I was recently introduced to a new cookbook, and I swear this is my favorite one to date. That would be Pastry Love by James Beard Award winning chef Joanne Chang, owner of the famous Flour Bakery in Boston.
During a night event to promote her new cookbook, we got to work with Joanne Chang and one of her pastry chefs. Chef Chang demoed four recipes from the book for this public event, so we spent the day making enough of those recipes to serve to everyone. We made the vanilla apple pound cake, peppermint kisses, tahini-black sesame shortbread swirl, and blueberry hand pies. I had a great time making these treats and working with Chef Coco all day.
I took my copy of Pastry Love home and started browsing. I was planning to mark what recipes I wanted to make. Turns out, I wanted to make all of them! As I flipped to each page, I ooohed and aaahhed at the wonderful treats I could make. So, I decided when I was done with my class, I would start blogging my way through this book.
I know I have started a few projects for the blog that may seem incomplete. I have not abandoned them. I just didn’t do much cooking at all while I was in my class. Now that I am done, I am ready to get back to work using all the knowledge and skills I gained. Now I have another project to add.
I have said this before, but I realized how much I love pastry through this class. I have never lit up the way I did when I was in pastry class. Learning all these new skills just warmed my heart and soul. I figured baking my way through Pastry Love would be a great way to continue growing these skills.
I found two recipes that would be a perfect start, as I wanted to make them as part of my Christmas gifts: vanilla peppermint marshmallows and panettone.
My dad absolutely loves panettone. While many people don’t know what they are, it is a divisive item for those who do. Some people don’t like it because it is basically a fruitcake. However, this sweet Italian Christmas bread is far better than your standard dense fruitcake with unidentifiable items in it.
When I saw a recipe for homemade panettone in this book, I just knew I had to try this for my dad. I decided to not tell him what I was making. I wanted to surprise him, but I also thought that just in case I mess it up, I don’t want to set the expectation that I am brining this home.
I made the bread dough, which is very similar to the brioche dough we made in class. Only, once the dough was made, I incorporated the dried fruit and almond slices. A bread dough like this is called a rich dough, as opposed to a lean dough. That means there is a high amount of fat and sugar in the dough. For that reason, a rich bread is often more dense than a lean dough.
Still, this is a yeasted bread, so I let the dough go through its initial fermentation. I was trying to get all this done before work, so I wanted the fermentation to speed up. Ultimately, I should have let it rise a bit more, but I got impatient and shaped my two loaves. However, instead of doing a longer proof in the fridge, I let the two dough balls proof on the counter while I was at work. When I came home, they had a nice rise to them, so I stuck them in the oven to bake.
I got a nice oven spring in my bread and they looked nice and golden brown. The stressful part about making something like this is that there really is no way to try it without breaking it open, so I had to wait to see how they turned out.
I gave one loaf to my dad and one to my grandparents. I cut the loaf open with my grandparents, and low and behold, there was a panettone. I thought if I proofed it differently, maybe it could have been a little less dense, but overall it looked great. It looked like the ones we have bought at the store. Speaking of that, I was in Wal-Mart yesterday with my parents. They had the standard boxed panettones selling for 98 cents! It certainly cost me much more just to make one loaf. Typically, I see these sold for at least $10, so they must have put them on sale trying to get rid of them.
Well, these are no store-bought panettones! My grandparents loved eating this bread with me at dinner. My dad and I also shared some of his loaf for breakfast yesterday. I do think it tasted great, with a nice sweetness from the dried fruit. I agree with Chef Chang that this bread would make some excellent French toast. I think I will make another one of these soon to experiment with some Brunch dishes.
I also made some vanilla peppermint marshmallows. I saw this recipe in the book and thought what a great festive treat these would be. I had never made marshmallows before. I thought about how good these would be when my dad makes us his Christmas Eve hot chocolate. I also imagined these would make some great gifts. So, if you are reading this and will be seeing me in the next week, there is a good chance you will be getting some marshmallows from me.
In case you were wondering, these are a bit of a mess to make, especially if you are someone like me who is prone to make messes. I had to spend some time sweeping up powdered sugar and corn starch when I was done, but it was so worth it.
To make these marshmallows, I bloomed the gelatin in cold water in the stand mixer. Meanwhile, I made the syrup of sugar, syrup, and water. Then, I slowly poured the hot syrup into the bloomed gelatin and whipped it until a bright white marshmallow fluff had formed. I poured the fluff into to a cake pan. Overnight, the marshmallows set up and formed into a block of marshmallows. I carefully cut the block into these puffy, white marshmallow squares and packed them away into an airtight container.
I have so many ways to use these marshmallows. I put some in my hot chocolate. I am giving away some as gifts. I could even experiment with flavors and colors. I could make some s’mores with the graham cracker recipe I got from class. I could make chocolate covered marshmallow pops. I could make homemade mallow cups. The possibilities are endless! Other than some waiting time and a little bit of a mess, this recipe is super easy to make.
I must say I had a great start to my Pastry Love journey. I wonder what I’ll make next.