Cookie Decorating in Tokyo

I spent the last two weeks of September in Tokyo spending time with my family and friends. While home, I had the pleasure of having one of my SUPER talented friends, Yui, who has her license to teach cookie decorating, teach my friend Emi and I how to ice cookies.

A little history on me and decorating cookies… In 2015, while I was still living in Boston, I became really interested in icing cookies simply because I followed SweetAmbs on Instagram. If you don’t follow her, I highly recommend you check out her ‘gram because her work is AWESOME. I definitely will never be as talented as she is, but I thought I would give it a shot. I ordered all the necessary materials, watched a bunch of YouTube videos and set out on making the perfect Valentine’s Day cookies using SweetAmbs’ techniques. Welp, 5 hours  later I had some cookies that looked….Ok.

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After the Valentine’s Day cookie decorating, I attempted to decorate cookies on my own a few more times (very unsuccessfully) trying to use techniques like brush embroidery (failed miserably). After a lot of failed attempts, I decided to give up for a bit because I just had too many sugar cookies and it was becoming a huge waste of food.

Fast forward 2.5 years, after seeing Yui’s insanely gorgeous cookies on her Instagram, I decided that if Yui would be willing to teach me, I would re-attempt cookie decorating. This time turned out A LOT more successfully than in 2015!

We started off making the royal icing. Super simple, but you have to make sure you use the right proportion of meringue powder to powdered sugar to water. We used a recipe similar to this one by Wilton. What I hadn’t done in the past that I realize now is vital, is to make sure to keep mixing using a stand mixer for at least 7 minutes.

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What we end up with is the HARD icing that we use for the outline of our cookies. We then put a small amount of icing into individual bowls to create the colorful icing. Only a TINY bit of food coloring is necessary for this step. We used the Wilton gel food coloring. Just dip a toothpick in the gel, and that’s about how much you’ll need if you’re looking for more pastel colors.

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Once mixed, we added them into the cornets that Yui had made using clear plastic sheets. For this process, you can also use parchment paper. Here’s a step-by-step of how to make your own cornet (aka cookie decorating pastry bag). Once the hard icing has been added to the cornets, we add about 1/8 – 1/4 tsp of water at a time to the hard icing to create the FLOOD icing. We then add these to cornets and make sure we can differentiate between the HARD and FLOOD by marking the cornets

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Now that we had made the Royal Icing it was time to decorate! Yui had asked her cookie decorating teacher to make the sugar butter cookies for us. Another point I learned during this lesson is that VERY FLAT cookies are necessary in order to decorate cookies neatly (and nicely). The cookies I had used back in 2015 were way too lumpy which is probably why I had such a difficult time decorating them.

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Yui had a practice sheet where we could practice outlining our cookies. When outlining the cookie, you LIFT the cornet while the icing is coming out so that you get a super straight line.

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After outlining our cookies, we used the flood icing to fill in and “color” the cookies. Once the cookies have been filled with the flood icing, make sure to wait for the flood icing to dry a bit to add more decorations using the HARD icing. After a couple of hours, our masterpieces were complete!

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Yui (our teacher)’s cookies

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My cookies

Not too bad eh? Yui’s cookies were obviously a lot prettier, however, I felt that I learned a lot of new, not to mention super important, tricks and tips on how to make proper royal icing and how to decorate cookies! After our lesson, I decided that I wanted to try making lace cookies that I had seen before on Instagram. I looked up how to do it on YouTube using Haniela’s video and used the HARD icing. Basically it’s like cross-stitching (I think…). It takes time and a lot of concentration but it turned out all right!

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Overall, cookie decorating takes a LOT of time and patience, but if you’re looking for a fun gift for friends or family, I think it’s worth it! I think I’ll attempt to make some cookies for the upcoming Holiday season, so we’ll see how I do decorating on my own!

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Baking Day 10: Sakura Matcha Madeleines

Anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely LOVE sakura season in Japan. There really is nothing else in the world like it. For a very brief period of time, the entire city of Tokyo becomes a soft pink wonderland. The “mankai” or fully bloomed period usually only lasts a couple of days, which makes the experience all the more special. If you’ve never seen sakura (cherry blossoms) in person, I highly recommend traveling to Japan in the spring. If unable to travel to Japan, there are also sakura trees in Seattle, WA and Washington DC (that I know of!).

