Showing posts with label pastry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pastry. Show all posts

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Baker Daughter Julia Williams

Another member of the next generation of writer-cooks debuts today on Mystery Lover's Kitchen!

Today we have a very special guest, my daughter Julia Williams (I hope it’s not nepotism). What is she doing on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen? Because she works at a handful of different jobs in Chicago, and one of them is making croissants and other pastries for a chain of coffee shops there. Lots of flaky pastries! She’s been sending me pictures from work for a while, and I wanted to share them with you. (In case you’re worried, she’s quite svelte, although she will admit to eating some of the malformed pastries now and then. Baking can be hard work!)

So she, 
the baker with hands-on experience has explained to me how commercial croissants are made, with pictures. It’s unlikely you will ever be called on to produce croissants in numbers like these, so I won’t give you a recipe (“start with 50 pounds of butter and . . .”).

First you mix: combine the ingredients in a big mixer. The blade spins in place, and the bowl rotates around it.

Divide the dough into 3.5 kilo (just shy of 8 pounds) lumps, and put them in the proofer for an hour. [For those who don’t know what a proofer is, like me, it is an oven that controls temperature (at around 85 degrees F) and humidity (around 70%) so that your dough can rise quickly without drying out. In case you’re really curious, if a baker wants a slower rise, the dough is put in a “retarder” which is warmer than a refrigerator but cooler than a proofer.] The proofer that Julie’s bakery uses is about the size of a walk-in closet, and has a retard setting as well (goes from hot to cold in half an hour). (Aw, come on, mystery readers--don't start thinking of ways to leave a body in a proofer--which would lend itself to all sorts of good titles.)

Remove the (now-large) dough balls from the proofer. Shape them roughly, place on sheet pans, and freeze (yes, freeze). Later they will become “books,” which are sandwiched with sheets of butter, frozen again, defrosted, and then “laminated” with many folds (that is, you fold and roll again multiple times, which produces those lovely thin flaky layers in your croissant).

Once they are laminated, they are rolled out in a big sheet and cut into narrow triangles, which are rolled (pointy end out) to form the classic croissant (yes) crescent shape. Proof, egg wash, and bake.

Rolled and cut


There are lots of different options. Ham and cheese croissants, for example. Chocolate croissants. Filled croissants. Or use the same dough for Danish or kouign amann (look it up).

How to make a lot of croissants!

You can make puff pastry at home, if you really, really want to. The Great British Baking Show offered one recipe (and we watched the contestants struggle with it), but the ingredients were basically flour and water for the dough (Julie says the recipe she uses includes yeast and powdered milk as well), although the rolling and layering with butter is the same. Out of curiosity I checked a Julia Child recipe for Easy Puff Pastry and found she avoided the layering altogether, instead choosing to break up the butter into small chunks and roll (multiple times) from there. I can’t say I’ve tried it, but surely it must give a different result than the layered approach?

And that takes time. Make dough. Chill. Roll out butter. Fold butter and dough into a packet. Chill. Roll. Repeat a number of times, chilling or freezing between each rolling. The end product is delightful, but do you really want to do all that work?

Here’s one suggestions: grab a plane to Paris, find a café with tables on the sidewalk, and order a croissant or two to go with your coffee. And enjoy, knowing that a baker has worked hard to give you that lovely flaky pastry.

Julia Williams graduated from Smith College with a degree in comparative literature, and worked in a large independent bookstore for five years. Currently she lives in Chicago, where she both writes plays and performs with local theater groups—when she’s not producing pastries!

I’ll ask if she can respond to questions about the baking process, but she has an odd schedule (she has to start the croissants at 4:30 a.m.

A few less than perfect examples that they
couldn't sell. Wonder who are them?

Friday, June 5, 2015


by Sheila Connolly

I kind of backed into this recipe. You see, it’s fiddlehead season. If you’re not familiar with fiddleheads, they are the tender tips of emerging ferns, still tightly coiled. They’re available for a very short time each spring. They taste a bit like asparagus, with a nice crunch.

The thing is, there’s not much you can do with them, if you want to enjoy their delicacy and freshness: simply saute/steam them with a little butter.

So, while contemplating my pound of fresh fiddleheads, I tried to come up with a complementary recipe for something, and I landed on gougère. That’s a fancy word for a pastry made of pâte à choux. Not any clearer? Think cream puff dough. I was first introduced to gougère by Julia Child, many years ago. Most often they are made by the spoonful, which produces a hollow crispy pastry that you can fill with either a sweet or savory filling. The dough is easy and fun to make.

