Thursday, October 18, 2012

The cinnamon buns...

I'm not sure what I was thinking, but after rolling out the dough, putting the sugar mixture on the dough, rolling it into a cylinder and cutting the dough into buns, I neglected to take any pictures!  And once they were proofed, baked and out of the oven, I neglected then, too, to take pictures (I'm pretty useless, aren't I?).  My excuse?  I was hosting a breakfast morning at mine and was literally incredibly eager to make these suckers that I forgot all about telling you wonderful folks about it! 

So then, you'll have to trust me when I say that they came out AMAZING!  They flew off the table and were gone before I could blink.  Everyone did compare them to Gail's bakery cinnamon buns and said mine were better!  I think they were being nice, but they insisted they weren't.  I did like them and thought they came out quite well, but I thought they needed a bit more cinnamon.  No one else agreed!

So then, here's the 'Morning Bun' recipe (from the Art & Soul of Baking - Sur La Table) that I then used following Bo Friberg's croissant dough recipe:

1 recipe of croissant dough (see prior posts for this)
1 large egg
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 18 X 11 X 1/4 inch rectangle.  Position the dough with a long side parallel to the edge of your work surface.  Brush any flour from the surface of the dough.  Whisk the egg in the small bowl just to break it up, then brush the entire surface of the dough lightly with the egg. 

In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon until thoroughly blended.  Sprinkle evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the long edge of the dough farthest from you.

SHAPE THE DOUGH: Beginning with the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder, gently tucking and tightening as you roll.  Finish rolling the dough onto the border.  Roll the dough cylinder backward so that the seam is facing upward and pinch all along it to seal the dough.  It should be 18 inches long.  If not, roll it gently back and forth until it lengthens.  Cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.  Generously butter the muffin pan and place each piece cut side up in a muffin cup.

PROOF THE DOUGH: Cover the pan loosely wiht plastic wrap and allow the buns to rise in a cool room-temperature spot until they have almost doubled in size (they will be slightly higher than the top of the muffin tin), 45 to 60 minutes. Don't try to rush the rise by warming the croissants - you don't want the butter to melt.

BAKE THE BUNS: Preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the center.  Chill the buns in the freezer for 10 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.  This will firm the butter and create a flakier texture.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the buns are deep golden brown.  Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl.  Remove the tin from the oven and set it on a towel next to the bowl. Gently remove each bun with the tongs and drop it in the sugar, turning it to coat all sides.  Then transfer each bun to the silicone mat or parchment paper to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The journey of the croissant...or whatever i'm baking...

Should I mention now that I'm not going to actually be making croissants?  The recipe I REALLY want to make utilizes croissant dough.  You see, we have a bakery in town (Gail's) that makes killer cinnamon buns, but they're nothing like american cinnamon buns.  They literally look like croissants rolled into a cinnamon bun and are super flaky, not doughy.  My husband and children adore these and eat them regularly.  I've thought about figuring out how to make them, and recently my good friend and I swapped cook books and I found a recipe for 'morning buns' that mirrored the cinnamon buns I see at Gail's.

The first item in the recipe was croissant dough - big surprise - and it was here that my journey for croissant dough began, especially since my friend mentioned that the croissant recipe in the 'morning bun' cookbook was 'ok', but didn't yield the best croissant she'd ever tasted.

Following Bo Friberg's recipe for croissant dough (see previous post titled, 'the croissant recipe'), I'll take you on my journey for making the perfect 'morning bun' via croissant dough.

Here the tools and key ingredients I used to make the croissant dough:
A scale, plastic wrap, parchment paper, a rolling pin, a ruler, Lurpak unsalted butter (minimum fat content 82%), and organic strong white bread flour. 

Making the 'croissant' dough:

The few drops of lemon juice, 1 ounce (30 g) of flour, and chilled butter cut into pieces prior to kneading it in a mixing bowl. 

Step 1:  Work the lemon juice and 1 ounce (30 g) of flour into the chilled butter by kneading it in a bowl.

Step2: Shape the butter into a 5-inch square/12.5cm.  Place the butter on a piece of baking paper and set aside.  If the room is warm, place it in the refrigerator, but do not let it get too firm.  If this happens, rework and reshape the butter back to the original consistency.

