I have a bit of a foodie crush on Julia Child. Maybe it is the dipping cadence of her voice, or her role as woman in the industry, or her height, or the fact that she loved bread and worked with Raymond Calvel, one of bakings greats. Whatever the reason, I get really excited when I come across something that lets baking and Julia Child collide. And these croissants are it!
I will admit, making croissants had me a little nervous. All the folding and butter, I was afraid I would end up with flat, pathetic blobs. But, I didn’t. They turned out great. Light and flakey…not perfect, but we loved eating every last one. It takes time, the first day is all about letting the dough rest, the second day your rolling-pin becomes your best friend, but it was fun and challenging and rewarding. A perfect way to spend a gray winter weekend. Not exactly, healthy, but everyone deserves a Julia Child inspired treat once in a while. So, treat yourself to a fabulous breakfast for dinner kind of day!
Adapted from From Julia’s Kitchen by Julia Child
What You Need:
3 tablespoons tepid water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup tepid milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 to 7 ounces (1 to 1 3/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
In a small bowl mix the yeast, water and sugar. Blend the milk and oil with the yeast mixture.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture. Mix until well combined, then turn it out onto your floured work surface.
Let it rest for a few minutes, then knead until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out during kneading. You’ll probably need a dusting of flour during kneading, but try not to add too much.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set aside until the dough has tripled in size, about 3 hours.
After the first rise, turn the dough out on a floured surface and fold it over a few times. Then put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
After the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerator overnight.
Take the butter out of the refrigerator and beat it with a rolling-pin to soften it so you can spread it. (This is a bit messy.) Do this quickly so it doesn’t get warm. Scrape the butter up with a dough scraper, fold it over, and whack it again if needed to get it soft. You can use the palm of your hand.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll it into an 14×8 inch rectangle and spread the butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the uncovered third over the buttered center, then fold the other side, like folding a brochure.
Lightly flour the dough, and roll it into a 10×16 inch rectangle. Fold it into thirds like you did before (no additional butter). Flour the dough, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 45 minutes.
Take it out of the refrigerator and roll it into a 10×16 rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. Then roll and fold one last time.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Prepare two baking sheets.
Roll the dough to a rectangle about 20×5 inches. Cut it in half and return half to the refrigerator. Roll the half you’re working with to about 15×5 inches. Cut it into thirds so you have three 5×5 pieces.
Cut your 5×5 piece diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the base with your fingers and roll the triangle toward the tip. Bend the two ends to form the curve of the crescent.
Place the roll on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all the dough has been cut and rolled (makes 12).
Cover the baking sheets and let the croissants rise until they have tripled in size, about 2 hours. They should feel puffy and light.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Brush the croissants with the egg wash and then bake at 475 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes and serve.
Adapted from Cookistry.
It is a perfect week for soup: gray, rainy, and the kind of wet-cold that makes you want to stay in bed all day long. So last night we tried a new soup that has been sitting on my pinterest board for months, and it is a total winner! I must admit, I love pretty much any soup that involves cheese, and Lucas and I have been on a cauliflower kick, so this seemed like a good match. What I loved about this soup, beyond the way it made our house smell, was the depth of flavor even with so few ingredients. I think roasting the cauliflower helps make the flavors so robust and, of course, I added a little extra cheese, which never hurts. Overall, it was a perfect, warm, cozy soup for a cold, rainy night. How I wish it had been snow instead! Still keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas.
Happy Apocalypse Day! And enjoy the soup
Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Closet Cooking
I’m a little behind on blogging lately, between friend’s visiting and figure out what comes next for us (only 2.5 weeks left in Alaska! Crazy) things have been busy. So I am backing up: Two weekends ago, we took a 12 hour road trip to Homer, Alaska, swinging through Anchorage to pick-up friends visiting from Wisconsin on the way.
Homer is a cute little coastal town, famous for its halibut fishing. In real life, I’m not really much of a fisherwomen. In fact, I can count the number of times I have been fishing on two hands and most of them involve me doing more chatting than fishing. But, fishing is one of those things that is very Alaskan so I was more than game to give it a try. In light of this, we booked a charter fishing trip out of Ninilchik, just north of Homer, and signed on to start fishing at 4:30AM with Captain Steve.
We knew it would be a good day when on the way to Ninilchik from Homer we saw seven moose. Seven! Apparently 4 in the morning is prime moose viewing. Upon arrival we suited up in rain gear, team banana-yellow, Xtra Tuf boots (which I have been wanting to wear since seeing them in the southeast, where in one town they are referred to as the Juneau sneaker), and piled into a van to drive to the harbor. Our boating crew included our group of four, another couple, Captain Steve, and deckhand Chuck.
