Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brioche - Fresh from the Oven

Yesterday I realised that the month has passed and we hadn't yet fulfilled the August's Fresh from the Oven Challenge. Ivan was lying in the bed with fever, besides it was his birthday. It was 35ºC outdoors (and nearly 30 indoors) but he was shivering, his nose was running, he was sneezing, coughing and maybe this was the worst birthday he has ever had. He wasn't in a mood neither for party nor for baking. Not even for baking! Normally this cheers him up, but not this time. Meaning he was feeling extremely bad.

I made him drink some Reishi mushroom pills and Samahan, made him milk with ginger and jaggery, put a towel soaked with vinegar on his head and filled the oil lamp with anti-flu essential oils.

Gosh, what a birthday :(

And since there was nothing more that I could have done I got down to baking to distract myself.

August's FFO challenge was hosted by Chele from Chocolate Teapot who chose a recipe for Brioche from the River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread.

Brioche is very similar to the Bulgarian Easter bread, named Kozunak
, but our kozunak is sweeter than the brioche. So when I saw the recipe I thought it's a little bit flat to my taste. So I called the best kozunak maker ever – my mom – to discuss the recipe with her.

I haven't eaten a better kozunak than the one mom makes. She makes it only for Easter and when she makes it, its in huge amounts because all her friends are waiting on a queue for a loaf. She improves the recipe every year to obtain the ultimate indulging result. And it's quite indulging indeed. But back to this recipe.

After a brief conversation with mom I knew how to make the recipe more pleasing to my palate. I've put less salt, slightly more sugar and of course the indispensable ingredient for mom's kozunak – lemon zest. I know it's brioche not kozunak after all, so it's not as sweet as mom's kozunak but it's just the perfect salty-sweet bread. Here is the original recipe and in the brackets in italics you'll find my changes.

At the end of the day Ivan got a bit better and we indulged ourselves with a good brioche loaf with some green walnuts preserve and goat cheese.

Don't forget to check how other members' brioches turned out at Fresh from the Oven site.

Brioche Recipe:

Makes 2 small loaves (like this on the photo)
Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread
  • 400gr strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting (since we live on the sea coast and the humidity is very high here I had to add 80 more grams of flour);
  • 5gr powdered dried yeast;
  • 10gr fine sea salt (I've put 8 gr);
  • 90ml warm milk;
  • 2 Tbsp caster sugar(I've put 50 gr of sugar and the result was very well balanced loaves);
  • 100gr butter, softened;
  • 4 medium free range eggs, beaten;
  • zest of 2 lemons.
To Glaze
  • 1 medium free range egg;
  • 2 Tbsp milk;
  • sugar for finishing.

To knead by hand: mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, and bring it all together to form a dough. Knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and shiny.

Or, to use a food mixer: fit the dough hook and add all the dough ingredients to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until combined, and leave to knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and shiny.

Shape the dough into a round, place in a bowl and cover tightly. Leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day, divide the dough in two and form into the shape of your choice. Lightly flour the loaves, lay them on a wooden board or linen cloth and cover with a plastic bag. Leave them somewhere nice and warm to prove until almost doubled in size; this could take 3 or 4 hours, as the dough is cold.

(I made it in one day and the whole proofing process took me a couple of hours. And I chose to form the loaves in plaits. Also I baked the loaves in a ceramic baking pan.)

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. For the glaze, beat the egg and milk together. Transfer the risen loaves to a baking tray and brush all over with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar on top. Bake for about 10 mins, then lower the oven setting to 180C/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 20 mins or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crème Onctueuse au Chocolat et aux Framboises

Every year near the end of July my Paris comes to me, meaning that Dessie (my sister) and Frederic leave their tiny apartment in Paris and come to stay for a month with us. Last year we made this cream for them and they loved it so much that this was the first thing they wanted for dessert this time. We made it last week and it was a real fun to watch them eating it – slowly and with a great delight. Their look was dreamy and full of pleasure as if they were flying in fluffy clouds.

A couple of days later Dessie asked me if it's hard to make this cream. I said that it's nothing more than Crème Anglaise with some chocolate added and of course the sweet-sour-fruity taste of the raspberry coulis. She started laughing at my assumption that she knows how to make crème anglaise. LOL.

We had to start our culinary lesson from the very basis and it was such a fun to cook with my sister. At the end she was so happy that she learned to make 3 new things – crème anglaise, crème onctueuse and raspberry coulis – and like she likes to add every time “according to the recipe of Pierre Hermé”. Besides the result was pretty good, as you can see from the photos – this is the cream Dessie made.

Bravo Dessie!

Crème Onctueuse au Chocolat et aux Framboises Recipe:
/Rich Chocolate Cream with Raspberries/
Adapted from Larousse du Chocolat by Pierre Hermé
Serves 4
  • 3 egg yolks;
  • 60 gr sugar;
  • 125 ml milk;
  • 125 ml heavy cream;
  • 85 gr dark chocolate with minimum 70% cocoa solids.
Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until pale.

