Author Archives: hfletcher

Conchas – A Mexican Sweet Bread

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

ConchasConchas are a not overly sweet roll often served at breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate in Mexico. While I will admit I haven’t thought of Mexico terms of sweet bakery items, these sweet rolls definitely made me rethink.  Also known as Pan Dulce and Sweet Bread this buttery yeast dough is flavored with cinnamon, vanilla and anise.

Named for the sea shell, Conchas have a decorative finish that is easy to make although it looks challenging and what is even more special, the finish can be as colorful as Mexican tiles or left white.

When I researched this recipe, I found a reference to anise, one of my favorite flavors.  So, in addition to cinnamon and vanilla, I added anise for an unusual flavor combination that dances in your mouth.

The recipe for Conchas couldn’t be easier or more straight forward. Mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients and combine them.  That’s it.

I’m always excited to find a new recipe, new flavors or something I didn’t know about.  I hope you will be as happy as I am to have found these.

Thank you Mexico!

ConchasIngredients for Conchas

4 cups all-purpose flour (560 grams or 19 2/3 ounces)
1 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast*
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon anise extract, optional

Fit the mixer with a dough hook if available.  Combine the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, salt, vanilla, and anise extracts in the bowl of the mixer.  Liquid ingredientsWhisk to break up the eggs.Liquid ingredients for Conchas whisked

Add the flour all at once, Flour inbeating on lowest setting until combined.  Raise the speed slightly and beat for 3 to 4 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft.

Spray a container at least twice the size of the dough with a non-stick baking release.  Place the dough in the container and cover. In container I place plastic wrap directly on top and then cover with a towel or lid. Covered with plastic wrap Mark the time and let rise for an hour or so until doubled.Concha marked with time

Because this dough is heavy in butter, sugar and eggs it can be a slow riser, especially if the room is cool.  I put mine in the oven with the light turned on to ensure a warm environment.

After it has risen, you can continue or deflate the dough and refrigerate overnight.  The dough may or may not rise again but it doesn’t matter either way.  I find rich doughs much easier to shape if they are cold.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces about 90 grams or 3 ounces each.  Shape into rounds, placing the on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Topping for the Conchas

1/2 cup butter, softened (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (135 grams or 4 3/4 ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour (140 grams or 5 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth.

Assembly

Shaped Rolls
Topping, above
Cocoa, optional
Gel Food Coloring as needed, optional
1 egg white,  opitonal
Sanding sugar, optional

Divide the topping into 2 or more portions if coloring.  Color each piece using cocoa for brown.  Use gel food coloring of your choice.   Knead the coloring into each piece of dough.

Using a #40 disher/scooper portion out 12 balls for the topping.  Alternatively use 2 tablespoons of dough per roll.  Flatten one piece into a thin round between the palms of your hands.  If it isn’t large enough to cover the roll, put it on the work surface and flatten it with your fingers.  Drape it over the roll. Pat it lightly in place.

With a knife, cut grooves in the topping in the shape of a clam shell or any other design you like.

Cover and let rise until almost doubled.

If using the sanding sugar, beat the egg white until foamy. Very lightly brush onto the decoration and immediately cover with sanding sugar.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Double Pan and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Cool.

Alternative decoration:  If you don’t feel like making the topping, brush the rolls with beaten egg white after they have risen and sprinkle heavily with sanding sugar or Swedish Pearl sugar.  Bake as directed.

Yield:  12 Conchas

Storage:  Best eaten the same day, these can be held at room temperature for a day

Note:  I would like to thank Adrianna of A Cozy Kitchen whose recipe I adapted.  I think my decorations cracked more than they should have because I took the topping all the way to the very bottom of the rolls.  My suggestion is to keep them about 1/4 to 1/3 inch above the bottom of the roll.

