Croissants and Pain au chocolat

Croissants, like any bread, take a while to make, but I was surprised to learn that the actual work croissants require is minimal. They (thankfully) require no kneading — just rolling with a rolling-pin multiple times.

Due to the structure of waiting time, its good to begin the process the night before a day when you will be around the house, or the morning before you work. The first waiting time is longest and doesn’t involve you, the baker, at all. After it is mixed, the dough needs to rest for 6 – 8 hours or overnight. The second stage is similarly lengthy but punctuated rolling every 2 – 3 hours, 3 – 4 (or more) times. So, you will need to be home to make croissants, but will be able to concentrate on doing something else for pretty much the entire day.

In the end, you will have about a dozen large croissants, or many small ones. I like to make one pan with half the dough, then form and freeze the rest to have infinite fancy breakfasts.

croissant

• 2 cups flour
• 1 packet dry yeast
• 2 T sugar
• 2/3 c (almond) milk
• 1 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 egg
• butter

1. Pour milk into a medium bowl and microwave until 90-100 degrees, or for 2 – 3 minutes.

2. Add sugar and yeast; mix to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour. Mix and allow to sit for 15 minutes, when it should start to bubble.

3. Mix in remaining flour and form into loose ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

[[Optional Step 3.5: At this stage you can prepare the butter by allowing it to reach room temperature then slowly mixing until pliable or by slicing, laying out in a thin layer on plastic wrap, and beating it with a rolling-pin. In either case, you will form it into a medium-sized square and refrigerate to chill again. I did not do these steps as I wasn’t sure how big my dough square would be.]]

4. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll, trying to maintain a square or rectangular shape.

5. When it is rather thin but not translucent, add cold butter. Slice and line up in continuous square about 2 – 3 inches from each edge.

6. Fold edge flaps over butter to form square. The butter should be tucked and nestled in there so the whole thing looks like a butter galette. Then, fold one edge one-third of the way over. Fold the opposite edge over that edge, so it is a rectangle of dough hugging itself.

7 . Roll gently into rectangle that is slightly smaller than your first rectangle. Fold one end one-third of the way, then fold the opposite end over it to create another hug. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.

8. Repeat step 7, rolling dough, folding it over itself, then refrigerating for another hour. Repeat again once or twice, depending on how much time you’ve allotted for this process. It should be folded at least a few times, as more folds will mean more butter layers and therefore more flakiness.

9. Heat oven to 200 degrees (or the lowest possible setting) and roll dough into another rectangle. Make a single line lengthwise. Fold one half in thirds, cover with plastic wrap, and put back in refrigerator.

10. Coat a baking sheet with butter, then flour. Cut dough strip into triangles.

For croissants, roll, starting with the longest side, over itself, leaving the final tip on the bottom. Place on baking sheet straight or curve the ends together to create a crescent shape.

For pain au chocolat, position the triangle with the longest side near you. Put a vertical stripe of chocolate near each side closest to you, essentially making two mini triangles. Fold both sides over into themselves and place on pan seam side down.

11. Turn off oven. Brush croissants with water and put in oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, use a proofing box, set or otherwise regulated to maintain 70 – 80 degrees.

12. Remove from oven after about an hour. Croissants should be nearly double in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush croissants with beaten egg. If you are making pain au chocolat, sprinkle with sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes.

13. Bake for 20 minutes, or more if you prefer them darker.  Freeze remaining dough.

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Coquilles St Jacques à la Provençale

coquilles

This is a very elegant dish and can be accompanied by a variety of vegetables. The first time I used tomato instead of mushroom, but I think it would be delicious with both, so both are included in the recipe. I also used cheese instead of the cream mixture which was more dry, and as it was gruyére it totally overwhelmed the delicate scallops. The reduction is just as creamy, more subtle, and well worth the effort. Plus, wine!

I made the above picture for New Years Eve, served with green beans and a mixture of brown rice, lentils, and onion. The green bean recipe is also included below.

• 5 scallops
• 5-10 mushrooms, diced
• 1 small yellow onion or 2 shallots, diced
• 1 small tomato, diced
• 1 T mixture of parsley, thyme, sage, and tarragon
• 1/4 tsp minced garlic
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/2 c water
• 1/4 c (almond) milk or cream
• 3 T butter
• 1 – 2 T flour

1. Heat mushrooms and half of onions in butter and garlic. Allow to heat for about 10 minutes, then add thyme, salt & pepper, and sage. Cook for 10 more minutes then pour into a gratin pan or baking/pie dish.

2. In the same pan, reduce white wine, water, bay leaf, and rest of onions.

3. Slice scallops-each should create 2 – 3 thin slices. Add to reduction and cook for a few minutes over medium heat.

4. Dice and layer tomato over mushroom and onion mixture. Follow with scallops, arranged in single layer with slight overlap.

