Mission, Croissants: Accomplished. What fun! And not nearly as difficult as I expected! Time consuming, yes, but actual level of difficulty was surprising in its straightforward simplicity. And the result is pure satisfaction as you dig in to your first warm croissant, in all its buttery, flaky glory.
I am not going to re-print the recipe here as Cooks’ Illustrated did such a wonderful job of including detailed information and step-by-step photos, you’d be much better off following the recipe directly.
But I will share a few things I learned:
- Mind your temperature. Don’t even attempt these if it’s warmer than 75 degrees in your kitchen. Like Cat discovered, your croissants will melt into buttery puddles.
- Grab your ruler. Yes, I am suggesting you bake with a ruler by your side. The Cooks’ Illustrated recipe is very specific about measurements, and I found if you are accurate in your rolling and cutting, your croissants will be perfectly proportioned.
- High protein flour. I didn’t buy anything special here, instead I just mixed 1/2 cup of bread flour to 3 3/4 cups regular all-purpose. The bread flour ups the protein content, promoting better gluten formation and preventing the dough from tearing.
- Freeze ‘em. 22 croissants is a lot, and considering they are best right out of the oven, you probably don’t want to bake them all at once. I baked about 8, and the rest I arranged on baking sheets and put in the freezer for a few hours. After they are frozen solid, simply bag ‘em and tag ‘em. To bake, just arrange on baking sheets and let proof according to your recipe, adding about 2 hours to the total proofing time.
- Almond paste. I made a few almond croissants in addition to the regular ones. I simply rolled a small log of almond paste into the croissant. While it didn’t quite ‘melt’ into the pastry like I felt like it should have, it still added a nice almond flavor.
How else are you supposed to cover tightly with plastic wrap while not letting the plastic touch the dough? Why yes, those are shot glasses, thanks for asking. Am I the only one who feels like plastic wrap never sticks to anything but itself? I was about ready to throw it through the window by this point.
In this case, the light at the end of the tunnel, the reward for a job well done is a pillow of flaky pastry layers, crisp and buttery and golden brown and delicious. That’s one of the things I love most about baking. Granted, it takes 24 hours of work to create something that takes 2 seconds to devour, but that’s beside the point. It is still so totally worth it.
You know what else makes me happy? That so many of you took this challenge along with me! I am so impressed with your gorgeous croissants, your lovely layers, your golden brown beauties.
What’s next? Stay tuned, I’ll be announcing the April Kitchen Challenge theme on April 1st (no joke). But tell me, what’s on your baking bucket list that you’d like to see featured in a future Kitchen Challenge? I know I have a few ideas but I want to hear yours too!
I do hope I’m not the only one that often finds the food and meals in a novel more memorable than the book itself.
For example, I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake last year, and could not stop thinking about cake (On the contrary, I was quite disappointed when the Life of Pi turned out to be not so much about pie as I had hoped, although that didn’t stop me from having visions of creamy chocolate and tart cherry pies every time I picked it up.)
While I enjoyed the book very much, I couldn’t help but resenting the author for associating such a bright and cherry cake with sadness. Of course, it’s not actually the cake that’s at fault, rather the main character’s mother, whose despair she can taste with every bite.
Luckily, I baked this cake with a smile on my face and a grin in my heart, and I encourage you to indulge in the particular gladness of MY lemon cake.
There’s nothing sad about it. In fact, I’d argue that this cake is the epitome of happy.
The base is a classic, moist yellow cake infused with Meyer lemons (I lied when I told you the season was over; I found a bag of them at Whole Foods just last week!) In a somewhat unorthodox combination, the bright lemon cake gets paired with a rich and fudgy chocolate buttercream. See, I wasn’t joking when I said lemon and chocolate would make a perfect paring.
Of course, you could certainly omit the lemon part if you just want something simple and classic, and so much better than any box or tub can provide.
I’ll share also that one of the best gifts I’ve received in recent memory are a set of 6-inch cake pans. Perfect for halving any 8 or 9-inch layer cake recipe, they allow me to bake up a fancy triple layer cake without worry of it going to waste. Because no matter how much you love cake, after 3 or 4 days it starts to get dry and you really wish it would just stop already. Turns out a 6-incher is just perfect for two. I love my little cakes so much I even had a custom-sized cake stand made just for me by Lindsay of Suite One Studio. It’s perfect, don’t you think?
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Another day, another unique salad. This one combining some rather unusual ingredients, including honey-roasted carrots, pickled beets, and dill. The beets and carrots make for a delightfully sweet salad. Darn right pretty too, with Trader Joe’s rainbow quinoa blend and some stunning rainbow carrots.
Just keep an eye on the carrots as they are roasting otherwise you’ll end up with a big mess and a ruined cookie sheet. Curses!
I only realized after the fact that we forgot the arugula the second time we made this, so I’m going to go ahead and call it completely optional (since the salad didn’t suffer without it). We liked the addition of the fresh mozzarella, but feta or goat cheese would be other good options.
Completely un-food-related but definitely relevant if you follow this blog, Google Reader is shutting down as of July 1st. If you use Google Reader to follow me or other blogs, be sure you have a replacement lined up. Over at Purr Design, I wrote a post entitled “Life After Google Reader” that compares two alternatives and will walk you through the process of making the switch. And remember, you can always subscribe to Love & Olive Oil by Email and get new posts emailed directly to you (if you prefer!)
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I don’t know what my obsession with gorgonzola is lately, but my first attempt at more of a crispy-cracker-like snack was not so successful. It’s like I couldn’t roll the dough thin enough. Stumped at how I could acheive such an outcome, I went in a different direction (what do they say, if you can’t solve the problem change the problem?)
This recipe is based on the cheddar version for which Lesley has become famous (’round these parts at least). Any food blogger gathering or potluck and one of the first questions anyone asks is, will there be cheese straws? (The answer is, yes, because even if Lesley doesn’t bring them somebody else will).
Using her recipe as a base, I replaced the classic cheddar with a crumbly gorgonzola. I also added a bit of baking powder (for some extra lightness and lift) and a healthy dose of black pepper. Once they are baked, most of the funkyness from the gorgonzola dissipates. In fact, if you didn’t tell someone these were gorgonzola, they could easily be mistaken for cheddar. They’d be perfect served with wine or beer, crispy and salty with a cheesy, soft cloud-like interior.
I might suggest you make a double batch of these, as they disappear rather quickly (in fact, I was lucky to get a good shot of these before Taylor devoured them all). They’re quite dangerous in that respect.
Bring them to your next party. I promise they will make an impression. A word of warning, though, because once you do, people may never allow you to bring anything else. Ever.
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