Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Just want to show a cake I made last weekend. It was a carrot cake to feed 40 people. Filled it with cream cheese frosting and frosted it with vanilla buttercream. The flowers are made out of gumpaste with royal icing centers. The sides have toasted chopped walnuts pressed into the buttercream.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I made my puff pastry early in the month and baked off a little of it just to see if it rose properly. It did so I froze the rest to use at a later date.

So the night before the reveal date in the middle of making a half sheet cake and 200 truffles I remembered that I needed to finish my challenge. Luckily I remembered I had some peaches in the freezer that my husband had cut up. I pulled them out along with some white peach puree and let them thaw. Then I cut the peaches into 1/4" dice. I put about 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a saucepan, 1/2 cup peach puree and 1 half vanilla bean. I let this come to a caramel then threw in the peaches. I cooked them for about 5 minutes then deglazed the pan with a little more peach puree. Then I squeezed about a quarter of a lemon in the mix.

I baked off the vols-au-vent and put the peaches and sauce in it, sprinkled a few pistachios on the plate and when my husband gets home from work he will have this dessert waiting for him. He will be one happy camper because it tastes and smells heavenly.

Check out the host's site above for a printable version of the recipe and how to make the vols-au-vents.

Below is the recipe for making the puff pastry that we were given
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface
Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)
Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.
Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.
To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).
With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.
Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.
The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.
Above is the finished puff pastry and you can see the layering.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I made this beautiful tray of Focaccia this evening. I just had to share it. Nothing smells better than fresh baked bread right out of the oven. I can't wait for my husband to get home from work. He will probably eat half of what you see here.

1 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast

1 Tablespoon Sugar

2 Cups Warm Water (105 - 115 deg) If using instant yeast have water at about 70 degrees

16 1/2 Ounces Unbleached Bread Flour

1 Tablespoon Salt

6 - 8 ounces Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Can add garlic and herbs to the dough


1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. If using instant yeast you can skip this procedure.

2. Add 16 1/2 Ounces Bread Flour and beat with paddle attachment for about 3 minutes or until smooth.

3. Switch to the dough hook and add unbleached flour 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency. Dough should be slightly tacky.

4. Knead for 5 minutes or until proper gluten development. Do a window test.

5. Round dough and place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise to double. 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

6. Punch dough down and allow to rise again, then punch down.

7. Oil a sheetpan with olive oil and place dough onto it stretching it to fit the sheetpan. Let it rest and stretch some more. When it is the size of the sheetpan brush with oil and put caramelized onions and any other toppings and let it rise a little, no more than 1/2 hour.

8. With your fingertips dimple the dough and spread with olive oil.

9. Bake at 450 degrees until bottom is nicely browned.

Toppings: Any combination of Caramelized Onion, Sundried Tomatoes, oregano leaves, chives, garlic, rosemary, sage, coarse salt, basil, olives, parsley, sauteed bell peppers, shallots, parmesan cheese etc.