But I wanted a single dish, not a fiddly (ha, a pun) bunch of little things. So I had to go hunting, and found one that was kinda, sorta what I wanted, so I started fine-tuning it. And voila! Here is my companion dish to the fiddleheads!

Gougère with mushrooms and ham

Pâte à Choux:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1 cup flour
Pinch each of salt and pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1/8 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, diced (about 1/4 inch cubes)

Mix the flour, salt and pepper together. Heat the water and butter in a large saucepan until the butter melts.

Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir vigorously (most sources suggest a sturdy wooden spoon for this) until it comes together in an elastic ball. This should take about a minute.

Allow the mixture to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with that wooden spoon after each one.

Stir in the diced cheese.

Filling: (actually I made the filling first, because it can sit while you make the dough)

4 Tblsp butter

1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 Tblsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly grated pepper
1 cup chicken broth, heated
6 ounces cooked ham, chopped
1 Tblsp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onion over low-medium heat until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the ham. Taste for seasoning.

Butter a 10- or 11-inch ovenproof skillet or shallow baking dish. Spoon the pâte à choux in a ring around the edge, leaving a hole in the center. 

Spoon the filling into the center. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the whole thing.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the gougère is crisp and puffy and the filling is bubbling.

Serve at once, cut into wedges (it kind of goes splat once you cut into it, but it tastes good!. Along with your fiddleheads!

At last! Privy to the Dead, available everywhere! You can finally find out what's in that hole in the basement of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society. (Don't worry, it won't turn your stomach.)

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Indiebound

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Comment to Win Wearable Literary Art and Welcome the Artist: Pattie Tierney, Fan of Mystery and Food Blogging

The Dame Agatha Christie wearable literary art pin,
handcrafted by Pattie Tierney.
(For more info, click here.)
Please welcome our guest blogger Pattie Tierney, who is sharing a tasty recipe for Eccles Cake along with an answer to my curious question: How did you start designing and selling your wonderful "Wearable Literary Art," much of which is dedicated to mystery writers? 
~ Cleo Coyle

Mystery has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. I cut my teeth on Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, was introduced to Basil Rathbone as Holmes, becoming an instant fan, and, thanks to late night movies and my nocturnal ways, wanted to be Nora Charles when I was in grade school, complete with wardrobe and dry martinis.

Since then my love for mysteries has grown, and permeates all aspects of my life. From the poison garden that I attempted to grow in high school (my parents became alarmed, and the garden was plowed over and my dad planted potatoes) to working its way into a Master's project when I designed a semester long course on detective fiction (I called it "The Literature of Detection"), complete with syllabus, field trips to cemeteries, the firing range, crime lab, and culminating with an end-of-semester party with tea and cookies cut in the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes (Yes, I do have that cookie cutter.). I suppose I could have served these Crime Scene Brownies as well. 

Pattie's Crime Scene Brownies from her
"Olla-Podrida" food blog. For the recipe, click here.

Nancy Drew: Girl Detective
Mystery Art Pin -
click here
for more info.

In the days before the Internet I was summoned by the local PBS station (who somehow got wind of my love for mysteries) to be Jeremy Brett's (a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes) "guardian" while he spent three days in St. Louis during his 1991 tour of the U.S. Dare I say that it was one of the highlights of my mystery loving life?

This led to my becoming an active volunteer where I was assigned the task of compiling and editing recipes for a mystery cookbook to be used as a rewards premium for new PBS subscribers.

As I got older, my desire to display my passion began a quest to find mystery jewelry to reflect my interest. Much to my dismay there was none to be found. Determined to rectify this unfortunate situation, one weekend, 40% off coupon in hand, I journeyed to Michael's and bought a book on jewelry making, along with assorted beads and findings, raided my husband's supply of pliers and made my first bracelet. I called it "Murder and Mayhem" and it was a tribute to Agatha Christie.

The Coffeehouse Mystery
wearable art pin, for more info

click here.
One of the first items in my online shop, Pattie Tierney Mystery Jewelry, that I began in February 2006, by year's end the bracelet appeared in Bust Magazine as one of the “must have" gifts for Christmas. As exhilarating as guessing the culprit before the end of the book, I was off and running. I remain at it with a vengeance, always envisioning new designs, and delighting in doing custom work, such as the Coffeehouse Mystery Pins that I've made for fans of Cleo Coyle and other authors.

My heart belongs to Doyle and Christie, but authors of culinary mysteries run a close second. 

Discovering this genre began with The Cooking School Murders (the end pages had recipes on them!) by Virginia Rich opening up a whole new world for me. How easy it was to relate to someone who could not only solve crimes, but whip up a hearty meal or tasty dessert at the same time.