5. Remove reduction from pan, pouring into bowl. In same pan, make a roux by combining 2 T butter and 2 T flour over medium heat.

6. When roux is thickened and smooth, add reduction along with milk and cream. Allow to cook over medium heat for a few minutes until thickened. Mix frequently with whisk.

7. Pour liquid over scallops and broil (high) until brown and bubbly. Garnish with fresh herbs, like parsley or thyme.

Green Beans
1 – 2 cups Green beans
2 T Butter
1 T Pure honey
1 T Crushed walnuts

1. Melt 1 T butter over medium heat.

2. Slice tips off fresh green beans and add to pan, mixing to coat with butter.

3. Allow to cook for a few minutes, then drizzle honey on beans, add remaining butter, and stir to coat.

4. Add walnuts and allow to cook until beans are just beginning to be marked by pan and the walnuts are slightly softened.

5. Never ever ever eat canned green beans again

Poached Tilapia with Beurre Blanc

Tilapia

This recipe is based on Jacques Pépin’s Poached Trout in Vegetable Broth (video here). While there are lots of ingredients and while I list lots of steps it doesn’t take much longer than his presentation. If you don’t make sauce you could easily create this and eat within 20 minutes. Also, I imagine this basic method could make any other type of fish super flavorful and delicate.

The slow, weird, complicated part is the Beurre Blanc, a sauce that has eluded me for some time. I’m not sure if it worked this time because I used Amish butter or if it was due to trial and error… I’m not sure but I do know that even my failed, ultra-melted attempts were still absolutely delicious, so even practice is worthwhile.

This time, the sauce was appropriately creamy, but I didn’t get a good capture because I was too busy eating to care about staging…

Fish
• Tilapia or any fish that wants to be poached
• 1 small white onion, potatoes (as many as you will be serving), a few mushrooms, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot
• 2 – 3 cups water
• 1 tsp olive oil, butter, or homemade vegetable stock
• 1 large bay leaf
• fresh & dried thyme
• sage
• oregano
• 1/2 – 1 tsp peppercorns
• fine sea salt
• lemon juice and zest
• If serving with roasted vegetables, preheat oven to 425 degrees

1. Squeeze lemon juice onto fish and sprinkle with dried oregano, a dash of sea salt, and pepper.

2. Add enough water to a sauté pan so that the fish will be partially immersed. Boil water, white wine, sliced onion, sliced carrot & celery, small potatoes cut in half or regular potatoes cut into edible pieces, bay leaf, thyme, sage, and a bit of lemon peel. Crush and add peppercorns. Add olive oil or butter if you wish–I went with an ice cube of vegetable stock.

3. Reduce heat to medium, then rest fish upon vegetables and cover pan.

4. Check from time to time: skinned fish will exhibit doneness more obviously than fish with skin. Either way, it should take about 10 minutes.

5. Remove fish from pan and place on a plate with a bowl on top while you make the sauce and roast the potatoes.

6. Remove potatoes from liquid and sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Spread out on baking sheet along with asparagus. Roast while making the beurre blanc, about 20 minutes.

Beurre Blanc
• 1/2 c fish stock
• 1/4 c white wine
• 2 T vinegar (white allows it to be blanc- I used red so it looked more like gravy)
• 1 T minced shallots
• 1/2 c – 1 c butter

1. The liquid from the poached fish will serve as the base for this sauce, so strain out the vegetables. Add about 1/2 c liquid back to the pan.

2. Add white wine and boil until the liquid is reduced by about half.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add vinegar, shallots, and 2 T butter.

4. Reduce heat to low and add butter 1 T at a time, whisking continuously until each is absorbed by the liquid. It is important that the butter is cold and that there is continuous movement with a whisk as it can melt very easily, making for a deflated, watery sauce.

5. Remove from heat completely and add the last few pieces of butter, continuing to stir. The final result should be creamy and heavenly.. Pour liberally over both fish and asparagus.

**Anti-waste tip: Save any remaining fish stock to enhance dinner the next day.. I used it for fish tacos, but it would make a very hearty soup, vegetable cooking liquid – – anything, really. Its also useful to save the vegetables for a small batch of vegetable or fish stock, and/or to season & eat as a simple side dish.**

Leek & Bean Cassoulet

cassoulet

Cassoulet is a meat-intensive French bean dish, a stew of remainders. This adaptation from Veganomicon by Moskowitz & Romero has the spirit and comfort of chicken pot pie. (They also include a seitan pot pie recipe that looks very good)

Most of the time invested in this recipe is dedicated to prep, so it may help to dice and cube and mince everything beforehand. Its probably possible to prepare the vegetable mixture in advance, because the finished casserole keeps fantastically for days.