Spring 2017

Spring in Tokyo

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Sakura desserts are also very popular in Japan during the spring season. Sakura desserts can be enjoyed throughout the year by preserving the sakura blossoms in salt. I had actually never used preserved sakura in my baking before, until my Aunty Wallis gave me a bag of salted sakura blossoms. I had received Organic matcha from her husband (my Uncle Dennis), and since sakura and matcha pair so well together, I decided to make Sakura Matcha Madeleines. I researched some recipes online and came across one from the Japanese recipe website cookpad. The recipe included making half the batch with sakura powder, but since I didn’t have access to any, I made all of the batter with just matcha.

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The first step to making these madeleines is to soak the salted sakura in water to remove some of the salt in the blossoms.

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Next, prepare the madeleine pan by brushing some melted butter into each mold and then putting the pan in the freezer.

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In a large bowl, add your cake flour, baking powder, sugar, and matcha powder.

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In a separate small bowl, add the egg and honey and beat with a whisk. Once mixed, add your egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with the whisk.

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Once mixed, add your melted butter to the bowl and mix until combined.

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Once batter is ready, cover bowl and let the batter rest in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours (I did 2).

Meanwhile, remove the sakura blossoms from the water bowl, and dry with a paper towel.

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Preheat oven to 356 F (180 C). Take your madeleine pan from the freezer and place 1 blossom in each cavity.

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Pour a spoonful of batter into each cavity and bake for 10 minutes.

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Remove madeleines and allow to cool on a baking rack. These madeleines are sweet and buttery but have a wonderful floral fragrance and just a hint of saltiness from the preserved sakura. Enjoy!

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Ingredients
Makes 12 Madeleines

  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 6 Tbsp Cake Flour
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter melted (plus 1-2 Tbsp for madeleine pan)
  • 1/2 tsp Matcha Powder
  • 12 Salted Sakura blossoms

Recipe

  1. Add sakura blossoms to a bowl of water to remove salt.
  2. Prepare madeleine pan by brushing each cavity with melted butter and placing pan in the freezer.
  3. In a large bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, sugar, and matcha powder and whisk.
  4. In a small bowl, add 1 egg and honey and beat with whisk.
  5. Add your egg and honey to the flour mixture and mix with whisk.
  6. Once mixed, add melted butter to the batter. Cover bowl of batter and let rest in fridge for 1 – 2 hours.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 356 degrees F (180 C).
  8. Take sakura blossoms out of the water and dry with paper towels. Once dried, add one blossom to each cavity of the madeleine pan.
  9. Add about a spoonful of batter to each cavity, making sure to add an even amount to each cavity.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Remove madeleines from pan and allow to cool on cooling rack, ridge side down.
  12. Enjoy! Madeleines are best enjoyed the day of.

Baking Day 9: Puff Pastry

Soooo my “Baking Diary” is taking a bit longer than anticipated due to travel but also because I’m being discouraged from baking by my family (as always, we’re trying to lose weight T_T).

I was asked to make puff pastry from scratch because my mother had made some fresh apricot jam and she wanted something that we could bake with her jam. I’ve made croissants before (they took 3 days but it was worth it) but I have never made puff pastry so I was up for the challenge. And yes, it was a HUGE CHALLENGE! The end result was great, but would I make it from scratch again? Probably not. I think the croissants were worth more effort than the puff pastry. The puff pastry recipe I used is Bouchon Bakery’s recipe, but there are tons of recipes you can find online that probably don’t require 3 days of your time.

Day 1:

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The first day of the puff pastry making included mixing the dough (basically just water, a bit of a butter, flour, salt and vinegar) and making your “butter block”.

If you’ve never made a butter block before, fear not, it is easy as long as you have your workspace, a proper rolling pin and some parchment paper. You’ll also need a ruler (or measuring tape) to make sure you roll out the block into the proper proportions. The butter block required some elbow grease (there’s a lot of pounding) but it’s a nice stress reliever. It does make a ton of noise while pounding so if you have thin walls that you share with grumpy neighbors- beware.

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Once the dough’s been mixed, you form it into a ball and cut an “X” into it (to let it relax?) and then you have to let it rest overnight in the fridge.

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Dough

Day 2:

Day 2 is the most time consuming day of the 3 days it takes to make this puff pastry so I literally needed the ENTIRE day to dedicate to the puff.