Easy, Elegant Chicken Pot Pie

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Chicken Pot PeThis Easy, Elegant Chicken Pot Pie is a notch above most pot pies. Large pieces of roasted chicken breast augmented with carrots, shallots, red peppers, bella mushrooms, and peas in a very low fat sauce of chicken broth, white wine and brandy.

The asiago crust on top is one of my favorites perfect for this dish.   By not enclosing the entire pie in crust, the flavor is all there without the calories.

This Chicken Pot Pie is especially welcome this time of year for it’s robust warmth, deep flavor and straight forward method of putting it togeher. In fact, both the filling and the crust can be made a day or two ahead, refrigerated, and assembled just before serving.

Add a salad and a dessert and you have an instant party!

Chicken Mushroom FillingIngredients for Chicken Pot Pie

1 large, boneless chicken breast or 2 medium breasts totaling about 1 pound
1/2 cup diced carrots, par cooked
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely diced shallot (1 large shallot)
1/2 cup diced red peppers
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms*
1/3 cup flour (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces)
2 cups chicken broth**
1/3 cup cream
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon brandy, optional
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

*Any mushrooms can be used.  I used Baby Bellas, portobellos, chanterelles and white or button musrooms. If using portobellos be sure to remove the dark gills on the underside.  There should be about 4 cups of raw mushrooms.

**A 15 ounce can of chicken broth is about 1 7/8 cups.  Just add water to make 2 cups.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a rimmed pan with foil.  Spray the foil  and place the chicken on it. Rub it lightly with oil.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until it registers 165°F. Cool.  This may be done several days ahead if desired.  Keep refrigerated.

Cut the chicken in large dice.  There should be about 2 cups of chicken.  Set aside.

Peel the carrots and cut into 3/4 inch dice.  Par cook the carrots in water just until barely soft.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a sauce pan and add the shallots and pepper. Cook just until slightly softened.  Add the mushrooms and cook until  tender; remove to a bowl including any juice.  Add the carrots and peas.Veggies for the Chicken Pot Pie

Melt remaining butter to the pan; add the flour and whisk constantly until it comes together.  Add all of the stock, cream, wine and brandy at once; whisk constantly until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat; add the mushrooms and liquid, chicken, vegetables, salt, pepper   Stir well. Correct the seasonings if necessary.Chicken Pot Pie and Sauce

Cool and refrigerate.  To quick cool, pour the filling onto a rimmed pan, cover with film and cool for 30 o 40 minutes, then refrigerate.

The filling can be made the day or two ahead if desired.

Asiago Pastry Crust for the Chicken Pot Pie

For how to photos, please go here.

The asiago crust on top is the perfect accompaniment and by not enclosing the entire pie in crust, the flavor is all there without the calories. I love this crust because it doesn’t shrink when baked.

1 1/2 cups flour (210 grams or 7 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup +1 tablespoon butter, cold and cut into pieces (125 grams, 4 1/2 ounces)
5 tablespoons ice water

Place the flour, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a processor fitted with a steel blade. Process briefly to mix.  Circle the butter over the dry ingredients and process until mealy.  With the processor running, add the ice water and process until it forms a ball.

I used individual casseroles for my Chicken Pot Pie but it could be made in on large dish if desired.

In any case, roll the pastry between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick.  Cut the pastry the size of the top of the dish or casseroles.  Leftover pastry can be rolled to about 1/8″ and cut into small crackers.  Bake until golden brown.

 Two Ways of Finishing and Serving

Chicken Pot Pie Filling
Crusts, rolled and cut
1 egg, well beaten, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

There is a slow way and a faster way of putting this together and baking (or not),

1.Place the crusts on a parchment line baking sheet. In either case brush the crusts with the beaten egg if using.

The first and my favorite is to bake the cut out crust or crusts at 400°F for about 20 minutes until golden brown.  While the crusts are baking, heat the filling.  When the crusts are baked, fill individual cassertoles or 1 dish with the hot filling and top with a crust.

