Laminated dough

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/29/flaky-buttery-fabulous/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=106001

We recently hosted bakery owners Andy and Jackie King at our Baking Education Center here in Norwich, VT, where they taught a delightful class in laminated dough, the multi-layered, buttery dough used for croissants and other wonderful pastries. Prior to the Kings’ appearance at the education center, we asked Andy if he’d like to write a blog on the subject. Happily, he agreed – and you’ll find the result below. Our thanks to Baker’s Catalogue photographer John Sherman, and Eric Laurits, for the photos. Enjoy!

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Andy King here, owner and operator (with my lovely wife, Jackie) of A&J King Artisan Bakers, in Salem MA. I’m honored to be guest-blogging here at the King Arthur Flour blog, which is one of my favorites on the Web. I’m just taking it over for this entry – your regularly scheduled bloggers will be back before you know it.

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Today we’re discussing lamination, specifically, how it relates to various shapes of croissants. Once you have the process down, it’s incredibly flexible and can be applied to a number of other pastry items: sticky buns, Danish, kouign amman… even some pastry doughs and pie crusts are laminated for greater flake and tenderness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you’re like me, circa 2000 (when I was entering the food industry), you hear the word “lamination” and you think of Staples/OfficeMax: plastic-covered sheets of paper, and dry-erase markers – nothing to do with food at all.

What’s interesting is that the process of sandwiching a piece of paper in between two sheets of heated plastic is not so very different than the classic pastry process we’re going to undertake today.

But instead of the layering being plastic – paper – plastic, we’re going to take it a step more delicious and substitute this: dough – butter – dough.

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See? It’s already getting more interesting.

However, we’ll be taking it a step further than the office product. When we’re talking about laminating dough, we’re talking about the process of not only just making that first layer, but then folding the dough over onto itself dozens of time to create a “book” of dough that has over 80 layers of dough and butter! And we do this for one reason: To create the flakiest and most buttery pastry you can possible imagine.

Let’s get started, shall we?

I’m going to forgo the classic french terms of detrempe (the actual dough) and beurrage (the butter you fold in, sometimes mixed with a bit of flour) in favor of the terms we actually use at the bakery: “dough,” and “butter.” We’re simple folks, really.

Step 1: The Dough

Mixing croissant/lamination dough is actually one of the more simple mixing processes you can undertake. You’re looking for a lack of dough development.

You know all of the kneading you do for other doughs, to develop gluten and make a strong dough? Forget it. We’ll be folding that dough so many times in the future, we want the dough loosey-goosey.

The following ingredients will make 5 pounds of laminated dough:

10 3/4 cups (46 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
9 tablespoons (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) sugar
5 teaspoons sea salt or 5 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/2 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or 3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups + 6 tablespoons (27 ounces) water (barely warm; 95°F)
1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, chilled to 40°F in the refrigerator

Mix all of your ingredients (except the chilled butter), preferably by hand (mixers work well too), until everything comes together into a shaggy mass. Add about 30 seconds mixing for good measure, and put the dough into a (preferably) rectangular shaped container to ferment for a couple hours in a warm spot. The rectangle helps later on when you’re making your “book” of dough with the butter.

After the 2 hours is up, or the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle it with some flour and deflate the dough with the palm of your hand. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap, and put her away in a refrigerator for at least 12 (or as many as 24) hours.

Step 2: The Butter

You’re going to want to use the highest-end butter you can find for your croissants – or else, what’s the point of making insanely decadent pastry?

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Look for Plugra, or Cabot 83, or another butter with at least 83% butterfat content.

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Take your butter straight from the fridge, lay it on a piece of parchment paper measuring 13” x 18”, and – here’s the fun part – smack the daylights out of it with a rolling pin.

Really smack it around, folding it over and working it until it becomes pliable (but still cold). It should bend (not break) when you fold it over. When you’re finished, manipulate the butter so that it fits in an even layer on the lower half of the parchment paper – not the whole thing.

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Yes, that’s butter wrapped in parchment; it’s simply a darker shade of parchment than you’re probably used to.

