daring bakers: danish braids

wow. what a time to come back, huh? just in time for this month's amazing daring baker challenge, co-hosted by kelly at sass & veracity and ben at what's cooking? how did they know i just LOVE laminated doughs?! uh, i mean, i love eating them cuz i've never made one before today (yes, i made my danish bread TODAY!) so i didn't know if i would love that part too. and well, wouldn't you know it ... now i'm a little afraid that i will indulge the new love making (hehe) with more puff pastries, turnovers, croissants, and danishes than ever thought imaginable.

close-up braid

the recipe chosen is from sherry yard's the secrets of baking. i bought this book a couple months ago and was intrigued by the fundamentals building block nature of the recipes. classic culinary learning style (or so i'm told by mr. mimi, CIA grad). it makes sense, and yet feels a little unfamiliar. two months ago i did try one of her frosting recipes, but it was written so scratchily and sparse, and i didn't make it right. for someone with more knowledge about frostings and how they work, i'm sure they would have easily filled in the missing pieces of info and been fine. but this was my first frosting that did not come from a betty crocker tub and sigh, it was a mess.

but what she has sometimes with sparsely written recipes, she makes up with lovely written introductions to each section of fundamentals. from the intro to laminated doughs:

"laminated dough is made up of two components: a ball of dough, or the détrempe, and a butter block, or the beurrage. the two are sandwiched together in a pâton, then rolled out and folded many times into a tour (turn). each fold and roll is call a turn, and each turn results in several thin layers of dough alternating with thin layers of butter. when the dough hits the heat of the oven, the water in the butter evaporates into steam, and pushes each layer of détrempe. and voilà! you now have beautiful, flaky pastry." (p. 264)

each type of laminated dough has a slightly different recipe. for a wonderful tutorial on la pâte feuilletée with tour double (double turn, folded like a book rather than a letter) please visit the lovely foodbeam. i was surprised to know that danish dough has cardamon and orange flavors. and it's not even a danish creation, but a pastry made up by viennese bakers replacing striking danish bakers in denmark. who knew baking history could be so gossipy!

danish braid

umm, really. did you need all this rambling text? let's just get to it, huh? the dough itself was easier to roll out and turn than i expected, my butter stayed in place and there was no oozing or tearing. but there is still some refinement to be made in my handling because i seem completely unable to understand how thick 1/4" really is, even with a ruler in hand! i cut my sides a little wrong and my resulting braiding was a little (lotta) loose, so it didn't shape up ideally. i have a perennial problem with overfilling, and it reared its ugly head with these braids too. (trust me, i made sure to photo only the good side of things!) oh yeah, and as you see, i didn't watch it in the oven and it came out a shader darker brown than desired.

golden brown

but despite all those little flaws, i loved this challenge. i made two versions, sweet and savory. the first one was a traditional strawberry marmalade with tonka bean pastry cream. the savory option was a mediterranean style fennel, onion, cured olive, and herbed goat cheese. wowzers, that savory one was to die for.

the sweet photos ...


with pastry cream and strawberry

a sweet slice

and really, almost anything could go in these braids of pastry. to see more combination creations, please do check out every other daring baker out there! my fellow bakers have some kick ass talent. in the meantime, please try to clean up that drool on your keyboard :)

the savory photos ...

mediterranean savory

savory danish braid

close-up savory slice


i'm back ...

... are you ready for me?

it's true, i'm still in this nebulous, indescribable funk of funks. it's just a web of burden related to time (or lack thereof), self-doubt, misdirection, and missed connections. i hadn't taken a photo (of anything) since my last post. i've hardly been in the kitchen. i didn't even browse online. and you know what? i was still in a funk! so then i had the epiphany that baking and blogging was surely not a cause of my funk, and if anything, it was a happy distraction that i was sorely missing.

so i'm back. and let me begin with something that is way over due. lovely farida of the beautiful blog farida's azerbaijani cookbook passed along the "yummy blog award" to me back in may and what an honor! i was supposed to list my 5 favorite desserts i prepared. going down memory lane, here are my faves, in no particular order:

almond-mocha roulade
bill's big carrot (cup)cake
best brownie ever (tied with the lovely flying hearts)
chocolate hazelnut biscotti
passover fruit tart
chocolate macarons

(haha, okay that was technically 7 and if i don't stop now i'll end up listing all of them as faves!)

and drumroll please for the next 3 blogs i am passing along this yummy blog award to. i have a growing list of favorite blogs i make sure to read, and these are the more recent ones i have found:

stephanie from a whisk and a spoon
melody at my sweet and saucy
kid diva with the sugar bar

congrats and a toast! here's to many more days and years of beautiful blogging!


martha mondays, strawberry shortcake, and a little break

first strawberries of the season

this is going to be an all-purpose post ...

