The last time I was in the United States back in 2019, I visited Trader Joe’s. This is now the only reason I want to visit. I kid… I also really miss In and Out Burgers. Anyway, back to TJs, they carry this magical spread called Cookie Butter. It is not found here in Edmonton, or wasn’t recently until Freson Bros came to town. The hubs and I were exploring this new Edmonton grocery store that commits to supporting local and the carry other items that aren’t easily found in Canada – like fresh fruit in January. The baking section is on another level. Missing an ingredient? It is there. I swear. (Let’s pause this part of the story).
At Christmas, you may recall, I received Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She has a recipe for Speculoos Babka. I looked through the ingredients and thought – there is no way I can make that until I am back at Trader Joes. Queue the sad music.
The hubs and I we wandering the aisle and I saw this:
If you aren’t sure what Biscoff is, think back to your last plane trip and the package of cookies they give is Biscoff. It is my favourite cookie.
When I saw this on the shelf next to the Nutella I nearly lost my mind. As a bonus part to the day, lower down the shelf was a full package of BISCOFF COOKIES! (they are delicious but taste better at altitude like tomato juice does. Its a thing.
I remembered the speculoos recipe and knew this jar was coming home with me.
Out came the cook book and I went to work making the sweet dough. It is the same sweet dough recipe she uses for her cinnamon buns but your favourite sweet bread dough recipe will work here too.
I cut it in two and rolled into a rectangle measuring 10″ x 18″. I mixed 1 cup of cookie butter with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix it well and spread it over the prepared dough.
Then roll it as you would for a cinnamon roll or traditional babka. Now there is no slicing of the dough log in this recipe. Just twist it like this.
Place it into a greased bread tin and repeat with the other dough. Let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.
It calls for a crumble topping. 1 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp of cinnamon, half cup of light brown sugar, 12 tbsps. of melted butter. Mix together and you will notice it isn’t a usual crumb topping – its more like cookie dough. break it up into crumbs and sprinkle over the risen babkas.
Bake at 350F for about 65 minute – use an instant read thermometer to test. It should read an internal temperature of 185F.
It was so delicious. I highly recommend this one. I would also consider this as a cinnamon roll and forget the topping. It doesn’t need it because it is delicious on its own. If you give it a try, let me know how it went!
The act of making is typically done to please someone else. At least in my case. I have created all kinds of things to gain that praise from someone. When I bake I make things that my family likes. Not this time. Today I made something that only I like. Last week I realized I have not been treating myself – that ended today.
My daughter claims dried fruit is an abomination. Raisins are like chewing old people. I disagree. But because I love her, I tend to leave out raisins, dried cherries, candied ginger and other dried fruit to please her. My grandma put raisins in everything. I remember my dad complaining about it in everything but butter tarts. I always loved them except that time she put it in her stew… grandma – I love you but that was weird. But the raisin sauce on ham was good!
Today I made Not Hot Cross Buns because every spring the bakeries make them and they look so delicious with their currents and raisins. The hubs bough ‘hot cross bun bagels’ last week. The flavour was nice but the fruit was green and red. That candied peel fruit that is dyed is tasteless and holds way too much artificial colour. I prefer no food dye. I am not sure why – but it turns me off. Anything that alters normal body chemistry and turns things colours can’t be good for you over the long haul.
I soaked 2/3 cup of raisins – the good kind that taste like they came from a red box. You know what I mean. Then I zested one orange and juiced it. I soaked the raisins in the orange juice for about 30 minutes. Rum is good for this as well. While that was happening I weighed out my 440g of flour, 50 grams of dark brown sugar and 50 g of white granulated sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. I added 2 1/4 tsp or one package of instant yeast, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice and 1/4 of a grated nutmeg. I whisked that together and started on my wet ingredients.