Take the butter’s temperature with an instant-read thermometer. It should be 55°F when you start the lamination. If it’s too warm or cold, stick it in the fridge/leave it out, respectively.

Step 3: The Lamination

OK, we’re going to do some measuring in the next steps, but it’s pretty straightforward and all you need is a measuring tape or a ruler. You probably have one in your junk drawer; we’ll wait… OK, we’re back. We want to keep true to these dimensions so that we have the nicest possible end product  – perfection is reached with accuracy at every step.

So the move here is that we’re going to create a book of butter and dough. Turn your chilled dough out onto your floured table top, the short side nearest to your belly.

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Use a rolling pin, plus gentle pulling and tugging, to create an 18″ x 13″ rectangle.

Manipulate the dough so that it’s roughly 18” x 13”.

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Take the rectangle of butter (55°F, right?) and lay it on the bottom half of the dough, peeling the parchment paper off, and making sure that no butter is hanging over the edge of the dough.

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Fold the top of the dough down over the butter, and pinch the edges shut. Voilà: dough – butter – dough.

With the palm of your hand, flatten the book until it thins out a bit before going at it with the rolling pin.

Step 4: Rolling and Folding

So this is the crux of lamination: rolling and folding.

At the bakery we use a big, mechanical rolling machine called a “sheeter.” At home (or when the sheeter breaks), we use a rolling pin. I like the rolling pin better. For the rolling instructions, I’m going to quote Jackie here, directly from her instructions in our book Baking by Hand. Take it away, Jackie:

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The first rollout should be relatively easy, as the dough is still weak. You need to roll it out to 18″ x 30″. Sprinkle the top as well as underneath the dough with flour as needed, to prevent sticking; and roll in alternating strokes, top to bottom and side to side. Keep the thickness and lines of the rectangle as even as possible.

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After you’ve attained your dimensions, brush off all the excess flour with a pastry brush. This is important because, if you don’t, the excess flour will gum up the layers when it encounters steam, during baking. This will affect the texture of the final croissant.

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Next, perform your first envelope fold by taking the right 1/3 of the dough and folding it across. Brush off excess flour on this piece before bringing the left side over on top of it. You can now sprinkle the top lightly with flour. You have your first fold.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, dust with flour, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes (no longer; the butter will get too hard and affect the lamination).

Next it’s time for the second fold or turn.

Sprinkle some flour down and position the baking sheet so that the seam of the envelope is closest to you and the open part is farthest away.

Flip the dough out onto the table; it’ll be bottoms-up. Turn it over so it’s tops-up. Now roll the dough to an 18″ x 30″ rectangle again, rolling top to bottom and side to side to stretch the gluten in many different directions.

Brush all the surfaces, and fold the dough the same way you did for the first fold. This time the dough will be a bit more resistant, now that the gluten is forming and the dough is cooler.

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Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Time for the last turn. Perform the steps just as you did for the second fold, but you’ll notice that it’s a bit harder still to roll out. You want to roll it to 18″ x 30″; if it starts to fight back, let it rest for 10 minutes, to relax the gluten.

Brush the dough, fold it up, and place it back on the baking sheet. This time, rest and chill the dough for a minimum of 2 hours, or as long as overnight. This longer chill has the advantage of breaking up the process into 2 days, as well as allowing you to shape and proof the croissants the next morning, in time for a breakfast or brunch. (You’ll probably have to get up early to get them shaped and leave them time to proof and bake, but I guarantee that your guests will appreciate it.)

By the time you’re done, you’ll have 81 layers of dough and butter. When that rich dough is shaped, proofed, and hits the oven, all of your work will pay off. The dough rises (because of the yeast, of course), but all of those layers of butter – in the heat of the oven – evaporate into steam and create pockets of air in the pastry that we know and love as flakiness. It’s the same steam-leavening effect that makes your pie dough flaky, but multiplied by a gazillion (just to be scientific).

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Go forth and laminate!

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For a step-by-step tutorial in shaping and baking croissants, see this post: Making Baker’s Croissants: Capturing Butter Heaven. Ignore the dough preparation photos, and skip right to the croissant shaping/baking.