martha monday on a wednesday? sure, why not! i was very happy to see that patricia from technicolor kitchen brought us her best brazilian martha dinner of rolled flank steak. oh yes, flank steak is my favorite, how did she know?! and with roasted peppers and mozzarella, need i really say more? go over and check out her post and all her other wonderful creations.

and what did i bring? some lousy herbed couscous. honestly, after i told the world to go out and check out martha's little "best easy dinners" i took a more careful look and couldn't find anything that caught my appetite, which is of converted omnivore who sometimes prefers to be a vegetarian. so i made the couscous (minus the chicken breast), which was super simple, but it didn't really have enough flavor. nor was it very photogenic so you'll just have to take my word for it!

but i don't think i'm going to continue with my little martha monday endeavor. i "met" some people with great blogs: addicted sweet tooth, the frosted bakeshop, columbus foodie, and technicolor kitchen but it was kind of a lonely event. so for now, it's taking a little break, and maybe it will come back tweaked and tinkered to attract more people. or maybe ya'lls just hate martha?? ;)

and honestly, when i started blogging i had no idea why i was doing this, who i was doing it for, and creating food wasn't even on my brain. but then it grew with me and i loved it and i couldn't wait to cook and bake and shoot a gazillion photos along the way.

but now i just don't feel the love anymore. it could be (probably is) because of personal things going on. it could be i'm a little bummed about the nomination, okay i'll admit it, a lot of pissed. it could be i have probably eaten more butter and sugar in the past few months than i have in the past few years. it could be, it could be, it could be.

whatever it is, i guess i feel i need to shrink back a little and be a little quiet. which is perfect timing because in a couple hours i'll be on my way to a sunnier place. it's only a week but hopefully i will come back to new york refreshed, balanced, happy, and energized.

and then we will see what happens.

in the meantime, here is a strawberry shortcake to get you excited about summer (i mean, if you live in the northern hemisphere). the strawberries have finally arrived in the farmer's market and what's not to love? i didn't even sugar these because they were so fresh and delish, none was needed.

maybe that should be my motto right now. no extra sugar needed, because it's great just the way it is ...

strawberry shortcake

strawberry shortcakes: makes 8
from martha's great food fast (2007, p. 86)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup butter, cold cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tb
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
6 cups fresh strawberries
whipped cream

1. preheat oven to 425F. in food processor, combine flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. process until mixture resembles coarse meal. add milk and pulse just a few times to moisten. do not overprocess.

2. turn out dough on floured surface. with floured hands, gently pat dough into 4 x 8 inch rectangle.

3. dust knife with flour and cut dough into 8 squares. transfer to baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. bake until golden, 25 - 30 minutes. cool on baking sheet. split biscuits with knife, layer with berries and whipped cream.


strawberry shortcake tower


mad for macarons

david lebovitz's chocolate macarons

can you believe i went to paris and never ate a macaron or any other baked goods besides croissants and baguettes? no macarons??! well, two years ago i hated sweets. and now i can't get enough of them. i still don't love sweets, but i am in love with trying them.

actually, now that i write that ... can you believe that two years ago i never even heard of a macaron? the horror!

and of course, some of my favorite bloggers are the queens of sweets, and since then i've learned what they are and seen the most beautiful macarons ever. so when minko over at couture cupcakes announced a mad for macarons event, i was instantly excited! here was my chance to try baking the wonderful loveliness that every one adores and which i have never had!

after hemming and hawing with whose macaron recipe to try first, i decided to go with david lebovitz's chocolate version. why not? i have a blog crush on monsieur lebovitz and the idea of chocolately meringuey almondy cookies sounded delish.

and for my first ever batch of macarons, i'm pretty happy. not ecstatic, because they didn't really come out correctly. but happy that i tried them and more than happy that they taste absolutely delish.


i got the cute little feet on my macarons, but the majority of them cracked on the top, as you can see in the tray above. the optimist could reason that i did them right, but some messed up. or the realist could argue that i f*cked them up, and was lucky to get a few to come out nicely. but either way, i would really love it if any of you more experienced macaroners could clue me in to what might have been wrong?

chocolate macarons

because i've never had a macaron, let alone an excellent one, i don't know what to compare mine to. basically the filling was lovely (although i think i may have not put enough on) and the cookie crust was thin, not really crisp, but like a thin shell, and the inside was soft. i don't know, it's hard to describe it properly (or maybe les adjectifs français serve this purpose better.) the taste was oh so chocolatey and the smell of these were just amazing.

next time, and oh yes there will definitely be a next time, i would like to sift my almond meal even a little bit finer to get a smoother shell. and pipe out my batter a little more evenly in size and shape so i can actually match tops and bottoms!

but this macaron virgin is now officially in love. i can't wait to visit paris again to get the real thing.


for david lebovitz's recipe, click here and you won't be disappointed!

for a description of french macarons, i really like this write up.