Monday, October 24, 2016

Danish Pastries and a Cookbook Review

Have you heard of Beatrice Ojakangas (oh-ja-kahn-gahs)?  From a Finnish immigrant family on both her mother and father's side, she grew up in Minnesota and developed a great knowledge of Finnish and Scandanavian cooking and baking. My first introduction to her was through a cookbook she wrote called The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.  As I am of Danish descent, and someone who loves to bake, I ordered it when I first discovered it.  I've shared her Danish Walnut Wreath Bread and her Danish Almond Wreath Cookies recipes from that book.  Both recipes turned out great!

Imagine my surprise when a representative of the University of Minnesota Press contacted me last month to see if I wanted to receive an advance copy of Beatrice Ojakangas' newest book, Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food.  Heck, Ja, I would! 

Homemade is not just a cookbook (almost all chapters include a recipe), it is more of a memoir of the lives of her family and herself.  It details her Finnish grandmother's heartbreaking but stoic immigration to America, a disastrous fire and growing up in a large Finnish family on a small farm in northern Minnesota where they learned to make do with what they had. Perseverance is the underlying family thread and undoubtedly the reason for the rise of her culinary career. She writes about becoming an entrepreneur at an early age, making her own clothing (some of the fabric did come from fancy feed sacks) and becoming a 4-H State Fair winner and a Pillsbury Bake-Off prize winner at a young age. She became food editor at Sunset Magazine and also wrote for Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Gardens and many more magazines. After writing her Great Scandinavian Baking Book, she was invited to appear with Julia Child on "Baking with Julia", and also appeared on Martha Stewart's television show as well. Including her new Homemade, Beatrice Ojakangas has now written 30 cookbooks!

The Danish pastry braid that you see in the photos above is one of the first recipes I bookmarked when I received my copy of Homemade. It was in that chapter where I learned that she had been on television with Julia Child.  What luck when I decided to look on YouTube for that episode and found it! You can watch it here. Beatrice seems to be a warm and lovely person in her interaction with Julia.

I'm so happy I found her quick Danish pastry recipe which is so delicious and easy to make!  You just need to prepare the dough a day before you want to use it.  I found it wonderful to work with and the results are Oh My Good!  The smell of the cardamom in the sweet pastry will make you feel like you're in a Scandinavian Coffee Shop. 

Not only did I made a braid with the dough, using her pastry cream recipe and some raspberry jam, but I also made some small individual pastries using pastry cream and homemade apricot jam which she makes in the episode with Julia.  Any fruit or nut filling you like would be delicious! Do you see those little dots of sugar?  That's Swedish Pearl Sugar!  I've never used it before but it gives a very authentic look and taste to the pastries.

From Finnish Rye and Cardamom Bread to Cream of Morel Soup and Stroganoff Burgers, Homemade is a warm-hearted and wonderful journey of a book. I very much enjoyed reading about Beatrice Ojakangas, the life and history of her family, and her rise to culinary greatness through her Finnish-rooted perseverance. Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food  is now available for purchase! 

Danish Pastries with Beatrice Ojankagas' Quick Pastry Dough

Adapted from Homemade by Beatrice Ojakangas
Printable Recipe

You can watch a video of Beatrice making this recipe on "Baking with Julia" by clicking here.

1/4 warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast

1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional but delicious! (I found cardamom pods at Penzeys which I opened and ground the seeds myself)

2-1/2 cups flour
2 sticks cold butter, cut into 8 pieces each

Apricot Filling (Recipe Follows)
Berry Filling (Recipe Follows)
Pastry Cream (Recipe Follows)
Sliced Almonds for Garnish
Swedish Pearl Sugar for Garnish (can be found in some groceries stores or here).

Optional Glaze: Mix 2-3 teaspoons of cream or milk with ½ cup sifted powdered sugar. Place in zipper bag and cut off a small corner and pipe over warm pastries. (I did not use a glaze).

To Make the Dough (You must start the dough 1 day ahead of baking):

Add warm water to a large bowl and add yeast. Whisk to blend. Dissolve for 5 minutes and then add milk, egg and salt. Whisk until well combined.

Add the flour to a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and pulse about 8 times until butter is about the size of small beans.

Add the flour/butter mixture to the liquid mixture and blend with a rubber spatula just until flour is moistened. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, dust the top of the dough with flour and turn out onto floured surface. Pat down with your palm and then roll out into a circle (rolling from center outward). Fold the outer corners inward like an envelope with a bench scraper, making a rectangle, and pat down with palm again. Dust bottom and top and roll again into another rectangle. Fold long ends toward center again in thirds as an envelope and roll out into a rectangle. Using bench scraper fold into thirds again from long ends and roll in into another rectangle. Fold into thirds again, using bench scraper. Pat down and cut in half. (Dough can be tightly wrapped and frozen at this point, if desired).

