Category Archives: Baked Goods

Voulez vous croissant avec moi?

As I have worked on the tarts posted earlier, I entered the “french mood” and what can be more french than croissant, Pierre Herme’s croissant better to say.
They all say that making croissants is too much work, but I really do not feel like that and even if it would be, the results are sooooo damn worthy.


Just look at my little princess how much she enjoys it. She even said: “mom, did you know that my tummy is always laughing and happy after I eat what you are making for us?”. That for me is enough….


For the dough

510 g flour
35 g butter
salt (about 10-11 g)
60 g sugar (the original recipe required 75 g, I used less brown sugar)
3-4 g instant dry yeast
235 ml milk (the original asked for powdered milk and water)
tournage butter – 88+88 g

Assembly

Mix all ingredients, minus the tournage butter and knead for about 5 minutes until you have a satiny, elastic dough.
Roll the dough to fit an oven tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and roll it to be twice longer than wide. Spread 88 g of cold butter over 2/3 of the dough (cut the butter in small flakes). Bring the butter less 1/3 of dough over the center and then the buttery 1/3 still on the center (simple tour). Roll the dough again (have the opening on your left) to be again twice as long as its width. Now, fold the dough as you did before, but without adding extra butter. Roll the dough again on its length, place it in the tray, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove the dough from the refrigerator and repeat all the steps above with the remaining 88 g of butter.
Roll the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before shaping it. I have kept mine overnight.


Shape and bake

When ready to shape and bake, remove dough from the fridge and divide it in 2 parts (return one to the fridge).
Roll the dough into a rectangle (mine was 25/ 40 cm). Cut into triangles: I wanted mine not very big, so I cut the dough once lengthwise, then in 4 on the width, resulting 8 rectangles. Then, I cut each rectangle diagonally. Roll the croissants (do not roll them too tight) and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them proof for at least 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Brush the croissants with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten). Bake them for about 10-15 minutes, rotate the tray, lower the temperature to 180 and bake for 10 more minutes (or more depending on their size). They must be golden.


They can be frozen after completely cooled.
They are great plain, with a cup of coffee or tea, or drizzled with chocolate sauce, honey or fruit sauce.


Bagel, bagel where were you?

I like bread: I like making bread and eating bread. Oh, you knew that already….
I made bagels a few times so far, they were good but not blog worthy. I had Peter Reinhart’s receipe from his wonderful book – The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, but every time I found an excuse to postpone it. It is long, and the fact that you start it today and have the bagels next day was even a better excuse for it.
But somehow I started working on one of the best breadish thing I have ever eaten.


Bagels (adapted* from Peter Reinhart)
* I used part whole wheat flour (I am glad I did)
For sponge
6 g instant yeast
400 g bread (I used all purpose) flour
160 g whole wheat flour
600 ml water, room temperature

Dough
3g instant yeast
435 bread (I used all purpose) flour
90 g whole wheat flour
13 g salt
20 g honey

To Finish
6.5 g baking soda for every 240 ml water

Cornmeal for dusting

Day one
The sponge
Stir the yeast into the flour in quite a big bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter top.

The dough
Add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add the rest of the flour, minus 100g, the salt and honey. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 100g flour to stiffen the dough.

Knead the dough on a counter, for a minimum of 10 minutes (it took almost 20 in may case – with small breathing breaks). We are aiming for a firm dough, but elastic and smooth. The final dough should pass te window pane test or register 77 to 81 F on an instant thermometer (sorry for not giving C degrees values, but I used to use the F value when the recipe states it). If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

Immediately divide the dough in pieces (I divided mine in 50 g pieces as this is the amount both I and my little C are comfortable with). Form the pieces into rolls. Cover them and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

Line a few pans with parchment paper, lightly brushed with oil. Shape the bagels by either poking a hole in the dough roll or by rolling the dough into a rope and pinching the ends together.
Place the bagels on the pans, brush with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes until ready to be retarded (hubby laughed like mad when I told him about this step).

To see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator use the “float test”: fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats.

The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 250 degrees C. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 30 seconds flip them over and boil for another 30 seconds. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling time. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.
I topped them with salt (kosher) and sesame seeds.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pan in the oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes.

They freeze well and can be reheated successfully in the microwave.


Am I sorry I waited that long to try them? Yes, but I am glad I did it now and I can say they are good, really good.

I am in love with bread baking – featuring Ciabatta

What can I say about bread baking that hasn’t been said already? How can I define and describe the feelings it gives you?
For me bread is the quintessence of life. Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods and this is one of the reasons I respect this process so much and try to bake as many bread types as I can find.
It is magnificent how from more or less the same ingredients you can get so many types and flavors of bread, how simple things as water, flour and yeast can give such comfort and can make one feel so at home (ever smelled a bread just popping out of the oven).


