Bake Club: Pain Au Chocolat

My daughter visited France while in high school. She confessed she ate pain au chocolat every day for breakfast. When in France….

Now that I could make croissants, I thought I would try pain au chocolat. Laminated pastry dough with high quality chocolate imbedded between the flakey layers. I follow the same six page instructions I used for croissants using Duchess Bake Shop cookbook. These did not disappoint.

Once all the layers were folded and chilled, I rolled out the dough and cut rectangles as directed.

At the bottom of each rectangle I placed chocolate. This is not the time or place to cheap out on chocolate. Buy the best quality of your favourite chocolate. I think next time I will use Jacek because it is my favourite. I cannot stress enough – use your favourite!

I rolled them up tight and let them rest overnight in the fridge.

I followed the same steps as the croissants, the following morning I placed a pan of hot tap water on the bottom of my oven and placed these pillowy delights on the second rack to rise for about two hours.

I brushed them with an egg and cream wash and sprinkled sugar over the top – I recommend this if you like sweeter pastry. Then baked them off for about 20 minutes.

The result? My daughter ate them for breakfast, thoroughly approving.

These were just as hard as the croissants I baked but equally as delicious and look at those layers! I have such a wonderful feeling of success after baking these! The Duchess Bake Shop cookbook is available here.

Stay healthy friends!

Question 3 of 52

How do your parents encourage you to be more confident?

To find this answer, I need to think back a ways. I have excellent parents. They encouraged us to explore the world, try new things and be independent. I definitely do all of those things. Getting there was trickier.

There was a time when failure was a frightening prospect for me. Now I know there is not failure, there are learnings. I was working on a task assigned to me by my grandfather. I was doing it but not in the precise way he demanded it should be done. Think Mr. Miyagi and paint the fence with yelling. I was lectured (the kind way to say yell) for a significant amount of time until I was reduced to tears. My mom came by and found me and I shared the entire story. This is the part where she transformed like the hulk. Those mythical stories of moms becoming mama bears right before your eyes. She stood up to her dad and defended me, my knowledge and my process. Not everyone needs to accomplish something in the same way. Its the process that teaches you something not the outcome. I learned a few things that day. My mom always had my back, trying something new teaches you things and don’t let bullies tear you down. My grandfather never yelled at me again. He challenged me often, but I had the confidence to stand my ground and explain why I was proceeding in that way.

I remember going to my dad, very upset about a scenario that happened in my classroom as a young teacher. A parent (one out of thirty) was not pleased by the way I conducted my classroom. My dad had been a teacher for decades by that point and I knew he would have the wisdom to help through the problem. I was trying to be everything to everyone, an impossible task but I didn’t want to let anyone down. My dad said, “You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If they don’t like it, invite them to go to the school down the street. This is your classroom. Set the tone.” That was the kind of advice that works in every situation. Be okay with no. If someone doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean you should have said yes. Set boundaries and stick with it. It has taken me years to set firm boundaries in every corner of my life. But I am a happier person for it. Plus my life is way more peaceful than it used to be.

Set the tone, be the captain of your own ship and write your own chapters. I am not everyone’s type of people but they aren’t mine either. I think my parents did a good job. No one would ever accuse me of not having confidence. It doesn’t mean I am good at everything – ha, not even close, but I am willing to try because there is much to be gain from the experience.

How did your parents encourage you to be more confident? Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Croissants

About a year ago I was watching videos trying to learn about laminated dough. I was inspired by the rough puff segments on Great British Bakeoff. The more I looked into it, the more I thought, naaaa that looks too hard.

I continued my year trying new bakes and learning more with each one. Christmas came along and I received Duchess Bake Shop. This has to be the first patisserie cookbook that I have read cover to cover. I learned about butter content and why you want to use European style cultured butter (82-84% milk fat rather than higher water content). I learned about flour and flavourings and their purposes. Plus I learned why measuring ingredients is so important. I kinda knew why and was diligent in the practice of weights and measures, but I am a firm convert now. Last year I purchased the Escali scale on the recommendation on Bon Appetite’s Basically tutorials. I am not going to lie, at $40 I was skeptical and thought I could get away with not owning one because I had done well thus far. (I laugh at old Robyn now. She was so cute thinking I was good at baking). I did a test. I scooped one cup of flour verses weighing out 125 grams. My scoop was an astounding 155 grams!! The scale was not going back and I found it a home in my pantry.