I started by encasing the butter block into the dough. The dough needs to be rolled out into a 12-13″ circle. Once it’s rolled out, the butter block is put in the center, closed up, and then rolled out for the first turn.

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Each “turn” goes like this: Roll out the butter encased dough to a rectangle that’s approximately 24 x 9:. Fold the bottom third of the dough up as if you’re folding a letter, then fold the top third down to cover the bottom third. Turn the block 90 degrees so the dough looks like a book, making sure the opening is on the right. After each turn, I refrigerated the dough for 2 hours and I did 5 turns total.

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These “turns” are where it all became a bit tricky. I was working on a super hot day (so dumb of me) and the butter started seeping out. After looking for answers online, I read that you can add a tiny bit of flour to the “buttery” parts and just keep rolling over it. It didn’t seem to affect my end result so I guess it worked? Key takeaway point here- keep everything SUPER COLD!

Once I completed my 5 turns, I put the puff pastry in the fridge to rest overnight.

Day 3:

The final day of the puff pastry experience. I rolled out my dough slightly and divided the dough up into 3. I kept the other 2 portions in the freezer to use for a later time (the dough can keep in the freezer for up to 1 month). I rolled the remaining dough out into a rectangle and then cut little squares off of the main dough. Any squares I wasn’t going to be working with within the next 10-15 minutes, I kept in the fridge. This dough is really a PITA to work with in a hot environment since everything starts sticking.

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With the puff pastry dough I made: Micro Palmiers, Jam Pastries, Cheese filled pastry and a pesto, mozzarella filled pastry.

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I think my favorite were the savory pastries and the micro palmiers. I will definitely make the palmiers again with the remaining puff pastry dough.

Overall it was a fun experience making the puff pastry since I really do enjoy labor intensive cooking and baking, but I think for anybody who doesn’t have ample time on their hands, you’re better off just buying the frozen kind! Obviously the homemade one is deeeeelish and buttery and flaky, but I just don’t think it’s worth spending 3 days on! My next baking venture was going to be croissant dough but I think I’ll need to wait until the weather cools off a bit to make it! For now, I’ll be sticking to more bread baking practice.

Curry Pan (Japanese Curry Donut)

A not so well-known fact about Tokyo (and Japan in general) is that there are some insanely delicious bakeries scattered around the entire city. My favorite bakery is located in the neighborhood where I grew up, Azabu Juban, called Mont-Thabor. They are most famous for their milk bread which is like a buttery, milky, sweet rolled up loaf. They have a copy-cat version of it at 85 degrees bakery but it pales in comparison to the real deal.  They also have some famous French & New York bakeries/pastry shops in Tokyo such as Maison Kayser, Dominique Ansel’s, Magnolia Bakery, etc. but I prefer the bakeries that sell old school Japanese baked goods.

One of my favorite Japanese bakery items is the Curry Pan. I’ve been eating these deep fried savory delicacies for as long as I can remember and it combines two of some of my favorite food items: fried bread and curry. It’s basically a savory donut and if you’ve never had it run to your nearest Japanese (or Korean) bakery and grab one. It’s SO GOOD.

I’ve been wanting to try making curry pan for some time now and since I had made my mother’s dry curry recipe, I figured the dry curry would be the perfect filler for my very own curry pan. I first did my research by looking up the best curry pan recipes on CookPad (a Japanese recipe app/site) and watching various YouTube videos. The end result went over very well with my “test subjects” aka my family and friends. If making this recipe, I recommend using my curry recipe as the filler, or some sort of drier curry as your average Japanese curry may be too runny. The dry curry should be kept in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to make sure it’s hardened and easier to handle as a filling.

Once you have your filling prepared, you can start on your bread dough…

Ingredients
makes about 8 servings

Bread dough

  • 250g Bread Flour
  • 10g Granulated Sugar
  • 3g Salt
  • 150g Water
  • 2g Dry Yeast
  • 5g Butter

Filling

Dredging/Frying

  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Vegetable Oil enough to fill your frying vessel about 4 inches

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Mix everything except the butter in a bowl until it is no longer “flour-y”. Flip dough onto your work surface and knead in butter and knead until smooth. It may be a little lumpy but that’s ok.

