Sunday, November 23, 2014

kouign amann (and apple pie kouign amann)

The first time I tasted kouign amann was almost two years ago, a few weeks after I had given birth to my third child (my son, Micah). My good friend Helen came to visit us and meet the baby, and she brought us a box of delicious pastries from her favorite neighborhood bakery, B. Patisserie. All of the pastries were delicious, but the one that stood out was the kouign amann. It was divine. To me it was like a cross between a croissant and a palmier. Buttery and flakey, it also had a crisp caramelized sugar element to it - I was hooked!

We recently went apple picking with Helen and her family, and she again bought us a box from B. Patisserie, full of different flavored kouign amann! Needless to say, the box of kouign amann didn't last very long in our house, but I was still craving more! So I decided I would try my hand at making them! I followed Anita Chu's recipe at Dessert First (love her site!), and also used the photo tutorial at the Kitchn to help me along the way. Both sites recommended useing European butter as it has a higher fat content ratio, so I went out and bought some Kerrygold salted butter.

The recipe started with making a simple yeast dough with a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. After letting it rise, covered, for about an hour, I transferred it to the refrigerator to let it chill for half and hour.

The next step was to pound the block of butter. Sounds strange, but yes you read that right! With a little flour on my pastry board and rolling pin, I pounded and flattened my butter into a large rectangle.

Then I let the butter chill in the fridge while I rolled out my dough.

Once I had it rolled to the right size, I placed my flattened butter in the center, and then folded each side of the dough over the butter.

Then I again rolled out the dough, and folded it in thirds once more. Then it went into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.

What comes next is a series of steps called "turns", where you roll out the dough and fold it into thirds, then roll out the dough, and fold it into third again. This is what creates the beautiful flaky layers in the pastry. There are a total of 4 turns - after the first 2 turns the dough should chill in the fridge, and the last 2 turns incorporate layers of sugar in between the folding. But I ended up having the chill my dough after every turn, since it was pretty warm out that day.

After the final turn and chill in the fridge, I rolled out my dough once more and used a pizza wheel to slice my dough into twelve 4x4-inch squares.

Then I placed them into a combination of tart rings (well, I used these english muffin rings!) and mini tart pans.

To make the signature kouign amann shape, you simply fold in the 4 corners of the square of the pastry. Then you let them rise for another hour, before baking them at 350F for about 40 minutes (rotating the pan once in the middle of baking).

Inspired by our trip to the orchard, I decided to turn half of the pastries into apple pie kouign amann! (We had picked "Roman beauty" apples, but you can use any kind of apple you like.)

You can find the apple pie filling in my new book (I cut the recipe in half to fill 6 kouign amann), but it's basically diced apples mixed with flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Then before shaping my kouign amann, I placed a spoonful of apple mixture into each center.

To give you an idea of how much work these were, I started making my kouign amann at about 11:00am that morning, and they didn't come out of the oven until 5:30pm that evening. They took that long to make. But, they were so worth it.

Be sure to remove the tart rings almost as soon as they come out of the oven, otherwise the caramelized sugar will cause the pastry to stick to the tart rings, making it almost impossible to remove the pastry in one piece!

And as for the apple pie kouign amann, they turned out to be quite delectable, kind of like apple pie on steroids! Although I think next time I'd cook the apple mixture a bit on the stove before filling the pastries, to hopefully keep my apple pie center glossy and silky (in this batch, the apples were a bit dried out, since they didn't stay completely covered during baking like they do with apple pie).

Also next time I make these, I think I'll cut down on the amount of sugar incorporated into the layers, as I found them a tad too sweet compared to the ones at B. Patisserie.

And with that, I'll end this post with some adorable pictures of the kids at the apple farm :) Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

hello kitty pumpkin pie

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away! What better time than to make this adorable Hello Kitty pumpkin pie? While I've made this pie several times (and even have made it into little mini pumpkin tartlets, like these Hello Kitty strawberry rhubarb ones), somehow this is the first time I'm sharing it! You can also find it in my new book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!

I start with a delicious, buttery, flaky crust, tucked into a 9-inch tart pan.

After using a rolling pin to cut off off the excess crust, I made a quick pumpkin pie filling, with just the right amount of spice, and baked the pie until just done in the center.

To decorate, I rolled out the excess pie dough scraps and cut out little Hello Kitty shapes with a cookie cutter, then baked them until golden.

Then place them on top of your baked pumpkin pie, and you have yourself one adorable pie! You can find this recipe and all new photos in my new book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

large pastel hello kitty pom pom cake

Last weekend was Hello Kitty's 40th birthday! (It was on November 1st, to be exact!) I was lucky enough to be a part of her birthday celebration by giving a cookie decorating workshop at the first ever Hello Kitty Con, a 4-day extravaganza featuring Hello Kitty products, pop-up shops, food, fashion, workshops, panels, art exhibits, and so much more!

I'll have more details on Hello Kitty Con in a later post, but in honor of Hello Kitty's birthday I thought it would be the perfect time to share this pastel pom-pom cake with you! I actually made it for my friend Monica, for her daughter Izzy's birthday party. It was inspired by a previous pastel pom cake that I had made for my daughter Melodie, but this time I made a large 10-inch chocolate cake, which I filled with chocolate mousse.

Once the cake and filled mousse had chilled in the fridge overnight, I whipped up two batches of cream cheese frosting (recipe in my book!), and did a quick crumb coat all over the sides and top of my assembled cake.

Then I colored part of my frosting black, and piped a large Hello Kitty on the top of my cake.

I divided the rest of my frosting (after setting aside a bit of white frosting to be used later), and colored them all different shades of pastel colors.

Then I used a medium star tip to fill in the bow with pink frosting, and the face with the reserved white frosting.

Once I filled piping bags with the rest of the colored frosting, I was ready to fill the rest of the cake with pastel piped stars!

Hours later, I was done. (Yes, it took hours! I had to return the cake and frosting to the fridge several times to avoid melted frosting!)

But all the hours of piping stars was worth it - I loved the end result! So cute and pastel and perfect for a birthday party!

Monica later told me that when she asked her daughter what her favorite part of her birthday party was, she had answered, "the CAKE!". Hearing that made my heart swell. :)

Happy Birthday, Izzy! And Happy Birthday, Hello Kitty!