Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Bubbly apple pie.Warm bread. Steaming soup. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin cake. Pumpkin soup. Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin granola... Ok, I'm a little pumpkin heavy when it comes to fall. Although I miss Austin a WHOLE LOT, I am so happy to be in the land of four seasons, where fall treats match the weather!

I'd like to blame my fall obsession on something worthwhile. I'd like to say that maybe just maybe I'm going nuts for fall over here with garlands and homemade goods because I'm trying to encompass the fall spirit for my upcoming performance of Vivaldi's Autumn. But this ritual happens every year, so there's no excuse. Good thing I know most of you are crazy for it, too. I'd love to hear about your favorite fall dishes and traditions!!

To kick this thing off right, I'd like to share a recipe with you from my friend Katelyn. She shares the pumpkin obsession and made a pumpkin syrup that really kicks up your classic latte, chai or cup of coffee. In fact, I'm sure you could put this in a ton of things to make them seasonal.

This is the one syrup you can't buy in stores, so when Katelyn concocted this delicious recipe, I nearly cried with joy. The first time she made it, she used fresh ingredients and whole spices (ground in the coffee grinder.) Highly recommended but jarred spices do the trick quite nicely, too.

Katelyn's Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1.5 c water
1.5 c sugar
1 can pumpkin
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs nutmeg
1 tbs cloves
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp mace
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla

- In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil to dissolve. Stir in spices, reduce to a simmer and stir in pumpkin and vanilla. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and store in the fridge in a jar for up to one week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

100th post! 2nd blog anniversary! Julia Child Croissant Challenge!!

On this, my second blogaversary (and 100th post! Not even planned!) I invite you dear readers, into this lovely challenge of croissant-making!!

In honor of this anniversary, I would like to thank you, my friends, fellow bloggers and of course, my very supportive family (am I receiving an Emmy right now? I'm a dork!) for always giving me such lovely compliments about this little blog, when you are in fact the ones who inspire it all. As many complaints as I receive about the interwebs and the lack of face-to-face interaction therein, there is something very comforting about sharing my cooking life and otherwise with all of you. That's how it started out two years ago and that is how it will continue!

But I tell you this ; for the very sweet words some of you often give me about my knowledge of things culinary, I'd like this post to bring me on back to earth with it. Croissants just ain't easy. But just as the awe inspiring Julia Child was known to be raw and ever-real in the kitchen, throwing caution (and rolling pins...and omelets) to the wind, not afraid to mess up, so was I in joining in this challenge.

As Julia is the idol of so many, including myself, it's only appropriate on this celebratory day to take part in a fancy challenge with other incredible bloggers, far my superior on all things baking. Thank you, Stevie from weirdcombinations, for bringing the challenge to my knowledge and for letting me take part! You can follow all of our journeys through this Julia Child recipe by visiting each blog that took part! We all put our own spin on her classic croissant recipe. What fun to see the creation just flowing out of these blogs. Sit tight and bare with me on this, my maiden voyage of croissant making. It doesn't matter who you are, the first time making croissants is just difficult.

Enjoy reading the other blogs who took part and at least laugh at me and my lack of pastry knowledge that somehow didn't result in total disaster. In the meantime, hope you like the new look! As sad as I was to take my beautiful wedding dress (and husband, of course) off of the banner, I think two years of marriage and blogging are cause for a change of scenery.

Julia Child Croissant Challenge Bloggers:

Stevie from Weird Combinations

Vanessa at Sweet Artichoke

Joumana at Taste of Beirut

Christina at Thyme to Be Loved

Faith at an Idebile Mosaic

my pain au chocolat, inspired by my favorite bakery that
makes the most incredible version of these!!

Julia Child's Croissants : My Way
This post and recipe taken from the step-by-step depiction of Julia's original recipe on Mamaliga

I followed her instructions to the T, made a few changes, took a few notes and did it again.
In the end, I was more satisfied with my results the first time around but both times made Pain au Chocolat and Butter Croissants with Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly
makes 2 cups

1 cup water
12 basil leaves
1 cup sugar
1/4 box pectin

Steep finely chopped basil leaves for 20 minutes after water has come to a boil. Stir in pectin and sugar (and a drop of green food coloring for fun but NOT three drops or you will have kyrponite like me!) Allow to cool at room temp in a bowl then refrigerate, covered, to allow the jelly to set up for about one hour.

On my first OR second go around, I could not find pastry flour ANYWHERE and used all purpose unbleached. This produced the most croissant-like result. The second time I incorporated cake flour, which I do not really recommend but it does work, if you're in a pinch.

* = my diversion from Julia's recipe/suggestions that helped me

1 tsp dry yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 c warm water (not to exceed 110 degrees)

Combine and allow to sit for up to ten minutes or until foamy.

2 c flour mix *I used 2 c all purpose, unbleached
1 tbs sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 c tepid milk (only use as much as the dough needs or it will be too sticky!!)
2 tbs oil (4 tbs if using bleached flour)

Combine with yeast mixture and mix together with spatula to form a heap of dough. Knead for 3 minutes or until glossy. Julia recommends the lift-and-throw as well as old school punching and rolling with the heals of your hands.

Place in a bowl (*I recommend a lightly oiled bowl) and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 to 1.5 hrs in a warm (75 degrees) place until doubled in size.

Punch into a flat circle, cover with wax paper and chill for 30 minutes.

The dough and butter must stay cold in these next steps. Work very quickly and if butter starts to poke out from your dough, dust with flour. You will be dusting with flour for the remainder of this process, I assure you...

Remove from fridge and quickly roll out into a 9 inch dough circle. You will need a ruler at this point or a lovely measured mat like my mother had. QUICKLY beat a stick of butter with a rolling pin until smooth and place it in the middle of the dough circle to measure about a 5 inch radius. Fold over on all sides and roll this out to a 5x15 inch slab. Fold into an envelop shape. Roll out once more to a 5x15 slab, fold into an envelop, cover with paper and chill for 1-2 hours.

In order to achieve the 82 layers of dough and 81 layers of butter, you must repeat the former process that we call "turns" 2 more times and again chill for 2 hours.

After this 2 hour chill, Julia says to roll the dough out to a 5x20 rectangle, cut in half and chill half of the dough until ready to use. Then to cut into three sections, cut crosswise and roll into croissant shapes that way.

For Pain au Chocolat, cut into 6 smaller rectangles, place a row of chocolate (I used 60% chips) and roll loosely, seam side down and place on a lightly buttered baking sheet, covering with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

For croissants, instead of the crosswise cutting, I recommend rolling the dough out into a circle and cutting like a pizza to achieve even croissant shapes! Also place these on a lightly greased baking sheet and allow to rise for one hour. I covered mine with baking cloths.

For the one hour of rising time, I went ahead and set my oven to 475. Once they have risen, cover with a light egg wash with one tsp of water and bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving!