apricot almond brown butter Hamantaschen

IMAG1438[1].jpg

I know, the name is a mouthful, and so if was a mouthful that I stuffed into my mouth as soon as these came out of the oven, possibly causing an ulcer or two.

Phew, I’ve been procrastinating again, haven’t I? How is it that the last time was just beginning of the semester and here I am, freaking out about seeing my first ever patient next week? Let’s hope the next time I post isn’t when I graduate *shifty eyes*.

I’ve made quite a few things – cupcakes, hot cross buns, etc. in the meantime, but just didn’t bother chronicling them, I suppose. I’ve still got the photos so could still post them one of these days, but I thought that I should go with today’s fresh bake instead.

IMAG1439[1].jpg

These smelled downright illegal from the beginning when the butter starts to brown to the final baking. Traditionally, hazelnuts are more often paired with apricot but almonds are still pretty damn delicious (how can it not be? the filling is basically frangipane). The enveloping cookie is very crisp, met with the soft, fragrant filling with a sweet fruity surprise in the centre – perfect way to start the Easter break.

 

Apricot almond brown butter Hamantaschen (makes ~41)

For the brown butter dough:
114g unsalted butter
120g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
290g flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

For the almond brown butter filling:
85g toasted slivered almonds/almond meal
1 tsp flour
pinch of salt
40g icing sugar
60g of the browned butter from above
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla

~80g apricot jam

First brown some butter. Place the unsalted butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter starts to melt, then bubble violently, then turn brown with a butterscotch aroma. At this point take it off the heat immediately and set aside to cool completely. Measure out 60g of the browned butter and place in a different container to chill until solid, this will be used in the filling.

Once the browned butter in the pot has cooled, whisk in the sugar, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until no more flour is visible. Turn out onto some clingfilm, pat the dough flat and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together until the almonds turn into powder. Add in the solid browned butter and pulse until it disappears, at which point add in the remaining ingredients and process until a thick paste is formed. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Working with about a quarter of the dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3mm uniform thickness. Take a circle cutter that is roughly 7-8cm in diameter, cut out the dough and place them on a lined baking sheet, spaced slightly apart. Scoop about 1/2 tsp each of the almond filling and apricot jam into the centre of each circle. Lift up the sides and pinch into a triangular shape, making sure to seal the edges. Continue to roll out dough and remaining scraps until there is no more dough or filling. Chill for at least 20 minutes before baking in a 180C oven for about 15 minutes or golden. Let cool in the pan for a minute then transfer to a wire rack to crispen up.

Advertisements

cherry & pistachio frangipane tart

IMAG1322[1]
Hypothetically, if someone asked me what my favourite ingredient to bake with was – and it’s hypothetical because it’s one of those things only I would ask myself pretending to be a famous pastry chef being interviewed – the answer would be ground almonds without hesitation. It’s super versatile, you can use it to replace flour in gluten-free recipes, make macarons, pâte sucrée and of course frangipane to go inside said pâte.

Once again I borrowed a very promising recipe from hint of vanilla and the results surpassed my almond-filled fantasies. The tart finished baking just as my dad was coming home, and he said he could smell it before even coming in the door. I won’t be posting the recipe since I followed it verbatim, except I made one 22cm tart instead of 4 minis, and used my own roasted almond tart dough that was previously made.

Please make this. I’m currently fighting the urge to make another one.

IMAG1325[1]

almond crescent rolls

 

IMAG1074[1]

You have no idea how difficult it was to resist the impulse to call these Horny Rolls. In homage to their common name, Cow’s Horn Rolls, obviously. Shaped like a croissant, but far easier and just as versatile in regards to the variety of fillings.

IMAG1077[1]

Now that we’re in Taiwan, the notion of making homemade bread is a little redundant, to say the least. There are literally half a dozen bakeries in a two-block radius, selling anything from European crusty bread to the savoury Taiwanese kind, all for a fraction of the price of far inferior bread you get in Australia.

Eating out of boredom is the telltale symptom of Holiday Syndrome, which has been found to immediately follow stress eating one tends to fall victim to during exam season. To stop myself from attacking the chocolate cupboard, I decided to make something slightly healthier involving almonds, and so these were born. These aren’t the prettiest, nor are they uniform in size, but what they lack in attractiveness they make up in good balance of flavour. Not too sweet and plenty nutty, soft spongy spiraling dough enveloping a swirl of crunchy filling, heck if I’m not pleased with myself.

 

Almond crescent rolls (makes 8)

For the dough:
150g milk
5 + 25g sugar
1/2 tsp instant yeast
30g plain flour
270g bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
30g butter

For the almond filling:
25g butter25g sugar
25g beaten egg
35g almond meal
8g flour
lil’ splash of rum (optional)
handful of chopped nuts

Heat up the milk to 40.5-43°C (105-110°F), then whisk in the 5g sugar, yeast and plain flour. Leave the mixture to foam for about 15 minutes, then add it to the mixer bowl followed by the rest of the ingredients except the softened butter.

