Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puff Pastry Failure

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. Vol-au-vents are like little pastry nests that you can fill with savoury or sweet fillings. They are very chic looking and would impress any guest who enjoyed them. I went into the challenge hopeful that I would be able to make puff pastry without butter. That would mean that I could make all sorts of hors d'oeuvres and desserts without having to use commercial puff pastry which most often has butter in it. I was a little hesitant to start the challenge, as puff pastry is incredibly complicated and time consuming, but I wanted to get it over with and enjoy the results.
I stared the pastry right after breakfast one weekend morning. The recipe requires you to make a dough and use it to encase a square made of cold butter (or in my case margarine) to create layers of flaky pastry goodness. The dough turned out just as it said it would online. I pounded one pound of margarine with a rolling pin to create an eight in square and wrapped it with the dough mixture and placed it in the fridge to harden. The way to create the layers of butter in the pastry is to laminate it. Laminating the pastry requires you to roll the pastry to a length of 24 inches, fold it in thirds, let it rest in the fridge at least half an hour and start rolling again....six times! Needless to say, it took me all day.
My problems arose early in the day. The margarine kept squishing out of the pastry during the laminating process. I tried to pinch it back in and coat it with flour as the recipe stated, but it never worked properly. After all I made all of the required turns, I rolled out the sheets of pastry and cut out the rounds needed to make the vol-au-vents. After letting them rest in the fridge for what seemed like the millionth time that day, I egg washed them an put them in the oven. I knew something was wrong shortly after they went in the oven. They became all frothy and greasy. I could see puddles of margarine under the rounds. They looked gross. They also didn't rise at all. From photos that I had seen online, they grow to like five times bigger than they started out. Once the baking was done, I ended up with heavy little hockey pucks that were super greasy. I later found out that this was caused by not letting them rest enough. I guess I was too impatient.
I planned on filling the vol-au-vents with a chocolate pastry cream topped with salty and sweet pecans. I did end up with one vol-au-vent that looked semi-presentable so I filled it with chocolate soy pudding and topped it with nuts. I was so over the pastry that I didn't want to eat it, so I don't know what it tasted like.
I usually post the recipe for the Daring Bakers Challenge, but this recipe was so long and complicated that I can't see any other dairy free bakers attempting it. I'm not confident that it can be done using dairy free margarine, but if you have made them work using margarine, please let me know!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pulled pork and cool kitchen gadgets.

This weekend we had a party up at Paul's cottage with his friends. We knew the weather was going to be kind of crappy, so we didn't want to stand outside in the pouring rain cooking our supper. We wanted something that was no fuss so it allowed us all the time we wanted to just relax. Pulled pork fit the bill. Season some pork, dump some chicken broth on it, turn on the slow cooker and you're done! Pretty simple!
When Paul was in school at crazy hours and I was at work, slow cooker meals really saved us. There often wasn't enough time between getting home from work and Paul dashing out the door to cook a nice meal. I soon discovered the joy of prepping food the night before and turning it on in the morning and coming home to a perfectly cooked meal.
Pulled pork is so simple. The recipe I use is very loosely based on a recipe I saw on All I do is season a pork butt/shoulder roast (aka picnic roast) with spice rub, I used a Southern rub from my ribs night, put it in the slow cooker, pour about two cups of chicken brother around it and set the timer for 7 hours. I cook it on low so that it stays moist. A 3-4 pound roast is good for 7 hours, reduce the time for smaller roast and increase for larger ones.
After the pork has cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Dump out all of the cooking juices and return the meat back to the pot. Smother the meat with your favourite barbeque sauce and heat for another 30 minutes. This weekend we used barbeque sauce from Camp 31. We used their award winning barbeque sauce that we bought during Rib Fest.
Once the pork is heated through, pile it on a bun and enjoy! We don't top the sandwiches with anything, the saucy goodness is yummy enough on it's own!
Today is my birthday, and I received some wonderful kitchen/blog related presents! Paul got me onion goggles! I have longed for onion goggles for a long time! When I have a lot of onions to slice, I run for my ski goggles to prevent crying. Now I don't have to! He also got me a proper tripod for our new dSLR camera. No more dropping my camera into food! My parents also got me a new cutting board. Great birthday all around!
*Photo taken by Paul!