Tuesday, June 21, 2011

are you still here?

hmm...hi. this is awkward. 6 months has passed and you wonder if this pastry girl has completely abandoned her blog.

With all the changes in life, I have given some thoughts on starting another blog, but it just doesnt seem right. What was first started as a way to keep in touch with family has turned into a food blog with lots of pictures and recipes. Subsequently it becomes a work portfolio to get me into the doors of some of the best pastry shops. As my readership grows,  I become more reserved and aware of the things I share. Which is tough. Because I am someone who likes to speak my mind. A new blog would allow me to do just that anonymously. Tough call. I need time to carefully think this through.

Meanwhile, I just want to let everyone knows that Fresh from the Oven is currently blogging from New York City! I have landed a dream job in one of the city's best pastry shops. It's the kind of place where I would go work for free without a moment of hesitation if money is not an issue. But no. It would be naive to think that i could afford to live in NYC without pay. I am glad that my boss offered me a paid position to do what i love to do.

I cant tell you the name of the shop, which I hope would allow me to blog more freely about some of the quirk observations I see at work. And the occasional rants.

It is also my goal to check out as many bakeries and restaurants as I could when i am here. So you may find more food reviews here instead of recipes in the future. If you have a favorite local pizza place in NYC that you would like to share, i am all ears. :)

Read more...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Greetings

Sorry that I haven't updated this space for the longest time! Just when I thought nobody noticed, my old professor from college (hi Prof Jaenicke!)dropped me an email. The least expected reader of this blog, he wanted to know how I was and why hadn't I wrote a post since August.

Gingerbread tree

"I have been busy" is undeniably one of the reasons. However, it also feels a little awkward to come back after leaving my blog for so long. So many things had happened since my last post, I wonder where I should begin!

My days are mostly occupied by playing with butter, sugar and flour at work. On most days, I am exhausted by the time I get home. A simple meal and a little tv time later, I hit the pillow and ready to do the same routine again the next day. Social life is almost non existence which is not uncommon for many cooks and chefs I know. We work when others play. I feel fine working the holidays. Knowing that the food I put out make someone's holiday that much special makes me happy. :)

gingerbreadhouse

But I digress. I mean to come here to wish all of you who have been reading and following a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May your day be filled with love, laughter, peace and lots of deliciousness. See you in 2011.

Read more...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stone fruit tarts

peach tarts

I am a creature of habit. Whenever life hands me a lot of stone fruits, as in the past few weeks, I went straight into the kitchen and rolled out some sweet tart dough.

Probably it has something to do with the food I eat when I was growing up. Fresh peaches and other stone fruits were rare in Malaysia. I remember when mum needed to make a peach cake, she used the syrupy peaches that came from a can. So I am never a big fan of fresh peaches and apricot. Having said that, I still love stone fruits when they are baked. Safely nestled in the almond cream, in the confine of a sweet tart shell.

stone fruit tartlets

Pretty predictable and boring. That's who I am. But it doesn't change the fact that these tarts are delicious,and should be consumed on the same day they are made.

half eaten

Stone fruits and almond tart

You can use any kind of stone fruits, but I have a weakness for baked apricot. The whole kitchen, or rather my whole apartment, smells like a bakeshop the moment I pulled the tarts out of the oven.

sweet tart dough:
adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme

2.5 sticks (10 ounces, 285g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1.5 cups (150g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (lightly packed)(3 1/4 ounces, 100g) finely ground almond powder or finely ground blanched almond
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanlla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
3.5 cups (490g) all purpose flour

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs and still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may loo cuddled- that's all right. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough- a matter of seconds. Don't overdo it.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10 inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9 inch (24cm) tarts. Or, press the dough into one big disk and cut off as much as you need at the time that you need it. gently press the dough into disks and wrap them in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days , before rolling and baking. Alternatively, the dough can be freeze for up to 1 month.

For each tart, place a buttered tart ring on a parchment lined baking sheet and keep close at hand. Work with one piece of dough at a time, keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator.

To roll and bake the tart shells:
Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (2 and 4 cm), lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and the dough are amply floured at all times. (a well floured area makes rolling this rich dough easier) Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, then run your rolling pin across the top of the ring to cut off the excess. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don't worry- patch the cracks with scraps and just certain not to stretch the dough that's in the pan. Prick the dough all over with fork and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and fit a circle of parchment paper or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice. ( i usually skip this step after resting my rolled out dough in the fridge for about 1 hour).

Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes, for a big (9-inch ring), 10-15 mins for a small (3-4 inch ring),  just until it is very lightly coloured. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

Almond Cream
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg
2 teaspoon dark rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the almond flour, all purpose flour and cornstarch into the bowl.

Beat to incorporate all the ingredients in the bowl. Add in the egg and rum/vanilla extract and continue to beat. The cream is ready when it is homogenous.

Scrape the almond cream into a container and use it immediately or cover and refrigerate to be used within 3 days.

To make the tarts:

Spread a thick layer of almond cream in the baked tart shells. Arrange the sliced fruits on top. You dont have to press the fruits into the almond cream, because the almond cream will puff up in the oven, covering part of the fruits.

Sprinkle some almond flour on the fruits if you like, which will help to absorb some of the liquid released while baking, or you can simply omit this step.

Bake at 350F until the almond cream puff up and turn golden color. The fruit should be soft, and the almond cream firm. Depending on the size of your tarts, it may takes anything from 15-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes if you are making small tarts and pull the tarts out when they are ready.

Read more...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Summer Fruit Galette

Among the four seasons, summer has got to be my least favorite. I hate the heat and humidity that summer brings. The worst time for a pastry girl who likes to play with chocolate, laminated dough and macarons.

galette

I often told my friends that I wouldn't mind the long cold and dry months in Chicago, because that's the best weather condition to bake! And I wasn't kidding.