The boat launch was a marvel unto itself. In Anchor Point, where we launched from, there is not actually a harbor. Instead, a tracker (yes, tracker) pulls your boat out into the ocean and at the end of the day pulls you back out. The tracker backs straight into the water as if it were designed to be a land/sea machine. Nuts. And according to Captain Steve, they have only lost on tracker to the water since they started using this system in the 1990s.
As we raced out into open water, we had great views of the snow capped volcanoes in the distance, and the mountains that run along side of them. I am really going to miss seeing mountains in every direction.
But back to fishing. Our first stop was in shallow water, about 45 feet, we dropped our bait heavy lines with two pound weights to the bottom and “bobbed” them every two to three minutes. This helps release the scent and bring the fish to our boat. It worked pretty quickly. The wife of the couple with us got the first bite, a small one (which means 10-20 pounds), and a few minutes later I had one on my line. It was like reeling in a dumb bell. Mine wasn’t a keeper either, but I was pretty happy to have at least caught something, and within fifteen minutes of the start of our trip. After that, the boat was alive with hits. The fish couldn’t seem to gobble up our bait fast enough. We got two keepers (25-30 pounds) and Captain Steve moved us out to deeper water searching for the “really big ones.”
Deep water is work. We used 4 pound weights and dropped our lines around 200 feet to the bottom. But, we got tons of action. Lucas caught the biggest fish from our group of four, about 45 pounds, and afterwards was ready for a break! The wife of the couple on our trip kept saying, “Here we go again…” each time she had a fish on as she leaned against the side, heavy breathing. It become our tag line for the weekend. But truthfully, the next day we were all insanely sore.
My favorite part of fishing was the madness of so many fish on lines at once (4 out of 6 people at one point), deciding what to keep or toss back, and watching Lucas and our friends as they wrestled to bring fish in. At one point, my friend Vanessa and I reeled in a fish together to give our arms a break. Girl power.
We lucked out with weather (sunny skies and calm seas for the most part) and ended up with two keepers each (our limit) and close to 100 pounds of halibut. A great day. And dinner, halibut three ways, was a feast!
In Homer, like much of Alaska, it rained off and on during the weekend, but it didn’t stop us from meeting up with friends of the family the next day for another boat trip. Alaska seems to make the world smaller in such wonderful ways and has provided us the chance to meet friends of friends and friends of family who have, for one reason or another, ended up in Alaska. It is nice to know there are so many generous, warm people in Alaska who are excited to share the place they love with you. Our boat tour guides, Tom and Sandy, were just such people!
They took us out to “bird island,” a chunk of craggy rock jetting out of the water covered with a variety of nesting sea birds. Never have I seen so many birds in one place! The murres, black and white birds that dive to feed on fish, bobbed in tight packed clusters all around us. It was like a river of birds pouring out into the ocean.
But the highlight of my day was seeing a baby sea otter surfing across the water on it’s mom’s belly. Too cute for words.
We also stopped out at Halibut Cove, a tiny island community of about 40, whose homes and stores sit on stilts out over the water, linked by a series of boardwalks. I almost felt like we should talk in a whisper or that we had past through a veil of mist into a secret world like Brigadoon. The water was deep green with dark rock rising straight from the sea floor, topped with puffs of grass, and polka doted with isolated homes. We visited the gallery of Diana Tillion, a local artist who painted with octopus ink. And peered down into the shallow water looking for sea life. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
The other part of Homer we really liked was the spit, a narrow piece of land that juts out into the water like a floating tooth pick. It is a boat harbor, a shopping and dining area, a place to fish, camp, and walk the beaches. In the large boat harbor we saw the Rambling Rose, a crab fishing boat from the Alaskan based show, Deadliest Catch.
We also, of course, spent a lot of time playing Euchre and eating halibut every night for dinner. Great weekend in Homer, AK!
Today the second issue (May+June) of Food Loves Beer Magazine was released. I may be a little bias, but I think this is a great new digital food/beer magazine. And it’s free! To check it out click here. My article, The Rise of Olive Oil, starts on page 69 and includes one of my all-time favorite recipes, Spicy Bread-Dipping Sauce. Enjoy!
This week I was in the mood to bake. I also wanted to try something new. I have stacks of recipes waiting to be made in Pinterest, and as I was scrolling, I found a recipe from the blog, The Kitchn, I had pined a few months before for ciabatta bread or rolls. Perfect.
I shied away from this recipe in the past because it requires a biga, or pre-ferment, which I had never used before, but this week I was ready to tackle a new technique. The biga adds to the breads flavor, texture, and crust. Basically, it gives the bread an extra bunch of all the good stuff. There is actually nothing complicated about creating it. You mix basic ingredients, water, flour, yeast, and let it sit overnight before you want to create the actual dough. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I imagined it would be. And it helped create a pretty spectacular result.
