Homemade Croissants

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I’ve always been very curious about baking and the art of pastry. That’s mainly why I started this blog– to pursue my passion, take risks, experiment with different recipes, and write about the most successful ones. It’s not just about sharing recipes, but also building a portfolio and documenting my progress over time.

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Homemade croissants have been on my to do list for a very long time and I finally had some free time– and by free time I mean a whole weekend!– to prepare them. I was kind of nervous and worried that they won’t be successful on my first trial because I don’t have a professional pastry background or anyone to guide me through the whole process. But after reading several blog posts and watching a few videos about making croissant, I felt like I was ready to give it a shot. I fell across Top with Cinnamon’s homemade croissant recipe, and I after seeing her gorgeous pictures and step by step gifs, I had to try it out.

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The process of making the layered yeast-leavened dough is time consuming. It basically involves layering the dough with ALOT of butter through a “rolling and folding” technique. If done right, the croissants will have crispy flaky exterior and a tender layered interior when baked. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing and eating the result of your hard work! 😀

Note: I posted my detailed hourly schedule for preparing croissants at the bottom of the page!

Preparing the dough

Ingredients: Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
1 cup (250 ml) cold milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
3 ¾ cup (500 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 oz/ 250 g) butter, frozen, then left at room temp. for 20-30 minutes

Directions:
1. Have all your ingredients measured and ready.
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2. Pour the milk and boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar, leave for 5 minutes until frothy.

3. Add in the flour and salt to the milk, incorporate it with your hands into a shaggy ball.

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5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.

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6. When your dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, take your frozen butter (which has been left at room temperature for 20 min), and grate onto a piece of cling film

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7. Disperse the butter, and flatten into a 8″ x 5″ (20 x 13 cm) rectangle. Fold up in the cling film and pat together well (make sure it’s nicely compacted).  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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8. Once the butter has been chilling for 25 minutes, tip the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle.

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9. Unwrap the chilled butter block and place into the center of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds over the butter. Seal all the edges by pinching the dough together.

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10. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, use the rolling pin to make regular indentations in the dough. Roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle. (I used toothpicks as a reference for the measurements).

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11. Fold into thirds like a business letter. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (steps 10+11 make “one turn” of the dough).

10. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap and complete 1 turn (repeat steps 10+ 11, roll out dough then fold again). Re-wrap in the cling film, refrigerate for 1 hour.

11. Fold two more times, so you have done a total of 4 turns.

12. Cut the dough into quarters. Wrap the quarters tightly in cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months (if you freeze it, let the dough defrost in the fridge overnight before shaping).

Shaping the dough

1. Remove one quarter of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16″ x 6″ rectangle.

2. Cut into thirds, forming 3 smaller rectangles. Cut each of these rectangles in half diagonally forming 6 triangles.

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3. Take one triangle of dough (putting the others in the fridge to prevent the butter from melting).

4. Pull on the corners of the shortest edge, to even up the base of the triangle. Then gently stretch the dough a little

5. Cut a small slit in the base of the triangle, stretch it, then roll the dough up.

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You can add different fillings to the croissants, like chopped chocolate, zaa’tar, or almond paste.

7. Place it, tip side down, onto a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the triangles, placing them 2″ (5 cm) apart.

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8. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a cool place for around 2-3 hours ( if you’re making these the night before, you can actually shape them and leave them to rise in the fridge overnight instead).

You can also freeze the shaped croissants on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and leave in the freezer for up to 3 months, then defrost in the fridge overnight and proceed as below.

Baking the croissants:

1. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).
2. Brush the croissants with a beaten egg using a pastry brush and put into the oven.
3. Immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C), and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until well browned and puffy.
5. Let cool on a wire rack.

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All of these steps might seem daunting at first, that’s why I wrote down my personal schedule for making homemade croissant. This will help in not missing any step! Bon Appétit!

Time Schedule:

• Day 1
8:00 AM
Place butter in the freezer.

8:00 AM
8:10 AM
Measure ingredients.

8:10 AM
Combine cold milk, boiling water, yeast, and sugar together.

8:15 AM → 8:20 AM
Mix in the flour and salt, then mix to form a ball. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and refrigerate for an hour.

8:30 AM
Take out the butter from the freezer.

8:50 AM → 8:55 AM
Grate the butter, shape into a rectangle, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

9:30 AM → 9:35 AM
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, add the block of butter, complete turn 1, and refrigerate.

10:30 AM
Turn 2.

11:30 AM
Turn 3.

12:30 PM
Turn 4 – Cut the dough into quarters and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough for at least 8-12 hours. You can continue baking at 9 PM, or wait until the next day to complete the rest of the steps.

• Day 2
8:00 AM 8:20 AM
Roll out a quarter of a dough, cut into triangles, and shape into croissants.

8:20 AM 10:20 AM
Leave the croissants to rise.

10:00 AM
Preheat the oven to 450°F (22o°C).

10:20 AM 10:25 AM
Brush croissants with beaten egg

10:25 AM
Bake in the oven, following the instructions above.

