Category Archives: Pastries

Chocolate Pie Pops

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My post today is going to be as short and sweet as these chocolate pie pops. “Are you in a hurry?,” you might ask, and “yes” will be my answer. My discourse is usually long, I know, but today I have to get in and get out as I have a long, long day ahead of me!

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Strawberry Jam Pies

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This week has been rather dreary for me. I’ve had difficulty putting things together as far as baking is concerned. And don’t get me started on writing. I stare into a blank document for minutes together. With no outcome, I switch over to Facebook feeds. And then I get irked looking at my wall filled with pictures of babies (no offense intended to friends with babies) and cats!

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DIY Thursdays: How to perfect choux pastry

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There is a belief in the pastry world that if you crack choux pastry, you’ve conquered something Herculean.  It’s what most pastry chef apprentices are oriented into at the beginning, probably because nothing really seems quite difficult after perfecting choux pastry.

It is a technical pastry to make, I agree, but nothing a home baker can’t do, really. We’ve made macarons and puff pastry, how hard can choux be? With my tips and tricks, not very. But read the little nuances twice or thrice if that’s what it takes and don’t take anything for granted, choux pastry isn’t very forgiving after all 🙂

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DIY Thursdays: All Butter Puff Pastry from Scratch

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I am bringing back one of my old favourites, that’s right. Ever since I introduced the DIY column in my blog, I realized that there are people like me in the world, who don’t mind taking the extra effort to make something at home, if it means that it will save them plenty of money. And let’s face it, the joy you get, to feel and taste the fruits of your effort is something else, it eggs you to make more things and save more money, money from your precious baking budget.

So I rummaged my archives to find the recipe for an all-butter puff pastry for you. I use it ever so often, I mention it at least a dozen times in my other posts, so it’s only fair I give you a step by step, detailed instructions on how to make your own puff pastry at home.

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Veg Puffs (Indian style)

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Which Indian kid didn’t grow up on greasy veg puffs, of golden perfection and sublime crispness? If you throw your hands up in the air, I’ll tell you that you’ve missed out on something invaluable. It was the symbol of Birthday parties; I have this vivid picture of neatly arranged paper plates containing veg puff, potato chips and a wedge of the cut birthday cake along with transparent, plastic cups filled with this pale-orange liquid – I really loved you Rasna!

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Apple Tarte Tatin

Have you ever had a “fortunate happenstance” in the kitchen? For me, accidents in the kitchen have always been disastrous. But thanks to Tatin sisters, I still live in the hope that one day I will make a startling discovery out of a debacle. 

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If I believe in the history of Tarte Tatin, which I do, it was born out of an act of serendipity. Stephanie Tatin, one of the owners of Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, accidentally baked a caramelized apple tart upside down. If this was true, she paved way to a flurry of upside down desserts, didn’t she?

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Cheese and Onion Pie

I’ve been thinking a lot about home off late. Where I don’t feel like I am constantly running out of time. Where space isn’t as much an issue and apartments are still not tearing through the skies. Where auto rickshaw fellows are greedy but  helpful and some even have a great sense of humour (never thought I’d say this). Where every place is just about a stone’s throw away, that or I was awfully lucky to have a home in Alwarpet. Ah Alwarpet! My entire day was defined by the area I lived in, of quiet lanes, homes that have character, dime a dozen grocery stores, gyms, restaurants and what have you?

On my way back from work, I would stop at Winners Bakery close to home. The waft of cakes and breads baking in the oven was always intoxicating for me. Their lemon tarts were fast moving, if you didn’t go early enough, you didn’t get any. The mellow, baby pink, strawberry butter cream cakes were delightful as well. Strange as it may sound, for me though, the incorrigible sweet monster,  their cheese and onion tarts had a special place. A familiar face would welcome me, pick up everything I pointed to and pack it in a brown paper bag, where my darling little cheese and onion tart would wait to be consumed along with coffee of course.

So this recipe is an aftermath of nostalgia, a semblance of my favourite tart from my favourite bakery, something to remember my Madras by.

