Thursday, October 31

Croissant Dough 101

Yesterday I showed you the croissants and danish I made last week. They look great and taste amazing, but have you ever wondered how they're made? Well, today you get to find out!

This isn't an in depth explanation at all, because I don't expect everyone to be as interested in the process as I am; but I thought it'd be nice to give you all a behind-the-scenes look at how croissants are made.

This is a block of butter. I tossed the pen in there as a size reference, pretty much to show you that it's way more butter than the pound you usually buy at the grocery store. The butter gets flattened to about a half inch thick and shaped into a rectangle. This is what gets folded up into the croissant dough. The croissant dough contains: flour, yeast, sugar, water, milk, salt, a bit of old croissant dough, and more butter. The dough gets rolled out to about the same thickness as the butter, the block of butter gets placed on top of the dough, and then the dough gets folded over the butter to fully encase it, and thus begins the process of rolling out the dough, or 'laminating the dough' as it's actually called.

This is a sheeter; it's an extremely expensive machine used to roll out dough. It's also super fun to use! The flat surface extends to the other side and in the middle there are two rollers that can be adjusted for thickness. I won't get very technical here, but basically you put the dough on one end and roll it back and forth through the rollers, gradually adjusting the space between the rollers until you reach the thickness that you want. The metal parts in the second photo are the cutters for the plain croissants. The triangle cutter cuts them to the right shape and the pizza cutters cut them down so you're not left with a bunch of connected triangles.

Here's a view from the other side of the sheeter. The first photo shows the dough all rolled out, the second shows the dough after it's folded. This is called an envelope fold (because it's folded like an envelope). The way croissants are made is a series of turns and folds. Basically, you roll the dough out once, fold it, roll it out halfway and rotate it 90 degrees, roll it out the rest of the way and fold it again, then repeat that whole process two more times. That's how you get the delicious flakey layers! That block of butter that we started with is getting distributed throughout the dough and each time the dough gets folded, more layers are formed.

See? Layers! (Like onions and ogres!) All those little waves in the second photo are actually butter! So. Much. Butter. That's why they're so good though. The first photo is to show you how the plain croissants are actually shaped. Those cutters two photos up cut the dough into that triangle shape (the notch in the center is just there to allow the dough to stretch a bit more). What you do is take your triangle, pointy tip downwards, stretch it ever so lightly downwards, then roll the top down towards the tip while working the corners out with your palms. It sounds more complex than it is. It's all about hand movement, pressure, and speed. Ok, so maybe it is slightly complex.

So that's just how you make the plain croissants... the chocolate ones are whole 'nother story and I didn't take photos of that process. It's similar except that you don't use the cutters, and you add chocolate, obviously. The danish are also made from croissant dough and those are basically made by rolling out the dough, cutting it into squares and folding or cutting the squares in a particular manner to achieve the shape you want. (Like the pinwheels above.) Again, I didn't take any photos of that process. When you're working with croissant dough you want to work fast! It doesn't take long for the butter to soften and then the dough becomes a soft unworkable mess. Besides, I said I'd keep it simple, so plain croissants are all you're getting today!

I hope you enjoyed learning how croissants are made!

Wednesday, October 30

Orzo with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon at B3K

I posted my recipe for Orzo with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon over at Between Three Kitchens today!

For all you new readers, Between Three Kitchens is a food blog I write sporadically with a few of my friends. Some friends and family members wanted to be able to share my recipes with their co-workers and associates without sharing the personal side of my blog, so I created Between Three Kitchens as an alternate place to post recipes. Feel free to follow B3K, or if you don't want to add yet another blog to your reader, don't fret! I'll always update here about any new posts that go up over there.

I made these!

For the past two weeks at the bakery I trained with their croissant maker so that I could take over making the croissants and danish for a few days while she went on vacation last week. Despite having worked at a French bakery for over a year prior and being pretty knowledgable about all other aspects of French pastries, I had never ever made croissants before. I was super excited to learn something new! I picked it up very fast and tried my best to make a consistent product; I am so proud of how everything turned out! Here's a look at what I made last week while she was away:

plain croissants (mini ones too!)

chocolate croissants

peaches & cream danish

artichoke & goat cheese croissants / ham & brie croissants

assorted danish: raisin, lemon, cheese, pear almond, raspberry, apple vanilla

I don't know when I'll get a chance to make croissants again in the near future, but it's a really useful skill to have in the pastry world and I'm very happy to have that knowledge now. Though, to be honest, I don't necessarily see myself doing them if I ever open up my own bakery... the equipment needed is very expensive and they are super time consuming to make! That's why most places hire one person to focus primarily on croissants.