• 2 potatoes
• 2 leeks
• 1 1/2c carrots
• 3/4c frozen peas
• 1 small onion
• 1 [15oz] navy or white beans, drained & rinsed
• 1 T fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
• black pepper, 1/2tsp salt
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2T olive oil
• 3c vegetable stock
• 3T cornstarch

Biscuits:
• 3/4c plain soy milk
• 1tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 1/2c flour
• 2tsp baking powder
• 1/4tsp salt
• 1/4c (vegan) shortening

1. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from water and allow to cool.
2. Slice the leeks into thin disks and dice the onions and carrots. Over medium heat, sauté together until soft and just beginning to brown (about 10 minutes).
3. At this point, start mixing the biscuits. First, add vinegar to the soy milk and set aside to curdle. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add garlic, thyme, s&p to the cooking vegetables. Cut potatoes into cubes and add along with frozen peas. Add cornstarch to vegetable stock and pour over all vegetables. Raise heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add shortening to the biscuit flour mixture. Combine with fork so there are large clumps. Add soy milk and mix until it is moistened. ‘Knead’ with fork until dough holds together nicely and isn’t extremely sticky. (More flour can be added if necessary)
6. The vegetable mixture should be slightly thickened. Add to casserole dish(es), leaving an inch or so to accomodate for biscuits. Gently roll and flatten into biscuits or fun shapes and place over mixture.
7. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes in order to slightly brown biscuits. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Tomato & Bread Salad

tomato bread salad
This is an extremely delicious alternative salad from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz. As its just a melange of ingredients, its very easy to customize– I decreased the quantity of most everything to feed two people and made some substitutions (red pepper, shredded cheese) for ingredients I didn’t have that day (cucumber, feta). It keeps well in the fridge, with the bread getting only slightly more saturated, and is really good the next day.

• 4c bread
• 1tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 1/4tsp coarse salt
• Black pepper
• 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
• 6T red wine vinegar
• 2/3c extra virgin olive oil
• 8 medium tomatoes
• 1 cucumber
• 3/4c pitted black or kalamata olives
• 1 onion
• 1 packed cup of fresh basil, mint, and flat-leaf parsley (mixed together)
• 1/2 lb feta cheese

1. Cut bread into cubes and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning periodically for full coverage.
2. In serving bowl, whisk mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil.
3. Slice tomatoes and other veggies in half and squeeze out juice. Cube.
4. Add vegetables to bowl with dressing. Mix in herbs and bread pieces and toss well.
5. Crumble cheese on top and serve.

Raspberry Clafouti

This is from Eric Ripert’s Get Toasted podcast, a quick recipe tailored for your toaster oven. I don’t have a toaster oven, but the recipes are perfect for one or two people, and can all be made quicky in a regular oven. His recipes included in this series are all really elegant, and his show Avec Eric was instrumental in inspiring me to learn more about cooking.

Clafouti

• 1T room temperature butter
• 1/4c sugar, with extra for the dish
• 1 egg
•  3T flour
• 6T (almond) milk
• 1tsp vanilla extract
•  Raspberries

1. Whisk egg, then add sugar, milk, and vanilla.
2. Add flour and mix until combined so as to not overwork.
3. Butter small casserole or gratin dishes (I made 3) with a brush. Coat with sugar, shaking bowl around for full coverage.
4. Place raspberries flat-side down in dishes and slowly pour mixture between, allowing them to poke out a bit.
5. Broil until the mixture is solid, which will take 8-10 minutes on high, or 15-20 on low.

Video of Eric making this recipe here

Mint Chocolate Macarons

Untitled by Nico Paix
Untitled, a photo by Nico Paix on Flickr.
These were made using the Martha Stewart recipe. They weren’t as smooth or picturesque as previous efforts, but they were puffier and actually had ‘feet’. Structurally, they’re pretty strong so this is a nice beginners shell recipe.
Then again, the result might not have much to do with the recipe– macarons are very finicky and difficult, so if your technique is off or if measurements are too imprecise, you might end up with a different result. I found watching YouTube videos to be immeasurably helpful, pulling information from many sources to create a technique that felt ‘right’ for initial experiments. It’s also good to really look around as there are a few very different methods for making the shells, which mostly has to do with how you create the meringue. Martha’s recipe is the French method, but you can also use the Italian (where you heat the granulated sugar into a syrup) or Swiss (hand whisking in a double boiler) methods.
A good place to start researching is the link for the mint chocolate ganache, which includes really helpful guides & troubleshooting. This filling is also a great beginners recipe because it’s flamboyantly delicious. The first few batches I tried were hit or miss: raspberry preserves were the best, but they were rather plain. Apple butter frosting was sickeningly sweet, while chocolate caramel was sticky but somehow didn’t compel the two sides to stay together. A liquid filling like preserves or caramel are best integrated into a plain frosting to keep the cookies structurally sound and as adorable as they should be.
All-Purpose Macaron Recipe
• 1 1/4c confectionary sugar, sifted
• 1c almond meal/flour, sifted
• 6T egg whites (from approx 3 eggs, depending on size)
• 1/4 granulated sugar
• Pinch salt
• An electric mixer, parchment paper, and pastry bags/tips