I decided to make rolls with my dough, as we had left over lentil “meatballs” (no actual meat) that we wanted to turn into sandwiches (see picture below).
Lucas and I have been munching on the rolls all week, and I can say they are a hit. Because we are in Alaska, and my kitchen equipment is in Pennsylvania, I had to do without my scale and stand mixer, which would have made things a lot easier. But I didn’t mind the adventure of kneading this super wet dough. If you are making the bread by hand, it can not be kneaded in the traditional fashion. Instead, you alternate between “slapping” the dough on a well floured counter and folding it in half. The key is generous amounts of flour for you hands, the dough, and the counter. And a little bit of patience so that the dough fully develops. Needless to say, a stand mixer takes out all the guess work for kneading.
I highly recommend rolling up your sleeves and giving this bread a tried. So tasty!
Ciabatta Bread or Rolls
What You Need:
For best results weigh ingredients.
4 ounce (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
5 ounce (1 cup) all-purpose flour
Pour water into a medium size bowl and dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and stir to form a thick paste. Continue to stir several more times to build up the gluten. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.
The next day, the biga will look soupy with bubbles dotting the surface.
17 ounces (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
20 ounces (4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
In the bowl of a standing mixer, again add water and allow yeast to dissolve. Scrape the biga into the water using your hands or a spatula. Once in the bowl, break up the biga with your spatula or squeeze with your hands. The biga will not dissolve completely, rather it should be broken up into stringy blobs.
Add flour and salt. Using your spatula, stir to form a thick, wet dough. Then let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes.
Now attach the bowl to your standing mixer that has been fitted with the dough hook. Knead at medium speed for 15-18 minutes (Level 5 or 6 on a KitchnAid). Keep an eye on your mixer as it may move on the counter top at this speed.
At first, the dough will start stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Around the 7-minute mark, it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl, collect around the dough hook, and slap the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, nudge your mixer speed up a notch. Also, if the dough starts climbing the dough hook, stop the mixer and scrape it down again. By the end of kneading, the dough will look smooth and creamy with a glossy shine. It will puddle back into the bowl once you turn off the mixer, and this is fine.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 2-3 hours, until tripled in bulk.
Heavily flour your work surface. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or if you have a pizza stone, lay the parchment paper on the counter. Now carefully scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with more flour. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough in two pieces for loaves or 8 pieces for rolls.
Cover your hands with flour. Gently scoop the loaves (or the rolls) one at a time from the work surface to the parchment. Press your fingertips about halfway into the dough to dimple the surface and slightly flatten. Let the dough rise, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. When ready to bake, they should look pillowy with bubbles just beneath the surface.
Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven now.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Slip the parchment out from under the loaves and cool completely before eating.
Last week a new digital food magazine debuted, and I was lucky enough to have an article published in it. My piece, “Good Bread,” appears on page 73. To view the free issue check out the Food Loves Beer website here.
Have a great Wednesday!
Over the weekend we not only had a great showing of the Northern Lights, we also indulged in all kinds of yummy food. And we stumbled on one of our new favorites: cod fritters. This recipe came from Alaska Dispatch, an online newspaper that is dedicated to everything Alaskan. It is cod fishing season in Alaska, so the recipe is especially timely, and tasty!
What I like best about the fritters is the crispy outside that breaks into the almost creamy inside. It is an explosion of taste with interesting texture. And I happen to be a person that finds texture very important. Hence the reason I want nothing to do with bananas. But that is whole other story. The point here is: these little babies are awesome. They are deep fried (sigh) so not something we will make often, but they are a great treat, and well worth the effort to make and clean up after.
What You Need:
3-4 red potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, minced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 cup milk
1 pound boneless, skinless cod
Salt and pepper to taste
Several pinches of nutmeg
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, washed and minced or several shakes of dry parsley
1 cup flour
1 cup panko
Oil for deep fryer
Wash and quarter potatoes. Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until they are tender. Drain and place in a medium bowl.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep sauté pan. Add the garlic, green onions, and yellow onion. Sauté over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add milk. Bring to a low simmer. Cut the fish into pan-sized pieces and add to the milk mixture. Poach for 5-7 minutes.
After fish is poached, lift it (scoop some of the onions too) out of the milk mixture and add it in with the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, a few light shakes of nutmeg, lemon juice, and parsley. Lightly mix so batter is a little chunky. Add one egg and lightly mix again. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Then, using three small bowls, create an assembly line. One bowl with flour. The second with a lightly beaten egg. And the third with panko.
Shape cooled fish batter into 1-once round balls. Dip the ball into the flour, then the egg, and finally the panko. Repeat. Makes about 14.
Test one fish ball in the oil. It should take about 2-3 minutes to turn a light golden brown. Repeat.
