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Monthly Archives: June 2012

After a quiet mini break to the beautiful land of Fin where the summer sun never sets, it’s back to the challenges for me. Just returned from a run, so on track still for the October challenge, and invigorated shall share with you the news of another completed challenge. Turns out the mini break was actually necessary to complete it, so look how that worked out. Ready? The latest challenge completed is….

*drumroll*

The photo album! Finally! I mentioned the photo album ages ago and I never got around to it (sounds familiar? Yes, that’s life.) Then two weeks ago, I got an email through the spambox, excuse me  “gray mail”, that actually offered me a deal to CTRL-C CTRL-V (or cmd-C, cmd -V for the Mac users) a photo album together. It offered a discount, I bought the credit and I just had to use it on an album before the 19th of June. Pics were collected, and yes if you tagged me in it or put it out there on the web I might have nabbed it for posterity. Sorry – but more importantly: adjust your privacy settings. And that really is only a half joke. * more on this to come.

The album contains pictures of family (a whole section on my best girls, who will be joined by a best boy in autumn), friends in all sorts shapes and sizes ( The fab four, the Exmouth Seven, New York, Liessel Legendary and erhm, B and Sura.) Oh and section with my very cool sister of course.

* here we go: One thing I have learned from my own picture gathering antics, is the power of the almighty accessible interweb… The internet is great to keep connected with all my friends/family across the world: it’s much easier to stay in touch and meet people years after you last saw them and not feel like complete strangers. Still, we need to be aware who can see what: if you use social media, especially FB, double check the settings on your albums. It all got reset when Timeline came in. I might have clicked on a picture that your friend took of you and me  and could click through to the rest of her albums too. Check your settings now: you can adjust it per album. Click on the arrow  on the bottom right hand corner for a dropdown.

This is an open blog and even though this challenge indirectly included those I care about, at no point should it be a bother to them. So here the hopefully non offending front page as proof of album, and once it actually comes in, I will place a pic as well.

Next challenge is coming up next week:  spend time shadowing a teaching-assistant in a special needs school!

Report to follow y’all, thanks for reading.

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Second batch – improvement on below

Over the jubilee weekend I completed the croissant challenge and with a little improv (at one point, the dough had to go on transport on ice.) the first batch was ok. Then the next day I made an immediate second attempt, as I had the ingredients now and a little bit more of a clue what to do. Second batch was a big improvement, so I have hope for any future attempts.

This is what I learnt:

Scales with converters are marvellous things. I have no idea how many oz go in a lb but I can still use an American recipe because my scales are very clever.

Cold is your friend. It keeps the butter firm and panic out. I can’t describe the sinking feeling of butter melting through the dough as you are rolling it out after a day and a half of work.

Find a space The dough needs to be rolled out long, so find a space where you are not bumping into kitchen paraphernalia.

Take your time  part 1.  Croissant dough is not necessarily a difficult recipe (unless you’d live in Hawaii see previous point) but it needs to rest a lot. The recipe I used had 2 overnight rests, but after some browsing and comparing recipes, (some even said too much rest in the first stage would make the croissant too bready) I gave the dough a new-parent overnight rest in the fridge (roughly 4hrs) which did not seem to affect it.

Take your time part 2. The  last proving stage of 2hours does need to happen. I cut this short by an hour during the first attempt. (My own fault for oversleeping epically and there was a morning schedule.)  Result: dough was too dense still.

Take your time part 3. Cooking time. Ovens are all different, so while the recipe said 8-10 min, during my last and most succesful batch I had the croissants in the overn for 20min. Turning down the heat from 200C to 180C to prevent burning.

Worth its salt. The first batch was a bit bland so put more salt in the second batch. Obviously immediately worrying it was too much, but 2 -2.5 teaspoons was needed to enhance flavour.

Preciseness perfection 1. When I say that the recipe was not too difficult, it’s because I decided not to be OCD about it. Had I let that beast out, the whole thing was a disaster and (more) panic would have ensued! Working butter into the dough, rolling and folding, you want it to be precise otherwise the chances of butter peeping through the edges increases. Rolling by hand, needs to be as equally pressured as by a machine: still working on that.

Preciseness perfection 2. The croissants were not evenly shaped, I did not use a ruler, and I still have to work on getting the puffiness in the middle right. ( Currently it is collapsing, I think it’s because the butter might have seeped out of the edges).

However, overall a positive experience and a new found skill I will be trying to improve.

This weekend something huge is about to happen. Forget the Jubilee, the four-day weekend or any rain soaked barbecues: Sunday will be croissant day.

After struggling to plan a few of the challenges, I decided to pick a date when I will be together with friends who can support me through, what according to the recipe, is a two-day process. How Meryl Streep ever conjured up fresh croissants in It’s Complicated in a few hours no-one knows, and she uses a machine.(= clearly cheating.)

The friends, supportive as they are of course, obviously have an agenda of their own as they will get to eat the croissants. If they (the croissants, not friends) turn out alright that is… and so suddenly support group feels a little as peer pressure.

Croissants-2

Croissants-2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What could possibly go wrong? Oh I don’t know, everything. Baking, as you experienced kitchen gods and goddesses well know is a science. Regular cooking, roasting, grilling can at times be a little improvised and off the cuff, not baking however. The measurements of the ingredients when baking are vital, as is time and temperatures. The chemical process of the ingredients working together will determine the outcome and croissants made out of puff pastry is really in the advanced league. I am not. I am more the “whack together some butter, eggs, sugar, flower”- girl hoping that small portions will require less preciseness. (“They’re cupcakes, they’re supposed to be that small.”)

Why all of a sudden the leap to play with the big girls then? I love croissants. A great croissant: a plain, no chocolate, apricot or almond paste, a great well baked, no claggy heaviness but dark brown crisp and fluffy, and importantly non-squished croissant (what’s those tongs!) can make my day. Especially in combination with a wonderful black coffee, a great croissant can make me very happy.

I want to get to know my source of happiness, want to learn how much effort goes into each fold and layer. The chemistry of the croissant lies in the folding: the butter melts between the layers and creates the air between them, if done well you get lovely fluffiness.

Do I expect my first attempt of one of my favourite things to go well: No not at all (Sorry hungry friends). I will just do my best and hopefully try again, and again.