Fast forward to Christmas morning and reading Duchess. I decided I would try making croissants. It was six pages of instruction. SIX PAGES! This was not going to be easy but I was confident I could do it. I flipped back and forth on whether or not I would try it. Cookies were easier. So was pie dough. I read through the recipe three more times before committing two days to this project – for no other reason than I want to see if I could do it.

I went to Sobeys and looked for the correct butter. Only one packaged confirmed 82% MF. I read every butter packet on the shelf. I needed 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsps of unsalted European style cultured butter. I went home and started following the directions reading the recipe for a fifth time. I took the 3/4 cup of butter after weighing it out on the scale. Mixed it with salt and sugar as directed and placed it into a 7″ ziplock bag.

I reread the instructions and learned I fucked up 3/4 cup of $6 butter. I was supposed to mix 2 tbsp. of butter with the salt and sugar. <Insert every curse word you think I might use and choose a worse one>

Meanwhile, my starter was bubbling away. It hadn’t doubled in size yet so I still had time.

Off to the store I went for new butter.

I ran into my parents and walked with my dad a bit catching up, then found my mom. I hate this pandemic business of not seeing my parents more, but shopping for groceries and seeing was like a bonus. Found the butter, and came home. I considered purchasing two – but vowed I would read better the seventh time.

Came home, reread the instructions again and attended to my starter. It was time to add it to my mixer with dough hook and add 2 tbsp. of butter/salt/sugar mix and whole milk. I let it mix and knead for five minutes as directed.

I made the butter plaque as directed (3/4 cup of butter in a ziplock bag measuring 7″ x 5″) The recipe stressed the importance of measuring. After completing everything I can confirm this is the important part. Measure your butter and your dough. This provides the exact thickness you need for perfect layers.

After the dough was done kneading I put it in an oiled bowl and covered with a damp towel to let rise while the butter plaque was chilling in the fridge.

Once the dough doubled in size I rolled it out to measure 10″ x 15″ and placed the butter plaque on one side as directed. I carefully folded and crimped the edges, wrapped it tightly and placed it in the fridge to chill. I repeated the process of rolling, folding and chilling a couple more times.

Around 5:00 p.m. it was time to roll the dough and cut into triangles. I read a few different techniques in different cookbooks. Duchess was the only one that suggested cutting a slit in the bottom and folding to the side before rolling. Duchess Bake shop is rated in the top 20 best bakeries in North America…I think she knows what she is talking about. So I followed her lead.

I rolled up the triangles as directed and placed them on a baking sheet to chill over night and build flavour.

The next morning I read the instructions AGAIN. (Where are we? Eight or nine times?) I filled a baking ban with hot tap water and placed on the bottom of my oven then applied an egg and milk wash and placed the tray of rolled dough on the centre rack for about two hours.

The little pillows of joy smelled so good but they were crowded. I preheated my oven and transfered half the beautiful pillows of dough onto another tray. Into the 450F oven they went for 16 minutes, then I turned the trays for another four minutes.

These croissants were perfection. You could see the layers of lamination. The outer crust was crispy and flakey. The inside was soft and delicate. These croissants were the best thing I have ever made in my entire life. I was overjoyed and wanted to shout it from the roof tops. I facetimed my mom and my friend, I shared photos with other friends and finally I ate them – and reluctantly shared them with my famjam.

Do I recommend making these? As my friend said, “they look just like the ones from Duchess! Break it open so I can hear the sound.” I did and she was properly impressed. So yes, make these if the challenge appeals to you. You can find the recipe in the cookbook – I don’t feel like I should share it, buy her book. She deserves the credit and financial gain. Follow the recipe exactly – all six pages and weigh everything. It is worth it. These things are perfection and taste like France.

Stay healthy friends!

Question 2 of 52

How to Encourage: Ronit's List of Compliments | Family Matters

What was the best compliment you ever received?

Like many people, accepting compliments is a tough job for me. So many people I know brush them away instead of embracing them. I was no exception. Then somewhere along the way I started saying ‘Thank you’. People who gave them felt good for giving it and I began to believe what these people were saying.