Into a small bowl or two cup glass measure, I added 1/2 cup of 2% milk, 1/3 cup of butter and popped that into the microwave for about a minute swirling it together until the butter melted. I added 1 Tbsp. of vanilla and the orange zest from before. Whisked 1 egg and add it to the mix.
In your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or by hand – but it will take a while) on low speed, slowly drizzle the wet ingredients. Before it combines into a ball, drain the raisins and add them to the dough. Beat on medium speed until it comes together. There will likely be raisins or what ever dried fruit you used on the bottom of the bowl.
Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp. of flour onto a clean surface and dump the dough and remaining dried fruit out. Start to knead the dough until it feels soft. At the beginning it will be gritty – you will know the second it becomes soft and smooth. It will take about 5-7 minutes but maybe longer. It took me 10 minutes today. Form into a ball.
Light oil a bowl, and place your dough into the bowl. rotate it so it also is covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let this double in size in a warm spot. Keep an eye on it it should be about an hour but it really depends on your kitchen.
Divide up the dough into 14 pieces and form into balls. I put them into a parchment lined pan because I like soft sides. Give them a little room because they will expand. If you don’t want soft pull-a-parts – put them on a baking tray with lots of room around them so they won’t touch while rising. Let rise for another 2 hours.
This is where I stop because a flour paste cross is tasteless and I don’t like the sticky glaze – but if you do – here are the rest of the instructions. This is why I call them Not Hot Cross Buns. My daughter said – just call it raisin buns…. sheesh mom!
The cross! Mix about a 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 of water until it forms a paste. You are going to pipe this – so adjust the consistency as necessary. I filled a ziplock bag and snipped the end off. Pipe a long stream from top to bottom allowing it to hug the bun. Turn your tray and repeat the process intersecting the first line.
Preheat your oven to 375F. Make an egg wash of egg and cream or milk – about a tbsp, and brush over your buns. Bake in the overn for about 20 – 25 minutes.
Make an apricot glaze – I used Peach jam because that is what my mom made me and it is what I had on hand. 1 tbsp. of jam, 3 tbsp. of vanilla and 1 tbsp. of water. heat together and strain through a fine sieve. Brush over the warm buns. Eat them warm, eat them room temperature or eat them cold.
Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.
I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.
I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.
I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.
I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!
Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.
Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.
It smelled so good.
I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.
I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.
Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.
Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.
I am not sure this counts as baking because it bubbles away on a stove top making a grunting sound but its made with a sweet biscuit dough so I think it counts. Traditionally it is called Blueberry Grunt and is a long time Canadian Maritime treat with unclear origins. Some say Arcadian and some say Newfoundland but the recipe can be found in all the maritime provinces. I was invited to a Newfie kitchen party in my 20’s and had it then. I have been making it since but as usual, I stray from tradition. I use whatever berries or rhubarb I have in my freezer. Last night it was smoothie leftovers of strawberries and blueberries.
Five cups of frozen berries into a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1/2 cup of water and one cup of sugar. To that I add the juice of half a lime and all the zest from the lime. Essentially this is jam. Bring it to a boil, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer while you make the sweet biscuit dough.
My mom bought me a Danish whisk for Christmas and I had never seen one before. I did some research and learned it was for heavy batters like bread, muffins and quick bread batters. It claims not to over work the dough and keeps raisins from hiding in pockets of dough. It binds everything together without streaks of flour and there are no wood spoons to clean off all that tough batter. I put it in my baking drawer next to my rolling pin. When I was pulling out my measuring cups and spoons, I decided to give this whisk a try.
I have no words. This was the easiest batter I every put together and the texture was beautifully smooth and supple. It came together fast – I’d say twice as fast as if I used a spoon or stand mixer. It’s heavy and feels good in my hand. I highly recommend picking one up to add to your kitchen gadget collection.
