Dear Amy (Croissants)

Dearest Amy,

How I miss living with you! I still remember the first Christmas party we girls threw after the Singing Christmas Tree. We weren’t sure what our living situation would be the next semester. Would we have to move? Could we resign the lease? What were we going to do?

And then we found out you were looking for a place to live. And it seemed perfect. So you moved in. Four of us girls. One tiny apartment–two tiny bedrooms, tiny closets, a tiny bathroom, and a tiny galley kitchen. We thought we had the life.

We lived together. We made some meals together. We cried together. We supported each other at final performances and shows. And then we graduated, and moved our separate ways. We keep in touch, even if just sporadically through emails and phone calls and facebook messages.

And then, a little more than a couple years ago, you asked if I knew of any good internships. I did! A couple months after that conversation, you moved in again. This time into a house in small town, Indiana. We had our own bedrooms and bathrooms. That was nice, but the back porch was the best part of the whole place.

Once again, we lived together. We made some meals together. We cried together.

And now, here you are at another transition. I want such great things for you! I hope you end up in the perfect spot–right where you are supposed to be.

Before I moved out, we talked about taking a day to make croissants. And we never did. I regret that. I wish we had taken a Saturday to knead, roll, fold, and refrigerate. And then do it all over again. I wish we had been together while we waited in anticipation for the timer to beep, and those light, fluffy rolls to emerge from the oven. Alas, we weren’t.

But, Amy, I made croissants. And they turned out pretty great!

IMG_0446I used this recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I baked 6, and I froze 8. If you’re only baking 6, reduce the bake time to 20 minutes. To freeze the remainder, put them in the freezer on a baking sheet, covered by saran wrap. When they’re frozen, put them in a gallon ziploc, and squeeze as much air out as you can.

I even stuffed some of them with chocolate chips. Delicious! Just line up a dozen or chocolate chips on the base of your triangle, and roll up as you do the plain ones. You’ll get a creamy, chocolate core in the middle. You can see it peaking out on the ends.

IMG_0447Many thanks to Andrew for passing on the recipe! Tracey’s photos and clear directions will walk even the most novice pastry baker through the steps.

My timeline (so I didn’t give up a whole day):

  • Thursday night–mix and knead dough. Roll it and fold it the first two turns. Leave in the fridge overnight.
  • Friday night–roll it and fold it the second two turns. Roll out, cut, and form the croissants. Leave in fridge to proof over night.
  • Saturday morning–pull from fridge, and let rise on the counter for 2-3 hours. Bake and consume (with coffee!).

Bon apetit!

The Galette that was not

Galette. It’s a fancy (French) word for tart. It looks rustic. And tasty. Like this one Marcie made. Pretty, right?

Mine started out OK. I toasted my almonds.

I chopped my strawberries.

I rolled my dough and piled everything on top.

And folded up the edges.

So far so good, yeah? Well, in the process of baking, it acted like a volcano and came out looking like a crumbled mess. Tasty. But messy.

Dear reader, I don’t know what went awry. Was my dough not thin enough? Did I use too many berries? One thing I know for certain is it was a mistake to move it  from one surface to another before baking, and another mistake to move it after baking. Much like a pie, assemble, bake, and serve this dessert in all the same dish. Transporting will not work. The scoreboard officially reads Galette-1, Rachel-0.

Click here for the recipe. Let me know if you have more luck than I did!

Lemon Pound Cake

Pound cakes got their name from the ingredients they require: 1 pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of butter. That’s 4 sticks, people. Four whole sticks of butter in one cake. That’s a lot. But if that sounds like a good time to you, this classic recipe is where it’s at!

I wanted to try something a bit different than a classic pound cake. Rather than strike out on my own, alter a recipe, and undoubtedly create a disaster, I consulted my library-borrowed copy of Gourmet. Success! (side note: the library is a great place to try out cookbooks before you buy them!)

This pound cake uses cake flour, instead of the traditional all purpose. Don’t have cake flour? Never fear! Joy the Baker to the rescue! You need all purpose flour and corn starch, and you can make your own cake flour.

