Well I was hoping that we would work up to the Kouign Amann. It's a pretty intimidating looking pastry for the less-than-confident yeast baker. And without giving away the ending, although you can see the lovely layers in the book cover photo, I have to say it's difficult to really understand the fuss. That is, until you taste it. But more on that later.
It's the time of year we call the 'build up' in my part of the world. This is the three or so months where the humidity and heat build up so much that it always seems on the verge of raining, but no relief comes. It's the most challenging time to live in the tropics. And also to make pastry and biscuits, or anything with butter.
So, with some trepidation I went to work on the Alpha Bakers' first challenge with the aircon cranked up and the ceiling fans on high.
I decided to take my responsibility as an Alpha Baker seriously (at least for the first week) and got out all the ingredients before I needed them (see photo evidence below). In fact I took it so seriously I flapped around nervously for a while until I got into my stride (by reminding myself Rose can't actually see what I'm doing in my kitchen...) and started to enjoy myself.
The recipe for the Kouign Amann starts with making a basic dough with bread flour and instant yeast. I don't have my stand mixer yet* so I thought I'd try out the previously untested dough paddle on my food processor. I pulsed the processor to bring the ingredients together successfully, but it took off like a rocket when I put it on the lowest speed. I certainly couldn't have left it on for the recommended (for a stand mixer) four minutes. Surprisingly it didn't look too bad after a minute of accidental speed kneading so I took it out and gave it a bit of gentle inexpert kneading by hand until it seemed to match the description in the recipe.
The best thing about yeast cookery is that when it goes well it's obvious and quite exciting. The dough is left to rest for a short period initially and when I came back my heart skipped a beat when I saw the yeast was alive and well and the dough was rising. After that it was an exhilirating blur of rolling and then resting the dough in the fridge, rolling and resting, for most of the afternoon. Okay it wasn't all exhilirating - in fact by the end I was thinking it wasn't something I'd make again. That was of course before I tasted it.
I was fascinated that the dough looked to have expanded even though it had been in the fridge for an hour (or half hour if you misread the instructions at first). You can see in the photos below that the dough looks lovely and puffy where it has come out of the fridge in its little folded packet.
When rolling out pastry or dough I always find it difficult to judge the correct thickness, so I loved Rose's instructions for the size of the dough after rolling. And if I had to wash my sewing tape measure at the end, it was worth it.
As I said the initial dough is not fancy but then you add a great slab of butter to it. This is what you then spend the afternoon rolling, folding and resting. Then you add a great swathe of sugar to the layered dough and butter, and roll and fold that in also. Even with all that butter and sugar,at this stage, without any other flavourings, I was still wondering just how interesting the pastry was going to be.
Despite the raging airconditioner, I realised (afterwards of course) that I should have put the waiting dough back in the fridge when I was rolling and shaping the pieces. The butter in the dough became a bit too melty and made it very difficut to shape and stick the pastries neatly. And even though I measured the pieces (not weighed) some of the pastries were a bit bigger than others.
I spent a bit of time looking for the required pastry rings, which in Darwin is a matter of about three likely shops ('you're looking for what?') and then pondering the benefits of ordering them online. I really didn't want to make a big investment in them so I ended up finding four reasonably priced crumpet rings and making the other four out of alfoil as Rose suggested. They both worked well. I should have tried one without a ring just to see what would happen - I presume just spread a bit further?
Look at them. Aren't they gorgeous? They may not look quite like the picture in the book, I may have had a kneading mishap, mistaken the resting period, melty butter, an oven mishap (the oven turned itself off) and they possibly could have been cooked a bit longer... but OH MY they were buttery, caramelly, flaky delights. And I know this because immediately they came out of the oven I ate one... or two... or three. No just kidding it was two (well maybe it was three). And, while that evening I thought I'd never eat another one again, the very next morning....
Gratuitous crumb shots.
The back of the flour bag with some slightly cheesy Australiana.
Oh look, I think I see a real life (naughty) numbat...
* Just a friendly reminder, Father Christmas.