I used the whisk to pull together 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of milk. Drop spoonful’s of dough over the simmering berries and let it bubble away for 15 minutes with the lid on and no peeking. You will hear grunts and sputters but that is normal. RESIST the urge to peek. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let it sit for a while because molten fruit juice will blister your mouth – just speaking from experience. Eat it warm. Adding a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary to the simmering berries is a way to elevate your game. Cinnamon can be a nice addition too. This basic recipe can benefit from different herbs and spices or is excellent on its own.
This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but do yourself a kindness and heat it up before you eat it. The best cold winter dessert ever.
Let me know what you think! And stay healthy friends!
I love bagels. Claire Safitz posted a a how-to video on NYT Cooking. It was a recipe from her new cookbook Dessert Person. Only it wasn’. She is a liar. Well…. It wasn’t the same recipe and this caused me stress because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I watched the video then read the recipe. I decided to follow the recipe in the book because so far – the recipes were fantastic. I figured I had nothing to lose. Except I had some issues, complications and problems.
The first one was finding barley malt syrup. No luck. It might be because I am in western Canada, or it might be because its a pandemic, I could not find any. The recipe did say molasses would be a good substitute. I had that – no problem. I used 100% bread flour as directed. My yeast was now a year old – and in my freezer. I had doubts.
I made everything like she directed and the dough was stiff. I had to let it rest a few times along the way just so I could knead it. If I had used my mixer like directed in the book (the video advised not to use my mixer) I would be shopping for a new stand mixer. The dough was that stiff – and very dry. Her video showed a shaggy but definatly wetter dough – ‘Add more flour as needed’ ummmmm Okay – sure it is dry here on the prairies but for the love of all things delcisious – not that dry!
I set it out to rest and rise – nothing. Okay – so my yeast was dead. I kinda expected that. I made everything the way the book advised. left it overnight, did a float test – it did not float – even after the suggested warm up time of 15 minutes. No floating. I popped them into the boiling water and when they floated after 3 minutes – I pulled them out and set them on a rack.
I sprinkled sesame and flake salt on them and baked for 15 minutes as directed. a few got a bit dark but they baked up nice. Cutting them was a another story – hole LEE! These suckers were tough. They were super chewy but SO DAMN DELICOUS!
Okay – I will try again but with new fresh yeast.
I tested and proofed the yeast – so frothy!
Followed the book again – damn the dough is tough. I could barely knead it. It looked like dried up brains. I left it to rise and headed straight to google to do research. I watched her video again. She used baking soda in the boiling water – omits it from the book. Her dough was soft and pliable. WHY???? I did some more research and learned Canada has higher quality flour than America. Canada has a standard that requires it to be 13% protein. This results in higher hydration than their American counterpart. American flours vary from 8-13%. Their bread flour is 13% – the same as our all-purpose flour. WHAT THE HELL??? I then started watching Montreal style bagel recipes and found they used bread flour but had more water. The baking soda makes a softer crust – chewy but penetrable with human teeth and no need for a chain saw to slice it.
Summary: Use more water. Use baking soda. Use less bread flour because we don’t have enough left in the pantry.
This is what happened.
I mixed tablespoons of fancy molasses and 1 1/4 cups of 110F water. 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast and set aside until it foamed – about five minutes.
Meanwhile mix 2 cups of Canadian AP flour and 2 cups of Canadian Bread flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Whisk together and make a well in the centre. Whisk the yeast mixture and add to the flour. Pull it together with your hands – add more water as needed. I ended up using another 1/4 cup of water to get the dough to come together. It was soft and pliable like bread dough should be.
I did not add flour to the counter – I kneaded it until smooth. The one on top is the hydrated dough. the one on the bottom is Claire’s version (Canadian ingredients in an American recipe). I kept kneading until it was smoother.
I divided the dough into nine portions per batch. Rolled them into balls and let them rest while I did more research. No one – and I mean NO ONE including Fairmont’s famous Montreal Bagels let the dough sit overnight in the fridge. Claire says do it – I say don’t bother. So I got my pot ready. I filled the pot with about 4L of water – and brought it to a boil. I added molasses until it looked like strong tea. Montreal version use honey and a pinch of salt. I like the dark colour you get from the molasses.