Excess Sourdough

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/27/excess-sourdough-5-tasty-ways-to-use-it-up/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=105093

It’s that time again. Your precious sourdough starter is hungry. Sad-looking and perhaps a little weepy, it’s in need of a tasty meal.
sad-sourdoughSourdough can be stored on the counter – a good choice if you’re an avid baker, since it will be very active. But then, your pet will need to be fed at least once a day, perhaps even twice, depending on how warm the air is.

Starter can also live quite happily in the refrigerator, where the cold air will suppress its appetite and make it sluggish. Here, it will only need to be fed once a week – a better choice for those who bake less frequently. Our test-kitchen pet lives in the fridge until a few days before we need it. Then it comes out and is fed twice a day for a few days to get it back in tiptop shape.

add-flour-and-waterA little room in the belly needs to be made before it’s time for the next meal (not unlike Fluffy and Fido, but undoubtedly less gross… you can use your imagination). So out goes all but 4 ounces of the refrigerated and lethargic starter, and in goes the restorative meal of 4 ounces each of both flour and water.

angry-sourdoughBut what to do with the cup or so of discarded starter? You could certainly throw it away…but why would you? It’s a delicious gift from your bubbly pet, and deserves to be enjoyed. It’s probably best not to anger it…

happy-sourdough2Luckily, there are so many delicious ways to incorporate that unfed starter into baked goods. Delicious, and very righteous of you to not waste. A win-win, in our book. We’d love to share with you our favorites.

sourdough-pizzaAdding your discard sourdough starter to pizza dough will add a slight tang and richness that will have your grateful eaters inhaling slice after slice. When eating homemade pizza, the best part should be the crust. Done and done when you add sourdough to the mix.

sourdough-pretzelSoft, vendor-style pretzels are easy to make, and make a unique and unexpected afternoon snack. Serve with mustard, if you’re craving savory; or sprinkle with sparkling sugar and dip into this addictive cider-cinnamon spread for a sweet treat.

sourdough-carrot-cakeThis one doesn’t seem like it would work, but mixing sourdough and cake is a recipe for success. Unless you don’t like rich, moist, and unbelievably flavorful carrot cake… but we think this recipe might have you singing a different sweet, sweet tune.

sourdough-wafflesTo quote PJ, because she describes them so deliciously, “These sourdough waffles are ultra-light and crisp, with a lovely moist interior. They’re pleasingly (but not overwhelmingly) tangy.”

Need we say more? We don’t, but we will. Waffles require a bit more work than pancakes, but ohmyaretheyworthit. Guaranteed to start your day off on a cheerful note.

sourdough-crackerEverything tastes better when it’s homemade, doesn’t it? We certainly think so, and these sourdough crackers are no exception! The slight tang pairs perfectly with the added herbs and salt, leaving the eater helplessly sucked into the “I’ll have just one more” vortex.

Did this blog fill you with tangy sourdough envy? Looking to adopt a sourdough starter of your own so you, too, can experience waste-anxiety? Check out our sourdough page! It includes tools to get you started, care instructions, and even more delicious recipes.

Once your bubbly pet is fed and happy, there are so, so many recipes to bake. Check out the sourdough section of our recipe site to find out for yourself. And, as always, happy baking!

Rustic Peach Tart

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/24/rustic-peach-tart/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=105593

“You’re a peach!”

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“Peachy keen!”

And, all you fellow English majors out there – comment below to identify this line from one of my favorite poems:

“Do I dare to eat a peach?”

I do! I do!

As fresh peach season creeps up the East Coast, from Georgia to South Carolina to Pennsylvania to New York, and soon to New England, I’m digging out my peach recipes.

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Southern-Style Peach Cobbler

Like cobbler and crisp; scones and shortcake; and (drum roll, please) one of summer’s ephemeral luxuries, peach pie.

Or in this case, a rustic peach tart.

With raspberries. Just because I can.

Much as I love simply biting into a fresh peach – and yes, when you get a good one, all of those clichés about peach juice dripping down your arm are absolutely true – I love even more lightly sweetened warm peaches nestled in a golden crust, redolent of cinnamon, just begging for a generous application of vanilla ice cream. Homemade, of course.

