cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Salty Cod Special

A Salty Poissant and a Frozen Banana Mousse

Is a fish taco shaped like a fish? no. So does bread shaped like a fish taste like fish? Not this time. Every time i interview a baker or bakery owner, i methodically ask (as does every one in the business) so, what's your specialty? the best seller? what is the self named product? After posing the question a couple dozen times to others, the astoundingly obvious though blatantly ignored fact finally hit me in the face: what the hell is my specialty? Oh right, i don't have one. But i need one? Yes. Magazines and food writers always focus on the one show stopping killer at each joint, so we gotta start experimenting with this now, while we're still young nobodies. Young? Yes. I'm younger than you. And we have a fish croissant now, or rather a poissant. on y va.

I had an unlucky run with polenta the other day, much trickier than it seems. Therefore we were very anxious for this one to work, two slips is a lost audience. Flipping through The Bread Bible, looking for the type of bread that would best hold the fish shape, we fell on croissants. of course, croissants, c'est francaise, pourquoi je ne la pas pense? Did you know we spent a year living in Paris. we did. But can you shape a croissant like a fish? We shall see, never made a croissant before...never made puff pastry before....gulp.

Have you ever attempted this type of pastry dough? No? good for you. It's a bitch. It takes how many turns and at how much time in the fridge in between? gawwwww. But, baking for adventure, relaxation, and stress release (yes, i synonymed myself, poets license) caters the allowance for 9 hours, right? right. just keep telling yourself that. The process from start to finish was indeed 9 hours, and they turned out "alright" as croissants, however not as flaky and a little denser than i would have liked. meh. First times just mean that the next will be better. I turned the dough four times, refrigerating 40 minutes between each turn, but it is a bit hot and muggy here, and my man-handling of the final rolled dough into freeform cut fish perhaps made it a bit overworked. I learn from my mistakes. Regardless, the scaly (flaky) wrigglers emerged from the oven tasting as croissant like as possible. good thing too, because they were made with wheat bran and parmesan cheese. yes.

You know i can't do anything exactly according to directions. So i put wheat bran in it. Take that you age old perfected French pastry technique! All it does is give it a look of a robbins egg. The main taste difference in the Poissant, is the half cup of parmesan cheese massaged into the butter square. A cheese croissant. Like a pao de queijo, but not. The chewy flaky cheesy croissant shaped like a fish; that is our special. At least it is until we make fish shaped dinner rolls.

Banana mousse has nothing to do with the fish biscuit. It was a leftover dud from the polenta dissaster, don't ask. Well, poissants for the next dawn's breakfast, which is a summer breakfast, so banana mousse....frozen! much nicer in photos. I do all this for the photos. you do know that right.

ingredients: 2 cups flour ~ 3 tbsp wheat bran ~ 12oz butter ~ 1/2 cup ground parmesan cheese ~ 1.5 tsp yeast ~ 2 tbsp sugar ~ 1 tsp salt ~ 3/4 cup tepid milk ~ an egg for the wash

method: 1) mix flour, sugar, and yeast THEN salt (you will murder the yeast if you don't mix it first) then with the dough hook, mix at slow speed while you add the milk, once all wet, mix on #4 (kitchenaide) for 4 minutes. 2) greese a bowl, cover and rise 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours. 3) make butter square: sprinkle bran and a tbsp of flour on plastic wrap, then plop down butter (soft) and cover with another peice of wrap. massage until you make a sqaure ~4.5 inches. refrigerate, but not until its hard, just dont let it melt. 4) roll out dough to a square, and splace the butter sqaure inide at an angle offset, then fold over the dough edges to make an envelope around the butter, and seel with water. refrigerate for 30 minutes, then roll out, fold in half, press down, and refrigerate for 40 minutes. repeat 4 times. 5) Roll out, cut into fish, arrange on lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for 2 hours. bake at 400F for 20 minutes, rotating after 10.

Frozen Banana mousse:
ingredients: 2 bananas ~ 1.25cups heavy cream ~ 2tbsp cointreau ~ .25 cup sugar ~ 1tbsp water ~ 2 gelatin leaves ~ 1 lemon, squeezed

method: 1) soften gelatin in water 2) puree bananas, sugar, cointreau and lemon, add soft gelatin. 3) whip cream to soft peaks, gently fold in puree mixture, and pipe into a mold, bowl, or form that can be frozen. then freeze.