I punched my finger through the centre of the dough ball. and stretched to get a 4″ring. I couldn’t do it with the 100% bread flour – it was too tough. (traditional Montreal Style – roll into a log and wrap around your hand. Pinch dough together.) I covered with a damp towel and put three into boiling water. These fellows floated! New yeast for the win.
After boiling for 2 minutes a side, I transferred to a rack with a towel underneath. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Placed them on a bed of cornmeal and repeated the process until one batch was ready for the oven. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes. Same as before but none of the bagels were too toasty this time. I think that had to do with the dampness of boiling correctly.
I repeated the process with the 50/50 flour bagels.
I let them cool and then did a side by side visual and taste test. Both were easy to cut – thanks baking soda. Both had a chewy texture expected from a bagel. Thanks bread flour. But my recipe was just that much easier to chew. PLUS it was a bit more tender and had a nicer crumb. the 50/50 is on the left. They puffed up more while boiling.
I had one of the 50/50 bagel for breakfast – lightly toasted with butter. Damn…. it was delicious. I froze half the bagels and will eat the other half for breakfast this week. I won’t be following Claire’s bagel recipe again – mine was really good. Next time I make bagels, I will find a Canadian Montreal Style recipe and compare that for fun.
I remember my grandma always having a bundt cake on hand to serve when we came for a visit. The visit was called ‘coffee’. I never drank coffee but I always had the cake. My grandma was a good baker. I mentioned before that I received a couple of cookbooks for Christmas. I spent so many weekends trying out Duchess, I had neglected Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She is the phenom who stared in the Bon Appetit series Gourmet Makes where she would try some food and recreate it, things like Doritos or Skittles. Nine times out of ten she nailed it or improved upon it (according to her test kitchen colleagues. Where she really excelled was with pastries and desserts. That is what her cookbook is all about.
I read this book from start to finish and I think she has weird ingredients. Spelt and miso in baked goods are not things I have on hand in my pantry. I need to plan ahead when I decide to make something of hers. What I do like is the companion videos that go with some of her recipes. She has her own series produced by her publishing house Penguin. I have watched every video she has released so far. Including the satire video by Novympia. Hilarious because Saffitz isn’t the most cheerful person and she complains a lot. The best part is her being surprised by the instructions in her cookbook. All very funny and on brand.
I chose Poppy Seed Almond Cake as my first foray into Dessert Person. I watch the video here before I read the recipe and began baking it. My first thought was “this recipe is backwards”. Normally you would cream the sugar, eggs, butter and flavourings together first. Then add milk and four in stages. This recipe you combine all the dry in the stand mixer then add all the wet all at once. It is a very easy and forgiving cake.
Flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt all wen in first. I weighed everything because American measurements are slightly different from Canadian measurements and I wanted this to be accurate. It’s been a hot minute before I have used poppy seeds and almond flavoring, so those were the new purchases for this bake.
Then I added the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts.
I didn’t even have to break up the eggs before I added it to the bowl. I was highly skeptical. Then I mixed it on medium high for 2 minutes (set the timer).
It was about the consistency of pancake batter. I poured it into a prepared bundt pan. I used Pam and then floured it. But I don’t think it needed to be floured. I have a non-stick pan and Pam does a great job. Flouring the pan left flour clumps on the finished cake. So proceed with caution.
It baked for a long time, 90 minutes. When I pulled it out, there was a crack on the top (normal) and a nice brown crust (also normal). My cake tester came out clean.
Leave the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. This is an important step. The steam in the cake needs to release to improve the structure of the cake. The pan will support it while this happens. Pop it out too soon and your cake will break or crack. After 15 minutes turn out on a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. This will catch the crumbs and the glaze drips.