First off, if you don’t know the secret to peeling peaches so they’re smooth as a – well, smooth as a perfectly peeled peach – take a look at this:

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How to peel a peach perfectly – no knife needed.

I’ve riffed on our original Rustic Peach Tart recipe, adding more raspberries, plus cinnamon, almond extract, lemon juice… changing the thickener… lowering the sugar… Feel free to toe the line and follow the original, or come along with me as I break the rules (as often happens).

First, make a batch of your favorite pie crust. You need one crust, but it has to be a substantial one; bank on using at least 1 1/4 cups flour in your single crust.

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I’m partial to our Classic Double Pie Crust. I just went ahead and made the entire recipe, then used half, and froze half for another pie day.

Wrap the single crust you’re going to use, and chill it for 30 minutes.

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Roll the chilled crust into a 13″ to 14″ round, and center it in a 9″ pie pan.

Pretty ragged, eh?

THAT’S OK, IT’S RUSTIC! The word “rustic” covers all kinds of less-than-perfect baking outcomes.

Start preheating your oven to 450°F.

Next, the filling. Here’s what I used:

4 to 5 large ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (about 5 to 6 cups sliced peaches); use 2 pounds frozen/thawed sliced peaches, if you like
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Pie Filling Enhancer
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, divided

Pie Filling Enhancer is my personal favorite fruit pie thickener, but feel free to substitute your own favorite. Our blog post on thickening fruit pies offers our thickener test results, and interesting information on this subject in general.

Mix everything together, using 1/2 cup of the raspberries.

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Spoon the filling into the crust. Fold the crust up and over the filling; it will only cover it partway.

Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.

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Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Remove it from the oven, and stir 1/2 cup of the raspberries into the hot filling. Place the remaining 1/2 cup raspberries on top, pressing them in gently.

So, what’s with all this extra raspberry stuff? Why not just mix them all in right up front?

Because raspberries are super-delicate, and fall to pieces as they bake. By the same token, they’re perfect just gently warmed; they retain their shape and flavor, melding nicely with the rest of the filling.

The result –

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One totally awesome salute to peach season!

Once again, here’s my favorite Classic Double Pie Crust recipe. As you can see, it makes a lovely crust for this tart.

Cherry-Zucchini Scones

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/21/the-zucchini-zombie-apocalypse-or-how-to-win-the-runaway-vegetable-war/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=104159

Despite your vigilance, despite your twice-daily visits to pick them in the garden, it happens every summer: the attack of the killer zombie zucchinis.

Any living thing that can increase its presence exponentially in a mere matter of hours can’t be quite of this world, can it? You’ve tried everything to keep the population in check. Ratatouille. Caponata. Pickling it, grilling it, roasting it, turning it into bread, cake, frittata, appetizers, pie, muffins, disguising it with chocolate, even making pancakes with it. Obviously, we haven’t enough meal occasions to cope with it all, so I’m here to add another weapon to your arsenal in the zucchini apocalypse wars.

Our team tasked me with a blog for “something zucchini.” The idea of something tender, with a little bit of interest from some lemon zest and dried cherries, and maybe a bit of crunch popped into my head. Your new tool for keeping the zucchini zombies from taking over? Cherry-Zucchini Scones.

It wouldn’t be me writing if I didn’t talk a little food science first. When baking with fruits and vegetables, they’ll often take the place of some of the liquid in the recipe. Pumpkin and applesauce work that way. Zucchini is a little trickier, because while it contains a lot of water, that water stays inside the vegetable’s flesh until something draws it out. That something can be sugar, or salt, or heat.

Sometimes you’ll see recipes that call for the zucchini to be drained or squeezed out. That’s the recipe writer trying to level the playing field, because the amount of liquid in each particular squash can vary considerably, depending on its size, how much rain the garden has had, etc. When I had the idea for these scones, I was planning on getting about half the recipe’s liquid from the zucchini. What could be simpler? Cut butter into dry ingredients, add zucchini and wet, stir, Bob’s your uncle. But when I began testing, I got taken for a ride. Zombie vegetables can be pretty fickle.