Step 3: Put the following ingredients into a mixing bowl: cold milk, yeast (I used rapid rise yeast as I couldn't locate fresh yeast and have had issues in the past reconstituting dried yeast in warm liquids; NOTE: you will have to proof your yeast first if using dried yeast, and follow the original recipe posted in the prior post if using fresh yeast), granulated sugar, honey, and the salt.  Mix the ingredients together with a fork, then place the bowl on stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and begin to mix it on the stir speed.  Add the remaining 11 ounces of bread flour gradually into the mixing bowl.  Once it is all added, mix the dough on speed 2 for about 1 1/2 minutes until the dough is formed, but is very elastic.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 7-inch square.

Step 4: Place the butter square on the dough diagonally so that there are 4 triangles on the sides, fold in the sides, and seal in the butter.

Dough with butter block folded and sealed.

Step 5: Give the dough 3 single turns, with 30-60 minutes of rest in the refrigerator between each turn, dough covered.  After the third turn, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Turning the dough: Roll the dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch (1.2cm) thick, as carefully and evenly as possible.  Divide the rectangle crosswise into thirds by sight alone or mark the dough lightly with the edge of your hand.  Fold one-third of the dough over the middle section, then fold the remaining one-third over both of them, brushing away the excess flour from the inside as you fold.  The dough now has one single turn. 

First fold of first turn of dough.  Dough was 12 inches long, so broke the folds into 4 inch sections.

The first turn completed.

I then covered the dough and plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 1 hr.  I did a second turn, then covered the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for another hour.  Completed the last turn, then covered the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight (completed last turn at 4pm, will take the dough out of the refrigerator around 7am and continue on with the cinnamon bun recipe to make cinnamon buns).

My experience: Surprisingly, forming the dough and butter block was very straightforward and dare I say quite easy?!  I'm pretty sure this means i've done something terribly wrong.  We shall see, won't we?  All in all, I'd say a relatively easy recipe, just a bit time consuming based on the turns needed and time required in between each turn.  Can't wait to make the cinnamon buns!

The croissant recipe...

I kept asking myself, if baking really is a science, why is the science among the 'same' recipes so different?  I narrowed down my recipe to that of 3, they were all incredibly similar and in the end I used just one, but two of the three recipes called for butter in the dough (separate from the butter block that you mix into the dough) whilst the third did not.  Also, one recipe called for letting the dough rise before incorporating the butter block, whilst the others did not.

I can't tell you whether or not there should be butter in the dough.  I decided to trust my source and omit it and just rely on the butter block (after all, my recipe has a ratio of 84% butter to flour - maybe that's the answer?).

I researched the rising bit and discovered that a traditional Austrian croissant (you read that right, croissants originated in Austria, not France like you might have thought) does NOT let the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  You may have experienced a croissant that tasted almost 'breadier' than a traditional flaky croissant.  This most likely has to do with letting the dough rise.  To obtain a truly flaky, buttery, melt in your mouth croissant, do NOT allow your dough to rise prior to incorporating the butter block, and be careful not to overwork your pastry dough while rolling out into a rectangle prior to incorporating the butter block and while doing the 3 turns of the dough.  Overworking the dough will lead to a 'tougher' pastry.  You do not want to create a strong gluten structure in your dough.  The type of flour you use isn't going to dictate the strength of the gluten structure in your croissant dough - the amount of handling of the dough that you do will dictate it.  Clear?

Now on to the recipe...
Background: I chose Bo Friberg's recipe in his 4th edition of The Professional Pastry Chef, the fundamentals of baking and pastry.  I met Bo at the Professional Culinary Institute down in Campbell, CA where I was desperate to obtain my baking and pastry degree.  However, my career, our mortgage, and my desire to start a family all got in the way of that dream.  Nevertheless, I did take a few classes and was very impressed with him and his products.
After reading Bo's croissant recipe, it just made sense compared to the others recipes.  Of course Bo's recipe had the ratio of 84% butter to flour (good man!).  He also did not incorporate butter into his dough mixture, nor did he recommend that the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  He did, however, have some unique ingredients in his recipe that I thought were interesting: lemon juice and malt extract or honey.  I didn't have any malt extract, so I used honey.  The lemon juice was used to make the butter block.  It is said that lemon juice helps make the butter block more elastic.  The main purpose of malt extract in a yeast bread recipe is to aid in fermentation by converting starch to sugar, which provides food for the yeast. It also helps retain moisture in baked goods.  Honey is said to retain moisture in baked goods.  Thus, I can only derive that the main purpose of the honey in this recipe is to retain moisture, though perhaps it too can aid in the fermentation process (it is a sugar, afterall).

