Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cookbook: Pastry for Beginners

I feel confident baking many things. Cookies are something I've baked all my life. My Grandma Ashley's biscuit recipe is brilliant. Quick breads are a snap. I've made a million yeast rolls. I've loved making delicious homemade pie crust. I've even dared to make empanadas and clafoutis and kolaches.

I boldly call myself a baker.

Pastry? Do I make pastry? Well, yes, pies and little tarts. I've made cinnamon rolls and yeast rolls.

What about puff pastry? Choux pastry?

Here I deflate. No. I haven't ever tried making puff pastry or choux pastry. They looked a bit, well, daunting.

Then Pastry for Beginners arrived. I read over the recipe for puff pastry.

I think I can.

Puff Pastry Master Recipe

(Note: The recipe says that prep time is 45 minutes, with another 1 hour and 30 minutes for chilling time. Maybe I will eventually get the time down to that, but I worked on my dough for more than four hours.)

I begin by slicing a stick of butter lengthwise into thirds. 

I lay the strips of butter on a piece of parchment paper about the length of a baking sheet, making a 4-by-5 rectangle. I gently press the butter together. The butter goes into the freezer to chill while I prepare the dough.

In a large bowl, I whisk 1 1/2 cups flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt. I make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. I use my hands to slowly fold the flour into the center. Then I add 1/2 cup ice-cold water and continue to mix and knead until a smooth dough forms.

I dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour, and place the dough ball on the floured counter, working it back and forth from the center, rolling it into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle. I then place the butter layer on top of the dough rectangle so that the corners of the butter point to the edges of the dough. 

I fold the corners of the dough over the butter like an envelope. Then I cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

When I bring the dough out of the refrigerator, it is time to laminate the dough. I dust it and the clean surface with a little bit of flour. I roll out the dough, to create a 12-by-15-inch rectangle. It is, of course, difficult to roll the chilled dough. I lift one short end of the dough and fold it to the center of the rectangle. Then I fold the other short end over the first to create a letter fold. I turn the dough 90 degrees, the first turn. I roll the dough out again into a 12-by-15-inch rectangle and fold it into a letter again. I cover it and freeze it for 20 minutes. On and on I go. I remove the dough and place it on the surface so that the long edge is parallel to the counter. I roll it out again to a 12-by-15-inch rectangle. I fold it again and rotate it 90 degrees. Again I roll it out into the rectangle and complete one more fold. I place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Finally, I complete two more turns, fold it, and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Now the dough is ready to be used.

I'm going to use it to make Strawberries and Cream Danish.

I start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. I line the baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick spray.

To make the filling, I blend cream cheese and sugar in a bowl. Then I add one large egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. I mix these together, careful not to whip the mixture.

I take the dough out of the refrigerator and unfold the sheet. I cut it into a 10-by-10-inch square. I cut the sheet evenly into 9 squares and place the squares on the baking sheet. I cut an inner square on the inside of each square by lightly pressing a knife about 1/2 inch from the edge.

I place 1 heaping teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of each square.

I put half of a strawberry in the center of the cream cheese mixture, cut-side down. I place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes.

I make an egg wash by whisking 1 large egg with 1 teaspoon of water. I remove the Danish from the refrigerator. I brush the edges of each pastry with the egg wash.

I bake the pastries for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. The pastries cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

I'm pretty happy with the Strawberries and Cream Danish. I am very happy with the layers.

For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by A Web of Stories. To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at West Metro Mommy Reads.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019

What bookish discoveries did I make in 2019? I learned many important things.

1. I took over Sunday Salon in early 2019 and the weekend of Sunday Salon is now my favorite part of the week. I thank everyone who has linked up on Sunday Salon and I invite all book bloggers to link up and join the conversations. 

2. I love doing bookish events. I took part in Multicultural Children's Book Day, Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon, Classic Club Spins, 24 in 48 Readathon, Paris in July, 20 Books of Summer, #bookaday, Moby Dick Readalong, Women in Translation Month, Thankfully Reading Weekend, Nonfiction November, and A Month of Favs. I'm now on the lookout for other bookish events. Please let me know about any you run across. 

3. I might be more of a nonfiction reader than a fiction reader. I certainly enjoyed Nonfiction November. I read more nonfiction than fiction last year. And now I have a list of over 100 nonfiction titles I want to read.