I like this method because it is faster, it’s neater, and the crust is crisper.Baked top on

2.Divide the filling among individual casseroles or place it one dish.Top with the unbaked crust brushed with egg wash if using.Pastry on top

Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.Baked Chicken Pot Pie

Because the crust is baked in the sauce it is not as crisp.

Yield:  4 –  1/4 cup servings.

A Better Kouign Amann

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.
Two Kouign Amann

Left: English Muffin ring, Right: 3×2″ ring

A Better Kouign Amann revises this pastry for a better outcome.  My first post on Kouign Amann was in September,  2016.  There you will find the how to photos and a lot more information on this superb pastry. Continue reading

Café au Lait Crepe Cake with Orange Cream Sauce

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Cafe au Lait Crepe CakeThis Café au Lait Crepe Cake with Orange Cream Sauce is my way of sending out a bad year and welcoming in a better New Year.  I wanted to do something special to reward all of us for doing our part and sticking it out.  Every part of this can be made ahead.  It can also be assembled ahead and refrigerated or frozen.

French Crepes for the Crepe Cake

This is actually an easy cake to make.  The crepes are a bit time consuming if you use one pan at a time but they can be made ahead and frozen.  Because the crepes are so delicate, the cake is easier to put together if the crepes are frozen. Please read my post on All Purpose French Crepes for a complete rundown on this French specialty with how to photos.

I used an 8” non stick pan to make these. The crepes themselves will be about 7”.  Have hand a stack of parchment paper or wax paper cut into 9” squares with which to stack the crepes as they come from the pan.

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour (235 grams or 8 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
1 1/2 cups water
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 stick of butter for the pan

Place all but the stick of butter in a food processor (by batches if necessary).  If by batches, whisk together in a large bowl after processing.  Let rest for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Over medium heat, swipe the pan with the stick of butter for the first crepe and every 4 or 5 after that. Ladle about 2 tablespoons or 1 liquid ounce of batter into the middle of the pan.  Quickly swirl the pan around to cover the bottom and about 1/4” up the side.

Brown on one side for about a minute or so, flip the crepe and brown the other side.  The first side of the cooked crepe is always the best looking.

Stack between paper as soon as it is done.  Cool to room temperature.  If not using immediately, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for a few days or place in a freezer bag and freeze for a month or so.

For use in the Crepe Cake, leave them frozen.

Yield:  About 24 crepes

Café au Lait Truffle Filling

The Café au Lait filling is from a line of truffles I designed some time ago. It calls for milk chocolate but semisweet could be substituted.  This can be made a week ahead and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature to use.  It needs to be very soft but not liquid.

1 1/4 cups 40% cream
1 1/2 tablespoon instant coffee
15 ounces milk chocolate (425 grams)

Heat the cream and coffee until steaming.  Do not boil. Submerge the chocolate below the cream. Let sit 4 to 5 minutes.  Stir to incorporate chocolate, whisking gently towards the end to remove any lumps.  Pour into a storage container and bring to room temperature.  Refrigerate overnight or up to several weeks.  Bring to room temperature to fill the crepe cake.

Yield:  About 2 1/4 cups

Orange Cream Sauce for the Crepe Cake

The Orange Cream Sauceis a variation of the sauce for Crepes Suzette and was first featured in the Stuffed French Toast blog where you will find the how to photos.  This can be made days ahead and refrigerated.  Serve at room temperature.

The slightly tangy sauce compliments the richness of the cake.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons Curacao, Triple Sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons Brandy
1/4 cup 40% cream
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Melt butter in a saucepan.   Add the sugar, orange and lemon juice; bring to a boil and boil hard for 3 to 4 minutes until somewhat thickened.

Add the orange liqueur and brandy; boil another 2 minutes to return to thickness.  In the meantime whisk the cream and cornstarch together.

