Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery

Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375501937
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/2000
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 7.73(w) x 9.51(h) x 1.33(d)

About the Author

Nancy Silverton co-owns and operates the Campanile restaurant and the La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. Her numerous accolades include awards from Bon Appétit, Chocolatier, Food & Wine, and the James Beard Founda-tion. Breads from the La Brea Bakery was nominated for Julia Child and James Beard cookbook awards.

Read an Excerpt

Morning Pastries

If you've ever walked the streets of Paris in the early morning hours, then you've probably smelled that irresistible aroma wafting up through sidewalk grills from underground. What you might not realize is that you're standing above the workshop of a French bakery, where the day's hot pastries are being pulled out of the ovens. Down below, small armies of bakers work in subterranean kitchens, preparing for the masses who arrive every morning to retrieve their breakfast of a croissant, a brioche, or maybe a raisin roll; eating their baked breakfast treats is a national pastime for the French. Meanwhile, kilos of dough are proofing as busy hands pat and roll, fold and turn, and shape, coil, and curl what will be tomorrow's morning treats. They're impossible to resist, so just follow your nose. Whether you come out with a traditional croissant, an apple turnover, or any one of the multitudes of these morning pastries, you can be sure that they all share that memorable smell of sweet, buttery, yeasted pastry.

Three categories of doughs make up this chapter's morning pastries. Croissant and Danish Dough are made with yeast and layered with butter. Brioche and Bobka also have yeast, but in their case the butter is mixed directly into the dough. That leaves Puff Pastry, the crispiest, flakiest dough of all. Yeast-free, it gets its rise from repeated folding and layering of the buttery dough.

No matter which dough or method, these classic pastries are all about butter. Not margarine-butter! My preference is imported Normandy butter. It's high in butterfat with a low water content, a deep yellow color, and unmistakably superior flavor. Look for it in specialty markets or ask your local cheese seller to track some down for you. Some of the best domestic butters are made by small dairies across the country: Strauss Family Creamery on the West Coast and Egg Farm Dairy on the East Coast are two good choices. Supermarket varieties such as Plugra and Land O Lakes are also good-quality and widely available.

Butter, when folded into dough, acts as the separating agent, miraculously turning a slab into hundreds of flaky layers. For butter to work its magic, a few simple rules must be applied in this sensitive process. Do your preparation in a cool room, preferably on a chilled work surface that's large enough to accommodate the dough as you roll it out. Most important, the dough and butter must be the same consistency; neither one should be colder or harder than the other. To be sure, beat the butter and knead it by hand or soften it in a mixer with the paddle attachment. The butter should remain cool but malleable. If it's too soft and greasy, it will ooze out of the dough; if it's too firm, it might break through the dough. As you roll it out, work quickly and handle the dough as little as possible, so the heat of your hands doesn't melt the butter. Allow the dough its resting time for easy, stress-free rolling and to help maintain the layers.

The buttery doughs that get an extra boost from yeast need time to rise, or, as we say in the baking world, proof. Proofing time will vary, depending on the weather, the temperature of your kitchen, and the size of the dough. Keep an eye on your dough-when it's slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, it's ready to be baked.

All of these doughs have a fairly long shelf life when properly stored. Yeasted doughs should never be kept longer than one or two days in the refrigerator; they become overly sour and the yeast loses its strength. They can, however, be frozen for up to two months. You can freeze the dough in separately wrapped sections, removing portions of it as you need it for a recipe and defrosting it to roll out and assemble the pastries. The method I prefer is to make the dough, assemble the pastries, and freeze them until you're ready to bake them and eat them. Pastries made with yeast must be brought up to room temperature or defrosted in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours and then allowed to proof before baking. Puff Pastry, with all that butter, will also keep only a couple of days in the refrigerator before spotting and turning gray. For longer storage of Puff Pastry, you must freeze it. Since they have no yeast in their doughs, pastries made from Puff Pastry and Cream Cheese Dough can be assembled and frozen and then ,baked directly out of the freezer.