Today’s bread is Ciabatta. Ciabatta was first produced in Liguria.
Ciabatta is Italian for “slipper” due to its flat general shape. Ciabatta isn’t as puffed up as many other types of bread, in part because of being made with very wet dough. The high hydration level of the dough facilitates the formation of holes. Another great byproduct of the wet dough is the signature chewiness not found in the regular ole’ sandwich bread often found in mega-marts.


One characteristic of Ciabatta is that it starts with a sponge or a biga.
For the biga

1g active dry yeast
25-30 ml warm water
80 ml room-temperature water
140 g bread flour

Let the yeast dissolve in the warm water for about 5 minutes, until creamy. In a bowl, mix the flour, the water and the yeast mixture – mix it for 4-5 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

For the Ciabatta

3 g active dry yeast
25-30 ml warm milk
160 ml room-temperature water
10 ml olive oil
240 g bread flour
6-8 g salt

Let the yeast dissolve in the warm milk for about 5 minutes, until creamy.
Mix the biga, the milk-yeast mixture, water, oil, flour and salt and knead it a little bit. I then let it rest for 2-3 minutes and knead it for 10-15 minutes until the dough passes the window pane test.
Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough inside turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until double in volume (1.5-2 hours).
Prepare a large baking sheet covered with 2 pieces of well floured parchment paper. Turn the risen dough onto a floured surface and cut in half. Put each piece on its own floured paper and shape into an 20-25 cm long oval. Sprinkle a little flour on the loaves and cover with a kitchen cloth.
Let them proof for about 1.5-2 hours until almost doubled in volume.
45 minutes before baking the bread, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
It is great if you have baking stones, but making Ciabatta works just fine without them.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the back.


I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did fresh from the oven and smelling divine.

Snacking on banana and chocolate

This is the most present snack in our house but never got to blog about it or take pictures of it.
Last week my sis asked for the recipe and since then I am trying to find time to post it.
So, this one is for you sis!


4-5 bananas (overripe with black spots – around 450-500 g)
2 eggs
150 g sugar (I use brown)
vanilla extract
cinnamon
210 g flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
bittersweet chocolate chips/ raisins/ cranberries

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.
Mash the bananas and mix them on high speed for 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix on high speed for about 5-6 minutes untill double in volume and fluffy.
Separately sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add this to the bananas and mix just until blended with an offset spatula, taking care not to deflate the batter.
You can bake it at this point or you can add chocolate chips (previously refrigerated) or raisins (previously soaked in rum) or cranberries or whatever mix of dried fruits/ nuts you feel like.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes or until a tester inserted inside comes out clean.
The cake can be baked in 2 loaf pans (5/ 22 cm) or in a bigger cake pan or in muffin cups (decrease baking time in this case).
It is great with a cup of milk on the side, drizzled with some chocolate sauce or just plain.


Spinach cheesy lasagna

I have done lasagna a couple of times so far, trying different recipes and combinations which promised to the lasagna, the perfect one. This one is the first one without meat. It is good, cheesy and garlicky.
Ruxandra: I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.


For a baking dish of 15/ 30 cm
160-200 g lasagna sheets (about 3-4 per layer)
For the tomato sauce:
400 g peeled whole tomatoes
350-400 g tomato puree
3-4 garlic cloves
oregano, salt, pepper
a pinch of sugar
1 medium onion
15-20 g of butter

Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes, until tender. Add the tomatoes and puree and the seasonings and let it simmer on low for a few minutes.

For the spinach fillling
500 g mushrooms
700-800 g spinach (cooked)
250 g cream cheese (I used a mix of skim and full fat)
200-300 g mozarella
50 g Parmesan
3-4 cloves of garlic
salt and peper

Cook the mushrooms with a little butter. When done, add the already cooked spinach and the chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
When it cools a bit, add the cream cheese and Parmesan.


To asemble
Butter the baking dish. Spread a few spoons of filling and some sauce and top them with the first layer of lasagna sheets. Spread some more filling and sauce and generously sprinkle mozzarella above. Continue with the rest of the sheets, filling and sauce. For the top reserve a few spoons of filling and sauce which you top with mozarella. Bake covered at first for 30 minutes at 180 degrees. Uncover the dish and let it cook until you can easily insert a knife down to the bottom.
After removing it from the oven sprinkle some more parmesan on top. Serve warm. It is also good reheated on the next day.