The glaze was simple. Using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer I combined melted butter (weird), orange juice, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. I poked holes all over the cake so it would absorb the glaze. Then I used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. It took and absorbed about five coats. I used all the glaze and you can scoop up the stuff from the bottom of the pan that drips off. I didn’t I was sticky enough.
I let it completely cool because in the video Claire and her mom talk about the odd dense section of the cake and Claire and her mom surmised it was from not letting the cake cool enough before cutting. I had let it cool 2 hours before we cut into it and I still got that strange dense section. It doesn’t affect the taste but it gives an appearance of an under baked cake. My advice is to let the cake sit overnight.
My daughter wanted you to know her review: It was good.
*Edmonton Tourist’s Note: I have made three more since this day. I have been baking treats for my parents lately because mom isn’t up to it and treats are nice. They both said it was the best cake they ever had – and it was Dad’s mom who was the famous grandma in this story – so that is high praise. I did let the cake sit over night and two things happened. It tasted better and there wasn’t that weird ‘under baked’ section of the cake. I also tried it in two loaf pans. This was smart. I froze one and ate one. It baked a little better in the loaf pan and I didn’t get the flour residue. Today I am trying orange blossom instead of almond – because dad want more.
So there you have it. It is one of those old timey cakes that grandmas used to serve for ‘coffee’. It was good – very moist and tender. One of the easiest cakes I have ever made not from a box. I will put the ingredients below because she shares them on her video.
Back in the summer I asked facebook if anyone had an excess of rhubarb they were willing to share with me. I have a tiny new plant that doesn’t produce much yet. I love rhubarb, it tastes like summer to me and is basically a weed here on the Canadian prairies. A good friend had a bunch and my sister-in-law(SIL) said I could take some of hers.
I took both. My SIL said ‘What are you going to do with all this rhubarb?’ Obviously eat it. I froze two large bags. Last week I was thumbing through my Duchess Bakeshop book (tired of hearing about this book yet? You can buy it here.) and found Rhubarb Galettes on page 165.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and if I did – I am sure it would have been spectacular. But mine was delicious all the same.
I have three bundles of pie dough in my freezer. Each bundle makes a double crust or 24 tarts. This is my grandmother’s recipe I gave here in the Butter Tart recipe. It is one of the most forgiving, flakey crusts I have ever made. Plus I had enough and then some of rhubarb in my freezer. What I liked about this recipe was the method. The pretty rounds used for the galettes. Most instructions have rough edges or torn pieces to make to look very rustic. I prefer pretty edges.
I made the topping and set it aside:
1/4 old-fashion rolled oats
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
2 tbsp of butter (I used salted because that is what is in the pantry)
Then I made the filling and set it aside:
3 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of sugar
3 tsp of cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
I had thawed the pie dough in the fridge the night before then rolled it out on a lightly floured surface. I measured a small plate and bowl to find a 6″ diameter and used it as a template to cut the circles. I got three circles on the first roll, combined the scraps and cut two more then combined the scraps for the sixth round. They are craggy but… whatever, so much for pretty. I placed them on a silpat liner because there was going to be leakage.
I used a 1/3 cup measure to divide the filling between the galette rounds. Then I pleated up the sides of the dough before I added the topping.
What I should have done was add the topping then pleat up the sides. I then baked them at 375F. What I should have done, was chill them for about 30 minutes so they would hold their shape better. Then apply an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb is tart and it needs a tad more sweetness to the crust. But overall these were delicious.
They kept a room temperature in a pie safe for three days. The family enjoyed them. The crust was crisp on day one, soft and flakey day two. I think I liked day two best. None of these turned out pretty like the photo in the book – or in her shop. That is why I think chilling the crust is key because I had a breach when the pie crust laid down to rest.
One day I am going to give Duchess pie crust a try. She uses a combo of vegetable shortening and butter. That makes me curious.
I think about this galette and the different possibilities for filling, like apple or berries. Something that gives you the taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter.
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 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.
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.