Croissants

IMG_2009.JPGA few years ago I thought I would try making croissants sometime. Then I was dissuaded by being told it was very time consuming and difficult.

Unknown.jpegThen my friend Alison gave me The Tivoli Road Baker and it’s got a whole section on viennoiserie and I read the instructions and I thought… well, how hard can it be? I just need two days of relatively cool weather.

Friends, that was yesterday and today. I have now made croissants.

IMG_2006.JPGI started by buying Danish butter – Lurpak – because it’s 82% fat, although I don’t know if it’s cultured as the recipe recommends. Then I just followed the recipe for the dough, which turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Then it was into the fridge overnight.

IMG_2008.JPGToday, I did the laminating, which again is a whole lot easier than I expected. I think the process has a bad name because it really does take a long time – but that’s the resting time, not the active time. The rolling out of each stage was easy and only took a few minutes. And in fact even the process of turning the dough into the croissants – cutting into triangles and stretching and rolling up – was really easy.

IMG_2010.JPGOf course, things did not go entirely right. Because it was a cool day, I decided to follow the instructions for proofing in the oven. I put a pan in, with boiling water, and then put the teeny croissants in to rise. After an hour, I thought the oven wasn’t warm enough, so I put more hot water in. Then 20 min later I took the croissants out because it was time to turn on the oven… and butter had melted out. Yeh. So that made me feel pretty awful. Then, hilariously, because I was annoyed about that, I completely forgot to eggwash the croissants before they went in. Thus they did not quite crisp up as well as they should.

Nonetheless! I made croissants. And they aren’t terrible. They are even flaky!

IMG_2007.JPGI also found a recipe to use the leftover bits of croissant pastry. Actually I think it was meant to be just the laminated dough but I used the bits I cut off as I went as well, so it didn’t puff up as much as they could have. I was going to make just the sweet version but then a friend pointed out that savoury could work too. So I made half with pistachio and raspberries, and half with a teeny bit of tomato paste and finely chopped mushroom. They’re ok… they didn’t work as intended because not all of the dough was fully laminated. Also, not making it from frozen probably impacted too.

So there we are. Croissants. Tick that off the bucket list.

Tart!

IMG_2557.JPGPart of my new year’s eve was finally having a pastry lesson from Andrew, he of the amazing tarts. We made three.

I was initially inspired to make a lemon meringue one. Andrew had been challenged to make a strawberry and rhubarb one. And just because we could, we also made a cherry and almond one.

So we started with me making the pastry… and as requested, here’s the recipe! From Nancy Silverton to Starving Dan (don’t ask… it’s been his nickname for as long as I’ve known him, which is at least 15 years), to Andrew to me:img_1357-copy

Actually very easy, it turns out, although you wouldn’t want to be making it on a hot day. Bonus: freezes well so you might as well make the whole batch and put some away!

IMG_2558.JPGOnce you’ve got the pastry you can do whatever… the lemon (and passionfruit) filling was one Andrew has memorised from a Stephanie Alexander. Clever suggestion from Andrew: put the lemon filling into a jug, then pour it into the tart case while the tart is still in the oven. This removes one level of complexity (you don’t have to move a full, liquidy, tart). The rhubarb and strawberry one had some stewed rhubarb as a puree base then rhubarb (baked for a while to soften) and strawberry on top. The cherry was a Classic Andrew, with (frozen) cherries placed on a nut slurry: 100g crushed nuts (you still want some larger bits) + 100g white sugar + 100g melted butter, mixed; add an egg and some salt, mix and put in the baked tart case with the fruit.

The meringue is egg whites and sugar whipped furiously for however long. I was just going to dollop and randomly shape, but my darling decided he would pipe. The lemon one doesn’t look as good as it could because I put a round nozzle in, which he wasn’t expecting; for the strawberry and rhubarb he made the bold decision to change nozzles basically mid-piping for a star-shaped one (it’s fair to say meringue went everywhere), but as you can see it had very good results. I had intended to use my kitchen flame thrower but then the nozzle broke so that didn’t happen (I did manage to set fire to a couple of meringues before that happened).  IMG_1356.JPG

So that’s three tarts between four people. It’s fair to say there’s a fair bit left over. Happily, the non-meringue tart will freeze… and the strawberry one will freeze if we remove the meringue… which means I might have to eat the meringue, OH NO.