Take a deep breath and set aside your old fears and preconceived notions of yeasted doughs and Puff Pastry. Don't be afraid to get the pages of this chapter good and dirty, and remember to organize your time and resist the temptation to take shortcuts. This is not as difficult as you think. The satisfaction of baking these elegant pastries definitely outweighs the time and effort required. They are the classics of European pastry-making, as well as the heart and soul of our pastries at La Brea Bakery.


Brioche is a traditional French yeasted bread, most commonly baked in loaves or special fluted molds. With plenty of butter and eggs, it yields a fine-textured, rich, and moist crumb. The dough is perfect for both sweet or savory pastries such as Viennese Cream Brioche, Savory Brioche Pockets, or Pecan Sticky Buns.

If you have any substantial pieces of Brioche Dough leftover, make a few Sugared Brioche by rolling or stretching the dough into free-form shapes, I to 1'/, inches thick. Cut some slits in the shape and gently pull apart to widen the slits, or shape the dough into an oval and score a crisscross pattern on the top. Brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with sugar, and allow the shapes to rise until slightly puffy. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Here are a few ABC's of brioche making: Always make sure your butter is very soft (but not greasy) before adding it to the dough. Beware, this dough requires a lengthy mixing time to properly develop, often causing the mixer to jump around on the counter. Don't let your mixer overheat, and never place it too close to the edge.

Brioche Dough

Special Item: Insta-Read thermometer (optional)

3/4 ounce (1 tablespoon) packed fresh cake yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed to 100-110 degrees
6 extra-large eggs
3 1/2, cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft, but not greasy

Place the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and pour the milk over to soften for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 of the eggs and 1 cup of the flour, and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1 more cup of flour over the mixture, without stirring.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes until the surface of the flour begins to crack.

Add the sugar, salt, remaining eggs, and remaining 1 1/2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture. Using an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix on low for 1-2 minutes, until combined. When incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to mix for about 15 minutes, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and is smooth, shiny, and slightly sticky. It may be necessary to add another tablespoon of flour to encourage the dough to leave the sides of the bowl.

Turn the mixer down to medium-low and add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. After all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat the dough for about 2-3 more minutes, until the dough wraps itself around the hook. If necessary, add a few pinches of flour to encourage the dough to leave the sides of the bowl. The dough will be smooth and shiny, but not oily.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to gather into a ball. Clean the mixing bowl and lightly coat it with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 to 2 1/2, hours.

Spread the dough out onto a floured parchment-lined baking sheet. Dust the surface of the dough with flour, cover with parchment paper or towels, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.

Yield: 2 1/4 pounds

Viennese Cream Brioche

Like a baby's head nestled on a fluffy pillow, the soft crème fraîche sinks down as the brioche rises and bakes around it. A sublime combination of flavor and texture, this super simple pastry is everyone's favorite. Julia Child was brought to tears the first time she tasted them.

1 recipe Brioche Dough, chilled
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4-5 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 Pats
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup large crystal sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Separate the dough into twelve 3-ounce pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into 2 -inch balls. Flatten the balls into 5 -inch discs, about 1/4 inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside in a warm place to proof, about 1 hour, until spongy to the touch. Flip the discs over and allow them to finish rising, about 1 more hour.

Adjust the oven rack to the lower position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Press a pat of butter into the center of each disc. Brush around the rim with the beaten egg and sprinkle I teaspoon of the crystal sugar around the edge. Scoop 3 tablespoons of crème fraîche over the butter in a mound, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar over it.

Place 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 2-0-30 minutes, until lightly browned and the center is set.

Yield: 12 brioche


Brownies with Irish Whiskey and Currants

Just when you thought brownies couldn't be richer and more decadent -- these are the X-rated adult version.

Yield: fifteen 2 x 4-inch brownies
Special Item: 11 x 17-inch jelly-roll pan, lightly coated with melted butter

1 cup (5 ounces) hazelnuts
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups Irish whiskey
1-1/2 cups currants or raisins
2 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or unbleached pastry flour
Unsweetened cocoa power, optional

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through to ensure that the nuts toast evenly. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Gather the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub together to remove the skins.

Turn up the oven to 350 degrees.

