  • 28 g salt
  • 85 g sugar
  • 10 g active dry yeast
  • 400 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (for egg ash)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (for egg wash)

Method:

Day 1:

1. Make the poolish by mixing the flour, water and yeast in a bowl. Cover and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place your sour dough in a different bowl and add the flour and water. Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature overnight.

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Day 2:

3. Mix the milk, leaven and poolish in a large bowl the next day. Save the remaining leaven as your sour dough starter, if desired.

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4. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, and mix until a dough begins to form. Let rest for 25-40 minutes.

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5. Fold the dough on top of itself, like a letter, and transfer to a bowl or proofing box and cover.croissant-7

6. Let the dough rise for 1.5 hours, where every 30 minutes you pull the bottom of the dough to the top, stretching and turning it over in the bowl. The entire dough should be stretched each time. The theory here is work the gluten without a lot of kneading.

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7. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag ( I used a heavy ziplock bag), and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

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8. When the time has almost passed, cut the butter into cubes and spread over a work surface. Dust with all-purpose flour.

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9. Bang the butter together using a rolling pin, until you have a cohesive mass. The flour should be worked into the butter, and help it have a softer consistency without getting warm. Form a 8″x12″ rectangle of the butter.

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10. Keep the butter cool while you roll out the dough. Take it out of the plastic bag, and roll it to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle.

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11. Place the butter on one end of the dough rectangle, so it covers 2/3 of it.

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12. Fold the unbuttered piece of dough over 1/2 the butter, then fold over the last piece of dough and butter.

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13. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle again. Fold the dough over in thirds again, like folding a letter.

 

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14. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. The dough should be cold, but the butter should not harden, so don’t keep it there longer. If you have to, leave the dough out of the fridge for 15 min or so before working on it

15. Roll the dough out to 12″ x 20″ again, and do the letter fold. refrigerate for an hour again.croissant-18

16. Do this once more – take out the dough, roll it out and fold it over.

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17. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. (If you want, the original recipes says you can wrap the dough in freezer proof wrap and leave for up to 3 days – let thaw overnight in the fridge before using).

18. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper. I used cookie sheets and they were too small – these are big croissants!

19. Roll the dough out to 18″ x 24″ and about 1/2″ thick.

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20. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, creating 2 long, thin, ones.

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21. Cut each rectangle into 4 parts, and cut each across to create 8 triangles.croissant-24

croissant-2522. Roll each triangle up and place on the prepared sheet.

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23. Repeat with the second part of the dough.

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24. You let these rise for 2 hours, or you can do as I did and cover with plastic wrap and retard in the fridge overnight – that way they are ready to be baked fresh for breakfast.

Day 3:

25. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator and preheat oven to 425 F.

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26. Mix an egg with a bit of cream to make an egg wash, and brush over the croissants.

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27. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and flakey.

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I was really happy with the taste and flakeyness of these, it was worth the work – though it was a lot of work, or waiting, at least. The portion is HUGE though, it makes 16 very big croissants. Next time I might try to half or even quarter it, and maybe make them a little smaller.

The croissants were fantastic right out of the oven, pretty good the next day, and OK the third. I don’t think they would have been good to keep longer. We happened to be invited to a small gathering the evening of the day I baked these, so I gave the rest away for people to eat the next day – there was no way we could have eaten all of these by ourselves!

Pizza Stone Naan

 

naan-10After getting my pizza stone, I had the idea that it might be useful to bake Naan on, being closer to mimicking a Tandoor than baking on a sheet. Of course I am not the only one with this idea, and found this great recipe and video instructions on Manjula’s Kitchen.

I love Indian food, and having an Indian grocer around the corner means that it is quite easy to experiment with. I made these Naan to both Channa Masala and Saag Paneer, and they were great meals.

Ingredients: (original recipe on Manjula’s Kitchen)

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour (475 ml)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (175 ml)
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast (10 g fresh yeast cake)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2  1/2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • Nigella seeds for sprinkling (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, melted, for brushing (preferably clarified)

Method:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water.

2. Mix the flour, sugar salt and baking soda in a larger bowl.

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3. Add oil and yogurt to the dry ingredients and mix it together

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4. Add the water and yeast mixture and mix it in until a dough starts to form.

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5. Knead the dough until smooth, about 3-5 min. It is quite soft and sticky, that is OK.

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6. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise for 3-4 hours until almost doubled. If you prefer, you can every 30 min or so, stretch the dough by taking the bottom of the dough and pulling it on top (gently to not remove air form the dough). It helps for the gluten, and I find it very useful with a wetter dough like this one.

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7. Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 500° F/ 260° C for at least 30 minutes.

8. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes and divide into 6 parts.

9. Turn the oven to a high broil when you are ready to form the Naan.

10. Roll each piece of dough out to an oval or triangle.

11. If using, spread nigella seeds on top and use the rolling pin to roll them into the Naan.

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12. Place the Naan on your pizza stone, I could fit 3 at a time.

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13. Bake for 2-5 minutes, until risen and lightly browned.

14. Place on a wire rack and brush with melted butter or ghee (clarified butter).

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15. Repeat with the other Naan, letting the oven heat for about 5 min between each batch.

I think these are very tasty, easy, and beautiful, this is a great recipe.

Weekly baking

And last week too, since I forgot to post.

These were 2 busy weeks. I baked the potato bread from Levy Rosenbaum’s The Bread Bible again, almost managing to follow the recipe this time, but of course forgetting to take some pictures of the finished product. It is a great, sweet, soft bread, so I will be making it again though. I also made Croissants for my husband’s birthday, following the recipe from Tartine Bread – it was more successful than I imagined, and I will be blogging about it. In addition I made some enriched rolls, my mom’s ‘Sunday Rolls’ from a recipe she gave me from memory. I don’t think they were quite as I remembered, so I will experiment a bit with it.

This week I made some impromptu chocolate mousse one evening, and I also made oat rolls, from a slightly modified version of the oat breads I usually make, they turned out delicious.