Make sure you check back here tomorrow; I'll be doing a post about the process of making croissants from scratch, with lots of photos!

Tuesday, October 29

Acorns & Jeans

top: Maeve (Anthropologie) / jeans: Pilcro (Anthropologie) / boots: Clarks / glasses: Bulova / necklace: small jewelry store in France

A straight forward title, I like that. You can't really make it out from these photos but my shirt has little acorns all over it. Oh and it's clearly wrinkled; oh well, who has time to iron? I don't even own an iron, so that makes things slightly difficult.

I don't wear jeans very often anymore, mostly because I didn't own any that I was particularly fond of, and also because I've never found them particularly comfortable. But I recently bought two pairs from Anthropologie that may change my mind about all of that. This pair is super comfortable, and I don't need to wear a belt for once.

And I think that's it; I don't have much to say today. I had a rough weekend and have just been trying to recover. I think this whole 'working two jobs' thing is catching up to me. I've never really been one to function well on a lack of sleep. And working 12-14 hour days after a lack of sleep? Forget about it! It might be time to re-evaluate my priorities. (Sleep being pretty high up there on that list.) Here's to the start of a much more rested work week!

Friday, October 25

Fun Finds Friday #36

Photos of a cheese maker in action in Switzerland

Check out these wire sculptures that look like line drawings.

I'm intrigued by this scratch and sniff wine book.

+ A few words on minding your own business.
+ I completely agree with this list of 23 things every woman should stop doing.
+ Restoration Hardware's warped childhood style.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 24

Birthday Fun

My birthday was relaxing, which is all I ever really hope for every year. I'm not a fan of too much excitement; the most exciting thing Shawn and I did was visit a new place in Pennsylvania (which is something we've been trying to do once a month or so). The day didn't really go as planned, but for as long as Shawn and I have known each other our plans never ever really seem to go as planned, so it was kind of expected.

I worked the morning of my birthday (adult life, sigh) but was home by 11am. I came home to flowers, Nutella (Made in Italy, not America! It's actually in a glass jar, not plastic!), and two sugared donuts from the Amish market nearby. Shawn clearly knows the way to my heart!

After noon we drove out to Frecon Farms hoping to pick some apples and pumpkins, but I completely glossed over the fact that pick-your-own is only on the weekends... so instead we chatted with the farm shopkeeper and brought home a bounty of things they had already picked. Hard cider, apple wine, a few different types of apples, small pumpkins, gourds, spaghetti squash, and a giant stalk of brussels sprouts! He also gave us two caramel apples for free.

I picked out this gourd because it reminded me of a swan.

The farm shopkeeper told us about a brew pub nearby called "The Other Farm" (actually owned by the owners of Frecon Farms!) so we went to check it out... only to find out that they closed at 1:30pm during the week. Second plan thwarted for the day! So we got pizza at a local pizzeria instead. The dough was awesome and sooooo fresh. It also felt like we were the only people in town that day.

Gratuitous Lloyd photo! He was very curious about the variety of gourds we brought home that day. Probably because they were taking up his napping place.

We spent the rest of the day watching new episodes of How I Met Your Mother until I fell asleep on the couch. I had gotten up at 4am for work and despite taking a quick nap before venturing out, it still ended up being an early night for me. Shawn snapped this photo of Lloyd and I napping together.

All in all, an awesome birthday. I spent most of it sleeping... but I wouldn't have it any other way. Getting older is tiring, man. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Also, my parents got me these fun things from Anthropologie when I saw them on Saturday, along with an Anthro gift card. (Yes, that's a squirrel nutcracker! And an egg holder for when I'm baking, so the eggs don't roll around on the counter.) I'm still trying to figure out what I want to use the gift card for... I think I know what I want, but I don't want to say until I'm sure. I always have a hard time with gift cards because I want to get something meaningful with them. I could easily buy a few items of clothing, but I'd much rather buy something that will remind me that my parents got it for me. I guess I'm sentimental!

Tuesday, October 22

Animal Prints (and birthdays!)

top: Loft / skirt: Liefsdottir (Anthropologie) / shoes: Gee Wawa (Anthropologie) / glasses: Tortoise & Blonde / rings: assorted places

It's my birthday today!!!