The only redeeming aspect of summer, in my pastry oriented point of view is the endless stream of juicy sweet berries and stone fruits. I reconcile my dislike for summer with many bowls of sweet cherries in front of the computer in an air-conditioned room. When I muster enough courage to turn on the oven, I make many fruit tarts with the berries, peaches, apricot and nectarines.

036 copy

Depending on my mood, sometime I like to leave the fruits unbaked and garnish directly onto the sweet tart shell with a little pastry cream,like these. Sometime, I like to bake the dough and fruits together, like these gorgeous galettes.

summer fruit galette

I made a few galettes last week when the temperature hadn't hit triple digits in the east coast. The abundant bounty of stone fruits at the grocery store screamed out loud to be baked that I couldn't turn a deaf ear. So I lugged as many home as OCT allowed. Along with the SUPER sweet mango and lychee, which I snack on everyday. (more on the mango and lychee next time).

Back to the galette. I made a 9-inch one for OCT's lab and a few smaller ones for us. I adapted the flaky dough recipe from one of my favorite author Ina Garten and the filling and custard idea and recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

before and after

I love how flaky and sturdy the dough is, which can hold a thin layer of my homemade strawberry jam, sprinkled graham cracker crumbs, various kinds of stone fruits and blueberries and a little sweet custard that was poured in when the galette was almost done.

A rustic but absolutely delectable and flexible dessert. You can use whatever stone fruits you have on hand, replace the jam with another kind of preserve and sprinkle almond flour to soak up some of the oozing fruit juice instead of graham cracker. The galette was so good that it doesn't need any adornment other than a few sprinkle of powdered sugar.

summer fruit galette for the lab.

It is definitely a recipe that makes the sweltering summer heat slightly bearable.

I am planing to show OCT how to make this galette,so he can make it for us in the coming months while I hide in the air-conditioned room with bowlful of cherries. :)


Summer Fruit Galette

for the pastry
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces)ice water

Put the all purpose flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Use a spatula to stir and make sure that they are well mixed. Add in the diced butter. Use your hand and fingers to break up the pieces of butter and at the same time, rub the butter into the dry ingredients. (you can do this in the food processor, but I find it easier to do it by hand)

Stop when the butter is the size of pea.(you will see pieces of butter in your finished dough, but that is what gives you the flakiness in the tart) Add in the ice water and gently knead to make a dough.Depending on the humidity level, you may or may not need all the water. Stop when the dough almost come together. (you will see some pieces of flour at the bottom of the bowl that refuse to be binded)

Turn the dough (including the flour at the bottom of the bowl) out onto a well-floured board. Roll it into a ball with well floured hands, and cut in half. Flatten the doughs into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are going to use one disk,the second one can be freezed and use later.

For the filling:
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
jam/marmaleide (i used homemade strawberry jam)
graham cracker crumbs (or almond flour)
summer fruits of your choice (i used nectarine, peach and blueberry), sliced
vanilla custard (combine 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 425F and line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the pastry out from the cooler and roll it out on a well floured board into a 11 inch circle. Remember to turn the dough as you roll it out, so it doesn't stick to the board. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to work with. Transfer the roll out dough onto the sheet pan.

Use a 9 inch cake pan as your guide, mark a circle in the middle of the dough. Spread a thin layer of jam in the circle, and spread the cookie crumb on top. Arrange the sliced fruits within the confine of the circle. Carefully fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.

Keep it in the cooler for 15 minutes so the dough has a chance to relax.

When ready to bake, brush the border of the galette with water and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar. (You can use granulated sugar too, but I like the crunch of turbinado)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the galette turns golden and the fruits are soft. With a tablespoon, carefully pour some vanilla custard into the galette. Take care not to fill up too much until it overflow. You may not be able to use up all the mixture, but a few tablespoons will help to firm up the oozing juice from the baked fruits.

Bake for another 10-15 minutes until the custard has set.

Let cool on a cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar when ready to serve.

Read more...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What I do on my days off

The other day Chef asked me what I did on my days off.
When I told him that I made croissants and macarons, he looked a little bemused.
"Dont you bake enough at work?"
"I guess I am just really lucky to have my hobby as my job!"

As any professional bakers would agree, baking at home is very different from professional baking. The portion is smaller and the pace is slower. The downside of baking at home however, is the dirty dishes one has to clean. But on the other hand, you get to decide what and when you want to make!

croissants batch 2.1

It has almost become my second nature to make croissants on my days off. I make a small batch, enough to last us a week. I like to shape and proof my dough then freeze them in the freezer. They are ready to bake on the days we want to eat them. That way, we can always have fresh croissants.

Making croissants at home may seem a little time consuming and daunting at first, but after a few practices, it gets easier. The key to a good croissant in my opinion is good butter. By that, I mean Plugra butter. It's the European butter with a higher fat content. While the usual butter in market has fat content of 70-73% ( and we are talking about the better brands), Plugra has 83% fat. I used Plugra butter liberally in my bakes when I could find it cheap at my local farmers market. But lately, the market has decided to discontinue the product, so I restraint the use of Plugra butter in croissants and danishes only.
choc croissants

Usually, making croissants is a 2 days event. After the dough is made, it benefits from the overnight rest in the fridge before rolling out and shaping for the final proof. One time I tried to rush it and made everything in a day. The croissants were lacking in flavor. Apparently, there wasn't enough time for the yeast fermentation, which contribute to the flavor development. After the first failure, I treated my dough with more patience and let it rest overnight before the final proof.
croissants batch 2.1

I find it really therapeutic to play with croissant dough. I told the chef. To which he said: "Mandy, you are something else."

note: I will include the recipe with a step by step pictures instruction when I make croissants again next week. Stay tune!

Read more...
Related Posts with Thumbnails