Remove the orange mixture from the heat and let the boiling subside.  Add the cream mixture; return to heat and, stirring constantly, bring back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

Yield:  1 cup

Assembly

Crepes
Café au Lait Truffle Filling
Orange Cream Sauce

Remove the crepes from the freezer.  They may seem stuck together, but if you lift the paper under the crepe you should be able to slowly pull it away.  Also, after you get one side lifted, insert your hand under the crepe and it should pop off the stack.

Place one crepe on a serving plate or cake board.  If the crepes are at all moist, place a paper towel on top of them and press down to remove the moisture.  Blotting crepes for Cafe au Laiit Crepe Cake

Place one heaping tablespoon of the Café au Lait Truffle filling in the center of the crepe.Spoon of Filling Filling on Crepe Without delay, spread the it out to the edges, covering it entirely. Because the crepes are frozen and the filling is chocolate it will set up rapidly.Filling spread on crepe

Place another crepe on top of the filling and repeat the filling all the way to the top. Leave the top crepe plain.Cafe au Lait Crepe Cake filled

Wrap in film and refrigerate until completely set.Cake wrapped

When ready to serve, you can place a doilie on top and sprinkle it heavily with powdered sugar,  Carefully remove the doilie.Powdered sugar on Cafe au Lait cake

To serve, slice the Café au Lait Crepe Cake into about 12 servings. The servings may look small but the cake is very rich.Crepe Cake cut

My Virtual Baking Classes Reminder

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

I know this week has been a busy one but I wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know the two Virtual Baking Classes in February are almost full.  I also wanted to remind you that if you sign up by December 31st there is a 10% discount.

Come Join Me for my Virtual Baking Classes

I’m really excited to announce my step into virtual teaching.  As you know I love sharing my baking and pastry experience through my blog, but there is nothing like having access to a real person (me) in a live setting where your questions can be asked and answered.

Small classes of 20 people allow lots of interaction.

Gift certificates are offered so the recipient can pick out their own class to attend.  Click here to purchase.

Waiting List is offered in case you miss the 20 person cut off. I will re-offer the class as the list warrants.

10% discount now through the end of December 31st.  I have two classes listed, both in February. I wanted to share them with you now because they are being offered at a discount.   On January 1st the price goes up to $50.00 per class.

ANATOMY OF A CAKE
Date:  Saturday February 6, 2021
Time:  3:00 CST
Cost:  $50.00   $45.00 through December 31st 2020. 

Click here to sign up.

This master class tackles everything you ever wanted to know about baking a cake and probably more.

From equipment to the whys and wherefores of ingredients, types of cake makeup, scaling a recipe up or down for a larger or smaller version, pan size conversion, and cake pan prep for baking flat layers are some of the topics covered.

The class will feature one basic cake recipe that can be altered myriad ways giving you a single go to recipe for all your cake needs including white, yellow, marble, and two chocolate cakes as well as lemon and orange.

Multiple cake layers for Virtual Baking Classes

60 SECOND BRIOCHE
Date:  Saturday February 27, 2021
Time:  3:00 CST
Cost:  $50.00 $45.00 through December 31st 2020. 

Click here to sign up.

French pastries and dough have the unwarranted reputation of being difficult and time consuming to make. Brioche, a masterful basic light yeast dough heavily enriched with eggs and butter is no different.  Beaten for 20 minutes in a mixer, it’s enough to burn the motor out.

But I could never understand why it has to beaten so long.  So I came up with my 60 Second method in the processor that yields the same marvelous basic dough that I learned from a French Pastry Chef many years ago.  In keeping with my goal of simplifying recipes without sacrificing taste or texture I came up with a very easy method for making this French specialty that should be in every bakers repertoire.  I have also included a mixer method.

While most known as a dinner or breakfast roll, Brioche is also a basic yeast dough that is infinitely variable as a sweet or savory dish.

This class features:
Lemon Glazed Lemon Twists
Brioche Pizza featuring wild mushroom brie, artichokes and peppers
Rum Fruit and Nut Knots

I hope to see you at one or both of my Virtual Baking Classes.Rum Fruit and Nut Knots