Wrap dough halves individually in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and refrigerate again for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

For Braided Pastry

Preheat oven to 400F

Take out one-half of refrigerated dough and and pound down with fist or pound with rolling pin to soften. Roll to 16 x 10 inches on floured surface. Place a piece of parchment under the rectangle. Cut diagonal strips (about a 45 degree angle) along each edge approximately ¾”-1” wide and about 1/3 of the way into dough on each side. Brush the cut strips with egg white. Place a layer of jam down the middle between the cuts, then add a layer of pastry cream. Fold strips over each other like lacing up a shoe. Brush the top of the dough with egg white and sprinkle with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.

Transfer on parchment to baking sheet. Cover loosely with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. If desired, you may glaze the pastries with the option glaze now.

For individual pastries:

Take out one-half of dough and roll out on a floured surface into a 10 x 20 rectangle. Measure first then cut into eight 5” squares by making one cut lengthwise and then cut into four squares on each side.

Place a rounded tablespoon of fruit filling in the center of each square of dough and then add a rounded tablespoon of pastry cream on top. Brush all edges with beaten egg white. Bring up corners and twist the top into a top-knot. (The video clip above will show other shapes that can be made). Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with sliced almonds and pearl sugar or coarse sugar.

Allow to rest covered loosely with plastic wrap for about 15-30 minutes or until slightly puffed.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden.

If desired, while warm, frost with glaze.

Apricot Filling:

Makes about 1-1/3 cups)

1 cup sugar
1 cup of dried apricots, packed
1 cup water

2 T fresh lemon juice
½ tsp almond extract

Add the sugar, apricots and water to a microwave safe bowl. Mix thoroughly and place in microwave for 10 minutes, stopping to stir 2-3 times, to keep sugar mixed well. Place mixture in food processor and puree.

Add the lemon juice and almond extract and stir together.

Place in covered container/jar and refrigerate until ready to use. May also use on toast.

Fresh Berry Filling (or you may use a pre-made filling such as Solo brand pastry filling)

1 cup each raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, mashed down to make 2 cups
1 cup sugar

1 T lemon juice

Add sugar to mashed berries and mix well. Microwave for 18 minutes, stir 2-3 times during cooking.

Cool, add the lemon juice.

Microwave Pastry Cream:

1 cup whole milk or light cream
1-1/2 T cornstarch
2 T sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk (save egg white for sealing edges of pastry)

Place cream, cornstarch and sugar into a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Stir well to dissolve cornstarch and sugar. Place in microwave and cook for 1 minute increments, stirring each time, until it begins to thicken. This should take about 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl place egg yolk and vanilla and stir to combine.

Temper egg yolk mixture with a little hot cream mixture and stir quickly so the egg does not curdle. Add the egg back into the cream mixture and stir well. Place back in microwave for another 30 seconds to complete cooking the egg. Whisk. Add another 20-30 seconds, if needed, to thicken more.

Allow to cool and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bacon, Tomato and Thyme Biscuits

Now that soup weather is upon us once again, wouldn't you love some savory biscuits to eat enjoy with your soup? Whether it's a small cup for lunch or a big bowl for dinner, it's time for some warm soup or stew and some delicious biscuits to eat with it. 

I came across a recipe in our local newspaper for cheesy bacon biscuits from a restaurant in Door County, Wisconsin. I didn't have the cheese so adapted the recipe to what I had on hand which was bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh thyme.  I loved the way the recipe utilized folding the dough over twice to create the beautiful, flaky layers.  The melted butter and sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top when they come out of the oven is so delicious.  

Try these biscuits with Hearty Lentil Soup, Minestrone Soup, Onion Soup Gratin, Provencal Vegetable Soup, Lentil Soup with Ham and Kale, or one of my most popular recipes, Navy Bean soup. You can also click on the Soups and Stews link under my Post Labels on the right for more soup ideas.

The biscuits are wonderful with soup but you could also split them in half and place a small slice of good deli ham inside and eat them as sandwiches! You've got to love the colors and food of fall :)

This is what our weather looks like today.  Cold and rainy! Soup time :)

Bacon, Tomato and Herb Biscuits

Makes 6-8 biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pastry flour (all-purpose flour could be substituted)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup cooked, chopped bacon
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (may use dried thyme - or substitute herb of your choice)
1 cup buttermilk

Note: 1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese may be added when you add the bacon.

Melted butter and Flaky sea salt to top rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, the 1 teaspoon sea salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender until coarse, not fine. Add bacon, dried tomatoes and chopped thyme and stir lightly to combine. Add buttermilk and mix until just moistened.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and push into a 2-inch-thick rectangle. Do not overwork dough. Fold dough in half from long end, flatten and fold again. Pat dough into a rectangle 1½ to 2 inches thick. Cut dough into 3-inch squares or use a 3-inch biscuit cutter, being careful not to twist cutter as you cut. Gather scraps, handling as little as possible. Flatten and cut remaining dough. Place unbaked biscuits on a parchment paper or silipat-lined baking sheet. For crispiest biscuits, place them farther apart. For softer biscuits, place them as close together on the pan as you can without them touching (no closer than ½ inch, as they do puff slightly).

Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt (such as Maldon).

Bake in preheated oven 15 to 22 minutes or until evenly golden brown on top. Best eaten slightly warm.

Recipe adapted from Blue Horse Beach Cafe in Fish Creek, Wisconsin