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Put the kneaded dough ball in a bowl and cover and let proof in a warm area for about 1 hour. After the first proof, divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Let it rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, divide your dry curry into 8 equal portions for your filling.

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Take one ball and softly pound out the gas bubbles that may have formed and roll it into an oval. Put in 1 portion of the filling in the center.

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Take both sides of the dough and bring them together in the middle and pinch at the top. Then pinch your way down both sides so that no filling is showing.

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Once you’ve pinched it all the way, roll it on your surface and shape it in a pointy oval (I’m sure there’s a name for this…). Lay it to rest seam-side down. Repeat these steps for the rest of the 7 balls.

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Once you’ve filled all 8 of the dough balls, set up your work station to dredge the filled dough.

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Dip each piece into the egg and then the panko and set it down (make sure you put it seam-side down again!).

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Keep the dredged pieces in a warm area and let it proof a second time for 30 minutes until they are slightly larger.

Heat up the vegetable oil to 160-170 C (320 – 338 F) and fry about 3 pieces at a time.

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Fry each side of the pieces until golden brown (about 6 minutes total). Sprinkle with flaky salt (optional). Serve hot!

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Instructions

  1. Mix everything except the butter in a bowl until it is no longer “flour-y”. Flip dough onto your work surface and knead in butter and knead until smooth. It may be a little lumpy but that’s ok.
  2. Put the kneaded dough ball in a bowl and cover and let proof in a warm area for about 1 hour. After the first proof, divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Let it rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, divide your dry curry into 8 equal portions for your filling.
  3. Take one ball and softly pound out the gas bubbles that may have formed and roll it into an oval. Put in 1 portion of the filling in the center. Take both sides of the dough and bring them together in the middle and pinch at the top. Then pinch your way down both sides so that no filling is showing.
  4. Once you’ve pinched it all the way, roll it on your surface and shape it in a pointy oval (I’m sure there’s a name for this…). Lay it to rest seam-side down. Repeat these steps for the rest of the 7 balls.
  5. Once you’ve filled all 8 of the dough balls, set up your work station to dredge the filled dough. Dip each piece into the egg and then the panko and set it down (make sure you put it seam-side down again!).
  6. Keep the dredged pieces in a warm area and let it proof a second time for 30 minutes until they are slightly larger.
  7. Heat up the vegetable oil to 160-170 C (320 – 338 F) and fry about 3 pieces at a time.
  8. Fry each side of the pieces until golden brown (about 6 minutes total). Sprinkle with flaky salt (optional). Serve hot!

 

Baking Day 8: Brioche Dough

This was my first time making brioche dough from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. I was hoping to make the brioche dough specifically for the Brioche au Levain, but that recipe calls for proofing the dough overnight and I wanted to bake bread that would be done by the end of today. The option that didn’t require overnight proofing was brioche dough for Hot Cross Buns, but I added my own little twist on it.

The recipe calls for a LOT of butter. Like a 2:1 ratio of flour to butter. After mixing the flour, yeast, milk, eggs, salt and sugar for about 34 minutes, I added the butter pieces a few pieces at a time. I noticed that the butter wasn’t incorporating that easily into the dough. I’m wondering if maybe the butter was too hard? The recipe didn’t specify what texture the butter should be…

The recipe in the cookbook calls for dried currants and dried cranberries but I opted for chocolate chips instead of the dried fruit. I honestly despise any sort of dried fruit in my baked goods. Blegh! I forgot to knead in the chocolate chips and went straight into the stretch and folding of the dough. I let the dough proof for 45 minutes, repeated the stretch and fold and then proofed for another 45 minutes. I then divided the dough into 12 equal pieces and rolled each piece into balls.

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At this point I noticed that the buttery dough is SUPER greasy and doesn’t feel at all similar to any of the dough I’ve previously made. Rolling the dough into the ball shape was a lot easier than I had anticipated. At this point, I think I botched the recipe along the way but I won’t be sure until they’re done…

The buns went into the oven preheated at 350F for about 27 minutes. The tops of the buns were very golden brown and on the harder side due to the egg wash that I had brushed on. Once the buns had cooled a bit, I tried one and I was really amazed at how delicious the brioche turned out! Very fluffy and buttery with slightly melted chocolate chips in every bite, yum! My one complaint, again, was the top being a bit hard but I think if you add icing on top it’s supposed to soften the top part of the bun. I opted for no icing because I figured the brioche would be sweet enough without it but I think it would have definitely tasted better either with icing or with more sugar in the dough. Overall I was really impressed with this recipe! I thought I had messed up but the end result proved that this recipe is easy to follow and results in buttery fluffy brioche buns!