Mix the contents of the bowl until a smooth ball forms, takes about 5 minutes with a mixer. Bit by bit, add the room temperature butter while still mixing, and mix for a further 5 minutes. To see if it’s properly kneaded, feel that the dough doesn’t stick to the hands and passes the windowpane test.

Lightly oil a container (I just use the already dirty mixer bowl) and place the dough inside, seam down. Cover and proof for an hour or longer if it’s cold.

The almond filling can be made in the meantime: cream the butter and sugar together, add the beaten egg (save the rest of the egg for the egg wash), then the rest of the ingredients. Set aside at room temperature.

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out onto a floured surface and squeeze the air out. Form it into a ball, flatten it and divide it into 8 relatively equal portions like slices of pizza. Take each slice and roll over it with a rolling pin so that it looks like a really tall triangle. Smear with 1/8 of the filling, leaving a 1cm border all around. Sprinkle on the chopped nuts. Roll from the base to the tip, finishing with the tip tucked under. Bend the ends down, just like a croissant.

Space the rolls apart evenly on a lined baking sheet, cover and proof again for about 45 minutes until doubled. 10 minutes before they’re ready, preheat the oven to 175°C/347°F. Egg wash the tops of the rolls and bake them for approx. 20 minutes until they’re golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

pâte sucrée (& lining tart rings)

IMAG0823
Ever since I picked up a set of 3 tart rings (15, 17.5 and 20cm) at a ridiculous bargain of $2, I’ve been obsessed with making neat and professional looking tarts. They’re just as easy to use as other pie/tart tins, but it took a little figuring out how to minimise shrinkage after baking.

My first tart epiphany, was Pierre Hermé’s tarte au citron. I borrowed his book, Desserts by Pierre Hermé a few years ago and was captured by the elegant dessert. The lemon cream filling is undoubtedly divine, but surprisingly the sweet shortcrust pastry was a highlight itself, the almond flavour standing out and complementing the lemon perfectly. It was eye-opening; you don’t eat a tart and expect the crust to be anything but bland and almost negligible.

His pâte sucrée is one I swear by and it’s perfect with any sweet filling, even raw by itself. I think substituting the all-purpose flour for cake & pastry flour (low protein) ensures that the dough isn’t overworked, and keeps it short and crispy. Also, as always, I’ve adjusted the amount of sugar to my taste but feel free to increase the amount especially for a less sweet filling.


Pâte sucrée
(sweet shortcrust pastry, makes one 9″/23cm tart shell)
(adapted from Pierre Hermé)

125g cake & pastry flour (< 10% protein)
38g icing sugar
15g almond meal
pinch of salt
75g cold butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp cold water

First, sift the flour, sugar, almond and salt together and mix well.

IMAG0810
Drop in small (~1cm) cubes of cold butter. Working quickly to avoid melting the butter with body heat, use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Grab chunks of butter and flour with both hands’ fingertips, run the mixture between the thumb and index finger, as if picking up sand and letting it fall back into the bowl. I love rubbing the butter in by hand, but if you so choose feel free to use a pastry cutter or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

FotorCreated
It will start out with visible chunks of butter, then turning into finer and finer crumbs. By which point you can switch do a handwashing motion to catch any unmixed butter. It’s done when there are no big lumps of butter, all the flour has been coated with the butter and when you press some of the mixture together it sticks in a ball.

IMAG0814

Add the vanilla and the cold water a little at a time. See if you can press the dough together to stick to itself with a spatula. If it falls apart, add a little more water. Avoid kneading the dough or manipulating it too much, instead press it together into one lump, turn out onto plastic wrap. Roll it flat and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

IMAG0815
Dust the work surface with some flour, put the dough down, and dust with more flour.

IMAG0816
If the dough is quite cold and stiff, give it a fair beating with a rolling pin. Roll it out, turning the dough by 90 degrees to make sure it doesn’t stick. Continue until it’s larger than the tart ring by a 2-3cm margin (for the sides). It’ll be easier to transfer now onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, by carefully rolling it up onto the rolling pin first.

IMAG0817
Cut out the shape of the inner circumference of the tart ring.

IMAG0818
Now for the sides! Roll out long strips using the leftover dough the same thickness as the base of the tart, about 4mm. Cut to the same width as the height of the ring. (Pizza cutter’s great for this.)

Capture
Carefully roll up the strips on the rolling pin and slowly untwist the pin around the sides of the ring. Alternatively, I’ve seen people cut all the way to the plastic wrap underneath the strip and then lifting it up that way. Either will work, so long as you gently lay the pastry against the inside edge of the ring. Repeat cutting strips and placing them against the sides until the inside edge is covered with pastry.

Capture
Neat trick alert: wrap up some of the leftover dough to seal the seam between the sides and base. It’s neater and you don’t have to worry about getting dough under your nails or them piercing the pastry. Also press lightly on the sides to stick the pastry to the ring. If there are any gaps between the separate strips, just patch together with leftover dough, making sure to extend left and right (not just filling the gap) about 0.5cm.

IMAG0821

Dock the dough, i.e. prick away your frustration. Don’t worry, the filling isn’t likely to leak through the holes as they’ll close up during baking. It just helps with the base not puffing up since we’re not using pie weights here. At this stage, you could freeze until use or refrigerate at least 20 mins to relax the pastry to make sure it doesn’t contract excessively on baking.