1. Separate and measure your egg whites. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter until at room temperature, at *least* for a few hours. Refrigerate the yolks for use in another recipe, or treat yo self and make a crazy anti-health-craze omelet. While waiting, check the bowl of your electric mixer, ensuring that it is completely clean. Ideally, it should be stainless steel as (according to Julia Child) other materials (like plastic, etc) can retain fats that ruin your meringue. Wash and allow to dry completely.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine confectionary sugar and almond meal. Preheat oven to 300 – 350 degrees.

3. Pour egg whites into your super clean bowl and allow the electric mixer to whisk them until foamy. Add a pinch of salt, then gradually add granulated sugar and increase speed to high. You want stiff peaks to form, and for the mixture to be glossy. It is finished when you can turn the bowl upside down without spillage.

4. Gently fold in the confectionary sugar and food coloring.

5. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. If you’d like uniform macarons, you can make circles on one side, flip the paper over, and pipe on the clean side. (There are also silicone maps for guidance.) I just pipe and match the bigger ones with the bigger ones, and the misshapen ones with fellow eccentrics.

6. Use a pastry bag with a round tip, a frosting dispenser (I use this), or a big plastic bag with the tip cut off to pipe the dough onto the parchment. If there are little peaks from where you stopped, pat down with your finger.

((This is, without question, the worst part of macaron making, as the dough is rather thin. But it definitely gets better with practice-as you get comfortable with your chosen piping tool, your circles become more uniform and there’s less mess.))

7. Bake at 300 – 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. I think I baked an earlier batch at a lower temperature to prevent browning. If your oven tends to burn stuff, it’s not a bad idea to hover and calibrate the time & temperature as necessary. Basically, you’re looking for the shells to have the feel of an eggshell and for the cookie to have a little foot at the bottom. Mine probably have cracks in the shell because my oven was too hot, so next time they should be baked in the 200s.

8. Fill with frosting, ganache, preserves, caramel, etc. These are filled with chocolate ganache (recipe below), but just plain raspberry preserves is an absolutely delicious filling. You can also make a flavored buttercream frosting, or combine textures, like adding a little piece of dried or fresh fruit, different spices (even savory ones), etc. You can also avoid filling the macarons and use them as cake decoration. Either way, as they don’t keep for very long (its best to start eating them after allowing them to rest a day-they’ll stay fresh for a few days after that) ensure they are delicious!

Chocolate Mint Ganache 
7oz (1c + 2.5T) or 200g chopped semi-sweet chocolate
Under 1/2c or 100g heavy cream
2-3 drops peppermint extract

1. Bring the cream to a simmer. Once warm, pour over chocolate, ensuring its submerged. Allow to stand for a minute, then softly stir.
2. Add a few drops of extract, as much as you feel is necessary.
3. Leave at room temperature until its cooled and thickened.
4. Drop spoonfuls onto macarons and cover with another shell.

Ratatouille

ratatouille

1 (or so) each:
• eggplant
• zucchini
• white onion
• red bell pepper
• large tomato (or a few medium)
• Garlic, olive oil, parsley, s&p, fresh Provençal herbs of your choosing

1. Cut eggplant and zucchini into large cubes. In olive oil, cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until eggplant softly browns
2. Remove from heat, set aside. Now heat cubed onion and red pepper in same fashion. Mash and mince 2-3 cloves garlic and add, along with some s&p. Set aside in another bowl.
3. Heat cubed tomato & olive oil
4. In large pot, layer 1/2 of tomato mix, then pepper & onion mixture, then zucchini & eggplant, then rest of tomato. Sprinkle parsley (lots) on top, drizzle olive oil. I put a few sprigs of oregano, lavender, sage, and thyme to infuse. Cover.
5. Leave on medium heat for a while, then remove sprigs and stir. 6. Stir every so often, and eventually remove cover and set to boil. Stir more frequently during this period. Simmer.

It’s done when you feel it’s reached a good consistency. I like mine soupy, so I don’t reduce very long and add a bit more olive oil here and there. If you like less liquid, let it boil longer or squeeze the gel/seeds from the tomato before you begin. If you’d rather make the movie version, look for “confit biyaldi”.

Serve with big chunk of fresh bread, and love your leftovers. :)