Celebrating birthdays when you're an adult kind of sucks; you don't get the day off and you don't live near most of your close friends anymore (at least in my case), and even if you do they certainly don't get the day off to celebrate with you. On the other hand, I really appreciate just having a day to myself to relax and enjoy. I'm working at the bakery early this morning but I requested off at Anthropologie so that I can enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Plus, Shawn's off today! So I requested we go apple/pumpkin picking at a nearby farm that also makes a few different types of hard cider. I'm really excited, but I think I may need to take a nap first... damn, I must be getting old.

I couldn't resist buying this skirt for myself as an early birthday gift last week; I saw it all alone on the sale rack, in my size, it was fate! I seem to have a thing for animal related clothing & jewelry... there's even an elephant in one of my ear lobes.

Thursday, October 17

Photo Bombing Lloyd

shirt: Isabella Sinclair (Anthropologie) / pants: Lucky Brand / boots: Blowfish / necklace: Lucky Brand / glasses: Tortoise & Blonde

I love the back detail on this otherwise ordinary button-up. Lace appeals to me more and more as I get older... perhaps I'm growing into a bit of a romantic? And although I've always been a bit on the fence about these pants (still not sure how I feel about skinny jeans on these ol' thunder thighs), I got so many compliments on them the day I wore this that I decided there's no reason for me to feel hesitant about them. And I guess Lloyd liked this outfit too! He was really curious about what I was doing in the bedroom with the door closed.

Full disclosure - I took the last three outfit posts worth of photos on the same day. Hm. Looks like I need to take some more photos! Hopefully in better light... I don't like how grainy and dark these all came out. Is anyone even enjoying these outfit posts? Should I keep doing them? Regardless, it's a good way for me to keep track of what I've already worn to work.

Instagram shot from that day... Jules pizza is awesome!

Wednesday, October 16

Lloyd's Newest Spots

Lloyd's been rediscovering the apartment lately. Here are a few of the places we've found him hanging out:

His old spot in my closet was the laundry basket... but lately I've found him squeezed in amongst my shoes.

I brought home a bunch of coffee bags for sewing projects, and he's been thoroughly enjoying the pile.

He's so curious about the bathtub; he always goes in there to check it out after we shower.
He likes hanging out on top of the toilet too.

We were wondering when he would discover the bottom half of this styrofoam cooler...

LOOK AT THAT FACE!!!! I love it.

Monday, October 14

What I Wore... Second Round!

shirt: Sonoma (Kohl's) / dress: eShakti / shoes: Gee Wawa (Anthropologie) / glasses: Tortoise & Blonde

I took these pictures about two weeks ago and looking at them now makes me realize it's about time for a hair cut again; it's not looking quite as cute as it was! That's my only complaint about the short hair... I need to keep up with it. I'm the sort of person that usually gets two hair cuts a year and that's it; well, not any more! I just need to find someone local that doesn't charge outrageous prices. I am not willing to spend $50+ for someone to cut off less than an inch of my hair. Too bad my usual hair dresser is all the way out in New Jersey...

This dress is amazing. You can't see much of it in this outfit, but here's what it looks like by itself. The fit is spot on, and I love that I can pull off wearing it as a skirt. I really want to order more custom dresses from eShakti.

Also worth noting, though completely unrelated to clothing, I've been learning how to make croissants at the bakery! Now I can officially say I've been trained in pretty much all aspects of French baking, aside from bread-making. The girl training me keeps telling me she's amazed at how fast I've picked it up. What can I say, it's in my blood! I'm really excited about this because I love learning new things and I absolutely love getting my hands dirty; give me blocks of butter and dough and I'm one happy girl. Don't worry though, I don't dress like this when I'm laminating and shaping croissant dough!

Friday, October 11

Fun Finds Friday #35

The 35 most spectacular National Geographic wildlife photos. They almost don't look real.

A different kind of hoarding.

It took 1000 eggs, 10 pans, 5 burned fingers, 3 hours and 1 bottle of oil to make this egg font.

I don't know if this is real or not, but there's a lake that turns birds into statues.

Holly captured a quintessential New England autumn day. It makes me want to go on a road trip.

+ A great perspective: the case against high school sports.

