Elegant Deception with Joy the Baker’s Cinnamon Sugar and Dark Chocolate Croissants

On Saturday, I spent a ridiculous amount of time outside in a park in the cold, selling children’s books and running around and meeting authors with absolutely nothing knitted to present to them (I know. I’m ashamed of myself enough for everyone, don’t worry.) Then, I decided that the best thing to do (instead of sitting down with hot tea and studying and going to bed early, like a normal person would do) would be to spend my evening making chocolate-filled croissants to give to my co-workers at 7 am the next morning.

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I am full of great ideas. Especially if they involve egg wash and extreme amounts of cinnamon and sugar.

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It had already been a MONTH since I got Joy the Baker‘s new cookbook (and blogged all about how I made her a cat toy), and I still hadn’t made anything from it. I clearly need to sort out my priorities.

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There is an excellent recipe in Homemade Decadence that really embraces the title to me, the Cinnamon Sugar and Dark Chocolate Croissants. In this recipe, we can pretend that we are together enough in our lives to be able to whip up puff pastry at a moment’s notice, simply by purchasing boxes of puff pastry and defrosting them a few hours before we want to make croissants.  Such elegant deception.

I ran into a bit of a problem here, as the puff pastry did not want to defrost. Apparently, in addition to my oven being a lying liar and not being nearly as hot as it claims to be, my refrigerator must also be much, much colder than it should be. I let these puff pastry sheets defrost for 3 hours, and they still had ice crystals and folded creases that made them split into 3 sections, rather than the 4 that Joy wanted me to cut them into.

I felt personally responsible for the obstinance of these damn puff pastry sheets, as though I was letting Joy and the entire blogging and somehow Barnes & Noble family down by not being able to control the thawing time of butter and flour. It gets weird in my head sometimes.

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Life snapped back into focus, and I decided to roll with it and made a 3×3 sheet to get 18 slightly smaller croissants than the 4×2 sheet described. Well, smaller croissants are better than no croissants, as the time-worn saying goes.

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And aren’t they adorable?

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I swear that I wasn’t deliberately trying to flip off the camera in that one.

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Before and after. I really enjoyed how neat and tidy and efficient the pastry-rolling process made me feel.

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Basically, the idea here is that a layer of cinnamon and sugar is sandwiched between 2 sheets of flaky puff pastry, which are then cut into triangles and rolled around dark chocolate chunks to form a flaky, crunchy, sweet chocolate delivery device, perfect for adding to a breakfast buffet line. Cutting them out, rolling them up, and sprinkling them with cinnamon, sugar, and sea salt makes you feel super fancy, which is a big bonus in my book.

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Then, you put them into your lying, cheating oven and bake them until they are done (which in the real world is somewhere between 12-15 minutes, and in my kitchen topped out at 21-24…I need an oven thermometer for Christmas, you guys. It will prevent me from dismantling the thing with a screwdriver and malice in my heart).

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Look how cute they are!

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Flaky and brown and crisp on top. Dang, you fancy, mini-croissant.

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I had to sample one, of course. To make sure it was not burnt. It’s a chef’s thing.

(If you can place that movie quote, we need to hang out.)

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Lots of flaky layers and creamy chocolate inside. Hooray!

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Unfortunately, it was gone in seconds. Slightly longer, maybe, because I was taking pictures. To add to the pain, I wasn’t allowed to have anymore because they had to make an appearance at an event the next morning.

I’m definitely going to do this again, and maybe only make 4 giant croissants, filled with chocolate or almond paste. That would certainly be decadent, and I would go out of my way not to share with anybody. That would certainly be the mature thing to do. You should all go out and buy Homemade Decadence and do the same.

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If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Arnold Palmers

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As soon as the weather starts to seem even the slightest bit warmer, my thoughts tend to drift to lemons.

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(Want to know the best part about using your phone to take kitchen pictures because your boyfriend left the camera in his truck and then left for work? You have no idea how out-of-focus they are until you are all done! Hooray! Sorry, guys.)

When I was a child, I hated anything lemon-flavored. Lemon bars? Lemonade? I wanted nothing to do with it. Yellow candies of all kinds were not to be trusted (I’m looking at you, yellow Starburst).

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I was obviously deranged. Now, in my dotage, I have realized that lemons are the most delicious things that you can get from a tree. You can dress them up and make them super sweet and fancy when you add butter and sugar, or you can leave them in their tangy, sour perfection with just the addition of some black iced tea. That’s right! We’re making lemon cookies and Arnold Palmers today because the heater hasn’t had to come on in at least two weeks, and it’s going to be such a fabulous lemony kick to the face that you will definitely be thanking me later.

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The lemon cookie recipe comes courtesy of the always-delightful Jeannette at everybody likes sandwiches. I remember reading it when it first was published in 2007 and heading out to the store to buy lemons that very moment. Since then, I have made them more times than I can count, even once sending them cross-country to sit in for me during a game of D&D.

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See? Hipster food-blog-follower cred! I seriously wrote it down on an index card (!), back when her blog was still at BlogSpot. How very quaint of me and my purple Sharpie. This was before Pinterest, people, when I wrote everything down or spent long hours with my printer and bookmarks, making huge Word documents of dessert recipes that needed printing. Want to see the rest? Here you go.

