Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ciao, I'm a Daring Baker!!

Welcome to Marcellina in Cucina!

Four months ago I joined the Daring Bakers and have since been inspired to create my own food blog. I live in tropical North Queensland, Australia and have been cooking, baking and creating all my life. Some good and some not so good! I come from a long line of Italian cooks and bakers. Growing up on a farm in the 60's and 70's, everything we ate came from the land and was cooked simply but deliciously. Many nights were spent around the kitchen table shelling peas, topping and tailing beans or preparing the rosellas for jam. Nothing was wasted and all the family pitched in. So food and cooking is just a natural part of my life.
I have a husband and two beautiful children all whom I love to spoil with their favourite dishes.

As I said I am a Daring Baker which is a group I joined to learn and enjoy more and varied baking. This is my fourth challenge and probably my favourite.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Yet again, this seemed an impossible challenge. Bad memories of a previous failed attempt at puff pastry surfaced once more. After a few problems were ironed out it was a successful and much loved challenge. Thanks so much, Steph!!!!For the entire recipe go to Steph site at http://awhiskandaspoon.wordpress.com/
I ultimately prepared this pastry 4 times this month and what a month of learning it has been!
First attempt using cheap, generic butter resulted in very little rise and the heat of our tropical springtime caused the butter to ooze out during the baking pooling in the baking tray. The resultant(is that such a word?) vol au vent was oily and doughy although I thought at first I had done a great job until I looked at the completed challenges by other DB's>
Unfilled vol au vents-on the right it has been baked at a high temperature. Very dissappointing!















Filled they looked OK - baked ricotta with basil pesto or with caramelised onions served with roasted grape tomatoes.
Filled with thick cream, strawberries and passionfruit.
2nd attempt was prepared in haste before Audax (fellow DB) pointed me in the right direction about the butter. Thanks Audax!! By this time I figured out about the heat and kept everything chilled and chilled the pastry at every turn. I also chilled the rolling pin and a board on which I rolled out and turned the dough. No more butter ooze but turned this lot all into palmiers..... and took no photos. Sent them to my husband's workplace. Mechanic obviously aren't fussy - they loved them.
3rd attempt using great quality butter and my chill method. No butter ooze and great rise.
Two rings placed on the base. A great lunch!

One ring on the base filled with carmelized apple. Decadent!

I also made walnut and cinnamon palmiers.
I did the 4th attempt because each time I baked the vol au vents I only used a piece of parchment paper on the top and not a baking sheet as suggested. So I thought I'd have a go and use a light wire cooling rack. I wouldn't do it again because I think it limited the rise and lightness in the vol au vent.
Filled with vanilla ice cream and mulberry compote.

Also decided to make some mille-feuilles filled with chocolate buttercream, chocolate ganache and raspberry jam for afternoon tea.
This was a great challenge in which I learnt so much. I love homemade puff pastry and will certainly continue to use this recipe. It was a great choice, Steph!! Many thanks and many thanks to all my fellow DB's who gave suggestions, tips and general encouragement.