I hear ‘you are so creative’ a lot. Thank you, creativity is my bread and butter. One time, a man named Tiger told me my hair was beautiful and he asked if he could touch it. I am not going to lie, I swooned. But that wasn’t even the greatest compliment. I value brains. I like being smart. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) I was petrified that I would lose what I perceive as my greatest asset, my critical thinking ability.

Years ago I was in a meeting with some friends and I came up with an idea. I was told I was ‘bloody brilliant’. I held this close to me. I don’t hear it often but when I hear ‘you are clever or smart’ something happens to me. It elevates my soul. I even get a little cocky (not cool – it can happen to the best of us). Hearing a compliment like that did something to me. I wanted to pay it forward. Now I make a solid effort to compliment and elevate people around me. I tend to focus on women because they hear superficial compliments all the time like ‘you are beautiful or pretty or that dress looks good on you’ or worse ‘you look like you lost weight’ (look, all weight related compliments are actually fat shaming – and fuck you- no one wants to hear that if they are dealing with an eating disorder so just stop it. It isn’t a compliment). We all know those ‘pretty’ compliments don’t mean anything. Well, not to me. I try to elevate others by complimenting them on problem solving, or creative solutions or even for being funny. A genuine compliment does something special to people. I like the way it makes me feel – so why shouldn’t I share that feeling?

Tell me the best compliment you ever received and stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Cookies

The hubs gave me Duchess Bake Shop cookbook for Christmas! If any of you are locals, you know how delicious Duchess is…and busy.

Apparently they have 300 people make baking purchases the first hour of any given Saturday, sometimes more when close to a holiday. At one point Duchess was named on of the top 10 bakeries in North America. Giselle Courteau knows what she is doing. We will go to the Duchess for birthday treats, Saturday strolls and sometimes just because.

As my baking skill increased over 2020, so did my desire to be challenged. Her baked goods remind me of some of the best patisseries in France. I have been wanting to try laminations for a while, who better to learn from? I decided to start simple and give White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio cookies a try. Longest name ever. I have had them in her shop and can tell you first hand how delicious they are. I do know mine will taste slightly different.

Why you ask? I don’t import my butter from France. It is the best dairy in the world, but it is expensive to do so – so, Canadian butter it is. I also make my own vanilla – its good – but it isn’t high end. My white chocolate is just chippits and the dried cherries are from Sobeys. The pistachios are leftover but frozen from Bulk Barn. Don’t get me wrong, these are very good cookies, just not as good as the could be. They are, however, affordable.

These are a basic butter cookie batter, the kind chocolate chip cookies are made from. If you search the internet you can find this recipe everywhere. But they are all slightly different.

  • 240g of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg – room temperature
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 roughly chopped dried cherries

Room temperature is important, things blend better. She also requests whipping the butter for 2 minutes before adding the sugar and egg. Then whipping those until light and fluffy. That makes a difference. She didn’t suggest hydrating but I did. I let the mixture sit for ten minutes. I find this makes a more pliable batter.

I whipped the wet ingredients using the stand mixer. I weighed and sifted the dry ingredients. I used my new mini Kitchen Aid food processor to chop the nuts (I am so grateful for this tool. I despise chopping nuts by hand!)

I combined everything then I used my 2″ ice cream scoop and did everything as directed. Can I just say, ever since I got my new 1 1/2″ ice cream scoop – I want to toss the others. I bought an Oxo before Christmas and wowza is makes scooping a dream. The other ones I have don’t release very well and it is frustrating. I am putting new scoopers on my Christmas list for next year. This is the one I am talking about. Oxo 2″scoop. Maybe its because it is new? But looking closer at it, the release is different. Mine bind.

After scooping I rolled to smooth them, then flattened with the palm of my hand to about an inch thick. I was supposed to get 18 but I only got 14. That’s fine, the are delicious. I baked them at 325F on my convection setting. I like that setting, I can bake two trays at once. BUT I needed to keep the cookies in 5 minutes longer. It said 15 minutes at 350F. But all ovens are different. Use your eyes and nose to determine if your cookies are ready to come out of the oven.

I don’t think these will last long in the cookie jar. Next I think I will give pain au chocolat. I am slightly nervous but it’s good to be challenged!

What is your favourite treat from the Duchess? Stay healthy friends!

Question 1 of 52

What is your greatest talent?