It's been a busy week but I finally have a few afternoons free this weekend and Monday. I intend to prep a few posts for the following week or two, along with a recipe post! I haven't posted a new recipe in a while, so it's about time I get back on that! I'm finally getting into the swing of my work schedule... it's tough planning things around two and a half jobs! My parents are visiting next week too so I'm looking forward to freeing up some time to spend a day with them.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 9

Weekend of Wedding Festivities

Shawn and I spent this past weekend in northern New Jersey to celebrate his brother's wedding. Shawn was the best man, so we were involved in most of the process. The rehearsal dinner was Friday night and the wedding was Sunday afternoon/evening, so we drove up to his mother's house Friday afternoon and spent the night there, then got a hotel room Saturday and Sunday night. It was the first weekend off we'd had together since the last wedding we went to back in July, so it was really nice to spend some time together, despite it not being as relaxing as I originally hoped due to all the time spent in the car getting to and from each location. But it was a beautiful wedding! And the food was the best we've had at any wedding, so no complaints there! His brother is also a beer guru so there were some awesome beers on tap at the reception.

I didn't take many photos at all, since I was focused on having a good time, but here's a quick visual of the weekend:

Shawn's mom has three rats, so they were our roommates for our Friday night slumber party. This is Georgette; she's very social.

The ceremony was held in a Catholic church, but it was quick and painless since neither one of them is particularly religious. Beautiful fall colors for the bridesmaid dresses and flowers. And I'll admit, it was really great to see both brothers all dressed up... probably the only time that will ever be the case!

I snapped a quick shot of what I wore to the wedding. The dress and cardigan are recent buys from Anthropologie, the shoes are Miz Mooz and probably about 6 years old at this point. I was so comfortable all day; no regrets on this outfit choice what so ever! (It was a long day! I traveled with the bridal party, so there were no breaks in between things.)

The reception was held at Lake Valhalla Club and it was beautiful. It was foggy and misty all day on Sunday, with bouts of rain, but I think that only added to the charm of the location. The bride and groom took some photos in the woods nearby - I can't wait to see how they came out!

One of the groomsmen kept ordering interesting shots. This is called Rainbow Shots, for obvious reasons. It's a bunch of different mixers and not much actual alcohol, but the gravity of the different liquids leads to this effect. Pretty neat, huh? He also taught the bartender how to make Alien Brain Hemorrhage shots... I didn't get a photo of that one but it looked really creepy and cool.

And finally, the highlight of the weekend was coming home to Lloyd! Shawn's friend checked in on him a few times over the weekend, so he didn't go hungry or anything, but man, was he happy to see us! I was so worried he would think we abandoned him! His toys were untouched, so I'm not really sure what he did all weekend. I don't think he really eats or plays unless we're around. The little guy has been very cuddly since we've been home.

All in all, a delightful weekend with delicious eats, but we are very much happy to be home!

Friday, October 4

Wedding Weekend

Whoops! I totally meant to prep a Fun Finds Friday post for today! Shawn and I are in New Jersey all weekend for his brother's wedding though, so I guess it will have to wait until next week. I'm thoroughly looking forward to a whole weekend of relaxing, and a few uninterrupted days with Shawn. We left Lloyd under the care of one of Shawn's friends... I think he knew we were leaving because he seemed anxious today. Poor little guy. I have a feeling we're going to miss him way more than he's going to miss us though! Can't wait to see him again on Monday. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 3

My Foray into Fashion Blogging

Although I read a large amount of fashion blogs, I've never delved into it myself. This blog has always been more about daily life, food, and the occasional craft. It's not that I don't think about or appreciate fashion... to the contrary, my personal style has greatly evolved since my discovery of fashion blogs. I just never saw my style as something to post about, especially since I spend most of my time in chef pants and t-shirts for work and the occasions for me to really get dressed up are rare. Since I've started working at Anthropologie though, I've been able to get more creative with my outfits, and that's been fun! I've gotten at least one compliment on my outfit each shift I've worked, so it makes me feel pretty good! I've been documenting most of them on my phone, but I thought it might be nice to start taking some proper photos and sharing some of 'what I wore' with you!

I'm still new at this, so the photo quality is not great and I'm not comfortable enough to leave the confines of my own home for photos, but I promise to work on both of those things so that perhaps in due time my photos will be a little bit more interesting. In the meantime though, here's a taste of what I wore to work recently.

tunic: Left of Center (Anthropologie) / pants: Calvin Klein / boots: Nine West / glasses: Tortoise & Blonde / necklace: gift from Shawn

The tunic is a recent purchase from Anthropologie. I liked it so much I actually bought it in the dark grey color as well. (The one in the picture is wine colored, but you can't really tell with the lighting....) Anthropologie has quite a few lounge-style pieces currently that I'm really diggin', (like this, this, this, and this) but I'm trying not to spend my entire paycheck there since that would defeat the purpose of working there to begin with... but I can still look, right?

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