Hercule Poirot mystery quote pin,
for more info, click here.
I'm not sure if my love of the genre had anything to do with it or not, but a number of years ago I started a food blog. My initial goal was to teach my daughters-in-law how to cook, but instead succeeded in teaching my sons, and, in the doing, found an entirely new way of expression.

I have used the opportunity to test and report on recipes from mystery books, share the adventures of my mystery collectibles, try to imagine what Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot would have for tea, and cook up some mysterious concoctions of my own.

The recipe I am going to share with you today is for Eccles Cake, a British dessert pastry that I'm sure Poirot and Captain Hastings enjoyed while discussing a case.

Eccles Cakes

An Eccles cake, named for the borough of Greater Manchester in England, is a small, round cake filled with raisins, currants, and candied orange peel wrapped in a delicate puff pastry and topped with sugar. 
You don't have to go to London to try one, as they can easily be made at home. I couldn't find orange peel, so made that as well, using what I needed for the cakes, and dipping the rest in chocolate (and boy was that good!). The filling can be made the day ahead, and the cakes can be rather quickly assembled and baked up just in time for afternoon tea. This recipe is one I've been using for years. It's from Bon Appetit's November 2002 issue, and is, thus far, the best one I've found for both taste and authenticity.


3/4 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
2 teaspoons sugar

Mix first 8 ingredients in medium bowl until well blended. Filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out four 6-inch-diameter rounds. Place filling on half of each round, dividing equally. Brush edges of rounds with beaten egg. Fold pastry over filling, creating semicircle and enclosing filling completely. Press edges firmly to seal. Transfer to heavy large baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pastries until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack and cool pastries 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, carefully remove pastries from baking sheet. Cool. 


Being a fan of mystery and the wonderful people who create them is more than just a hobby or interest, it seeps into your being and becomes a part of who you are as much as environment and hereditary. Sure I look at most people with undisguised suspicion, why not? I'm a mystery lover!

~ Pattie

One of the many charming charm bracelets in Pattie's shop.
This one, which she calls "I love a Mystery," features
miniature reproductions of mystery classics: The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett; The Case of the Terrified Typist
(Perry Mason) by Erle Stanley Gardner; The Maltese Falcon by
Dashiell Hammett; and The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie.

For more info, click here.


Our drawing is now over.Congrats to Ana Kurland who won
$20.00 in Mystery Money
to use 
any way she likes in Pattie's online store. 
To visit her store, PTierney Designs, click here.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mini Holiday Pastries using Leftover Cranberry Sauce from Cleo Coyle

With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, I've been playing with recipe ideas for "leftovers" to include in my November Newsletter (going out next week). I think these baby size pastries would be perfect for your extra cranberry sauce. The bright red color of the filling combined with my homemade glaze makes them a sweet addition for holiday trays. Leave off the glaze and you have an attractive dinner appetizer.

(If you don’t have cranberry sauce on hand, raspberry jam works equally well for flavor and color.)

This also makes a nice holiday recipe for waistline watchers because using reduced fat crescent rolls and reduced fat cream cheese will lower the calorie count. The mini size of the pastry makes portion control easier, too. Pair one or two with a filling cup of coffee or tea and you've got a lighter dessert option than a large slice of cake or pie.

You may be tempted to eliminate the cream cheese from this recipe. My advice is don’t. I’ve tried it without, and it’s not as tasty. The cream cheese perfectly offsets the tartness of the berries in the filling.

A quick note before I share the recipe: As some of you may have noticed, after a very long lag between my free, seasonal newsletters, I re-launched the Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter in October. It’s now monthly; and when you sign up, you are entered automatically in my weekly Free Coffee Drawings. If you’d like to subscribe, simply send an e-mail that says “Sign me up!” to

Okay, let’s start baking...

Cleo Coyle, looney for
leftovers, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Cleo Coyle’s 
Baby Berry Pastries

Or how to use your leftover cranberry sauce!

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes 16 mini pastries


For the easy pastry
1 package of Crescent Rolls (8-count, regular or reduced fat)
½ cup whipped cream cheese (regular or reduced fat)
½ cup cranberry sauce or raspberry jam 

For the glaze
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon milk (or water)
3/4 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

NOTES FOR RECIPE SUCCESS: Yes, these appear stupidly simple to make but things can go very wrong in the process. For foolproof success, see my “Cleo notes” at the end of this recipe.


Step 1 – PREP PAN: Pre-heat your oven to 375º F. (Pre-heat for 30 full minutes just to be sure the oven is hot enough.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The cranberry sauce will ooze out and stick to the pan. The parchment will prevent sticking and also protect the delicate pastry bottoms from the pan’s direct heat.

