Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daring to do it: Mille Feuille

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!
I happen to love Suz.  She is a fun person, or at least she has seemed so in all of my Daring Kitchen experiences.  So I knew that her challenge this month was going to be a fun one.  But it was also somewhat daunting.  Puff pastry?  Wow... Not only have I never made puff pastry from scratch before, I am not sure I have actually worked with it at all...!  But it is something I have wanted to try, and this was a great opportunity.  It was still nerve-wracking, though.  Suz provided us with a great recipe which other Daring Bakers were having good luck with.  But one of the key components of puff pastry dough is the beurrage - butter.  And I don't bake with butter.  I use margarine.  Which other Bakers were expressing concern about.  So I hesitated.  Finally, with only a couple of days left before the posting date, I decided to just go for it.
The dough came together beautifully, and was silky to work with.  The "margarrage" was then put into place:
and wrapped up tight:
Then comes the rolling and turning to make a laminated dough.  Fold, fold, roll, turn, repeat:
Once the dough was resting comfortably in the refrigerator it was time to decide on the filling.  Part of me wanted to try something really different.  But most of me knew that I wasn't going to come up with anything too interesting based on what was available in the kitchen, so I went with the traditional vanilla pastry cream:
But I still wanted to do something different.  So I added in some raspberries and black berries.  Yum:
Time to bake the pastry.  Scary.  The easy part is to roll out the dough:
Then the dough is cut into three hopefully equal pieces and baked on greaseproof (wax) paper.  But before it goes into the oven it is covered with more wax paper and weighted down:
Partway through baking the top sheet and weight comes off of the pastry.  Some of the pastry came off with the paper for me, though. Oops:
Thankfully, that was the worst of it.  I was rewarded with a beautifully puffed and layered pastry when all was done:
Assembly time.  Pastry on the bottom.  A layer of cream.  Another sheet of pastry.  More cream.  Another sheet of pastry on top:
Ok.  Now to decorate.  First, a layer of royal icing.  Ok, no problem there.  Then the given recipe called for using piped melted chocolate to make lines.  I decided to make a coulis of the same black- and raspberries from the inside.  It is the piping that failed me.  True, I was using a sandwich baggie as a piping bag, but it was still kind of sad:
And messy.  Don't forget messy!  Finally a toothpick is dragged through the lines to make a pretty pattern:
Maybe not the most attractive thing in its whole state...  but cut up into pieces:
Hooray!  I was very proud.  My husband was impressed with the look, and was so happy with the taste he requested that I make it again.  The next day...  Sorry, Hubby, you'll have to deal with the (few) leftovers until I have the chance to make this again...!
Suz, this was great.  You got me to tackle something I had been dragging my feet on, and you showed me how easy and worthwhile it is! I can't wait to make more puff pastry and use it in lots of different ways!  (But, of course, to make more mille feuille for the hubby!)
Please take a look here to see the amazing, and much more attractively presented!, creations made by my fellow Daring Bakers!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Surprise! Grissini

This month's surprise was the fact that I was going to be making something I had never heard of!  Grissini? Huh?  Ok, call them bread stick twists and I am all over it...
We used this recipe for inspiration, but were encouraged to fill our twists with whatever we wanted.  Which is good, since I am not a big olive fan...  (Though Hubby and Big Girl are.  The twists wouldn't have gone to waste, but I wanted to eat them, too!)  I made garlic grissini.  'Cause I love garlic.  Yum...!  These were not hard to make, and tasted fantastic.  I am pretty sure these will be made again.  And filled in a variety of ways to make them even more fun!
Start with the dough:
 Get your filling ready:
Put the filling on the dough:
Cut strips:
Pull and twist!
And behold!
Check out what our friends made, their grissini might just surprise you!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Daring to do it: Feijoada

One of the fun things about food is that is can take you away to far off places.  I love being able to share a culture, even if I can't be in the location itself.  This month's Daring Cooks' challenge was all about taking a trip through the kitchen.

Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

I know next to nothing about Brazil.  Like, the only contact with Brazilian
culture I can think of is either listening to the cassette tape (remember
those?!) of "Disco Samba" on car trips as a kid and going salsa dancing at
a club called "Brazil's" about a dozen years ago.    And the challenge is for
a bean and pork stew?  Ummm...  Pork doesn't exactly fit in our Kosher/
vegetarian house.   I thought I might sit this one out.  And it looked really
complicated and involved.  Not to say that I think the challenges shouldn't
be, you know, challenging, but it looked like a lot...
But then, as I kind of figured would happen, I decided to go for it.  Rachel
gave us recipes for all of the elements of a traditional feijoada meal.  I
made most of them.  I took one thing at a time, and it turned out to be
nowhere near as overwhelming as I had feared!  In fact, the most
frustrating element for me was the waiting, as two of the dishes were
best cooked right before eating!
Here is how the magic happened.
First, I turned this:
 into this:
This is the onion and garlic base used in the stew and the greens.  And I can see using it is a bunch of other things.  Which is good 'cause there is a bunch leftover!
Then I turned this:
into this:
 A yummy "vinaigrette."  Which is more like a salsa in my experience, but no matter the name, it is good!
Then I turned these:
 into this:
 Collard greens.  Sauteed with some of the onion and garlic base.  Nice.
The main element was turning this:
 into this:
 My black bean and pork stew.  Without the pork.  And with butternut squash.  A bit more liquid-y than it was supposed to be, but oh well.
My favorite part of the meal was the farofa.  Taking this:
 and making it into this:
 It might not look like much, but this onion, egg and corn flour (since I don't have yucca flour) dish was so good.  I want to make it again, and it is going to be so versatile and fun to play with.
All together, we had this on the table:
 (I made some tofu to make up for the missing meat.  I did not make the rice or the hot sauce, but Rachel gave us instructions for both Brazilian elements.)
This meal looked amazing on the plate.
And it tasted just as good.  The only thing we have leftovers of is the stew.
I had so much fun leaning about a new culture and pushing myself to try something I thought would be so far from my comfort zone.  As it turns out, it wasn't so hard, nor was it so strange, and it opened my eyes to something new!
Thank you, Rachel, for this trip to Brazil!  I am looking forward to returning, maybe even for real someday!
If you want to extend your Brazilian journey, I recommend you take a look at what my fellow Daring Cooks created!