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Recipe for Brioche Dough for Hot Cross Buns (Adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook)

Brioche Dough

  • 372 g All-purpose Flour
  • 8 g Instant Yeast
  • 44 g Granulated Sugar
  • 9 g Fine Sea Salt
  • 186g Eggs
  • 63 g Whole Milk
  • 167 g Unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ cubes

Hot Cross Buns

  • 183 g Guittard (or Valhrona) Chocolate Chips
  • 3 g of Vanilla Paste
  • Brioche dough (recipe above)
  • Egg wash
  1. Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients, except butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Continue to mix on low speed for 30 minutes.
  2. Add butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Continue to mix for 10 minutes.
  3. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Run a bowl scraper around the sides and down to the bottom of the bowl of brioche dough to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, adding flour only as needed to keep it from sticking.
  4. With your hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape. Pour the chocolate chip mixture onto the dough and knead it into the dough (which will be sticky) to distribute it evenly. Pat the dough into a rectangle again.
  5. Stretch the left side of the dough out and fold it over two-thirds of the dough, then stretch and fold it from the right side to the opposite side, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the bottom and then the top. Turn the dough over, lift it up with a bench scraper, and place it seam side down in the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let the dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  6. Repeat the stretching and folding process, then return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover, and let sit for another 45 minutes.
  7. Spray the quarter sheet pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.
  8. Use the bowl scraper to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (78 grams each). Cup your fingers around a portion of dough and, using the palm of your hand, roll it against the work surface to form a ball. Continue to roll until the dough is completely smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough. (When you become proficient at rolling with one hand, you can use both hands and roll 2 portions at a time.) Set the balls on the prepared pan in 3 rows of 4. Brush the tops with egg wash.
  9. Cover the pan with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and let proof for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the balls have risen and are touching.
  10. Preheat the oven to 325 F (convection) or 350 F (standard).
  11. Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash again. Bake for 17 to 22 minutes in a convection oven, 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until the tops are a rich golden brown and, when tested with a toothpick, the centers are baked through. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  12. The buns taste best if eaten on the same day but can also be wrapped tightly in saran wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Baking Day 7: Eclairs

I had a ton of egg yolks left over from my Macaron baking so I decided to use them for my first attempt at making eclairs. I initially wanted to make choux creams since I absolutely LOVE choux cream (cream puffs?), especially the ones sold at Beard Papa in Japan. I think they have a few locations in the US as well but if you’ve never been to one I recommend it. The whole store smells like BUTTAH. They fill the choux pastry to order so the shell is still a little bit crispy and not at all soggy. I remember eating them on my bus rides home from Shibuya to Roppongi since they had a Beard Papa store right next to the bus stop. The wafting smell of butter was just too difficult to resist!

The choux cream recipe in Bouchon Bakery calls for silicone molds as well as making extra cookie dough to put on top of it so I thought I would save that for another day since 1) I don’t have silicon molds and 2) I don’t wanna be baking extra cookies. The eclairs in the cookbook are absolutely gorgeous and as I began making them I prayyyyed that my eclairs would look at least a tiny bit similar.

Pastry Cream

The first step in preparing the eclairs was making the pastry cream. I’ve never made  pastry cream from scratch before so I was a bit nervous. The cream takes quite a bit of work to make (at least it did for me), especially at the end since the cream needs to be pushed through a fine-mesh sieve which took FOR-E-VER. Once I finished making it, I saran wrap on top of the cream and made sure it made contact with the surface of the cream so it wouldn’t form a “skin”.

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Pâte à Choux

I think the last time I made pate a choux aka choux pastry was when I was in culinary school. I also made churro dough once but I remember it not ending so well (super dense churros that just weren’t good). The process itself is quite simple, but it’s SO important to follow the directions EXACTLY. I had some trouble with figuring out when the dough was dry enough to add it to my kitchenaid mixer.