10:50 AM
Croissants are done!

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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I never really thought about making homemade ice-cream until I came across a superb book called The Chocolate Bible. After going through the whole book over and over again (it never gets boring) I decided to try the custard based vanilla bean ice cream recipe – as well as other chocolate recipes.

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Custard based ice cream is also known as French-style ice cream; it’s thick, silky, and very scoop-able because of the addition of egg yolks which thickens the mixture. American style ice cream is not as dense, and it’s far quicker to prepare since it doesn’t require cooking a custard base; it is simply a combination of milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring.

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For the custard, you first start cooking the milk, vanilla, and egg yolks over low heat for a few minutes and add the whipping cream at the end. After chilling the mixture for two hours, you pour it in an ice cream maker which will simultaneously freeze the mixture while churning (to aerate it and avoid ice crystals to form). The result was so wonderful: the ice cream was rich and creamy, it tasted exactly like Häagen-Dazs! Can you imagine how impressed everyone would be when they find out that you whipped out a delicious traditional vanilla bean ice cream from scratch?! You will feel special, I’m telling you ;).

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Serve this ice cream with Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate Ganache, Apple Tart, or chunks of chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies… My mouth is watering while writing this post, so I’m going to jump right ahead with the ingredients and instructions.

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Ingredients: (from The Chocolate Bible)
• 5 egg yolks
• 125 grams (½ cup+2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
• 500 ml (2 cups) milk
• 1 vanilla pod, split
• 50 ml (¼ cup) whipping cream

Instructions:
1. Beat the egg yolks and 60 grams (5 tablespoons) of the sugar until pale, yellow, and creamy.
2. Pour the milk into a saucepan; add the remaining sugar.
3. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod – using the point of a knife – into the milk. Add the pod in the saucepan and slowly bring it to the boil.
4. Whisk 1/3 of the hot mixture into the eggs and sugar mixture, stirring well to combine. Then pour this mixture into the remaining hot milk.
5. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over low heat until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (~10 to 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil).
6. Stir in the whipping cream and remove from the heat immediately; strain into a bowl.
7. Stand a bowl in crushed ice and place in fridge for two hours until the mixture is cold.
8. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn for 30 minutes.
9. Remove the ice cream from the machine and transfer it to the freezer before serving.

Zopf (Swiss Bread)

Zopf Bread - Brownie Box
There is something very therapeutic about baking bread, all the mixing and kneading gets me in a good mood. I was intimidated at first from the idea of making bread from scratch because most of us are used to the store bought ones. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I even took pictures of every step to facilitate the process of explaining this recipe.

Zopf is a rich and flavorful bread that is excellent with butter, jam, or cheese. Its name literally means “braid” in German. It is also ideal for sandwiches because it doesn’t contain sugar and it’s very soft and light.

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The first thing you need to do is sift the flour onto a working surface, make a well in the center, and add the yeast, soured cream, milk, egg, butter, and salt.

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Little by little, work the dough into a ball and start kneading.

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When I’m too lazy I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough for 20 minutes (Remember the more you knead the dough, the more the gluten will develop, and the softer the bread!)

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Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

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Divide the dough into three equal parts, then shape into thick ropes.

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Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

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Using the same plastic wrap that was used earlier, grease it with olive oil and cover the dough (to prevent the dough from drying)

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Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

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I’m going to talk about the ingredients that are used in this recipe and explain their role in making the perfect Swiss Bread:

  • Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread making and there are two types you can choose from: fresh yeast (a firm, moist block stored in the refrigerator), or dry yeast (small granules– sold in packets). Once the yeast comes into contact with flour, the billions of microorganisms begin to nourish themselves from the sugar of the starch molecules. So they multiply and produce carbon dioxide which gives a fluffy texture to the bread. That’s why raising the dough is one of the most delicate phases in the preparation of bread, and it should be placed in a controlled warm environment (you can use your oven).
  • Olive Oil prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust
  • Salt is crucial to the flavor of bread. It shouldn’t come in contact with the yeast during the initial phase of mixing because it compromises the rising. You can make a small well for the salt in the outside portion of the mound of flour and add it at the last minute.
  • Herbs, Oats, or Dried Fruits give a great aroma and taste. You can add them to the dough before it is left to rise or after the first rising

Did you ever try baking your own bread? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

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Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for rising. Baking time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients: (adapted from Classic Breads)
Juice of Half a Lemon
2/3 cups (150 ml, 5 oz) cream, lukewarm
5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (30g) fresh yeast or 3 1/3 tsp (10g) dry yeast
2/3 cups (150ml, 5 oz) milk, lukewarm
1 large egg, room temperature
7 + 3/4 Tbsp (110g) softened butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp (12g) salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. (The mixture will thicken)
2. In the meantime, sift the flour onto the work surface, make a well in the center, and add the crumbled yeast.
3. Steadily pour the milk and the soured cream mixture into the center of the well and mix with your fingertips to dissolve the yeast.
4. Add the egg, the softened butter, and the salt (pour the salt outside of the well- explanation above).
5. Mix and then knead for 20 minutes (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook)
6. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the oven. The dough will double in size.
7. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, without kneading it, shape into a ball and then divide it into three parts of equal weight.
8. Shape into thick ropes.
9. Lightly flour the work surface and lay the ropes out in front of you lengthwise.
10. Join them at one end and then braid. Finish by pressing together the three ends.
11. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap greased with oil and let rise for 50 minutes.
12. Brush with the beaten egg. You can enrich the bread by patting on oat flakes, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
13. Bake in an oven preheated to 355F (180C) for 40 minutes.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is good… Homemade peanut butter is delicious!