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These cookies are obviously something special, otherwise that little index card would not still be in my recipe binder. When you make them, they are little balls of bright, tangy dough, rolled in sugar.

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Just look at how cute that is! They taste buttery and lemony and almost floral, without feeling like you’re eating a plant. They are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, absolute perfection with a quick dip in some cold milk.

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Yum.

Now, what if we want something that preserves more of that natural lemon essence? That super tart feeling that you’re getting in your mouth right now just thinking about lemons? We make Arnold Palmers!

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I’m aware that most people refer to this as Lemonade Iced Tea, but once I learned that a professional golfer claimed that he invented the concoction, I just can’t bring myself to call it anything else. First, we brew up the tea.

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Then we get mesmerized by the process of tea steeping. Don’t pretend it isn’t interesting to watch. (I even made a little video of it, if you can ignore the sweet strains of Despicable Me playing in the background.) Oh, heat conduction. You make pretty things happen in water.

While we wait for our tea to cool, we have to juice up some lemons. We’re looking for 1 1/4 cups of delicious lemon juice, which is about 6-7 lemons usually, depending on how large they are.

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Close enough.

Then we make simple syrup, which is essentially just combining equal parts of sugar and water together over heat.

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Until it’s super clear and bubbly.

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All of these things get dumped together into the appropriate receptacles and topped off with enough ice to make yourself about 2 gallons of sweet, tangy, summery deliciousness. And when I say ‘tangy,’ I mean it. That first sip is a game-changer. Feel free to add a little more sugar if you don’t roll that way.

Arnold Palmers
or just Lemonade Iced Tea, if you aren’t whimsical enough

Ingredients:
4 bags of black tea
6-7 lemons (enough to make about 1 1/4 cups of juice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
lots of ice

Directions:
Steep 4 bags of black tea in approximately 2 liters of boiling water. Don’t worry if you end up staring at it for a little while. It’s totally normal.

Juice your lemons and set the juice aside. Prepare simple syrup by combining sugar and water over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the mixture is clear and starting to boil. Discard the tea bags, and combine the tea, lemon juice, and simple syrup together in a heatproof 2-gallon (or two 1-gallon) beverage container(s). Things will be super hot and boiling, so be careful. Top off the mixture with plenty of ice in order to get it up to the 2-gallon mark. Enjoy the cracking sounds that ice makes when it hits all that super hot tea. I know that I do.  Stick that stuff in the refrigerator until you’re ready.

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Drink up a big tall glass and eat yourself some lemon cookies. You’re almost done with February. You deserve it.

Chocolate and Orange, Together Forever – Doctored Up Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

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Beautiful chocolate and orange above the fold? Do I have your attention? Good.

There is a well-established precedent here on this blog that I believe that chocolate + orange = holidays. Therefore, Christmas dinner this year required for me to get up early to make a decadent chocolate and orange treat for everyone to enjoy after the long day’s festivities.

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Cue Joy the Baker‘s Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. (By the by, the photos here were taken by multiple people, none of which were me, on various phones and cameras whilst I flitted about the kitchen wearing an owl apron and a super serious face.)

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This cake, by itself, is pretty damn delicious, but this was Christmas, dammit. Game had to be stepped up. First addition? I poked holes all over the beautiful finished and cooled cake and brushed fresh squeezed orange juice (from the lonely little orange that you zest and then ignore to make the cake) all over the cake, letting it soak in.

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See? Super serious business here.

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If you’ve got tiny bits of orange pulp all over the outside of your cake, you’re doing everything right. In life and in baking.

Second addition? Get out your favorite chocolate ganache recipe. Don’t have one? Betty does, and it’s pretty great.

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Pour it all over that cooled orange-drenched cake (with aluminum foil cake stand protectors, of course), and then admire it for a second.

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Then spread things out a bit with a spatula. Did you start to smile? Stop that. Baking is a serious business.

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Lovely.

Now, we haven’t even eaten dinner yet, so we can’t dig into this cake. Besides, ganache (which WordPress doesn’t believe is a real word, by the way) needs to set, which is a cruel, but necessary, step. What do we do while we’re in that weird between-time when we can’t eat dinner or dessert yet?

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Well, in my family, you make more dessert, apparently.

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Super basic roll-out sugar cookies, again from Lady Betty.  Cookie cutters from my awesome friends Brittany and Michele made their inaugural sugar cookie appearance.

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You may think that bunnies don’t belong on a Christmas cookie plate. You are wrong.

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I don’t know why I wanted to include this one, but I really like this picture somehow. I feel as though those cookies are cowering in fear from my threatening cookie-eating presence. They are right to fear.

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After dinner, all kinds of royal icing happened.

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Again, no smiling allowed. Decorating sugar cookies with icing, candies, and sprinkles requires extreme concentration from all involved.

We made approximately 800,000 cookies. Here are a few highlights.

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The kitchen counter got a little crowded.

After all that hard work decorating, it was time for cake!

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It was worth the wait.

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I feel like this would be even better in mini-Bundt size, where you can get an even more favorable ganache-to-cake ratio. It’s all about the balance between the floral, tangy orange and the creamy semisweet chocolate. And then overloading it with a whole bunch more chocolate.

Year-end roundup is not over yet! Remember when I said something about bunnies being involved? Those cookie cutters didn’t count. We’ve got way more bunny goodness coming up. I am still excited about it, and it’s already over. That’s saying something.