When I hear that question I think about what people have told me. You are great at drawing. You sing like an angel. You you you.

Like everything else in my life, I have just accepted this. I am what you tell me I am. That changed over the last 10 years. I am a lot of things but mostly I get to decide what I am .

When I ask myself what my greatest talent is, I automatically reach for creativity but that is the origin of ideas. With talent being a natural aptitude. As a child it was drawing, music or arts related. Writing is one, with 200,000+ of you readers that definitely hits the mark. After watching Pixar’s Soul, I suppose you don’t need to have one thing. I am more of a renaissance woman. I try things, master or get very good at it, and move on to the next. But to pick one? That is a hard task for me.

I always wanted to be a master at something but nothing interested me enough to put in the hours to perfect it. Trying many things and being decent at those has now become enough for me. I don’t have a passion. I move around a lot and try different things. My talents are many and I can list them like a grocery list. But to pick one? I think it is my ability to hone in on details. Attention to detail is what elevates my skills. It makes whatever I try that much better and special. I notice things that others miss, I see 1000 shades of blue where some people see one. I think that is my greatest talent. My natural aptitude or skill. The details.

Details | TrueNorth

How about you? I imagine most of you will say, play the piano or mobilize an army of people for a cause or can memorize complex mathematical formulas or can talk to animals. Even if it is none of those, you still have talent. Find yours and tell me about it.

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Horse Lovers Lane

Christmas break is more meaningful to me now then when I was teaching. I have limited time so I make the most of it. I am also not as mentally exhausted so I have more energy to do other things. If you know a teacher, remember to thank them. Their job was hard before, now it is nearly impossible.

After all the baking was done and the tree was put away, I decided my pal Cap and I needed to get out and explore the valley. It had been a wile because let’s face it, Albertans are not following the shelter in place rule. The malls are packed. The ski hills are packed. The skating rinks are packed. I just don’t want to be around people for my health. I thought Keillor Road might be a good choice.

There were people out walking but I am happy to report, those in groups wore masks. I probably came across 15 people total. I had my mask even though I am alone. It makes me feel better about talking to people – what does one Canadian say to the other on the street? Hello.

Cap and I parked at Whitemud park. The place was packed because everyone was at the toboggan hill at the Savage Centre. Very few were walking along the river. I chose this park because my pal Cap will stop everything he is doing to watch a horse on tv. I thought he might like to visit a few. The Whitemud Equine Centre is nestled between Fox Drive and the Whitemud Park.

We walked half way down Keillor road, which runs parallel to the North Saskatchewan River, before we decided to follow a path the took us through horse pasture. The centre is currently closed to the public, but it is city land, so I thought it would be okay to walk on the designated paths.

We approached the horse paddock and Cap stopped, looked and then kept sniffing. He could care less that there were horses, nothing like his behaviour when he sees them on tv.

We turned away and followed a path through another pasture that led to the centre’s main road.

Cap found horse tracks and dog tracks that seemed far more interesting. Walking down this road was lovely in the twilight hour. There wasn’t a soul around.

We cam upon an adorable sign that sums up this trail.

Ain’t that the truth. My daughter went to horse camp here and still asks for a horse every year for Christmas. She wants to board it here. She loves this road and is likely her favourite place in the city. That is the best thing about Edmonton, you can go for a walk in the valley and it feels like you are in the middle of no where. Yet I was only five or ten minutes from the University of Alberta.

I encourage you to explore some of the roads less traveled. It is peaceful and can do your soul a world of good.

Stay healthy friends!

52 Questions to get to know yourself better

Questions are the Answer - Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Good bye 2020. Hello 2021.

2020 taught me a lot of things. I upped my baking skills to a level I never thought could exist for me. I learned that being an introvert was lucky because my life didn’t change a whole lot with isolation and lockdowns. I missed traveling and exploring my city, province and country. I got to know myself better by the abundance of alone time.

But I still want more.

This has been an ongoing theme since I turned 40. There has to be more than this. When I feel this way, I know its time for more introspective work. I had been thinking about this for a while. What do I need to do to understand myself better or to find out what I want to do with the next half of my life. I need change.

