This post is part of a blog tour promoting the new book, Baking by Hand, by Andy and Jackie King. The publisher provided me with a copy of the book.
Baking by Hand makes my list of the 5 best baking cookbooks. If you’re interested, do check out the rest as well.
My history of cookbook purchases describes a Bell curve. I started out small, progressed to buying a car payment’s worth every month and then tapered off when I decided that I didn’t really need any more. These days, I rarely purchase cookbooks. I think I’ve bought two this entire year.
While I was given this book to read and share, I must admit that I wasn’t jumping up and down over the idea. Until I started to read. I couldn’t stop reading. I sort of felt like I was in a church listening to a sermon from a particularly passionate preacher. And he was preaching to me, the choir. I kept nodding and wanting to shout an “Amen!” or a “Preach, friends!” on more than one occasion.
When passionate people write about their passion, it shines through. And man does this book shine. Let me share a few of the more Amen-able quotes.
One of the reasons we love artisan bread is that, while is should be amazing on its own, it’s also a perfect starting-off point for greater things. I’m not just talking about food–I’m talking about gathering those you care about near to you, facing one another and sharing a meal. –Baking by Hand, p. 9
Our goal is to create a literal consumable; we want you to tear our product apart, not present it an a gallery. –p. 11
We put things on bread because it’s the perfect canvas to feature well-prepared ingredients. It’s the unsung hero of the sandwich world, which is ironic because it’s what makes those slices of cheese and meat a sandwich to begin with. Yet so many delis out there pay so much attention to the stuffing and skimp on the bread. –p. 127
Each tart is treated differently depending on the components. This is what keeps us on our toes when testing day rolls around; we are not only putting flavor combinations together, but what we create also has to work in terms of texture and function. –p. 183
The pastry dough is a great template for both sweet and savory foods, so feel free to use the recipes as a jumping-off point for your own ingredient combinations in the future.
Can I get an Amen?
When I agreed to write a post for this blog tour, I chose the recipe I would present from a short list before I’d even seen the book. While all the recipe titles sounded tasty like they’d be tasty, I decided that I would go with a savory recipe rather than a sweet one. Pastry chefs deal with pastry, whether it be savory or sweet, and I rarely flex my savory pastry muscles anymore.
I am so glad I did, too. The (Oyster) Mushroom, Thyme and Chèvre Tart was absolutely delicious and thoughtfully composed. From the blitz puff pastry whose layers shattered like warm amber glass once baked, to the duxelles which was confident enough to rely on the alchemy of shallot, mushroom and heat alone, to the assembly: concentric rings of dark duxelles, creamy-white goat cheese shading to sienna from the heat of the the oven, and frilly mushroom caps, the entire tart was a masterpiece of simple genius. That might sound like hyperbole, but I assure you I speak the truth. This is one fine tart.
When you treat each component with care and let them shine by seasoning them simply, magic can happen. It’s the master who can make a short ingredient list sing. I cannot wait to try out some of Alan and Jackie’s other recipes, because they are masters.
I could go on about the way these two have learned to manipulate the temperature of their components in order to achieve their desired results, but I will save that for a full-on review after I’ve baked through more of the book. For now, let me just say that I am happy to announce the arrival of a baking book that you need, from which you will learn, and to which you will turn again and again.
I asked to share the blitz puff recipe as well as the tart recipe since the dough was a dream to work with, so here are recipes for both the dough and the tart.
A couple of notes about how my version of the Oyster Mushroom, Thyme and Chèvre Tart differs from the original:
- I could not find oyster mushrooms, so I substituted half shiitake and half crimini mushrooms.
- I chose to make a full-sized tart. The original recipe makes six individual tarts.
- I gave my blitz puff pastry four turns rather than the two called for in the instructions. The dough was very crumbly after only two turns. The extra two whipped it into better shape for me, and it worked beautifully. If your dough comes together with only two turns, by all means go with it. I am tempted to make it with a full six turns next time. With as butter-rich as it is, and with as beautifully as it rose with just four turns, I imagine it will be behave almost identically to classic puff pastry after six turns.
- Because of the extra turns, I docked (poked a bunch of tiny holes with the tip of a knife) the bottom of the tart within an inch of its life. Even so, I still had to poke it several times with a skewer during baking.