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Ingredients

  • 500 g ready made puff pastry (or learn how to make puff pastry here)
  • 100 g Gruyère or any hard cheese
  • 1 big onion or 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 100 ml whole milk
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Makes  6 pies

Method

  • Thaw your frozen puff pastry. Grease a 6 muffin pan with butter.
  • Saute the sliced onions in butter till brown and translucent. Tip in the tablespoon of flour and mix well. Now add the milk and continuously whisk as the mixture thickens. Add the gruyère and continue to whisk. Finally, add mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Switch off and set aside.
  • Cut 6 4-inch circles from your puff pastry sheet using a cookie cutter or a lid. Now cut 6 3- inch circles again. Set aside on a baking sheet.
  • Tuck each 4-inch pastry circle into the prepared muffin pan, so that the bottom and the sides are covered. Spoon the prepared filling into each muffin mould. Cover each pie with a 3-inch pastry circle. Seam the edges of both the pastry circles together. Leave the muffin pan in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • Once chilled, make slashes or patterns using your knife on the pastry surface without cutting into the pastry. Glaze each pie with egg wash. Vegetarians could use milk as a glaze too.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and puffy.

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Apricot Jam Filled Danish Braid

Having moved to Bombay I have begun to appreciate good tea and embrace it as a post-afternoon practice. For someone who has sworn by coffee at least three times a day, it is quite a big deal, but I believe in using what is best available and good coffee is not something you find in every other place here. Well, when I say good, I mean the waft of freshly ground coffee beans emanating from a tiny coffee mill that makes passersby to stop and walk in.

While I still stick to my coffee mornings, I have always been fascinated by the ‘tea time’ practice. More than tea, it is about the little elements that go along with tea drinking, it’s just pretty – even as a child I had a miniature tea set, of porcelain kettles, tea cups and saucers.  I would diligently fill my kettle with water, pour it into the tea cups and serve it to my friends. And now, I just love the idea of reading a book, while drinking tea with my favourite slice of cake or something like this Danish braid, filled with jammy goodness 🙂

A Danish pastry is puff pastry’s cousin, well a relatively easier one. It is versatile and the only trick to master here is the  laborious ‘rolling and folding’.

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Ingredients

For the Danish dough

  • 2 tbsp warm water (105-115 C)
  • 1 1/4 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 an egg, beaten, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 113 g unsalted butter, chilled

For the filling

For the coffee glaze

  • 3 tbsp strong coffee decoction
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Method

  • In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, sugar, salt, milk and egg. Give it a stir and set aside.
  • Have the butter very cold and using a butter knife of a pastry cutter, cut the butter into sizable chunks (about 1/4″ squares).

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  • Combine the butter and the flour in a food processor and blitz it 7-8 times and no more. You can also do this by hand, by roughly combining the flour with butter without mashing the butter. They should still be visible.
  • Add the flour-butter mixture into the yeast mixture. Combine till the liquid has been absorbed. Do not over mix. Wrap a cling film over the bowl and refrigerate the dough overnight, up to 48 hrs.

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  • Once the dough has been chilled overnight, scrap it out of the bowl and place it on a work surface dusted with flour.
  • Pat the dough into a rough square. Dust your rolling pin with flour and start rolling from the centre up and down, to form a 16″ inch square. Fold it in thirds (like an envelope) and turn it around so that the closed end of the dough is to your left (like a spine of a book).
  • Roll the dough again into a long rectangle 10X24″. Fold it in thirds again and turn it around so that the closed end of the dough is to your left. Have the work surface and rolling pin dusted at all times. If at any time the butter becomes soft and sticky and the butter melts, refrigerate it.
  • Repeat rolling the dough into a long rectangle 10X24″ again. Fold it in thirds and refrigerate it till using.
  • For the Danish braid, roll the refrigerated dough into a rectangle of 10X16″. Place the dough on a parchment paper. Using a pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut strips along both the sides of the dough, leaving a passage in the middle.

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  • Spread the passage of the dough with apricot preserve filling. Add the pastry cream on top.

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  • Now, brush the strips with egg white. Start tying the cut strips facing each other together to form a braid.

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  • Lift the parchment paper, place it on a baking tray and cover with a tea towel. Allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • After 30 minutes, brush the braid with a beaten egg white. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the danish braid is golden brown colour.
  • Meanwhile, for the coffee glaze, sift the icing sugar into the coffee decoction. Warm it in a sauce pan till the mixture becomes sticky and thick.
  • Once the danish braid has been baked, allow it to cool on the cooling wrack for 30 minutes. Then, brush it with the coffee glaze and sprinkle flaked almonds on top. Serve it warm.

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The Story of a Thousand Leaves (&Pear and Date Galette)

I love making French desserts because they are exacting. Perhaps the convoluted technique is what makes most French desserts artisan edibles. Sometimes they are so pretty that you almost don’t want to eat them. There are measurements and techniques, and an intuitive pinch of sugar here and salt there more often than not doesn’t work. Essentially, the French have a way of complicating their food, desserts in particular, like this young pastry apprentice named Claudius Gele. Many years ago, when Gele’s father fell ill, he was prescribed a diet with nothing but flour, butter and water. So Gele invented the arduous technique of rolling and turning a butter encased dough several times, which when cooked, transformed into a billowy piece of bread with a thousand layers in between. This is the legend behind the almighty puff pastry (or should I say pâte feuilletée?) which forms the base of many a sweet and savoury delicacy.

