This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was to delve into the archives and pick a past challenge of our choice: what’s more, the entire Daring Kitchen was available to us, so we also had the option of selecting a Daring Bakers challenge.
Our experience with the Daring Cooks over the past few years has been that, whilst we almost always enjoy doing the challenges, they fall into several categories:
- Things that we’ve already made before
- Things that we’ve never made before but, to be honest, will probably never make again
- Things that we’ve never made before, and which get added to our regular repertoire
Of course, #3 is usually the most fun, since not only do we get to try something new, we discover a new favorite dish and get to try variations on it in the future. A great example is the April 2013 challenge where we got to make a ballotine; not only is this something that we would never have dreamt of trying on our own, we were delighted to find it was not as intimidating as it first seems, and there will definitely be more ballotines in our future. (I’m still trying to convince Mrs Monkeyshines that we should have homemade Turducken for Thanksgiving this year…) We also loved the pate challenge (and have made several more batches since), and we made gumbo for dinner last week.
Enough rambling – on with this month’s challenge. Since we are not participants in the Daring Bakers, we decided we had to select something from their archives, and moreover it would have to be something that we have never done before and the prospect of which we found positively terrifying. This didn’t narrow it down a lot! – there are so many intricate pastries that the DB’s have made. We eventually decided to try our hand at making puff pastry and selected the Mille-Feuille challenge from October 2012. Not only did this require us to make puff pastry from scratch, but we also had to prepare a crème patisserie.
Fortunately, challenge host Suz provided excellent instructions, and we were soon on the way to making our very own puff pastry. Detailed directions can be found at the Daring Kitchen.
1. First we made the dough, crumbling flour, salt and a small amount of butter together until it resembled fine crumbs. Separately, we made the ‘beurrage’ by mixing butter with a little flour. We splashed out on some good quality European butter, which is more suited to this sort of pastry due to its higher fat content compared to regular American butter.
2. Here is our ball of dough, which we rolled into a square and layered together with the refrigerated beurrage.
3. We folded the dough/beurrage into a neat parcel, rolled it out and then performed the first of several fold/roll cycles. All in all there were 6 cycles of rolling and folding, in 3 sets of 2 with 30 minutes refrigeration in between each set.
4. We divided the finished dough into 2 batches to roll out and bake, which was just as well since the first batch turned out to be overcooked and a bit burnt (on the left of the right-hand picture below.) We were much more careful with timing of the second batch.
5. Finally we were ready to put to all together! The crème patisserie came together after one false start; initially we didn’t heat it for long enough and it turned out a bit runny. Happily, we were able to simply reheat while stirring in order to thicken it up. The icing was also a little runny (see it dripping over the side in the second picture below!) but it all worked out OK in the end.
It was very rewarding to make those patterns on the top of the pastry, and to see that it turned out to look pretty much like the ones you see in pastry shops. The finished slice can be seen at the top of this post. Thanks to the original challenge host Suz, and to Lisa for posing this ‘pick your poison’ challenge for the Daring Cooks!
In a "celebration" of past Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!