Perhaps it is time, after two years of gaining, losing, mixing, and holding readers from various coordinates around the globe, that we spend a moment on our namesake. Why would anyone ever name a bakery The Salty Cod? Well, the cod, morue, bacalhau--what have you, is a guide. He keeps you going straight on your course, or he makes sure he breaks you from it. He is the scapegoat when you can't explain how your life has taken you to this present day. He is to blame when you do what appears a "crazy" act in the eyes of the world; the cod made me do it! Crazy is in the eye of the beholder, if we were endowed with cod eyes, following what you want would not seem such a crazy concept. But we don't have cod eyes. That is why we must trust that he knows where he is leading us. Even if you don't know what you want, he does. So follow him.

a bientot.


Anonymous said...

zee cod is back!

i loved the photos! but 9 hours!!!


thank you for such an effort, i can eat that fish by looking at it... cheesy fish...

only you could have thought of it. only u.


M.Lane said...

They are a masterstroke! Very beautiful and I'll bet they tasted great too.


Heavenly Housewife said...

absolutely gorgeous! how i wish i could try these!!!

La Table De Nana said...

So cute! They caugt:) my eye right away!

Moira said...

Hi Mallory,
That's not possible you don't have a speciality of your own, but if it's true you have to get one quickly.
This poisants are gorgeous and delicious for sure, i would have one, or two with my coffee.
Salty Cod is a god name for a bakery, why not? I'll give you a portuguese receipt of Bola de Bacalhau and it would be the speciality of the house hehehehe
By the way Bola is the feminin of Bolo (cake), Bola is a salty cake, tipical in many regions of Portugal by Easter time, generaly is made with meat, but just one is made with bacalhau.
a bientot :)

Sophie said...

Trop mignons ces petits poissons :) !

Marta said...

I think finding your specialty is trickier than it sounds, it's not merely throwing ideas on a note-pad and saying "yep, that's gonna be it!". I think it takes a whole lot of knowing and defining yourself... deep stuff, very non-linear! hahaha I don't know where my head is going today!
I'm thoroughly impressed at your pastry skills, puff pastry is needy and obnoxious and hard to understand and unpredictable... much like a psycotic ex!!
So you're running the marathon?!?! Ohhh Mal good luck!!!! That's one of my all-time fitness goals. I would have to "learn" how to run it, though, you know, pace myself. I like running fast (my best time in the 5k is 22min). I would also love to do the Iron Man. My best friend just finished one last week. He did it in 6 hours. He's an iron man :)
Problem is... I don't know how to ride a bike... so the learning curve might be a bit steep!!! hahaha

dessert girl said...

VERY cute! Like giant Goldfish! And the banana mousse sounds wonderful!

Christy said...

Yeah, blame the cod!! Take that, cod!!! You made me do this!! I bet you were also the voice in my head that make me do irrational things!! Like blogging when I should be studying for exams!! Lol!!!

But enough ranting. So, considering that you fish is freeform, it's really good. No two fish are alike, right? And I agree that some things do look better in photos---I've photographed close disasters before which turned out like total winners. If only they knew!!

So I finally fulfilled my promise to you and made a new banner--hehe. How many months did that take me? But i finally got sick of my old banner. And don't worry, I don't have a specialty either. At least not yet. Because if I don't like something that I make, I either 1. not make it ever again; or 2. keep playing with the recipes until I get it just right. Obsessed? You bet!!

And btw, I still haven't started my laminated dough yet!! Will it be just like when I told you I'm going to have a new banner soon? Let's hope not!!

The Hot Plate said...

Thank you for the warm welcome, just getting into it but wow! finally a way to express my love of food without my roommate's ear falling off lol.

I just love those biscuits with the soup! They are such a personal touch, I'll definitely break out your recipe for poison d'avril!

anna said...

Hehe, I love the poissants! How adorable! Not to mention the to say! Poissant! Puff pastry can be annoying but truthfully I don't mind having to come back to it. I like slightly passive pastries like that. Though I often say of bread "I will not have my whole day dictated by a warm lump of dough!" Clearly I am not meant for bread baking. Why I feel that way towards the ultimately satisfying yeasty lumps but not towards the puff pastry is a mystery - perhaps it's the butter? I always have more patience for butter.

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Manuela © said...

Olá :)

Just passed bye to say hi. I am sorry but I have to admit that I am so busy I don't have time to read all you said right now...

Anyways, your pictures are stunning :)

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