IMAG0822

While it’s chilling, preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Blind bake the tart shell for ~15 mins or until lightly coloured and the bottom isn’t soggy. Keep the ring on while it cools as the sides can be flexible still (it’ll firm up once cool), and also while you bake it a second time with the filling so the sides don’t collapse. Only take it off once the entire tart is cool and the filling is set.

compost cookies

Let it be known that I love our lab teacher/demonstrator. He makes a 6hr lab session not only bearable but actually enjoyable. In celebration of Mental Health Week, today he let us listen to the radio while we worked on our P K Thomas wax up (which none of us remembers how to do), tiny eyefucking things that are somehow therapeutic at the same time.

As I alluded to in the last post, we had an anatomy and histology prac exam on Tuesday. It was… better than expected in the sense that only 2 minutes were spent on each station so that nothing too in-depth was tested. Surprisingly I felt better about anatomy walking out than I did histology, as I could never tell between the 9237247 nerves, veins, arteries, muscles, bones, ducts in the head and neck region when we had gross labs. The specimen labeling was mostly the usual suspects, and the questions (to my huge relief) were short and straightforward. I screwed up the big question in histology though, as we were meant to do a sketch of some salivary glands, and I made it harder on myself by magnifying the original picture, which took up so much time I couldn’t label it properly. Worse was when I glanced sideways, as you do, everyone had filled their page with tight writing vs my giant ass drawing with spare labels. Sigh.

IMAG0771[1]

As much as I appreciate an intricately put together dessert, I will always have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for a good, simple cookie. Here are some reasons why:

  • They’re 99.9% foolproof. They’re like the Nokia of baked goods. The fat curdled when you added the eggs? No probs, the flour will bring it back. You overmixed the dough? Cool, just chill it a while. You forgot to put in the flour (cough)? Gooey cookies FTW. See, baking sins that would render many products unsatisfactory are all forgiven and forgotten by the mighty cookie.
  • Mixer to mouth in <30mins
  • They’re good on their own and even better incorporated into another dessert. Ice cream sandwiches, pie crusts, parfaits, cookies and cream ice cream and so on and so on.
  • There are just about an infinite number of combinations of mix-ins you can throw into a cookie dough, although the favourites revolve around chocolate. The classic chocolate chip, chocolate and mint, chocolate and orange, chocolate and hazelnut, s’mores, chocolate and salted caramel, chocolate and chilli, white chocolate and macadamia…
  • They are the easiest bakes. Someone who’s never baked can make as good a cookie with a spoon and bowl as a pastry chef with a stand mixer.
  • From the same batch of dough, you can make chewy cookies, crunchy cookies, half-baked cookies and cookies crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Compost cookies wholeheartedly embrace the above principles why cookies will forever reign. Easy and quick, tick. Substitute the mix-ins for literally whatever is in the pantry, tick. Chewy in the centre and crunchy on the outside, sign me the f*ck up.

IMAG0772[1]

They were inspired, of course, by the esteemed Momofuku Milk Bar’s recipe. To my delight, it encourages creative freedom: “add your own favourite snacks”, and so I did. On this occasion I went for my third favourite dried fruit (after mangoes and cranberries), dates for chewiness; my favourite nut – almond for crunchiness; and chocolate, my favourite antidepressant.

Why are there no decent photos of the finished cookies you ask? Firstly, because half of them were consumed by one single mouth (not naming names) as soon as they were baked. Secondly, because my camera which isn’t even a camera, it’s my shitty phone that decided its glamour shots are not to be wasted on me and somehow went batshit grainy. By the time I found a substitute, all that was left was my test cookie and some crumbs. The definition of sad.

IMAG0784[1]

Compost cookies (makes 17 8cm cookies)

100g unsalted butter, room temp.
50g brown sugar*
30g granulated sugar*
1 medium egg or 50g whole eggs
100g flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1T ground coffee/tea (I used earl grey, obviously)
40g rolled oats
35g toasted almonds, roughly chopped**
55g dried dates, chopped**
40g dark chocolate, chopped**

*I halved the amount of sugar to ease my own guilt and to compensate for the added sweetness from the dates. Also, I’m a lazy ass and don’t bother buying brown sugar so I added 1 tbsp molasses to 80g white sugar.

**Or any combination of mix-ins you prefer, of the same weight.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Line baking trays.

Beat the softened butter and sugar(s) together until fluffy and lighter in colour. Add the egg and emulsify (batter glossy and thick) but don’t worry if it curdles. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda and salt and stir on slow speed just until mixed in. Add the oats and mix-ins and stir briefly just so everything’s distributed and combined.

Scoop out ~1 tbsp of dough on the prepared trays, spacing them far apart (~10cm). There is no need to chill or flatten the dough, but of course that’s just my preference. Depending on the size, they take about 12-20 minutes to bake, or until your preferred doneness. Cool completely before serving (eating is an entirely different matter – I for one cannot suppress my lust for them as soon as they’re done).