Right, the recipe...


Few drops of lemon juice
12 ounces (340 g) bread flour
10 ounces (285 g) chilled unsalted butter
1 ounce (30 g) fresh compressed yeast
1 cup (240 mL) cold whole milk
4 tsp (20 g) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (7 g) granulated malt extract or 1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
2 tsp (10 g) salt
Egg wash or whole milk


  1. Work the lemon juice and 1 ounce (30 g) of flour into the chilled butter by kneading it against the table or in a bowl with your hand.  Do not use a mixer.
  2. Shape the butter into a 5-inch square/12.5cm.  Place the butter on a piece of baking paper and set aside.  If the room is warm, place it in the refrigerator, but do not let it get too firm.  If this happens, rework and reshape the butter back to the original consistency.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the cold milk. Add the granulated sugar, malt extract or honey, and the salt.  Mix for a few seconds, using the dough hook, then start adding the remaining flour. Mix in enough flour to make a dough that is slightly firm but not rubbery.  Take care not to mix any longer than necessary (1 1/2 to 2 minutes).
  4. Place the dough on a table dusted lightly with flour; roll it out to a 7-inch/17.5cm square.
  5. Check the butter to be sure that it is smooth and at the same consistency as the dough; adjust if necessary. Place the butter square on the dough diagonally so that there are 4 triangles on the sides, fold in the sides, and seal in the butter.
  6. Give the dough 3 single turns, with 30 minutes of rest in the refrigerator between each turn, dough covered.  After the third turn, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring 18 X 31 1/2 inches and 1/8inch (3 mm) thick.  Let the dough relax for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise to make 2 strips, 9 inches wide.
  8. On the bottom edge of the strip closest to you, start at the left corner, measure 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm), and make a mark in the dough.  Continue making marks every 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) from that point.  Do the same on the top edge of the top strip.
  9. Place a ruler from the lower left corner up to the first mark on the top strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) and cut the dough, using a knife or pastry wheel, following the ruler through the top strip.  Then cut from the first mark on the bottom strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) to the second mark (9inches/22.5cm form the left edge) on the top strip.  Repeat, cutting evry 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) for the length of the dough.
  10. Beginning at the opposite end, follow the same pattern and cut from right to left.  Form 2 or 3 croissants from the scrap dough.
  11. Make a 1/2 inch (1.2cm) cut in the center of the short side on each croissant.  Pull the cuts apart a little, then form the croissants by rolling the triangles toward you.  Roll them up tightly, but do not stretch the dough too much.
  12. Form each croissant into a crescent shape as you place it on a sheet pan lined with baking paper or silpat.  The tip of the croissant should be inside the center curve and tucked underneath so that it does not unroll.  Do not put more than 16 to 18 on a full-sized pan, to ensure that they bake evenly.  If too crowded, they will get overdone on the ends before they are fully baked in the middle.
  13. Let the croissants rise until slightly less than doubled in volume in a  proof box at 78-82F (25 to 27C) with 80% humidity.  If the proof box gets too hot, the butter will start to leak out.  This can also happen while the croissants are baking if they have not proofed enough.
  14. Brush the croissants with egg wash (or milk, which is typical in France).
  15. Bake at 425F (219C) until golden and baked through, about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ultimate butter loving baked good...The CROISSANT!

As the butter obsessed baker, I've spent years contemplating baking the beloved butter baked good that is feared in many kitchens: THE CROISSANT!  I knew I'd want to embark on this feat sooner vs. later, and, alas, here I am. 

Undertaking this task was not a quick decision.  I've spent the last week or so researching croissant recipes, and learned a ton about croissant dough, specifically:
  • the importance of which flours to use - there isn't one; 
  • the quantity of butter to use as it relates to the amount of flour specified - the higher the butter to flour ratio the better (in my head, anyway); 
  • eggs - there shouldn't be any in the recipe; 
  • croissants are all about temperature (cold) and 'resting' the dough (leaving it alone in a cold environment) 
Since this baked good really and truly is 'all about the butter' (the quantity of butter required in a recipe can be anywhere from 42% to 84% of the recipe as a ratio to flour), i've chosen the recipe that calls for 84% of butter as a ratio to the flour (huge surprise, I know).  I sincerely doubt I'll be disappointed in the final product provided I heed all of the instructions properly!

The croissant baking journey commences tomorrow, wish me luck!