In a stainless-steel mixing bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat 1 cup of the whiskey with the currants or raisins, stirring constantly to prevent the liquid from burning on the sides of the pan. Cook until the liquid is sticky, bubbly, and reduced, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar, eggs, and salt on medium-high until thick and mousselike, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the flour in 3 batches, turning the mixer off before each addition and mixing on low until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the melted chocolate mixture. Stir in the currant mixture, hazelnuts, and remaining 1/4 cup of whiskey.

Pour into the prepared pan and spread to an even thickness.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Cool and refrigerate. Before serving, slice into squares. If desired, sift a fine layer of cocoa powder over the surface, brushing off the excess cocoa for a velvety finish.

Rosemary Corncakes

Moist and crumbly at the same time, these unusually tasty scones are somewhere between a sweet and a savory. I want to give credit where credit is due, but unfortunately I can't remember who brought me this recipe. Thanks, whoever you are -- we love it.

Yield: 12 scones
Special item: 3-inch round cutter

3-3/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 light cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mild-flavored honey, such as clover
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream, plus a little extra for bushing the tops of the scones

For Garnishing: 24 small tufts of fresh rosemary

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, corneal, baking powder, rosemary, and brown sugar, and process or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off a few times, or mix on low, until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of a fine meal.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the eggs, honey, and cream, and whisk together the liquids. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out the scones, cutting as closely together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.

Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together and cut out the remaining dough. Place them 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops with the remaining cream and poke 2 small tufts of rosemary into the center of each.

Bake for 30 minutes, until slightly browned and firm to the touch.

Cranberry-Almond Tea Bread

Topped with a layer of crunchy glistening almonds, this simple little loaf is sweet and tart at the same time.

Yield: 1 loaf
Special Item: 6-cup-capacity loaf pan, lightly coated with melted butter

1 1/2 sticks plus a tablespoon (6-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 extra-large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 extra-large egg whites
1/2 heaping cup (2 1/2 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

For the Topping:
1 extra-large egg white
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 ounces) sliced unblanched almonds

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, baking soda, and lemon zest on low, about 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add half of the sugar, turn the mixer to medium, and mix for 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Turn the mixer to low and add the egg yolks one at a time. Add the almond extract and lemon juice, and mix until just combined.

Add the flour and the yogurt alternately in 3 batches and mix on low until just combined.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer the batter to a large bowl.

Thoroughly wash and dry the bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on low until frothy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat another 2 to 3 minutes until soft peaks form. Turn the mixer to high and gradually add in the remaining sugar and beat until shiny and stiff.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir about half of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold in the cranberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth to even.

To make the topping: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Stir in the sugar and almonds. Pour the topping onto the batter and spread evenly over the surface. Bake for 45 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned and the cake is firm to the touch. Halfway through baking, check the loaf. If the cake has cracked through the topping, press it down with the palms of your hands to deflate and continue baking. You should have a solid, crispy nut surface.

Crotin de Chocolat

The ultimate chocolate cupcake for grownups.

I don't recommend these with your first cup of coffee in the morning, but I do recommend them as an afternoon pick-me-up. Dense without being heavy, and rich without being sweet, this could be the ultimate cupcake for grown-ups. For the true chocoholic, add an extra 2 ounces of chopped chocolate.

Yield: 12 muffins
Special items:
1/2-cup capacity muffin tin, lightly coated with melted butter
Pastry bag fitted with a wide tip, optional

2 teaspoons (0.6 ounce) packed fresh yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1-1/2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened imported cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting the tops
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (6 ounces) or more according to taste

Place the yeast in a small bowl. Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and pour the water over to soften a few minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup of the flour and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until it becomes bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift to combine the cocoa powder and the remaining sugar and flour.

Make a large well in the center and pour in the butter, eggs, and yeast mixture. Whisk together the liquids and gradually draw in the dry ingredients, whisking until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate.

Fill the pastry bag half full and pipe or spoon the batter in the muffin tin, filling the cups to the rim.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until almost firm to the touch.

While slightly warm, sift a fine layer of cocoa power over the surface.

Copyright © 2000 by Nancy Silverton

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