First, I will just put it out there, I’m not a doughnut person. I don’t crave them, and as much as I love sweets, I can live without doughnuts. Give me chocolate or ice cream. But my husband is another story. And last week, he kept talking about doughnuts. He was way in need of a doughnut breakfast, so I did a little digging and found a baked doughnut recipe that sounded tasty. And wow, was I impressed. I may have, for better or worse, turned the corner on doughnuts, at least homemade, baked, chocolate covered ones.
I found the recipe at Vegan Yum Yum, but I adapted it to use what we already had at home, so it includes egg, milk, and butter rather than the original substitutes. And, I can’t imagine why, but we don’t own a mini-doughnut pan, which the recipe calls for, so I made doughnut muffins, or as we started calling them Muffnuts. The words doughnut and muffin are awkward to combine. Although they didn’t look like doughnuts, they tasted spot on (better than the real thing, in my opinion).
They are knock-you-over sweet, especially for breakfast, but what a great treat. Lucas certainly got his doughnut fix this week!
Chocolate Covered Doughnuts
What You Need:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp (scant) Nutmeg
1 tiny pinch or shake Cinnamon
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
4 Tbs Butter
Topping: 6oz. chocolate (dark or milk)
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
In a small sauce pan, over low heat, combine wet ingredients and mix until butter is melted. This mixture should not get too hot, rather go for slightly warm.
Add wet to dry and gently mix. It should form a very soft dough.
Now, you can either scoop dough into your ungreased nonstick mini-doughnut pan or a regular size muffin pan. Note: If you are making mini-doughnuts it will make about 20, if you are making regular size muffins, it will make 6 very full muffins or 10 more normal size muffins. Smooth out the top of the dough with your fingers.
Melt 6 oz of chocolate either over low heat in a double boiler or in the microwave using short bursts, about 30 seconds, stirring in between. Stir until chocolate is smooth and barely warm to the touch.
Dip or pour chocolate over cool doughnuts. Allow most excess chocolate to drip off then place on a cooling rack with a plate or tray underneath to catch remaining chocolate drips. You could also use wax or parchment paper as an alternative. Briefly refrigerate to help chocolate set. After 15-20 minutes, or until chocolate is set, remove from the refrigerator and eat or place the doughnuts in a tupperware to keep fresh until you want to serve them.
I miss the sun. For the last four days, I have been watching out the windows by my desk searching for the pale light but so far, nothing. It isn’t just that the days are getting shorter, which they are, but on top of that, our few hours of daylight aren’t really light at all. It’s just gray. Dust pan gray.
The encroaching darkness of an Alaskan winter didn’t really bothered me until the gray set in. Today, December 7th, the sun was supposed to rise at 10:35AM, but it never broke through the clouds. And it will set, behind a wall of clouds I’m sure, at 2:49PM. Our day will only last 4 hours and 13 minutes. This kind of darkness is a little disorienting. You look outside at 3:30PM and think it is 8:30PM, but you haven’t even had dinner yet. Strangely, I can deal with short days as long as day feels like day. Sun. Give me sun.
My answer to gray is bake goods. If I can’t make it cheerful outside, I can at least make our apartment smell warm and yummy. I have always had a special place in my heart for soft pretzels. Who doesn’t? So this seemed the prefect food to lift us out of the haze of gray.
I started making soft pretzels last year when I came across a recipe on the internet. For the life of me I can’t remember where I actually found it, but I’m so glad I did. It is remarkably easy, and Lucas and I love the results. I must admit, we are pretzel people. A trip to Pittsburgh, PA would not be complete without a visit to one of our favorite South Side spots, The Pretzel Shop. But even if you aren’t as pretzel crazed as we are, this is a recipe worth trying. My day feels brighter already.
What You Need:
1 envelope instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup and 1 tablespoon hot water
1/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white
Coarse sea salt, or flaky salt
Combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the food processor,* pulse. While the food processor is running, gradually add hot water until elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Allow dough to double in volume, about 30-60 minutes.
*Normally, I use a food processor, but in Alaska we don’t have one, so I kneaded the dough by hand. This is doable, but I recommend using a food processor if it is available.
Next, punch down the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces. At this point, you can either make pretzel rolls (less shaping and good for sandwiches) or the traditional pretzel shape. If you want rolls, simply shape a round bun and slash a small ‘X’ on each using a serrated knife. If you want the traditional shape, roll a log with tapered ends. Cross the two ends and twist once to form the middle fork of the pretzel shape. The two tapered ends should be secured to the outside of the pretzel with light pressure, and if needed, a little water. Then cover the shaped dough with a towel and let it rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sugar and baking soda (the baking soda will make the water bubble, so add it gradually). Boil each roll for 30 seconds, then flip, and cook for another 30 seconds. Place boiled pretzels on prepared baking sheet, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until brown, about 20 minutes.