June 20, 2010

Trio of Mini Donut Muffins

Anytime I can get the taste of something fried without having to deal with a deep fryer I'm already bought in.  So when my sister forwarded a recipe for a muffin that was supposed to taste exactly like a cake donut I was a very willing tester.  

The recipe comes from the Downtown Bakery & Creamery in Healdsburg, CA and is one of their most popular muffins.   After making them I can honestly say they taste exactly like cake donuts.  The bakery's version is dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar.   I decided to make mini size donuts and since three flavors are better than one I left some plain and  also rolled some in powdered sugar...a trio of deliciousness! 

June 9, 2010


Gougères, or  French cheese puffs, are a perfect accompaniment  to a glass of sparkling wine or other aperitif.  Had my first taste when I was at school in Dijon, which is only fitting as gougères are a specialty of the Burgundy region.   I still remember how delicious the savory puffs were with a glass of Kir.

Tartine Bakery here in San Francisco makes the most amazing gougères that are as big as softballs.  What sets theirs apart from the rest is the fresh thyme that's added along with Gruyère cheese to the pâte à choux dough.   This is my homage to their version.  Give them a try!

June 6, 2010

Kouign Amann

I'd like to think I'm pretty well versed in most French pastries, but Kouign Amann really baffled me when I first heard about them.   You probably have the same questions I did: what is it and how the hell do you pronounce it?  It's a pastry originating in the Brittany region of France and is kind of a cross between a croissant and palmier.  And it's pronounced like queen ah-mann.

The kouign amann and I crossed paths when my brother's friend brought some back from a bakery in Salt Lake City called Les Madeleines.   Apparently they are renowned for this pastry.  My brother and sister-in-law emailed me straight away after tasting their version, raving about about how delicious they were.  The perfect blend of sweet, salt, butter and caramel.  Of course I was intrigued and immediately set about doing some research online.   I'm always up for a baking challenge, especially when it's uncharted territory.  I had a feeling I was going to become obsessed with these like I was with macarons.   Fellow baking nerds can relate.

Surprisingly there weren't many recipes out there.  But the ones I was able to find all started with a laminated dough.  I've made laminated doughs before; it's basically a yeast dough with many layers of butter in between.  Think croissant or puff pastry.   The difference with the kouign amann is that the dough is rolled in sugar before it's baked.  The sugar and the butter melt together in the oven producing a salty sweet caramel that the kouign amann is known for.  Sounded simple enough, right?  Not really.

It's so-called simplicity cleverly disguised its difficulty.  Five pounds of flour,  three pounds of European-style butter and several hours of elbow grease later and I think I'm about 80% there.    Just need a few more practice runs before I get it right.  Will post the recipe when I achieve success.