Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Traditional Trimming of the Tree

While my older brother Randy is off in Australia in the middle of a Chinese eating and drinking fest and waiting his turn at karaoke and majiang, we have been trimming the tree.

Here's how we do it. First, I make pastries. Second, Kim puts out the crackers from heaven, cheese and pâte and we eat said aforementioned and drink my spectacular and potent eggnog. Here are the pictures.

Crackers of the Gods with some pâte and cheese.

While I'm making the pastries, see previous posts for my recipe, and making the eggnogs (I'll try and post the recipe tomorrow), Kim is putting on the lights. She insists. Note the Dalmatian lights.

And then we put on the ornaments, trying not to drink too much eggnog and fall down.

We got these first two in Vienna or somewhere in Austria. Probably at a Kristkindlmarkt (Advent Market) in Austria.

I think I have a mug from every Glühwein stall in Austria. Rum and Hot Chocolate stalls too.

Now we are going to continue our traditional James Bond Marathon with Tomorrow Never Dies. Tomorrow we'll be opening presents and also watching Fanny och Alexander. I can hardly wait. Now, time to go to the upstairs parlor and revel.

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Chaussons Aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers) - Step 3

The final step in our wonderful Cherry and Apricot Turnovers. I made some with apple-butter but I do not think those will turn out well. To be on time for our Christmas Eve tree trimming tradition, I rushed and left out a couple of steps. Much better if you do not do that.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Then continue.

First thing to do is roll out the puff paste. Now I use my bench scraper, my dough knife to cut the size squares that I needed. It was easier that way. That means these turnovers will be a good size. Chill the squares for about 1 hour. Do not stack them but wrap them and leave them on your sheet pan. Don't let them touch. You can get away with 20 minutes if you don't have time but do chill them.

Next, brush the INTERIOR of the dough with an egg wash, that's an egg mixed with water. Do not brush the edges. Leave then naked.

Then fill the interior of the square with your mixture. If you did not add the liquor and overcooked the sugar, chip out the mixture and lay it in the center of the dough.

Then fold into a triangle and press the edges together. Use a fork to make a seal all around the edges. I cut both perfect squares as well as odd shapes. Do the best you can with the odd shaped ones. If you don't want to use the odd shaped ones, you can trim your dough before you start cutting.

Then put the square into the fridge for 30 minutes. When they have chilled, take out, dip them into sugar and put on a baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash and bake 20 minutes at 400F, turn turn down to 350F and bake for 25 more minutes.

Or if you want you can brush with the wash and sprinkle the sugar over the turnovers. Either way. Do not over fill or they will explode and don't forget to press hard when sealing them. However, even if they explode, they'll still taste great.

If you do it right, they'll look like this...

ooh, aaah....

and if you rush, like I did tonight, they'll look like this....

Still a big yummer.

And let me tell you, I've had both and I love them, So no worries if they explode, you'll have to eat those and serve the better looking ones to your guests.

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Chaussons Aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers) - Step 2

Who are we kidding? There isn't an apple in site. These are definitely cherry and apricot turnovers. I started out with the idea of using apple butter as the filling since Kim gets jars and jars of the stuff from her mom. She grew up on it. I will attempt to use it but in the meantime, let's talk filling.

To make the filling first we need the ingredients.

Ingredients Cherry

1 cup dried cherries whole
2 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t salt (I like to mix my salt and sugar together.)
Cognac (I started out with my cherries already soaked in Cognac.)
Green Pepper to taste

Ingredients Apricot

1 cup dried apricot diced
2 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t salt
Grand Marnier (I started out with my cherries already soaked in Grand Marnier.)
Green Pepper to taste

I saute the fruit in the butter until tender in the liquor.

Basically, when it starts turning color your good to go. About 5-10 minutes.

I do this on high flame and stir. Next I add the sugar and salt and cook it for about 3 more minutes.

I then add some green pepper.