It all started innocently enough:

dryinbowl2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

buttercutinnobaconWhisked together, and 1/2 cup cold butter cut in.

zuchhzestNext some lemon zest, a cup of grated zucchini, and 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped up just a bit so they distribute more evenly.

drypluszucchMix together 1/4 cup milk, an egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla, add, stir all together.

addwetThe first time I did this, it seemed after a few stirs that there was no way I had enough wet stuff. There was a lump of dough in the middle of the bowl, surrounded by what looked like the Sahara dessert. allroundmixshotSo I added more milk (like, 1/2 cup more) to make the dough come together, and that’s when the zombie factor kicked in. The longer the dough was mixed, the wetter it got. The sugar was drawing the moisture out of the zucchini, and what at first looked like a dough that could be patted into place and cut started slumping and spreading in all directions in front of my eyes, like bad time-lapse photography.

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After just a few minutes on the baking sheet, the dough is getting wetter by the minute. I could cut through it, but the scones were too soggy to separate before baking, and came out as one, large puffy disk.

I baked it anyway, and liked the flavors very much, but knew this wasn’t going to be the walk in the park I thought it was going to be.

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I had to cut the scones again after baking to separate them; they’re pretty wet and gummy in the center.

Never underestimate the zombie vegetable.

Being a stubborn sort, it took me about four rounds before I realized I had to accept the fact that in order to get the result I wanted I was going to have to work with the zucchini, and (sigh) be patient. I backed off on the liquid, from what was initially 3/4 cup back down to 1/4 cup, started over, and ended up here:

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I know this looks too dry, but keep folding the dough over using a bowl scraper. The more you do this, mixing the dry bits in, the more liquid the zucchini gives up.

It’s a leap of faith, but if you keep scooping the dry mixture into the dough and folding it over on itself, in short order you get to this:

mixed and cutDough that’s ready for scooping or shaping. Since this recipe likes to expand when it bakes, I decided to confine my zombie mixture in a small scone pan.inminisconepanAfter a shower of sparkling sugar and some quality time in the oven, the battle was won, and a tasty new zucchini-based treat was here.

finished small sconesI confess to having trouble with eating just one of these. They’re very yummy, and have been disappearing with alacrity every time I put them in the employee kitchen.

The moral of our story? Put some dried cherries and lemons on your next shopping list, and be ready for the squash invasion on the horizon (if it hasn’t already started). You may not entirely win the zucchini war with this recipe, but you’re sure going to enjoy trying.

Don’t forget, you can mix and cut the scones, then freeze them for later. (Bake them right out of the freezer; they’ll need another 5 minutes or so in the oven, but that’s it.) There may come a time this winter when you’re actually feeling wistful for some zucchini as a reminder of sunny summer days.

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Cherry-Zucchini Scones.

Print just the recipe.

Beyond the lattice

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/19/beyond-the-lattice/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=105313

I don’t know about you, but every time I look at a pie recipe and see one of those lattice-crust diagrams, I breathe a heavy sigh and turn the page. Or click to the next search result.

To those who love weaving lattice crusts: I salute you. You tell me it’s not hard, once you get the hang of it. You tell me, “Just follow the pictures; take it one step at a time.” You’re right. I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I should be able to follow a few simple diagrams.

And then I click to the next recipe anyway.

Hmmm, old dog who can’t learn new tricks? Not at all. I’m at ease with everything from iPhoto to Instagram. I appreciate apps. I’ve even embraced online banking (though, despite my son’s scoffing, I still “balance my checkbook.”)

I can download and upload with the best of them.

What I have trouble with is offloading. As in, too much on my plate (and I don’t mean the dessert plate). Thus if there’s an easier/faster/just-as-effective way to do anything – I’m there.

So, what’s the purpose of a lattice-top crust on a fruit pie, anyway?

1. It looks pretty.

2. It allows more steam to escape, more quickly, from the bubbling fruit filling below – so the filling is less likely to be runny.

Well then, how about if I make a top crust that’s open enough to let steam escape; is handsome as a lattice, AND doesn’t require either following a diagram, or a post-grad degree in hand-eye coordination?

I’m on it!

