Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer begins with Lilac Jelly and Croissants in a Little Corner of heaven (Vermont)

Vermont Twilight

I have a tradition on Memorial Day weekend.  For quite a few years I’ve been going to Vermont to Trev and Kathy’s farm. 

It’s a wonderful place, warm and comfortable and full of remarkable collections of interesting artifacts,  lots of room for guests (with an extra small house to catch overflow) and a consistently interesting group of friends to share it with.  They are perfect hosts.  

For me, between gardening and cooking…well, it is a great vacation because, honestly, if we aren’t preparing food or eating it we are talking about it and the kitchen was rarely idle during the 7 days I spent there. 

The grills and smokers were always being readied or being used to smoke or sear, with the grill master Trev, effortlessly preparing: smoked duck breast, ribs, steaks, salmon and pork belly (for Momofuku buns… OMG) as well as chicken for Kath’s best spicy chicken salad ever (I’ll share that with you soon!).  There were rhubarb pies and upside down cakes and tres leche cakes and mango sorbet and made a 100-odd year old recipe for a boozy Sorbet Cardinal and… well we ate like kings.

We also visited a neighbor and farmer, Doug Densmore at his farm over the holiday.  We dug (well, she dug and I lugged) ramps (to go in a roasted asparagus risotto… num), and peeked at the new calf in the field gamboling with all of his older cattle pals.  All of them were leading wonderful grass-fed lives as they dined effortlessly in rolling, insanely lush green pastures.

We visited the newly arrived little piglets… happily rooting in the dirt and schnerfling down their milky lunch.  And I got a souvenir from my visit –– a ½ gallon of hearty B-Grade and a pint of his sublime Fancy maple syrup –– so good that swanky Brooklyn eateries are importing it for their pancakes, waffles and desserts (he ships anywhere - give him a call at Densmore Family Sugarhouse 802-685-3862). He is part of a long family line of farmers.  He’s passionate about his heritage and his work, and just the kind of person you would want growing your food… he does everything the right way. We need to support this kind of family farm (and he makes great syrup at a great price… so no sacrifice to do it).

After I finished my yearly weeding of the asparagus patch (and paid for it by becoming a perfect candidate for an extra on a bad 50’s mutant movie thanks to 1000 black fly bites), I set to making another batch of Lilac Jelly.  I had made a tiny batch last year from a recipe I’d seen and saved from Michael Ruhlman’s site.  It was a recipe from an Alaskan baker named Carri and just loved it.  Floral jellies are as old as can be and recipes like it can be found in antique English cookbooks (sans the pectin of course!). I handed it out to my perfume pals, shipped it out to Sarah in Canada and to my favorite scent goddess, Mandy Aftel at Aftelier.  It was a hit with everyone.  At its heart is a nectary note that is delicate and elegant.  It would be great on berries or trifles or…. Croissant!  I made a pure pig of myself and poured it into a dish and dunked the croissant and when that was gone I used my finger to get every last drop… EVIL!  

I think you’ll find the jelly with the croissants  (made with a sexy tease of duck fat) will take you away from the hustle of the world and let you find a moment’s serenity as you breath country Spring air, perfumed with lilacs and the buttery scent of baking… Heaven.

Lilac Jelly from Carri’s Recipe

2 ½ c apple juice or pear juice or white wine or champagne- I was even thinking plain water would work.  I decided that the wine/champagne or water was the best... the flower flavor came through better
2 cup packed fresh petals…no stems… this is a little tedious but worth it.
4 c sugar (I used organic… I like the flavor)
½ cup lemon juice
1 package pectin for syrup like consistency, 3 oz for thicker jelly

Scald the liquid and add the petals.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temp and strain (I thought for the best flavor, the time to remove the petals was when it was warm… so check… it can get a little bitter if you wait too steeping fine tea.)

Add 2 cups of the liquid, the sugar and lemon and boil over high heat

When sugar has dissolved and there is a rolling boil,  add the pectin and stir vigorously to blend, being sure to scrape the bottom.

Pour into sterilized jars.

