Croissants, croissants, and more croissants,

This past week has been nice and lazy and full of super fattening food and drink.  What better time to post more pics of food!

In keeping with my theme of laziness and procrastination, I'll keep the verbose geek outs for another day and post some pics of what we had been working on before the Thanksgiving break.

Clockwise starting at front center: Pumpkin brioche tarts, pumpkin brioche, hazelnut coffee cake, apricot brioche tart with streusel topping, pannetone.

Hazelnut brioche coffee cake up close and personal.

The proper technique to apply egg wash.

Stollen, also known as 'little baby Jesus bread'.  This traditional German sweet bread is meant to mimick baby Jesus swathed in blankets.  Amazingly tasty, especially after brushing with melted butter and dredging in more sugar.  Good God.

My first attempt at a croissant.  My 'arms' were too long and flappy and my 'shoulders' were a bit plentiful for my tastes.

Inspecting my laminating technique.  Lamination is the process of layering butter and dough to create what would be familiar to the masses as a lovely, flaky croissant or danish.

Chocolate croissants.  We stuffed croissants with just about everything we could think of including the bizarre combination of chocolate and ham (which went over like a lead balloon).

Morning buns.

Pistachio, apricot and croissant coffee cakes.  Man, this was AMAZING after coming home after a few drinks.

At last, happy with my croissant shaping!!!

So much butter, it would make Paula Deen blush


This week has been our first venture into enriched doughs.  Throughout most of the breads section, we had been working with lean doughs, or doughs with no fats or sugars added.  The mixes we've been working with this week are yeasted doughs which contain at the very least, eggs, butter and sugar.  They can also contain milk, honey, milk solids and just about any inclusion you can think of (ie: dried fruit, nuts, etc...)  You would know such doughs as brioche.  That evil, golden and fluffy bread of the gods.  Heaven forbid you get crazy and make french toast or bread pudding with it.  Oh my, we're venturing into Paula Deen territory, I must warn you.

Brioche is mixed like lean doughs, but instead of water, eggs are used as the hydration.  The butter and sugar are added after gluten development has occured and added slowly to avoid a pasty, sticky mess.  Yes, I'm going to answer the obvious question by saying that I surely DID mess up one of my first mixes by adding the sugar a bit too fast.  Instead of a tight ball of dough whirling around in the mixer, you get a sticky, shiny, sludge-y paste settling into the mixing bowl like melting crystallized honey.  Think of the creepy black blob alien who's only goal was to kill the entire teleported crew of Star Trek The Next Generation, but in a shiny, silver bowl.  The only way to redeem such a situation is to mix the hell out of the dough.  It takes about twice as long to 'bring the dough back' then it would if you had just mixed it properly to begin with.  Go team awesome!  I'll report that we recovered nicely and our dough tasted just peachy keen.

Once you've passed the ever-tricky sugar and butter line, the dough transforms from a stiff ball to a light, airy and rather pleasant texture.  It reminded me and my teammates of the containers of slime you could buy in the quarter machines in front of the supermarket as a kid.  The main difference here, is you can actually eat the final product and there's no real temptation to throw it at the wall to watch it slide/walk down in a fit of boredom.  Moving on...

Today, we mixed up the dough for Pain d'Oro, an Italian Christmas bread with an insane amount of butter, 5 total doughs which must be mixed in scheduled succession and a whole lotta love.  Our instructor mixed up the first dough at 5:00 AM, the final dough we mixed as a class and it is currently retarding overnight and will be ready to bake off tomorrow in a tall, star shaped pan.  Other holiday breads which we will bake tomorrow will be pannetone and stollen.

As always, some lovely pics of my adventures in bread and pastry land.  Enjoy!

Top to bottom: pain au lait, brioche sucre (coated in apricot glaze and pearl sugar), brioche a tete (no making fun of my shaping now...).

Cinnamon buns.  Can I get a halleluhiah!?

Savory Kugelhopf.  Brioche dough with swiss cheese, bacon, walnuts and parsley.  Hands down, the class favorite of the day.

Sticky buns.  This is the closest thing I've found to herion in a baked good.  So insanely delicious!

Bostock.  Brioche sliced and toasted, then dipped in rum syrup, topped with frangipane (almond cream and pastry cream) and sliced almonds and toasted AGAIN.  Don't forget to sprinkle with sugar.

Strawberry brioche.  Brioche dough sprinkled with cubes of almond paste (sort of like marzipan) and dried strawberries.  Topped with chocolate glaze, almonds and pearl sugar.  I just had this with a bit of vanilla ice cream.  I already feel type II diabetes setting in.

Can you say butter?

Pain d'Oro dough.  The beautiful, golden color is what the brioche dough mixer aspires to create.

Goodbye Breads, Hello Brioche!


This past Friday was bittersweet.  It marked the end of our 8 week long journey through the artisan breads world as well as 8 weeks working and learning in close proximity with each other.  As much as some of us may want to contest it, our small class of 14 students has become a bit of a family.  Our first day, Michel Suas, founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute, advised that we'd become close like a family.  For love or hate, that's what we'd be.  I have to say that now, I understand just what this meant.  I feel very lucky to share my weekday mornings and afternoons with this hodgepodge of students, home bakers and career changers.  The dynamics between each of us, the instructors and the institute itself are something very special.  Along with parting ways with artisan breads, we also part ways with our instructor, Frank.  Incredibly knowledgeable, patient and kind-hearted, Frank is someone we have all grown to love and respect.  We will see him again here and there for wedding cakes and plated desserts, but for now, this rowdy bunch of aspiring  bakers and pastry chefs have moved into the pastry lab and into another realm of learning.

Friday was a flat breads free for all, as we were lucky enough to take turns baking traditional flat breads in the wood fired oven.  Nothing like baking some lavash, nann and pita in an 800 degree oven to make you break a sweat!  Caliente!

Some photographic evidence of our historical Friday:

'Zombie' David and class by the wood fired oven.

Lavash crackers.  We had freshly prepared hummus and baba ghanoush to go with for an excellent mid-morning snack.

An action shot of the assembly line of lavash makers and bakers.

Linh working her magic with the peel.

Jesse happy as a clam as the oven master.

Accoutrement for wine Friday.

Frank at the oven.

Our flat breads on display.

 Sista Rae Rae gettin' some work done.

So, it's goodbye breads and hello to brioche.  We've been working on mixing and shaping brioche this week and I plan to present some pics of these butter-laden treats soon.  In the meantime, I'll do my best to resist those evil little bastards and pass them on to whoever will take them from my sight.