My Favorite Pastry Techniques

We have a  5 week old baby which is heavenly at times — the smell of a newborn, their fat cheeks, the way they randomly punch the air when they’re mad — and torture at other times.  I’m in one of the difficult times right now when I need a nap but she’ll only lay down for a half hour at a time and at this point I can’t fall asleep again because my brain has been teased too many times to really relax.  Oops thar she blows again….

Ok, I’m back.  Since I’m not going to work, I can’t exercise, I can’t go shopping and I really can’t even leave the two bedrooms that I am camped out in because my son and my husband are sick — well, then I’m naturally thinking about baking. I was trying to organize (in my head) my most successful methods or techniques for making those difficult pastries that I’ve been working on lately and decided that was the purpose of the blog.  So, here it is. I will avoid calling them recipes as that sounds too much like what my mother would exchange with her friends.  This is where DH would give me a lecture for being too pretentious.  Yes, I am too pretentious to write about pineapple upside down cake in my blog.

  1.  Croissants: I have tried about 3-4 different methods for making croissants and Colette Christian’s was by far the most reliable and best tasting.  You can find her class on Craftsy.com:  Classic Croissants at Home.  By the way, Craftsy’s spring class sale will be ending soon. Hundreds of their top classes are on sale at 50% off for a limited time. Hurry, the offer ends tonight! Check it out here: Craftsy sale.  Adjustments I made: I bumped up the amount of butter in the beurrage (butter block) to 24 oz or 71%.  I also mix 3 Tbsp flour into my beurrage to help stabilize it.  BTW, it is very important to use King Arthur’s unbleached all-purpose flour to help strengthen your dough.  I use KAF for pastry in which the dough might be difficult to handle eg. strudel
  2. Macarons: After more than 50 batches I finally got the most consistent results using the Italian method.  Currently I am using Edd Kimber’s recipe from his book, “Patisserie Made Simple.”  Adjustments: Weight for eggs is 120g; I use 4 Tbsp water to make the meringue; I bake mine at 315F for 17 minutes.  Other Notes: It is no longer necessary to go through the tedious task of regrinding your store bought almond flour to make sure it is super fine. King Arthur’s super fine almond flour does not need extra processing and can be found at Wal-mart or Winn Dixie.  Thankfully, even Costco has now gotten on the almond flour bandwagon and sells Diamond brand finely ground almond flour for about a third of the price of King Arthur’s. 
  3. Strudel dough: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from her book, “The Pie and Pastry Bible.” Adjustments: None. It is perfect.
  4. Pate ChouxPate Choux recipe
  5. Pie Crust: Bake from Scratch magazine’s Favorite Pie Crust recipeThings to know: A successful pie crust depends heavily on how you handle the dough.  Temperature is everything with pastry and especially with a flaky pastry.  I tried recipe after recipe until I realized it wasn’t the recipe that was the problem but it was how  I handled the dough that was leading to failure.  I use the food processor to blend the flour and butter and then quickly bring the dough together with my hands.  My hands are on it just long enough to make it into a cohesive mass and then I wrap it with saran wrap and flatten it into a disk.  After chilling, I whack it a few times with my rolling pin and then quickly roll it out. I roll then pick it up– making sure there’s enough flour to keep it from sticking to the counter– turn it a quarter turn, then roll again, then repeat until it is the size I want and 1/8″ thick.  I recently purchased this J. K. Adams rolling pin that helps me get perfectly even 1/8″ thick crusts every time.  I also purchased the 1/4″ rolling pin for my cut-out sugar and gingerbread cookies. 
  6. Pate Sucree: I love Edd Kimber’s recipe from “Patisserie Made Simple.” No Adjustments.
  7. Baklava: My own
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