Step 2 – UNROLL CRESCENTS: Once your oven is fully pre-heated, begin to work. Keep your dough cold throughout this process and you’ll have less trouble cutting and shaping it. Assemble ingredients first, and then break open the crescent roll tube.

Work directly on the lined baking sheet. Crescent rolls come in 2 small sheets. They are perforated, forming 4 triangles per sheet. Separate the 8 triangles in two rows, leaving space between each triangle and row.

Step 3 – SPREAD THE FILLING: Using the back of a small spoon, gently spread about 2 teaspoons worth of whipped cream cheese onto the pastry triangles. On top of that spread a layer of the cranberry sauce (again, about 2 teaspoons per triangle).

Step 4 – SLICE THE TRIANGLES: Carefully cut the 8 large triangles in half lengthwise, creating 16 very narrow triangles. Cutting puff pastry can be difficult, but I find that a pizza cutter slides with ease through the sticky dough. Just be sure to wipe the blade clean between cuts.

Step 5 – ROLL INTO BABY CRESCENTS: Starting from the largest end of each narrow triangle, roll into crescents. As you roll, very gently stretch the narrow dough lengthwise. 

Roll the triangles into 16 baby crescents. Carefully lift and re-position the pastries on the lined baking sheet, allowing room for rising. For best results, bake pastries immediately.

Step 6 – BAKE: In your well pre-heated oven (375º F.), bake the pastries for about 10 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully. You want a nice golden brown pastry, but you don’t want the bottoms to brown too much or burn. Allow them to cool before glazing (or the glaze will not harden properly).

Step 7 – MAKE THE GLAZE: Over low heat, combine 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of milk in a small saucepan. Do not allow these ingredients to boil or you’ll have a scorched taste in your glaze. After butter melts completely into the milk, begin to add the ¾ cup of powdered sugarUsing a fork, whisk in a little at a time, adding the complete amount. The glaze should drizzle easily and harden fairly quickly once poured. If too loose, add more powdered sugar; if too thick, add a touch more milk. When you’re happy with the consistency, use the fork to begin drizzling glaze in a back-and-forth motion across the cooled mini pastries. 

NOTE: If the glaze hardens up on you before you’re finished, simply return the pan to the heat and re-whisk.


*Cleo Note #1: AVOID DISASTER – KEEP THE DOUGH COLD. Why? Crescent rolls are “laminated” dough (aka puffed pastry). This means layers of dough have been folded with layers of butter or shortening. Consequently, as the dough warms, the butter melts and the dough becomes impossible to cut or shape properly. 

DO: Assemble your ingredients first, and then unroll the cold, stiff dough and work quickly to form the pastries. If you have trouble cutting or rolling the crescents during the making of this recipe, pop the entire sheet pan of them into the refrigerator for a few minutes, allowing the dough to chill and stiffen before resuming recipe. Also note: Laminated dough should be kept moist, so be sure to wrap any unused dough in plastic before storing in the fridge.

*Cleo Note #2: CRANBERRY SAUCE – CHILL, BABY! You can use whole or jellied cranberry sauce. Canned or homemade is fine or swap in raspberry jam. Just make sure whatever you use is cold or room temperature and not warm or the pastry will melt and you’ll have a mess. In my photos, you see homemade cranberry sauce. See my PDF for a quick recipe.

*Cleo Note #3: CREAM CHEESE – Whipped cream cheese is what I recommend for this recipe because it’s much easier to spread. If you want to use regular cream cheese, allow it to soften to room temperature and work it a little with a fork so it spreads with ease on the delicate dough.

*Cleo Note #4: PRE-HEAT FOR REAL – Puffed pastry must have high heat to rise properly, and far too many oven thermometers are inaccurate. Forget the little “beep-beep” ready-bell on your oven. Pre-heat the oven for a good 30 minutes before baking, just to be sure. Read my past post “Is Your Oven Lying to You” for smart tips on keeping it real as we enter holiday baking season. To read that post, and pick up a few more recipes, click here, and don't forget to...

Eat (leftovers)
with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle author of 

To get more of my recipes, sign up to win
free coffee, 
or learn more about the two
bestselling mystery 
series that I write with my
husband, visit my online coffeehouse at...

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Reviewer's pick 2010 ~
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For a peek at some of the
firehouse-inspired recipes 
featured in
Roast Mortem,
click here.

To purchase the book, 
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"...a tasty tale of crime and punishment,
lightened by the Blend's frothy cast of
lovable eccentrics." ~ Publishers Weekly

For a peek at some of the chocolate 
recipes featured in Murder by Mocha,
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Now a national bestseller
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To purchase the book, 
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