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Let’s cut right to the chase here. I’ve already made a Classic Double Pie Crust. Half of the pastry is in a 9″ pie pan, filled with Bumbleberry Pie filling.

The other half, I roll between two 9″ parchment rounds, the kind you use to line a cake pan.

Why the parchment rounds? Because they’re a great guide for the 9″ pastry round I’m shooting for; and they’re non-stick. Oh, and also, there’s no cleaning a floury counter afterwards.

Once the pastry is rolled, I trim the edges with a pair of scissors. Not strictly necessary; but it does make a nice round – no raggedy edges!

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You can also roll on a parchment sheet, with a round on top – then trim with a pizza wheel. The advantage of this is, you can then use the parchment to line the baking sheet that’ll hold your pie as it bakes. The parchment will catch those inevitable sticky spills from the bubbling filling.

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Next, select your favorite cutters. Hearts, circles, stars (my personal favorite) – whatever floats your boat.

Cut out designs, and lay them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar, and bake them right along with the pie. Baker’s treat!

Heck, if you have a square cutter, you can even make a “faux lattice” by simply cutting out rows of squares.

Flop the crust, parchment-side up, onto the filled pie. Carefully peel off the parchment.

Press the top and bottom crusts together; make a simple crimp.

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Sprinkle the crust with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired. It’s pretty and glittery, and adds sweet crunch to your finished pie.

In case you’re wondering why that filling peeking through the crust looks rather brown and “sandy” – it is. I sprinkled the filling with a thick layer of cinnamon-sugar before adding the top crust – just because.

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Want to go the extra mile? Press some of the cutouts around the edge of the crust. I made some of these small stars out of the larger stars and trimmings.

Bake the pie.

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My, oh my…

A couple of hints:

Cold, firm pastry is much easier to work with than warm, soft/sticky pastry. As soon as your crust starts to stick – to the cutters, the parchment, or your fingers – give it a quick chill in the fridge.

Don’t expect perfection. The filling bubbles as it bakes, and inevitably it’ll spill up and over some of your pretty design. And that, friends, is why we use the word “rustic.” It justifies a multitude of culinary mishaps.

Enjoy!

Stovetop Chocolate Pudding

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/17/mini-chocolate-cream-pies/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=105423

Haven’t you ever wanted to sit down and eat an entire pizza by yourself? Or how about a whole cake? (Guilty, your Honor).

I have a brother who, given time, could probably devour a whole cheesecake by himself were my mother not there to bop him with a wooden spoon to make him stop.

My point is that sometimes you want the whole thing all to yourself, no sharing. I think this is a real driving point behind so many of today’s convenience foods. Individual bags of potato chips have been around for a very long time; but these days you can get an individual serving of salsa to go with them plus a pre-made, pre-wrapped PB&J sandwich, a mini-can of soda, and a single-serving carton of ice cream for dessert.

Do you think it’s because we’re concerned about not getting our fair share of the communal pot? Perhaps we’re becoming so me-centric that we don’t want to have to deal with others at meal time? Is it strictly for hygienic purposes?

I know these are controversial issues; but let’s talk about them. Here, I’ll give you some time to gather your thoughts while we prepare this new recipe, Stovetop Chocolate Pudding, which we’ll turn into mini chocolate cream pies. 01-DSCN1914 Put the following Into a heavy-bottomed saucepan: 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (natural or dutch-process, your choice) 1/4 cup cornstarch 1 2/3 cups water Whisk together well. 02-DSCN1918 After the initial whisking, blend in one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, and 3 large egg yolks. You’ll need to whisk the mixture constantly to avoid big lumps. At first you’ll see the surface covered with speckles of chocolate. This is cocoa powder that’s become encapsulated in water. As the water heats, the cocoa will be absorbed and the specks will disappear. 04-DSCN1921 Keep whisking, and after 4 to 5 minutes the mixture will begin to thicken. When it’s the consistency of regular pudding, remove the pan from the heat. Resist sneaking a spoonful just yet; there’s more goodness to add. 05-DSCN1922 Quickly stir in 2 tablespoons soft butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder. You can surely leave out the espresso powder, but it really does heighten the flavor of the chocolate – and doesn’t make the pudding taste like coffee. 06-DSCN1925 The pudding will become silky smooth and glossy. NOW you can snitch a bit for your “quality control” check. 07-DSCN1927 You can skip the step of pressing the hot mixture through a sieve; and I HAVE skipped it many times in the past. I’ve started doing this more often, though,as it really does give you the very best, very smoothest results. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the fridge for several hours.

