For most of us, the time leading up to Christmas is spent trying to deal with the crowds and mayhem at the mall. Long lines at the cashier. Pushing and shoving. Cursing the driver that snuck into the parking space that was custom made for you. Having to deal with the scent of those damned pinecones.
Those horrific scented pinecones. I just cannot escape them!
For others it’s cyber-shopping and waiting until the Target or Macy’s site that crashed is back up and running.
I’ll tell you. I was at the mall the other day to pick up stocking stuffers. It was also a great time for me to get my lazy ass into exercise mode by conducting my personal “mall speed walk”. While on this walk I stopped into Ann Taylor Loft. I was drawn by the sign that read “50% off All Sweaters”. I couldn’t resist. I spotted an adorable sweater. It was white with black snowflakes knitted into the cable knit design. Half price off $69.50 came to $34.75. I could spend money that I didn’t have Bonaparte’s well-earned money then lie about spending. It looked adorable and would be the perfect match for my black J. Crew Front Zip Pixie Pants. A nice look for Christmas Eve.
I’m still annoyed about the false advertising for this sweater. Maybe it’ll be half-off this weekend!
When I got to the register to pay, it rang up full price. I explained to the sales assistant that it was half price—just as the sign said. She looked at me as though I was a special kind of dumb and said the sign only referred to SOLID sweaters. I failed to read the small print.
And this is what bothers me about Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza/Allotherholidaysincluded shopping. Retailers take advantage is such a sneaky way. I think the train of thought is that the consumer will be so embarrassed and intimidated by the fact they read the sign wrong that they do end up paying the full purchase price out of humiliation.
Not me!!! I just politely smile, wink my eye and nod my head with an “I’ll be back when this item goes on sale!”
I’m glad that my Christmas shopping is finished. Other than wrap more gifts, which I will proceed to do delightfully, my only concern is the Christmas baking.
Bonaparte will be dismayed to see yet, another mess that I’ve made. The wrapping mess will continue next week!
I really get all serious and intense about baking for the Christmas holidays. The Buche de Noel has become a tradition for Christmas dessert. I’m already planning a new look for this year’s Buche.
Last year’s Buche de Noel. I made marzipan mushrooms and filled the cake with home-made chestnut cream–and that’s only because I refused to pay $15.00 for the canned stuff. I did a better job making it myself!
The cookie requests have come in. Naturally, the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookies will be a staple. As will the Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti. The internet gifted me with a great sugar cookie recipe some years ago—the dough is already in the freezer.
Cranberry and pistachio biscotti will be made again this year…..
The corn cookie dough is in the freezer just waiting to be baked!
Freshly baked Brioche and a nice Boule will be accompanying our Christmas meals.
Thank god for my Pullman loaf pan. It’s the only pan I use to make my Brioche!
But there is always the request to bake something I’ve never attempted.
Bonaparte hinted around that he loved and missed the Pain aux Raisins that he used to enjoy as a boy when growing up in Paris. He waxed sentimental about the taste and how delicious they were and if he could only have them once again.Epicurious Pain aux Raisins Recipe.
Ok buddy—I got the hint and made them on Tuesday. In my research, I found out there are two kinds. One made with croissant dough and one made with brioche dough. Since I’ve mastered the brioche—that’s what I used for the pain aux raisins.
The Pain aux Raisins is dressed with a vanilla pastry creme.
Then the dough is topped with the pastry creme and raisins.
They turned out pretty darn good if I may say so myself. In fact, Bonaparte has eaten six of them already! I’ve wrapped the remainder and froze them for future consumption.
Next time I’ll cut the dough a bit thinner–Bonaparte told me to! *eyeroll*. I also want to make them with cherries and pistachios!
Actually, I was pretty much confident to make this treat because I’ve mastered brioche.
Requests have been coming in from Bonaparte and Miss Oona for croissant. Oona has also requested Pain au Chocolat.
Out of curiosity, being nosy, wanting to see if I could do this, pure love for my family, I decided to have a go at making croissant and pain au chocolat.
There was a time when I had a “yeast infliction”. I was afraid to bake anything that called for yeast. However, living with a Frenchman and his constant badgering for home baked bread, I had no choice. It was either “merde” or get off the pot. I went with merde!
With lots of determination and practice, I finally understood the personality of yeast. I proofed my love many times in the form of rising dough!
Off I went. I didn’t climb mountains, but I climbed the stairs to our office and started researching croissant recipes on the net. I “YouTubed” techniques. Most of the recipes were daunting and the videos really weren’t that much of a help. I settled on a recipe for croissant dough and croissant from the Epicurious site. Epicurious croissant recipe
For the pain au chocolat, I improvised by using a combination of the same dough from Epicurious and the filling and instructions from Food Network Canada Foodnetwork Canada: Pain au chocolat.
