Updated on February 6, 2021
The Wonderful World of Classic French Pastries
The first lesson in learning to bake classic French pastries is to choose classics that do not strike fear in the hearts of bakers.
French pastries are a delicate balance of light fluffy pastry dough married to various types of sweet fillings.
With this in mind, choose well-sifted flour, pure flavorings rather than artificial, and keep lots of unsalted butter on hand.
What are Classic French Pastries
In France, a pastry is enjoyed as a quick breakfast, a sweet finale to lunch, or a glorious dinner presentation.
For example, a quick breakfast in the French tradition is a cup of cafe allonge (expresso) with a buttery croissant, a slice of brioche, or for sweet cravings, profiteroles.
Lunch pastry trays might include light and flaky Palmier, filled Madeleines, or a custard tart. For spectacular dinner desserts, there are luscious opera cakes topped with glossy chocolate ganache or layered custard or cream-filled Mille-feuille.
French Classics for Beginners
One of the easiest types of pastry dough to make for beginners is Pate a Choux or Choux. There are only five ingredients in Choux. These include:
The directions are fairly simple. Depending on the number of pastries you plan to make, you place water, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and allow the ingredients to come to a short boil. With a wire whisk, add in the flour and the eggs.
Notice that a sticky dough forms. Remove from heat. This dough forms the basis of eclairs, profiteroles, and more. Fill a pastry bag to form round or log shapes. Place the dough on the parchment and bake for about six to seven minutes or until golden brown.
Don’t worry if the baked dough falls slightly. Once the pastry dough is baked, you can slit the profiterole rounds in half horizontally and fill with your favorite flavor custard, whipped cream, or even well-frozen ice cream. Top with a chocolate sauce swirl. Voila! Profiteroles you make on your first attempt.
To fill log-shaped baked dough for eclairs, you can use an icing infuser or slice them length-wise and fill.
Now that you know how to make profiteroles, there are two other fantastic and fun French classics you can make using baked profiteroles: Croquembouche and Crown of St. Honore.
Croquembouche is a tradition for holidays since it is shaped like a tree and “built” with profiteroles. To keep the profiteroles from slipping, make a thick caramel sauce to hold the profiteroles together to form the tree.
Crown of St. Honore
Crown of St. Honore is a type of French classic tart that has only two layers. The first layer is the base made from a baked choux pastry dough topped with profiteroles around the edges to form the “crown.”
There is the added ingredient of sugar to the choux paste to make this dough sweeter. After forming the crown, fill the center with delicate pastry cream or creme patisserie.
Cream custards require eggs, milk, sugar, flour, cornstarch, and vanilla.
However, if you are in hurry, you can create a pastry cream using mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs with a whisper of creme de cassis, creme de menthe, or Benedictine instead of vanilla. Blend and add to the center of the crown.
Palmier – Another French Classic
Once you learn how to make choux dough, try making Palmier the kids will love. Use a 9 inch by a 13-inch baking sheet or pan.
You need a sheet of parchment the same size, lightly floured to spread pastry dough as evenly as possible.
Roll the parchment and dough from the vertical edge to form a roll. Place the roll and parchment in the baking pan. Cut the roll into slices about 1/3 inches wide. Bake until light brown. Roll in sugar while slightly warm.
From one French classic dough, you’ve created four treats too tempting to resist.
Updated on February 8, 2021
Maybe you’re less than trusting of store brand dog treats or the standards you have for your pup’s diet are higher than what you have access to at the grocer. Regardless of your situation, it is likely that you are reading this article because you have considered baking your treats. While it has often been said that anyone who wants something done right needs to accomplish it themselves, you should know what goes into a quality dog treat.
Because dogs have certain dietary and caloric requirements different from humans and you cannot give them whatever you like, I have compiled this guide of everything necessary to bake quality treats for your dog.
To clarify, this is an overview of the topic of baking dog treats and not a list of recipes.
What Not to Use
Before you go about making whatever sort of treats strike your imagination, it is important to review the list of ingredients that should never be given to a dog. Every food mentioned on this list is toxic to dogs and should be avoided by dogs at all costs.
- Chocolate. While this is the most widely understood toxin to dogs, it gets a mention here for the sake of being comprehensive.
- Baby food containing either onion or garlic
- Grapes and raisins
- Artificial sweeteners and colors
- Macadamia nuts
It is also worth mentioning that some dogs suffer from gluten intolerance. While there is no specific test for this, tests do exist to verify whether or not your dog has celiac disease. Even if he has celiac disease, you can still bake some tasty treats for him.
The Basic Formula
A proper baked dog treat consists of four major components.
- One or more varieties of flour
- A fat or oil
- Fruits and/or vegetables
- Some variety of liquid
Using this four-component base as a guideline, you can very easily make something with all-purpose flour, coconut oil, some chopped carrots, and milk, as one example.