This is optional but do it, you'll love it. This mixture then has to cool before you use it. Enjoy. That's it. Unless you want to use the apple butter you are done. If you want to use the apple butter get the jar out and let it warm up.

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Chaussons Aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers) - Step 1

Actually, I'll be making Chaussons aux Cerises, that is, the same thing with cherries and also with apricot and I'm going to try it with Kim's favorite apple butter.

Step 1 is making the puff paste. Not that hard but it will take some patience. Here is how I was taught. I had thought I'd put this recipe up here already but I can't find it so here it is.

Ingredients -
3 cups AP or Bread Flour
1 cup pastry flour
1 t salt
2 t lemon juice, I use fresh
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter

1 pound of butter (take this out to warm up. It needs to be chill but workable.) The best thing to do is use your rolling pin to knead and pound the butter into a nice flat cake shape. Working it like this will warm it up. I like to warm it by putting it in the microwave for 30 second and then leaving it out for 20 mins.

I first blend the flours and salt. Then I add 1 cup of water to the mixture and the lemon juice. I use a 20 qt mixer with a paddle. Then I add the butter a little bit at a time and continuing adding the rest of the water until I get a smoothish dough.

Knead for 8 minutes. I normally do this on medium. My mixer has 1, 2 or 3. Three is an airplane taking off. It's very fast and I mostly use it for brioche. If you are kneading this by hand, make a well, pour in the 1 cup of water and the lemon juice stir and then knead violently. Pound it for 8 minutes. As soon as you have a smooth elastic dough, wrap in plastic and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest. If you have the time, let this rest 2 hours.

The next step is to roll out the dough as thin as you possibly can. I like to put a little bit of flour on my steel tables and roll it out. Remember, always roll from the middle and only in one direction. When you are done with the first half, flip it over and roll out the other half. You can roll the dough in the width direction if you need to. By one direction I mean, from the middle out and always away from your body.

Once you have it rolled out, put the butter cake in the middle and then fold all the corners up and fold again until you get a nice square and the butter is completely covered. Rolls this out and then do a book fold. That is, fold so that both ends overlap in the center. Rap and put in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to rest. By the way, if your kitchen is hot, good luck. It's easier to do this on steel or marble. I use a marble rolling pin. You can put your marble in the fridge between folds if your kitchen is hot.

Sorry, I didn't take any picture because I wasn't going to go into detail about making puff paste. I was just going to say, make or buy puff paste and leave it at that but I had a change of heart and decided to give you the full magilla. You can still go out and buy the puff paste. Making päte feuillettée is a challenge.

OK. Secrets time. One of the most important things is, at each stage of the 4 or 5 folds you will be doing is to have it square at the end. Let me show you. When you take your paste out of the fridge is should look thusly...

As you can see, I've already done the covering of the butter and the first fold. Then I roll out.

Now, secret two is, roll out the dough as thin as you can without getting any bubbles or tears. However, if you do tear or get popped bubbles do not worry. Just repair what you can and fold. Depending on how bad it looks, you may want to throw a little and I mean a little flour on the popped dough or if butter squishes out.

I always lightly dust my table top and again I mean lightly. Notice in this picture I got it pretty thin. If I had the time or was making this for my guests, I would have gotten it even thinner. But this is thin enough. It's about 1/8 inch.

Now we fold.

If you do a book fold, that is in 3, with both ends overlapping in the center, then you need to do 5 folds. I normally do a book fold and turn the book sideways and fold up the ends to meet in the center. If you do this, all you need is 3 or 4 folds.

And remember, make sure you end up with a square look to your folded dough.

Then wrap in plastic, I reuse the plastic, and put into the fridge for 20 mins. Repeat.

When you are done, fold and then let rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours, overnight is better. OK. Maybe you can cheat with only 2 or 1, if you want to be a hot dog. Enjoy your puff paste.

What to do with it next. Making cream puffs is easier. Maybe you should go read that post. You can make those in time for Christmas or even Christmas Eve.

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