Let me tell you something. This whole process “proofed” to be tedious. Folding, rolling, and chilling the dough four times. Leaving the dough in the fridge overnight then taking it out and rolling it again. The more I rolled, the more flour I needed to add to the surface and it was making me nervous.
Folding and chilling.
Let’s not even broach the subject of the mess I made. Listen—my kitchen is pretty big, but the actual work surface isn’t. It was almost impossible for me to roll out the dough to 44 inches lengthwise.
Still Life With Mess. A study in kitchen by me.
Bonaparte happened to be home in the late afternoon and decided to do laundry. That meant whatever “dirty” clothing I had needed to be washed. THAT meant Bonaparte hovering over me and my mess and mumbling about how my shirt was a filthy and disgusting because it had gotten full of flour and I hadn’t wiped it off and Chippy decided to lick it off. And my shirt was filled with a pasty glue-like substance of flour and dog saliva.
I later found Chippy under the tree he looked sick after licking all the flour off of my shirt. Hey, I would have let him clean the shirt. Bonaparte was not happy!
Bonaparte in front of me with the laundry basket and pointing to my shirt, I stood in the middle of the kitchen, took the shirt off, and continued rolling the dough. Dough you get the visual? Thank god the blinds were drawn!
All I’ll say is that I could have had my version of “The Topless Martha Stewart Special 2015”
The best part of the recipe was pounding the butter together to make a square!
Read below–then you will know why THIS was my favorite part of the recipe!
I have to tell you; last week I had two of the worst job interviews of my life—OK? The first was a great opportunity. Large and stable company with lots of growth. They recently moved into a building not too far from where I live. I went into that interview itching to be the best “me” that I could. I researched the company, knew everything about the entire leadership team and the goals of upper management.
I dressed in J. Crew from head to toe. I even wore my J. Crew Dulci heels—the most painful heels on earth. But they look great. I was stoked! Paris Without Daniele. Remember How Much My J. Crew Shoes hurt after a day in Paris?
The interview lasted less than 20 minutes. The woman gave a brief description of the position and every time I spoke, she ignored me and looked at her computer screen. No kidding! I never even got the chance to tell all I knew about the company. I’ve never felt so much like a non-person in my entire life. Rude is rude—and respect is respect and I only hope that it wasn’t my age that made that woman ignore me and gape at her computer. It. Was. Awful.
The next interview started out well. Then it unraveled into a disaster. I was given a skills test. And that’s fine. My skills are excellent. However, THIS Company didn’t have an IT department and everything was done on the “Cloud” system (???). They also had a brand-spanking new Word and Excel program.
I had no issue at all with the Excel portion but the Word portion was awful. Too many bells and whistles had been changed and the toolbar was nothing like I was used to. Although I managed to do what was needed, it took “too long”. Another disaster.
I cried the entire way home. I cried at home. I cried myself to sleep. Then I became full of anger……
..and the anger really helped with the pounding of the butter! All my frustrations from those horrific interviews had been beaten away with the rolling pin slammed down on those three sticks of butter! I had a beautiful square of pale yellow that would eventually be placed in the middle of my croissant dough.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, I was not entirely successful in my croissant and pain au chocolat endeavor.
I screwed up. The pastries never rose during the proofing.
To make matters worse, I rolled the pain au chocolat and should have folded them over. Arrrgh!!
All the measuring with a ruler and precise cutting just could not help my attempt! A real “pain au the ass”
The pastries never rose properly during the last proof. They did not turn out flaky. Buttery, absolutely. Tasty—actually the pain au chocolate tasted pretty darn good, but didn’t look pretty.
The croissant dough just doesn’t look right for this pain au chocolat–but the inside was actually decent. I dunno. Maybe I can use the leftover dough for pigs-in-a-blanket!
The croissants ended up to be a fail for me. Too heavy. The look atrocious. All that work and I had to throw half of them in the trash. Seriously. The oven temperature was too high as well.
The croissants were too dense and just were “meh”. I may need a lighter touch in rolling out the dough. I honestly just don’t know. Perhaps I need to enroll in a class. I do know that next time I’m using Francois Payard’s recipe. I wish I had seen this recipe first!
In the meantime, back to the drawing board for both these recipes. Oh. I will master this. I will not give up. If I have to get into my car, drive to Manhattan and stalk beg Francois Payard for his secrets I will. I may get arrested for being a stalker but it’ll be worth the prison time.
Monsieur Payard looks like a nice person (actually he and my brother Pete could pass as twins), maybe he WOULD help me!
Why? Because I love my family and I love to bake. It’s my therapy. I “dough” sincerely mean that—and baking is a way to “proof” my love for my family and friends!
Ever the optomist, I may suck at trying to become re-employed again, but I KNOW I will figure the croissant/pain au chocolat recipes out and I’ll keep trying and trying!
Successes and fails—Gerry Rafferty’s song comes to mind” Get It Right the Next Time! I will! XOXOXOX!