While those four broad categories give you plenty of freedom when baking a treat, maybe you have found a really appealing recipe for dog treats off some site but you realize that it mentions a few key ingredients you lack. Provided below are a few notable substitutes you can make either due to availability or health concerns.
- Applesauce, pumpkin puree, and carrot puree can all fill the same role.
- Almond butter is a suitable replacement for peanut butter.
- Grated apple works fine if you lack zucchini.
- Mashed banana is a tasty stand-in for any sort of pureed fruit or veggie.
- You can freely use non-dairy ingredients to stand in for dairy.
Tricks to Measuring
Use a measuring cup for semi-solids like peanut butter. You can save yourself a lot of effort removing the peanut butter from the cup by spritzing the cup with a little oil before adding the peanut butter to measure.
Use a spoon when working with herbs and other loose greens, making sure to loosely pack them into the spoon.
For ingredients that require a more precise measure it’s always best to go by weight. Flour is a great example of this, because depending on how densely packed it is you can add vastly different amounts of flour when using a measuring cup. Another case would be if you are making CBD treats for your dog from CBD oil. By measuring out the precise amount of oil in weight, you can ensure that you are making treats with the proper dosage.
If you are baking medium-to-large size treats, consider scoring them down the middle prior to baking. This will make it much easier to snap them in half for easy portion control.
A Note on Storage
Even the hungriest dog should not be given your entire batch of treats at once. Store your treats in an airtight container to minimize the chance of them going stale.
Updated on February 6, 2021
What is Artisan Bread?
The definition of artisan bread is a clue to how to bake a better loaf of this type of bread. Artisan bread is light, fluffy, and has fewer ingredients and less fat content.
All bread, other than a quick cakey type of bread like banana, soda, zucchini, or pumpkin bread requires yeast. Yeast is the leavening agent that gives bread its flavor and height.
Yeast and You – BFFs
Most individuals who are new to bread baking fear recipes that include yeast. Yet yeast is the best friend a bread baker can have. Dispel your fears and your artisan bread will be perfect the minute it leaves your oven.
The secret to artisan bread baking includes:
- Use bread flour which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. Bread flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour and the higher level of protein provides a better rise of the dough.
- Proof your yeast. Yeast when added to water or milk with oil or butter creates a foamy surface. The foam tells you the yeast is fully dissolved and proofed and ready to add to your flour.
- Make sure the water or milk you add to your artisan bread recipe is heated to the correct temperature. Liquids that are too cold don’t allow the yeast to help flour rise.
- If the recipe calls for milk, choose to skim. Powdered milk works well for artisan bread too.
- Depending on the recipe, some artisan bread recipes ask for salt to be added to the proofed yeast. Other recipes prefer salt to be added to the bread flour. If the recipe calls for sugar to prove the yeast, honey can be substituted. For a darker, different bread flavor, try molasses.
- Add yeast mixture slowly to the flour to give the flour a chance to absorb the new ingredients. If you prefer, use an electric mixer that has dough hooks.
- Mix until a soft dough forms.
To Knead or Not To Knead, That is the Question
Some artisan bread recipes may not require kneading and the dough can be refrigerated overnight.
If you want big, airy pockets to form during baking, don’t add too much extra flour when giving the dough a light kneading.
Be prepared: artisan bread dough is sticky. Dust your hands with flour to remove excess dough.
Note that you can add extra flavor to your bread by adding dried herbs and spices like dill, rosemary, oregano, or dried parsley. Add this to dry ingredients before adding yeast mixture.
One tip to avoid sticky dough sticking to the bottom of s baking sheet or pan is to lightly oil the bottom of the pan and add parchment paper.
Give the bottom of your dough a light dusting with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
You can also use a preheated Dutch oven at 450 degrees F. for round loaves. Be sure to use oven mitts when removing heated pans.
Remove the plastic wrap and place the dough in the preheated pan or Dutch Oven. Cover pans with foil or place the lid n the Dutch Oven and bake at 450 F. for 30 minutes.
Enjoy Your Artisan Bread
Some people like bread warm out of the oven slathered in butter or jam. Others prefer to shape it into dinner rolls and serve them cooled. Either way, you prefer it there’s nothing quite like baking your own artisan bread.
You can shape artisan bread dough in small, round mounds to make pull-apart bread that the kids will love.
Baked artisan bread also has a sturdy crunchy crust. So it can be used as a soup bowl for your favorite soups when you remove the bread inside. Toast the unused bread, add your favorite dried seasonings and use for croutons for salads and soups.
There is nothing quite as impressive as your first ever loaf of artisan bread that looks as if you purchased it at a bakery.