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's all about air...and Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Frosting

I decided that during my 'offseason' of cycling, I would put my 'free' time to good use and do things that I enjoy the most, one of them being baking.  I was asked by my girlfriends if I would mind showing them how to bake.  After some thought, I decided to hold a baking demonstration in my kitchen.  I inquired as to which recipes would like to be demonstrated, and to my chagrin, one was Red Velvet Cupcakes - my absolute favorite cupcake recipe that I shamelessly stole from Magnolia Bakery :).

Seven friends showed up yesterday morning to make Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcakes with a Creamy Vanilla Frosting.  What a recipe to demonstrate!  Not only can you touch upon most of the science in baking when making this recipe, but can these cupcakes be any prettier?  I ask you.

So that you can follow along on the 'science' of this recipe, here's the recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Icing

Epicurious  | February 2008
by Allysa Torey
More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia's Home Kitchen


  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 recipe Creamy Vanilla Frosting


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting .
Epicurious Test-Kitchen Tip: This recipe also makes 2 dozen cupcakes. Use 2 muffin pans, each with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups, and line each cup with a paper liner. (There's no need to grease the cups.) Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Epicurious  | February 2008
by Allysa Torey
More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia's Home Kitchen

yield: Makes enough for one 3-layer 9-inch cake
This recipe originally accompanied Red Velvet Cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting .


  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). Use immediately.

The question that entered everyone's mind yesterday while making these cupcakes was, 'why the heck do you put cyder vinegar in cupcakes'?  Ahhh yes, the science.

What is the purpose of vinegar in Red Velvet Cupcakes, you ask?  Great question.  The short answer is that vinegar -- an acid -- reacts with the baking soda -- an alkaline -- to release carbon dioxide gas in the form of bubbles that expand and cause the batter to rise in the pan while baking (the comprehensive answer can be found here -  Worth noting is that buttermilk (an acid) is also used in the recipe, but so is cocoa (an alkaline) - you see where i'm going with this?

But what is this REALLY about?  The answer is air.  Air is your friend when baking items that you want to rise (sounds obvious, doesn't it?).  But do you know HOW to incorporate air into your batters? Sure, mixing alkaline chemical leaveners with acids helps a bunch, but there are many batters out there that are too thick to be leavened solely by chemical leaveners (baking soda, baking powder).  So how else can you incorporate air?

The answer, of course, has to do with my favorite ingredient: BUTTER (well, partially, anyway, but I get excited when I'm able to talk about butter :))What's not obvious to a lot of peeps, and isn't discussed enough if you ask me, is that the 'creaming' of butter and sugar is the start of the leavening process. Poorly creamed butter can result in cakes and cookies that are disappointingly dense and coarse. Thick batters get their rising power from the air that's incorporated into butter as the butter is combined with sugar.  Creaming butter and sugar together incorporates air, both through the action of the beaters, and because jagged sugar crystals “grab” air as they come to the surface.  The temperature of the butter that is about to be creamed is also very important.  Butter that is too cold won't blend with sugar, and butter that is too warm won't hold air. So what is the correct temperature for butter when it is to be creamed?  65-68F (this is commonly referred to as 'room' temperature (which is only accurate if your room temp is indeed between 65-68F) or softened butter).  If you don't have time to soften your butter, simply beat it for a longer period of time to get it to it's desired temperature and state (do NOT microwave butter to warm it as some recipes suggest). 

Eggs are also incredibly interesting to me.  In the cupcake recipe, they too are to be at 'room temperature' and are added to the creamed butter and sugar mixture one at a time until well combined. Interestingly, but not surprising, is that creaming eggs and butter produces an emulsion that can hold more air than either alone.  However, if eggs are too cold, they won't incorporate into the butter and sugar easily (you'll have to beat them for a longer period of time, but this could lead to overbeating the butter and sugar mixture - gasp!). 

Something else I do automatically when a recipe asks me to combine my dry ingredients is to whisk them together.  My friends too asked me why I did this while making the cupcakes.  Need I tell you why I do this?  To incorporate air, of course.  Aerated flour mixtures will get whatever you’re baking off to a much lighter start.

And why should my butter and eggs be at room temperature (65-68F) for baking, but my liquids remain cold?  Cool liquids have more oxygen than warm ones, of course!

So then, it really is all about air (and temperature of refrigerated goods), isn't it?  Indeed it is.

Me with the final product.  LOVE the color!  So very pretty indeed (the cupcake, that is).