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I recently found out that peanut butter is simply ground peanuts. It never crossed my mind to make my own because I always thought that thick peanut butter contained ingredients that are not available in my pantry. Surprisingly, you only need roasted peanuts, peanut oil, and honey (to add a touch of sweetness). Since I love making things from scratch, I had to try it out.

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But first, I decided to do some research about peanut butter: where did it originate? why is it called peanut “butter”?

I found out that peanuts are actually legumes! Yup, I was surprised too. Unlike walnuts or almonds that grow on trees, peanuts grow underground and they provide the best source of concentrated protein. Its origin goes back to the Aztecs who used to crush roasted peanuts into a paste. It wasn’t until 1908 that it came to the U.S. market. It’s called peanut “butter” simply because its consistency resembles softened butter.

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What I love about this recipe is that I can enjoy eating peanut butter without worrying about the amount of sugar, salt, or additives in my food. I usually buy high quality freshly roasted peanuts from the local roastery, but you should always check the ingredients for any harmful additives since the peanuts are the main ingredient.

I noticed on foodgawker and a few other blogs that the color of  homemade peanut butter differs from one person to another. That’s because the color depends on the type of the peanuts used for processing. So it can turn out darker or lighter than the store brought version.

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I love eating peanut butter with toast, bananas, or apples! I usually slice an apple into rings, spread some peanut butter, and top it off with homemade granola. Yum! You’ll get the healthy fiber, fats, and whole grain servings with this nutritious and filling snack.

It’s really fun to make your own peanut butter 🙂 Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

200 grams, about 1+1/3 cups, lightly salted roasted peanuts (you can also roast your own peanuts)
2 Tablespoons peanut oil (or walnut, canola, but not olive oil)
1 Tablespoon raw honey

Directions:

1. Put the peanuts in the food processor.
2. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the oil and honey, then process until smooth (about 3-4 minutes), or until you reach the desired consistency. (be careful the machine could overheat)
4. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate up to 2 months.

Note: For crunchy peanut butter, stir in 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts after processing is complete.

Homemade Cinnamon Pecan Granola

cinnamon-pecan granola | Browniebox_3

Today I made homemade granola and devoured it with natural yogurt and fresh fruits for breakfast. Yes, it was good. I know, I know I love eating chocolate all the time but I also enjoy healthy and nutritious treats.

I’ve never really liked the store brought granola. Every brand has a different taste and its either too sweet, not crunchy enough, or has stale dried fruits yukh! I am never happy with the available flavors on the market. They also contain an excessive amount of fat, calories, and hard-to-pronounce additives (which are not good for you!).

cinnamon-pecan granola | Browniebox_2
Everyone can create their customized granola with just a little bit of mixing and toasting. My version here has chopped pecans and cinnamon. It stays crunchy and delicious for around three weeks. I usually keep it refrigerated in a sealed jar and it’s immediately ready to use as topping for yogurt, ice-cream, and cereal. (or just for snacking ;))

I compiled a list of ingredients that you can add to your basic granola mixture before baking it (don’t forget to cut down on dried fruits and nuts if you want to keep it healthy):

Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots, cherries, dates, cranberries, bananas, blueberries, coconut flakes
Nuts: walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, peanuts
Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice
Seeds and grains: pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds, toasted wheat germ
Other ingredients: chocolate chips, peanut chips, candied peel, crunchy cereal
Binders: Vegetable oil, walnut oil, peanut oil, almond oil, canola oil, applesauce, egg whites
Sweetener (depending on the flavor that you prefer): Honey, light or dark densely packed brown sugar, agave syrup, molasses, maple syrup.

See? The sky is the limit!
If you are looking for a recipe that is reduced in fat and calories, just cut back a little bit on fruits and nuts and chop them up into very small pieces to perceive a greater amount ingredients.
cinnamon-pecan granola | Browniebox_4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).
2. Combine brown sugar and water in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds or until sugar is dissolved.
3. Add oil and cinnamon then oats and pecans, stirring until coated.
4. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the oat mixture as evenly as possible (to toast the ingredients evenly).
5. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring twice (every 10 minutes).
6. Transfer mixture to a large plate or another sheet of wax paper. Let cool completely.
7. Store in an airtight container. (you can also refrigerate the mixture to retain freshness).