In a saucepan bring the milk and the cream up to a simmer. Pour a small amount of the hot liquid over the yolks-sugar mixture, while stirring, to temper. Then pour the rest of the liquid over the yolks. Stir well and pour back in the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat till the mixture reaches 85º C. (If making without a thermometer – the mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and bubble rudiments should begin to appear.)

Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate. Mix well.

For the Raspberry Coulis
  • 200 gr Raspberries;
  • 15 gr confectioner's sugar.
Mix the raspberries and the sugar pressing hard with the back of a spoon. Pass through a sieve by pressing with the spoon to obtain the juice. Only the seeds should remain in the sieve. Discard the seeds (or you can use them for flavouring a vinegar or as a bath scrub, which is very beneficial for the skin).

To assemble: Divide the cream among 4 glasses and cover with the raspberry coulis. Put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making Chocolate Macarons in a Humid Climate

Living on the sea coast definitely has its good points but when it comes to making macarons the humidity literally kills them. Cracked and feetless – this is how normally our macs end up. But not this time, meaning we made them, woohoo!

Armed with patience (in huuuge amounts) we finally managed to dehumidify the air and all the ingredients to a such point that skin formed during the resting time. Without the dehumidification no matter how many hours we leave macarons to rest before baking the result is the same tacky and damp cookies that cracks during the baking. Sometimes I even have the feeling that the batter becomes more liquid with the resting. So, the dehumidification is really worth the efforts.

We turned the air-conditioner on 5 hours in advance on a dehumidification function. We dehydrated all the ingredients, including the 3-days aged egg whites in the oven on a defrosting function for the time we watched a movie :). For the almonds – we used whole blanched ones and dehydrated them before and after grinding. We weighed out all the ingredients after dehydrating. I have weighed out the egg whites right after separating them from the yolks and they were 85 grams. After 3 days ageing and the time for dehydrating in the oven they were 77 grams. This shows that the weight of the ingredients changes significantly after drying, so it's better to weigh them out right before making the batter.

Forming a skin is a crucial point for producing good macarons with the French meringue method. If a skin doesn't form the macarons are feetless and cracked. And the humidity of the air is a crucial point for forming a skin. So, when living in a humid climate the dehumidification is a very important factor for successful macarons.

Dehumidify, dehydrate, dry – this is the solution!

For the recipe: For the meringues we used as a base Tartelette's recipe but considered as proportions, meaning 1,22 gr almonds / 2,22 gr sugar per every gram of egg whites.
All the ingredients were weighed out after dehydrating.

Chocolate Macarons Recipe:
Addapted from Helene (Tartelette)
Makes 18 4,5-cm macarons (36 shells)
  • 77 gr egg whites (3-days aged);
  • 20 gr granulated sugar;
  • 94 gr blanched almonds;
  • 170 gr powdered sugar;
  • 13 gr cacao powder.
Dehydrate all the ingredients in the oven on a defrosting function for about an hour and a half. Actually we forgot to dehydrate the granulated sugar and the cacao powder, but it was ok. If they are a little bit warm wait to cool down.
In a food processor grind the almonds till coarse semolina size. If needed dehydrate again for half an hour.

After dehydrating weigh out the ingredients and adjust the proportions - 1,22 gr almonds / 2,22 gr sugar per every gram of egg whites.

Place the powdered sugar and the ground almonds in a food processor and grind finely. Add the cacao powder and pulse 2-3 times to blend. Sift the mix to remove any clumps.

In a large bowl begin beating the egg whites on a low speed. When they are foamy gradually add the granulated sugar. If necessary increase the speed to medium (but not high). Beat till glossy meringue. Do not overbeat.(If this happen add some more egg white and beat a little bit till glossy. But in this case you'll have to recalculate the recipe).

Remove the beaters. Add the almonds/sugar mixture in two or three times and fold carefully until homogenous.

Line a baking pan with paper. Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (we use № 7) and pipe about 4cm large rounds leaving 2cm space between them. Tap the pan on the counter several times to bring up any air bubbles.

Let the macarons rest for 30 – 45 minutes to form a skin. At the end they should not be tacky on touch. When living in humid climate dehumidifying the air is very important for the final result.

Preheat the oven to 160º C. When the shells are no more tacky on touch, bake for 13-15 minutes.

Remove from the paper and let cool on a wire rack. (If not using immediately, store the shells in an airtight container.)

For the Chocolate Ganache:
Bring the cream to a simmer. Then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Wait for a minute, then stir to obtain a smooth ganache. When the temperature falls to 50ºC add in the butter. Mix well.
Place a plastic wrap directly onto the ganache to prevent forming a skin and put in the fridge for half an hour to set.

To assemble: Fill a pastry bag with the ganache and couple the macaron shells with a good twist of ganache.
Store the macarons in an airtight container in the fridge. Let them rest for 24 hours before eating.


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