Istanbul Cult Recipes: the recipes

unknownWhat I thought of the book itself.

Now, the recipes!

Things I’ve made:

“Lady’s thighs” – these are kofte (uh, not softie, autocorrect) that are apparently meant to be shaped like lady’s thighs? Or something. Anyway, steak and rice and some spices – very simple, very tasty.

Beef dumplings – ‘manti’, “the unmissable little Armenian dumplings”. Simple dough (flour and oil and a little water); a spoonful of minced beef and onion into the middle of 6cm squares, fold them up into boats and bake in the oven with some broth around it. SO good. I plan to experiment with spices… and they freeze brilliantly.

Zucchini fritters – zucchini, eggs, dill, parsley, feta. Fry. Delight.

Lentil balls – my one failure so far. They tasted fine… but they didn’t become balls. They wouldn’t stick together, so I used it as a basis for meatballs. Still: lentils and burgh and garlic and chilli paste and parsley and spring onions…

Shortbread – actually the first thing I made, for a church fete. They got a good rap because, as someone said, they’re not toosweet. They’ve got flour and almond meal (the ground walnut option is intriguing), and only 80g caster sugar for 500g other dried ingredients. Easy to make, easy to eat.

Things I want to make:

Milk buns with feta kneaded through… :O

Lentil soup – so easy! red lentils and tomato…

Stuffed vine leaves – I’ve always been dubious of my ability to make these, but you can use silverbeet! instead of vine leaves! and somehow that seems more accessible.

Borek – filo (although given where I leave I might be able to access yufka pastry…) with feta… sounds awesome.

Almond helva – although making my own helva could be a deeply dangerous thing to do HOW GOOD WOULD THAT BE?!

Things I won’t make:

I can’t come at tripe. Uh, no. I also don’t think I can access mutton so I guess I’ll try some stuff with lamb instead…

Coconut and cheese and banana

 

OK so not all of those ingredients together but I’ll bet that recipe exists somewhere, because internet. Instead:

  1. I have lots of milk that needs to be used (long story). I shall find a dessert! … looking, looking… eventually, in a book on pies that I’ve rarely used, I come across Impossible Pie. What makes it ‘impossible’ is that the layers separate – it gets a bottom, a custardy middle, and a crusty top courtesy of the coconut. Basically this one, except that mine didn’t have nutmeg and that is a GOLD idea. It was very tasty! I added sour cherries because I could. Um, I made it in a cake tin because I don’t have a deep pie tin. I only got a glass pie tin last year because pie? Australians don’t really DO pie.
  2. IMG_1324.JPGCheese scones. I’ve struggled with scones, it’s fair to say. Then I found this recipe and I decided to try it… because one GREAT BIG scone o’ cheese (250g cheese to 450g flour!!) sounds awesome. It was as I was making the breadcrumb effect of flour and butter that I realised you don’t have to make all the butter disappear, and I think this might be the turning point for me and scones. Because this scone was awesome. I did have to cook it for longer… but that’s because I didn’t knead it enough and it was a bit bigger – that is, higher, rather than being spread out – than it probably should have been. But it was a lovely texture and a wonderful taste and I will SO be making these again. Note to self: probably don’t try to double it next time; it was a bit hard to mix. Although the fact that I now have a giant cheese scone to eat and seven small scones in the freezer is pretty darn appealing.
  3. Bananas. I don’t eat them fast enough, and I already have some in the freezer… and I don’t love banana cake. Enter banana AND CARAMEL cake. Make caramel; pour into tin that’s lined with paper, because that’s just smart. Put banana onto caramel. Make cake batter, pour on top, TA DAH. … I’ll admit I didn’t actually eat any of this one. I took it to church and by the time I got around to going to the morning tea spot, it was all gone. I was told it was very tasty though. Certainly the batter was…

Palomar: the food

This book was sent to me by the publisher. Go here for discussion of the physical product.