4. There is no better way to find good books than to see what your blogger friends are reading. Absolutely. No. Better. Way. 

5. I could give up tv (and have). I could give up candy (and have). I could give up coffee (if I had to). I could never stop reading books.

What bookish discoveries have you made last year? 
Which discoveries are most important?

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic and then post her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Weekly Wrap-Up: In Other Words, How to be Miserable, and Around the World in 80 Trees

What do we call these lethargic post-holiday days? When I used to have my own business before I became a librarian, we called this time in January the doldrums. There wasn't much work going on and no one really seemed to be preparing for the future; instead, it seemed to be the inevitable retreat after the mad Christmas rush. 

I'm twenty books into my Goodreads Challenge for 2020. Here's a list of what I have read so far, with links to my reviews:

In Other Words: A Language Lover's Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World
How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use
Three Things About Elsie
Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise
Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers
Odd Dog Out
Pizza School: A Kids Cookbook for Aspiring Pizza Makers
Christmas Jars
Galveston Cats
A Christmas Story
The Keeper of Lost Things
Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum, #26)
The Christmas Letters
Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
Suddenly Sixty: And Other Shocks of Later Life
A Breath of French Air
Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever
The Book in the Book in the Book

My favorite books so far have been In Other Words: A Language Lover's Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World (nonfiction); How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use (nonfiction); Three Things About Elsie (fiction); and Cranford (classic).

I'm currently reading six books: Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff (inspirational); War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (classic); Penguin's Poems for Life (poetry); Around the World in 80 Trees (nature nonfiction); Check These Out: One Librarian's Guide to the Coolest, Best and Most Important Books You'll Ever Read (books-about-books); and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (fiction).

I'm enjoying the pace of reading a chapter-a-day of War and Peace. On Day 4, I got frustrated with all the character names (there were already two different characters named Anna, and the characters have so many nicknames that Prince Andrew Nikolayevich Bolkonsky was called Prince Andrey, Andryusha, Andrei, or Andre) so I started over and made myself a cheat sheet to help myself through the book.

If you haven't already done so, you might be interested in Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's 2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. There are several categories. I'm trying for the Nonfiction Know-It-All level.

Nonfiction Know-It-All : Read 12 books, one for each category
* You can choose your books as you go or create a list in advance. You may combine this challenge with others if you wish. Use your best good faith judgment as to whether a book fits the category or not.
* Where a book is identified by more than one category, it may only count for one, not both.
* You can read your chosen titles in any order, at any pace, just complete the challenge by December 31st, 2020.


1. Memoir:
2. Disaster Event:
3. Social Science: 
4. Related to an Occupation: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, & Philosophers
5. History:
6. Feminism:
7. Psychology: How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use
8. Medical Issue:
9. Nature:
10. True Crime:
11. Science:
12. Published in 2020:
I've finished 2 of 12 so far.

I'm working on my second Classics Club list. I've now read and reviewed 19 of 50 books on my list.

I'm starting to think about my upcoming trip to Paris (I'll be leaving January 27th and I'll return home on February 12th). Don't worry about me neglecting our Sunday Salon while I'm away; I'll have Internet in Paris and I'm taking my laptop with me. I'm working now to write up my posts while I am gone so that I can simply tweak them just before they appear online. 

I'm not really accustomed to winter, living here on the Texas Gulf Coast; I don't even have a coat. So I am busily trying to find socks and scarves and sweaters and winter boots. What should I bring to stay warm?

I'm also trying to put together a list of things I'd like to do while I am there. My sister will be with me, as well as her son and his wife and their two young children, ages 5 and 3. Do you have great ideas for Paris in the winter? Bookish ideas? Church ideas? Art ideas? Any other recommendations for Paris?

I'd love to hear about your week.

I'm very happy you found your way to the Sunday Salon. There are no real requirements to linking up at Sunday Salon. Sunday Salon is simply a place for us to link up and to share what we have been doing during the week. Sunday Salon is a great way to visit other blogs and join in the conversations going on there. 

Some of the things we often talk about at the Sunday Salon:

  • What was your week like?
  • Read any good books? Tell us about them.
  • What other bookish things did you do? 
  • What else is going on in your life?

Other places where you may like to link up over the weekend are below. Click on the picture to visit the site.

My linkup for Sunday Salon is below.