So, find ye a copy of Gourmet and go to town! The recipe is simple, and yields a light, tasty pound cake, with just a hint of lemon in it. Top with strawberries or blueberries for an extra dose of awesome.

Zucchini Banana Bread

Zucchini is in season right now! Stir fry it. Bake it. Stuff it. Check out Delish for 20 different yummy looking ways to prepare this springtime veggie.

The only way I would eat zucchini when I was a kid was when my mom disguised it in a loaf of quick bread. I was pretty sure that was the only way people ate zucchini. After all, who would cook it and eat it as a vegetable when it was so tasty in bread? Why mess with a good thing? Right?

Bonuses of this particular recipe: no processed sugar, part whole wheat flour, no butter or oil. And, it’s not dry as a brick!

Zucchini Banana Bread

Based on a recipe from Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice

You’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 (heaping) tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 (heaping) cup shredded zucchini

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a standard sized loaf pan.

2. Beat eggs, banana, honey and syrup until smooth. Enlist in blender, if need be.

3. Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

4. Once mixed, fold in zucchini. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes.

5. Remove loaf from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

See those green flecks? This stuff is good for you, people! Happy baking!

Blueberry Scones

The weather can’t seem to make up its mind today. Its general theme, though, is snowy, windy, and gross.

It’s the perfect day to stay inside and putter around the kitchen. Let’s make scones!

Scones need not be high maintenance. They need not be dense or bland. They need not be dunked in a pot coffee or doused in cream in order to be made palatable. If you don’t believe me, you need to try these scones. The recipe belongs to Cooks Illustrated, and it is spot on. Don’t get scared away by the list of instructions, they’re just thorough, not difficult.

Feel free to swap out blueberries for raspberries, (diced) strawberries, or black berries. Whatever you choose, just make sure that they are frozen.

Before you get started, read this recipe and watch this video. Both are highly informative and take the mystery out of this venture. The only change that I made to the recipe is to shred your butter first, then freeze it. Not the other way around (as the recipe and video direct). This gem of knowledge comes directly from the owner of my favorite, local bakery.

Not counting butter and fruit freezing time, this recipe takes maybe 40 minutes from start to finish, including baking time. Well worth it!


Coffee Cake

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and you deserve some coffee cake.  You need something to fuel all of your Black Friday shopping escapades. And if Black Friday just isn’t your thing, you still deserve it. You need something tasty to enjoy with your cup of coffee. In the comfort of your own kitchen. Something not healthy. Something containing butter. And cream. And sugar.

This year, like most, I’m in the latter camp. My two hands around my tea mug, still in my PJs, cozy at home. Not braving the crowds. Christmas music on the radio. And you know? I wouldn’t trade it for the world, this day after Thanksgiving food and happiness coma.

Regardless of having gone shopping or not having gone shopping, please make this. Thanks to the lovely Jenna over at Eat, Live, Run for creating this delicious recipe. It’s a cake. With strudel. That you’re allowed to eat for breakfast. It’s wonderful.

Here come my weary shoppers….breakfast, anyone?

P.S. Many thanks to The Guy Across the Street for hand modeling in that first photo up there. Well done. You have a future.

I wanna know: What did you do this year? Any Black Friday deals out there that I missed?

The Best Spice Cookies Ever

I enjoy speaking in superlative. As evidenced by the title of today’s post. Sometimes, speaking in the superlative makes me sound melodramatic. Sometimes, however, the superlative happens to be the equivalent to the truth.

Like in this case. These cookies are perfection. I will never try another spice cookie recipe. In fact, I defy you to find me one that tastes this great. I’d be willing to place money on the fact that you can’t. Nothing will improve upon these cookies. Nothing.

The recipe can be found over at Simply Recipes. I usually make half a batch, because I don’t need a whole batch’s worth of cookies around my house. But you? I think you should live life on the edge. Go big. Use 3 sticks of butter in one batch of cookies. You won’t regret it.

They’re soft. They’re chewy. They’re sugar and spice and everything that’s nice about the world. And hot out of the oven? To die for. Need a closer look?

Happy Saturday!