I didn’t want the dough to dry out so I erred on the side of caution and took it off the heat while the dough still looked a little moist. Once the dough’s been added to the mixer, you’re supposed to sloooowly beat in the eggs. I had whisked my eggs to get the exact weight that I needed for the recipe, so slowly adding in the eggs proved quite difficult. I tried using a tablespoon measuring spoon but I couldn’t get enough of the egg in each tablespoon and I realized that would take forever. I started pouring it out of the bowl the eggs were in and immediately most of the eggs spilled into the dough. Major fail. My heart dropped a little but I moved onto the next step – piping.

Piping the dough was not as difficult as I had thought it would be. I didn’t have the correct pastry tip to make the same shape as the eclairs featured in the cookbook, so I just used the coupler instead which has an opening of about 1/2″.

Results

As I began baking the choux pastry and staring intently into the oven, I saw that the dough wasn’t puffing up 😦 I realized that I didn’t dry out the dough enough in the first vital steps and thus, I ended up with an eggy pancakey type texture. Devastating! I had already made all the pastry cream and everything…waaaah! But you know what? We all learn from our mistakes. I ended up having to bake the choux pastry for double the time because of the density of the dough.

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Once all the eclair shells were baked and cooled, I made a chocolate glaze. I didn’t use the recipe that was in the cookbook as it called for a “neutral glaze”, which I didn’t have on hand. I made the glaze with butter, Guittard dark chocolate chips, and added some heavy cream to thin it out. I filled the shells with the pastry cream and glazed them according to the instructions in the cookbook and a couple of the eclairs actually LOOKED like eclairs! Hooray! They also tasted pretty good, but the choux pastry was NOT a choux pastry. I effed that part up so I think I’m going to keep practicing just making the shells until I’m more familiar with the dough.

What I learned making these finicky desserts is that I have a difficult time comprehending the verbiage used in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. I’m also a visual learner so it helps a lot more if I can actually see the steps (i.e., how dry the dough should look before moving on to the next step). The last 2 times I’ve failed in making my desserts, I’ve researched online AFTER my failure. Going forward, I’ll make sure to research and watch some YouTube videos prior to baking more difficult pastries.

Baking Day 6: Basic Dough for Batard (3rd attempt)

Fermenting-Shaping-Proofing: Now that this is my third time making this same recipe, measuring and mixing has become a lot easier since I know what to expect and I also am getting better at timing myself. I made the Poolish last night at around 8:30pm, knowing that I would have all day today to make the bread. I’m never quite sure how much yeast to put in my Poolish since it calls for 0.1 grams of dry yeast and my scale only measures whole grams. Perhaps I should invest in a fancier scale…

Woke up to my Poolish looking extra bubbly this morning so I’m hoping I didn’t add too much yeast to begin with but it’ll be interesting to see the end result of overdoing the yeast.

I felt that I was able to shape the two loaves much easier this time, compared to the first two times. I’m starting to get a feel for what the dough should actually feel like, which is helping me shape the dough correctly. I still obviously need a lot of work but I can feel myself improving.

I always mess up the shape of the bread when I place it on my baking sheet. According to the recipe, you’re supposed to transfer the bread from the bread linen, to a pizza peel, to the baking sheet but since I don’t have a pizza peel I just lift the bread from both sides and place it on the sheet instead. I think this really affects the shape and size of my batards. Lifting from both sides actually pulls the loaves and makes it longer. I really need to think of a different way to transfer the loaves to my baking sheet so I can keep the shape intact.

Baking: Again, I had a difficult time trying to add the loaded baking sheet into the oven whilst also adding a cup of ice to the bottom rack. The oven keeps staying open far too long and I think a lot of the heat is escaping in those first crucial moments of my bake. I need to think of a better process to add steam to the oven. I left the bread in the oven for 31.5 minutes.

Results: I felt like I could have left the loaves in the oven for even longer since I am still not getting the deep golden brown color I’m seeing in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook photos. While the shape of the loaves is an improvement from my last two times, I still need a lot more practice. The texture of the bread was a little more spongy compared to the mocchiri (chewy) texture that I liked so much in my last two loaves and I found the loaf to be quite salty. I’m not sure why the bread tastes so salty this time when I added the exact same amount of salt. The bread still tastes fine but I think I prefer the texture and taste of my other loaves. I gave my extra loaf to my cousin and she loved it as did my parents. Perhaps I’m my harshest critique, but I know practice makes perfect and I still have probably 100 more loaves to bake before I actually perfect it!

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