No ordinary, kneading-and-rolling pastry, this.  I slammed 4 sticks of butter using my heavy-duty rolling pin. I deftly rolled the dough with the slammed butter sitting inside, so the butter moves as one with the dough. I completed the full 6 turns and chilled it in the refrigerator as many times. I was done for the day but I didn’t know if I was still entitled to whatever bragging rights I wish to claim as Dorie Greenspan encouragingly wrote in her book Baking with Julia. I wanted to test it and hence decided to make a galette out of pears and dates. It worked and how! 🙂 As the sweet smell of butter was wafting through my home, the edges of the puff pastry had risen into voluptuous bubbles.  When I cut the golden puff, I saw deep air pockets and layers within layers. When I bit into it, there was the beautiful sound you always want to hear with puff pastries, the delectable “crunch”, and I heard it. Today, with the close of my travails; of creating something so spectacular, I continue to bake thinking – if I can make puff pastry, I can do anything. And so, dear reader, can you! 🙂

Ps: I read somewhere that Gele’s father’s serum cholesterol hit the roof in the years to come. But that hasn’t stopped the French from making puff pastries or using as much butter as they do. For them, butter was, is and always will be a religion.

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Ingredients

For the puff pastry

  • 2 1/2 cups all-pupose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (1 cup of cake flour = 84 g all-purpose flour + 15 g corn flour)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups ice water
  • 453 g butter (4 sticks)

For the Galette

  • 300 g puff pastry dough
  • 1 pear, cored and sliced into thin vertical strips
  • 4 dates, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Flaked almonds, to sprinkle
  • 1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Method

  1. Combine both the flours and salt in a food processor. Add the cold water continuously into the dough, while it is still processing. Once combined, take the dough out and leave it on a working surface. You should have a fairly wet, pliable dough, of clay consistency. Make the dough into a ball, slash a tic-tac-toe symbol on the surface of the dough, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it.
  2. Now have your butter cold at all times. Get the butter in between two sheets of cling film and start pounding it so that you have a rough square of butter of 1-inch thickness. Remember, it is necessary that the dimensions of your butter is kept intact. It should be either a square or a rectangle and not an amoeba. Wrap the flattened butter with cling film and refrigerate it for a bit.
  3. Now get your dough from the fridge. Dust your working surface with flour (to prevent sticking). Place the dough on the surface and roll it out to a 10 inch square. Begin again form the center of the square, rolling out over each corner, so that you have a thick center surrounded by 4 flaps.
  4. Take the butter out, unwrap it and place it on the center of the square. Deftly, pulling all the four flaps towards the center, encase the slab of butter. It has to be fully covered. You must have an 8-inch square parcel now.
  5. Using your rolling pin, gently press the dough up-down and left-right.  Now if at any point you find that the butter is oozing out, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it. You can stop and start at any point.
  6. Now, roll the pastry square gently into 3 times its size (24 inches). Keep moving the pastry around to prevent it from sticking. If it sticks, thrown more flour on the work surface. Don’t bother with the width of the dough, as you roll it out to 24 inches, everything else will work out.
  7. Brush the excess flour. Fold the  bottom end of the dough, 2/3 way towards the top end and fold the top end over the bottom end. Now turn the rectangle such that the closed end is to your left and the folded side is to your right (just like a book). You have finished 1 turn.
  8. Now, roll the rectangle again to 24 inches. Repeat the 2/3 way folding process. You have finished turn 2. Now refrigerate for an hour. Continue rolling and folding till you finish 6 turns and refrigerate for an hour after every 2-turns. (So the dough will go into the fridge thrice in between rolling and folding).

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  1. You can freeze the puff pastry dough for a long time. Thaw it when you want to use it.
  2. For the galete, preheat oven to 180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out a 300 g puff pastry dough into a rough rectangle, leaving the sides to be a little thicker than the center. Place on the sheet. Combine sliced pears, dates and honey in a bowl. Place them on the rolled out puff pastry sheet . Pour over the remainder honey. Sprinkle flaked almonds on top.
  4. Brush the sides of the pastry with the beaten egg for the golden hue.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and bubbling away.

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Note: You can always buy ready made puff pastry if you don’t want to go through the labourious process of rolling and folding, and of course, waiting.

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