4the-palomar

There’s some nice basics in here: harissa, watercress pesto (which I used to make snow pea pesto, and it was quite good), labneh and tapenade. I have prepared the cured lemons – one thing I do not lack is lemons – which the book promises will eliminate a “bleach-y taste” they claim preserved lemons carry. I haven’t noticed. I haven’t turned them into cured lemon paste, yet, but I definitely plan to. These things are in “The meal before the meal,” along with other dips and felafel and such.

The next section is “Raw beginnings” and I haven’t made anything from this section… and I’m not likely to. I’m allergic to scallops so that’s a few recipes gone, and I’m just not the sort of person who will ever come to steak tartare. There are one or two salads that might get a look at.

I have mostly cooked from “The main act.” The book has two shakshuka recipes; I’ve made the “New style” one with cauliflower, zucchini, garlic and chilli and coriander – then eggs cracked over. It was ok – I was perfectly happy to eat it – but not completely brilliant. It was one I had altered, taking out the eggplant because my beloved isn’t a huge fan… but since the recipe has a section called “Variations,” telling you to “reinvent” it every time, this shouldn’t have been a problem. I am intrigued with making it with chorizo and/or olives, feta… or, they promise, “any old stew or cooked vegetable you have as leftovers from yesterday’s main meal.” So I’m not quite giving up on this.

Polenta Jerusalem style: I admit I used instant polenta, which the author of the book would abhor, but that’s what I have. This involves making polenta; putting “mushroom ragout” on top (mushrooms cooked in butter), and then blanched asparagus. Garnish with Parmesan. I mean yes, it was tasty, but it’s not all that miraculous. Maybe ‘real’ polenta makes a huge difference?

Aubergine and feta boureka: ok these were quite cool. Bourekas are made by cutting butter puff pastry into four triangles, then brushing with egg, sprinkling with sesame seeds and cooking for about 18 minutes at 200C. Then you halve them and throw stuff on top – again, I omitted the eggplant, but the swiss chard stew with bacon and feta was really good. (This recipe also looks awesome.)

Papi’s spinach gnocchi: was a disaster. I’ll wear this one because I didn’t want to simmer them in goat’s yoghurt (too hard), so I simmered them in water instead. They just fell apart. I didn’t drain the spinach enough? Who knows.

Right in the middle there’s a series of pictures showing octopus – both cut up and not cut up. It’s my least favourite part of the book.

Cod chraymeh: I didn’t use cod, because that’s too hard in Australia; I think I used ling. This was … well, not flavourless, but really not worth the effort. It has red capsicum, garlic, spices, harissa… I was surprised how much it didn’t work.

Chicken thighs in green olive and tomato sauce: this was quite nice – the chicken with the olives worked really well.

IMG_1293.JPGLabneh kreplach tortellini: probably my favourite recipe to date. Kreplach are “the Ashkenazi Jewish version of Italian ravioli, Chinese wonton or Russian pelmeni.” Palomar suggests making IMG_1294.JPGthem like choux (choux? I can totes make choux) – flour into boiling water, into the processor to add more flour and egg yolks (which means making meringues later), then leaving the dough til the next day to roll and fill. As the name suggests, these were filled with labneh (yes, homemade) mixed with za’atar. I then simmered them in borscht (made with some of my own beetroots, EAT YOUR HEART OUT Katering Show). It was awesome. (I’m interested that a number of online recipes, like this one, call for whole eggs – no meringues! – but very excited that it points out that like dumplings, kreplach can of course by frozen. EXCELLENT.)

IMG_1295.JPGVerdict: I’m not sad to have experimented with it, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy it for all my friends. Possibly I’m spoiled by Jerusalem plus my two Sabrina Ghayour books, and The Saffron Tales, which basically cover these sorts of recipes – the ones I’ve enjoyed anyway. That said, I am looking forward to trying the date roulade, and their version of pitta bread.