- 1 recipe Lazy Baker’s Puff Pastry Dough, (page 185)
- 1 lb /450 g oyster mushroom stems, (reserve the flowery caps for garnish)
- 3 minced shallots
- 3 oz /75 g unsalted butter
- Fine sea salt
- 3 oz /80 ml heavy cream
- 15 sprigs fresh thyme
- Egg wash, , consisting of 1 beaten egg and a splash of water
- 6 oz /175 g fresh chèvre, , crumbled
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230°C, with the baking stone in place.
- For the crust, roll out the dough to about 14 inches × 27 inches/35 × 70 cm, about ⅛ inch/3 mm thick, and cut out six 7-inch/18-cm circles.
- Place six 5-inch/12-cm flan rings on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and spray with cooking spray.
- Place one circle on top of each ring. Lifting up around the entire perimeter of the disk, “settle” the dough into the corners of the rings. Then, working from the outside in, roll the overlapping dough until you can press the roll into the side of the flan ring, creating a thicker outer crust with a thin bottom.
- Chill until ready to use.
- Separate the stems from the tops of the oyster mushrooms. Finely chop the stems.
- Mince the shallots and then sweat them in the butter over medium heat. Once the shallots are soft and translucent, add the chopped mushroom stems to the pan.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms brown a bit and all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the cream.
- Coarsely chop 12 sprigs of the thyme and add to the mixture. Set aside to cool.
- Once the mixture is cool, assemble the tarts.
- Egg wash the rim of the pastry crust and put about 2 ounces/50 g of the duxelles in the bottom of the chilled pastry circles, spreading it evenly.
- Then add 1 ounce/30 g crumbled chèvre in the very center, leaving a ½-inch/1-cm border of the duxelles visible.
- Toss the tops of the oyster mushrooms lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Place these in the center of the tart on top of the goat cheese.
- Bake the tarts directly on the baking stone. After about 10 minutes, the pastry dough will start to puff and may need to be pricked with the tip of a knife or a wooden skewer to release the steam. Otherwise, the tart will keep expanding and blow up; you may need to prick it a few times at various points.
- Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes. then, move the pan up to the middle rack and bake for another 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the mushrooms have browned and cooked down a bit.
- Remove from the oven and remove the rings. Strip the remaining three thyme sprigs of their leaves and sprinkle evenly over the tops of the tarts.
- Cool and eat warm or at room temperature.
- 11 oz /300g all-purpose flour
- 1 scant tsp/3 g baking owder
- 3/4 tsp /5 g fine sea salt
- 13 ox/370 g cold unsalted butter
- 6.5 oz /180 g cold sour cream
- Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a container that will easily fit in your freezer. Chill the mixture for 30 minutes or overnight. You can't chill it for too long.
- In the meantime, cube your butter into about 1/2-inch/1-cm cubes. Keep chilled in the refrigerator.
- Once the flour has chilled sufficiently, put it in a bowl and add the chilled butter. Rub the butter through the flour to break it up and incorporate it.
- Keep at it until the butter is broken down but you still see chunks of butter. The chunks should be a little larger than large peas.
- You want the butter to stay in large chunks in order to create a flaky crust.
- Add the sour cream to the dry ingredients and mix by hand. Form a shaggy mass of dough just untill all of the moisture is absorbed and there are no dry spots. You do not want to overwork it so much that you break down the butter completely.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and form into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough out until it becomes a larger 6-inch x 16-inch/15 x 40-cm rectangle.
- Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, grab the left hand side of the rectangle and place one-third of the surface into the middle. Then, do the same with the right side, completely overlapping the left side with this "envelope folkd."
- Rotate the dough 90 derees.
- Roll out to another 6-inch x 16-inch/15 x 40-cm rectangle, then lightly flour and fold the dough again as before.
- Take this packet of dough, place it on a sheet pan and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Chill the dough for 1 hour to relax before using, or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.
I am very much looking forward to baking more treats from this book. As well, I will update this post with the other stops on the tour. Currently, one other post is up from Colleen at Soufflé Bombay: Spiced Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple Glaze.
UPDATE: Karen from Karen’s Kitchen Stories posted The Massachusetts Un-Roast Beef Sandwich and Baguette Recipe. Nice!
Thanks so much for stopping in and reading. Have a wonderful day!