Since my last update, I have been busy making a raft of viennoiserie. This ranged from a couple of types of brioche, some Danish pastries and an accidental batch of wholemeal croissants.
Although I have kept on top of the baking, I haven’t updated in a little while. This was mainly because, apart from the croissant recipe (and a variant of it) that I tried, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with the viennoiserie recipes in ‘the book’.
Instead of breaking down one recipe like usual, I have created a post that includes everything I’ve made over the past couple of weeks. Let’s start with wholemeal croissaints, these came about purely by mistake.
I noticed a bag of plain flour in the supermarket that was close to date and had been marked down to 30p, so I nabbed it, thinking it would come in handy.
A day came up where I had some free time, so I thought I’d make a batch of croissants, just for the fun of it! I measured out my remaining plain flour and opened up the bag of bargain flour. As I was weighing it out, I realised it was wholemeal. Bugger! I had no other flour, and I didn’t want to go out to the shops, so I went ahead and used it anyway.
The recipe was approximately one third plain flour and two thirds wholemeal flour. I used some of my stash of fresh yeast for this recipe. The resulting croissant was very dense, cake-like and a little bit savoury. While these were pleasant, they weren’t moreish or indulgent, the recipe needs tweaking before I would consider posting it. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying a recipe that produces underwhelming results. Some of these did get fed to the birds!
The mix-up with the flour, leads me nicely on to the issue of what type of flour to use for these recipes. This is where I get a bit ‘Felicity Cloake’ and quote lots of other bakers and patissiers recipes. The book recommended using ‘All-Purpose Flour’, while I wasn’t entirely sure what that was, a trawl of the internet assured me it’s like plain flour in the UK.
For all of my viennoiserie recipes I used plain flour. When it came to the brioche, the plain flour didn’t work for me. The texture was too similar to cake. I haven’t made a lot of bread, but whenever I have, I’ve always used bread specific flour i.e. strong white, rye, strong wholemeal. As these recipes are an enriched/laminated dough, I wondered if my results were down to using the wrong type of flour.
This table gives a handy rough guide for which flour to use:
As you can see, the table lists plain flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour. After looking at recipes from Richard Bertinet, David Lebovitz, Dan Lepard and everyone’s favourite Paul Hollywood they all had one thing in common. They all used strong white bread flour in their brioche, danish pastries and their croissants. A lot of the recipes recommended much longer resting times than ‘the book’ as well.
After this revelation, I will be making the brioche (with a recipe that a chef has kindly shared with me on twitter) and the danish pastries again using strong white flour. Hopefully this time the results will be more satisfying and I will be able to post the recipes so that you can have a go yourselves.
Due to this, I wont dwell too much on my other bakes, but I will include them here because, at the start of this blog I stated that I would document all of the successes as well as the failures. These bakes also gave me a chance to practice my photography.
Up first, brioche. I tried a recipe for brioche filled with creme patissiere and chocolate chips. The pictures make these look very tasty, but I think the reason they tasted so nice was because of the chocolate and the creme patissiere. The dough was quite dry and although it had a lot of rise, when cooked they were very dense. They were also hard to shape as ‘the book’ recommended chilling them for two hours.
Other recipes that I have seen recommend chilling for 7-12 hours or overnight to get the best results for shaping the dough before allowing it to proof again.
Undeterred I ploughed on and tried out another brioche recipe, this time I made sugar brioche. I picked this recipe because it gave me an opportunity to make a dent in some of the sugar pearls I’d bought for the Tarte Chouquettes I made right at the beginning of this blog.
Some of the problems with this recipe were actually my fault, I cooked these on the wrong temperature and for a bit too long. So although they look golden and tasty, inside they were dry and disappointing. Again the inconsistency in size and shape is down to the chilling time being too short. The new brioche recipe I have, recommends resting the dough for at least 12 hours.
Finally the cranberry, hazelnut and creme patissiere danish. These tasted nice, but again I think this was down to the filling. The pastry was not robust enough and it didn’t rise like the pictures in ‘the book’. I am going to try this recipe again, using strong white flour and resting the dough for much longer than stated.
I have learnt many things on my self-taught French patisserie ‘course’, but the one thing that really sticks in my mind is that none of my recipe books are without fault. ‘The book’ does contain a huge amount of recipes, I understand that not all of them can be perfect and that there are a number of external factors when baking that the author has no control over. So I am happy that 75% of the recipes I have tried from this book worked well for me.
Do you have a baking bible that you swear by? Or a book that was a huge disappointment and you keep it purely for the pictures? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.