I found a list of questions to ask yourself. This set of questions is meant for kids to develop a stronger sense of self and a positive self-esteem. I read through them and you know what? I think I could benefit from these questions too. I thought about answering a question each week but if I am doing it then there might be one or two people out there who would like to ask themselves the questions too. Each Wednesday I will post a question and lets see where this will take us shall we? Hopefully by the end of 2021, we will all have the new vaccine and life can resemble something a little bit different from 2020.

Maybe we can discuss what we learn about ourselves. I hope you join me next week. Get yourself a journal and a pen or pencil. I image we will know ourselves a whole lot better this time next year.

Stay healthy friends and Happy New Year.

Bake Club: English Muffins

English Muffins

There was a lot of discussion at our house about Christmas brunch. We typically have some sort of egg dish. My daughter and hubs prefer a Benedict style fare. My daughter rather have regular bacon and the hubs likes back bacon (Canadian bacon to the rest of the world and no, we call it back bacon not Canadian because that is weird). My hubs like an English muffin base – very traditional and my daughter thinks they are dry and tasteless. They are, she isn’t wrong.

Then one day I was watching Stump Sohla, a series on the Babish Cinematic Universe (BCU). This series is a convoluted way to show off Sohla El-Wally’s unflappable skills. Babish makes her spin a wheel and she has to do what it says. This episode was a one-handed boozy brunch. She make an entire brunch with one hand. It was pretty amazing, but what caught my eye was how simple English muffins were to make. Well….”They look so easy to make!” said the hubs. I gave him an evil side eye and went back to watching. They did look fairly straight forward. It never occurred to me to make English muffins from scratch.

There isn’t a list of ingredients when you watch the video. I rewound it a few times and I came up with the following:

  • 200g of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of melted butter
  • 200 g of flour (this wasn’t enough for all the milk – I added another cup)

I whipped the egg with a fork and added to 200 g of milk. Then all the dry ingredients went in. I used instant yeast rather than blooming regular yeast. I didn’t warm the milk – I would have if I was using regular yeast. (warm the milk to 115F add the sugar and egg, give a mix then sprinkle the yeast over top and wait for it to bloom – get bubbly.)

I used my stand mixer with the dough hook. When it mixed it was just like pancake batter. This was never going to be a bread dough. So I added an other cup (almost) of flour and added it in slow additions until the dough was climbing up the hook and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. This took about five minutes. I greased a bowl, placed the dough in it and covered with a lid (damp towel, plastic wrap – whatever you use) and placed in the fridge over night.

By morning it had doubled in size. Letting is ferment overnight builds the flavour. I divided the dough into four pieces and dived each of those into 2 – to give me eight portions of equal size. (None of mine were equal, just putting that out there. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a curious gal who wants to be a really good baker.)

I took each ball of dough and (do not add flour) placed it under my palm. I made a claw with my hand and moved my hand in a clockwise motion with the ball rolling around my claw as if in a cage. (Does this even make sense?) It tightens up the protein strands to give a tight crumb. It is science people.

I dusted two fry pans with cornmeal and placed each dough ball on the meal to prove. I sprinkled more corn meal over top. Now. I didn’t use enough on one pan because the English muffin stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle generously.

I let them sit for about 30 minutes until they puffed up.

Place on the stove over medium/medium low heat and “fry” until brown on the bottom. This took about four minutes. Do not add oil. Just the cornmeal should be in the pan. Flip them once the bottom is brown and let the other side brown up. The internal temperature should read 200F. Get an instant read thermometer. IT IS THE BEST THING I EVER DID! I bought this one – I didn’t spend much and it has upped my baking and cooking game.

Let these pillowy puffs of delight cool on a wire rack. Split them with a fork and sample one to check for poison ( my dad always used that line on me. I thought he was saving my life, but he was just eating the extras because food is too delicious to share).

If you are wanting to complete the Eggs Benedict recipe. Molly Baz did a video that changed my life and turned poached eggs into a regular delicious occurrence in my home. Ina Garten does a hollandaise sauce that is perfection – my pal Laurie shared this secret with me. Thanks Laurie! Many links will lead you to Food Network and endless loops of crest commercials without actually allowing you to watch the video. Skip it and just read the easy recipe. My tolerance for crappy programmers is at an all time high this morning. So don’t mind me, I am burring my nose in Duchess Bakeshop cook book where I am learning the fine art of lamination. Stay tuned!

Stay healthy friends!