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To make mini pies, cut 2″ circles from your favorite pie dough recipe. Make a single slit from the outer edge to the center, to aid in fitting the circles into the pan.

Quick game of Pac-Man, anyone? 08-DSCN1933 Place the rounds into the wells of a mini-cupcake/muffin tin that’s been lightly spritzed with cooking spray. Use the slit you cut to help overlap the pastry a tiny bit, so your rounds fit in better.

Press the open edges of the pastry together to seal. Prick (“dock”) the bottom of each crust several times with a fork. In hindsight, I bet a fondue fork would be great for this – nice small head to fit in the well.

Bake the crusts in a preheated 350°F oven for 9 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and place it on a rack for the crusts to cool completely. 10-DSCN1935

To serve, place a dollop of pudding into each pie shell, and top with whipped cream.

If you want to go the s’mores route, consider making marshmallow topping from your 3 leftover egg whites. Spread the fluffy stuff on top of each pie, and toast with a torch or under the broiler.

Now that we have something to chew on – literally! – let’s get back to chewing the fat on the single serving size discussion.

Where do you stand? Do you want that individual cup of peanut butter for sanitary reasons, or to ensure no one has messed it up with jelly traces? Do you come from a large family of 13 (like my friend Don) and need to know it’s yours for keeps? Maybe you’re firmly on the other side of the fence, and only serve family-style?

Step right up and share your view in our comments section. As long as there’s no name-calling or choice-shaming, let’s talk.

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Stovetop Chocolate Pudding.

Print just the recipe.

How to prevent dense, gluey streaks in your cake

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2014/07/15/how-to-prevent-dense-gluey-streaks-in-your-cake/

http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/?p=104381

See the two slices of lemon cake above?

The one on the right has a typical texture: an even, fairly close grain.

But the one on the left shows streaks – areas of dense, sodden cake. Taking a bite, you’d think it was under-baked – even though it’s actually completely baked.

One of my fellow King Arthur Flour test bakers, Frank Tegethoff, recently called me into the test kitchen for show & tell.

We bakers often do this with one another – “Hey, wanna see something interesting?” someone will say, pulling a deflated loaf of bread, ultra-flat cookie – or perfectly shaped muffin – out of the oven.

We then gather around for a quick lesson in the particular area of baking science demonstrated by said unsuccessful (or super-successful) baked good.

Frank said, “Both of these slices of cake are from the same recipe. Same ingredients; same pan. Same baking time and temperature. Why do you think this one has this pasty middle, and the other one looks fine?”

I considered the question. Preparation method must be the variable. “Ummm… something about how you put together the batter?” (The girl’s a genius!)

IMG_7225

Frank proceeded to share his secret. The cake with the pasty center was “over-creamed.”

“How do you over-cream cake batter?” I asked. “I thought the more air you beat in, the better.”

Frank explained that’s true, but creaming (beating together sugar, butter, and eggs) has to be done slowly; “no higher than medium speed.”

And once any flour is added, the mixing has to be slower still. Developing the flour’s gluten too much means the cake will rise beautifully in the oven – then sink (a little, or a lot) as soon as you pull it out.

And the sinking cake is what makes dense, moist, gluey streaks.

Lesson learned: beat butter and sugar and eggs at medium speed. Once you add flour, mix gently.

Thanks, Frank!

Since you can’t be right here in the test kitchen with us, we offer you the next best thing: our toll-free baker’s hotline, staffed by test kitchen bakers. Next time your cake collapses, your cookies crumble, or your bread behaves badly, call us: 855-371-BAKE (2253). We’re here to help.

By the way, since I know you’ll ask – that’s Lemon Bliss Cake Frank used in his experiment.