PS  if you want color.. add a little red wine.. It is golden and not purple in the least although some dark lilacs will add a bit of pink to it. 

 Croissants with a touch of Duck Fat

8 oz butter, softened
3 T duck fat
8 oz milk
½ oz yeast
1 T sugar
1 ½ t salt
14 oz (2 ½ to 3 cups) bread flour
1 egg, mixed

Roll the butter out to a flat square, about 8” and refrigerate.

Scald the milk let cool and add the yeast, sugar and  duck fat and salt. Then add the flour slowly and knead a little.  Roll it into a rectangle and chill. Remove from the fridge, flour your board (with each turn)lay out the dough and place the butter on about 2/3 of the dough.  Fold the extra dough over it like a letter and roll it out as a rectangle. Fold it again as a letter and put in the fridge to chill at least ½ an hour.   Remove and roll again and fold.  Do this 3 more times… allowing the rest between each turn. I always kept the folded side to the right but I don't know if this is necessary like it is with puff pastry. I let the dough rest overnight, but you don’t have to. 

Roll it out into a rectangle and then cut into long triangles about 6” long… I read somewhere it should resemble the Eiffel Tower. There will be 10-12) 

Tug at the long end to lengthen, take a small notch out of the middle of the thick end and place the little piece of dough you’ve just cut plus a bit of leftover dough (size of a small marble?) just above the notch then roll them up from the fat end and place on a parchment-lined pan after tugging the ends to form a crescent.

Let rise in a moist place –– this is important –– I  sprayed the underside of the pan I was using as a cover.

When they are puffed up nicely, use egg wash gently on the pastries.  Put them into a 425º oven with a small plate of boiling water at the bottom and lower the temp to 400º for 10 minutes.  After that, turn the pan and cook at 375º for another 10 minutes or until they are golden brown.

***I must thank my friend Ken Albala for inspiring me to make croissants... they aren't hard at all... he was soooo right.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!


Sarah said...

You are so fortunate to have friends on farms! Any yum, yum I loved your lilac jelly! Thank you for the wonderful gift. I am still working on a unique application but I love your croissants. That is so buttery and wonderful. I will be featuring it soon on my blog. Thanks for the recipe. Our lilacs are just coming into season.

Lora said...

Wow this combination is a lovely and decadent mini feast. Lilac jelly has been on my list but didn't get to it this year

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a lovely looking weekend. Those piglets are just adorable. I do love the sound of lilac jelly. We do a lot of lavender and rose and some violet but not enough lilac here!

La Table De Nana said...

That looks like a dream getaway.
The lilac jelly is new for me..Thank you..Love the farm..the pics..the pigs:)

Barbara said...

I would bribe someone to let me cook in that kitchen, Deana! I adore kitchens like that...homey and everything right at hand. What fun.

I miss the lilac bushes we always had in Michigan. Your jelly looks marvelous...I'd love to try it. Going to send the recipe on to my sister up north. Maybe she'll make it for me. :)

Kudos for making the croissants. I thought they were impossible and time consuming. Besides, the French bakery here has the best ones I've ever tasted outside France, so never thought to bother. You're changing my mind.

pam said...

I have got to find some lilacs!

Tasty Trix said...

This is the kind of nature I like! Beautiful outdoors, but a really lovely house always nearby to get comfy in. Plus adorable baby animals. It really does sound as if you ate like a queen, what amazing friends. And I love your lilac jelly! I need to tease more blooms out of my lilac bush and make this next year.

Diane said...

Great post, love the piglets :-) Think I will now have to plant lilac!! Take care Diane

tasteofbeirut said...

I have some duck fat in the fridge! Now I know where I am going to use it next! Love that lilac jelly: endlessly fascinating what one can do with flowers and herbs! That farm sounds wonderful and I love that twilight scene

Laura said...

Hi Deana:

I love flower jellies and jams!

I've never tried lilacs but make rosepetals at least once a year. I use the jellies and jams in a way all but forgotten in the US - as sweet accompaniements to savory dishes like roasts and kebabs. Quince and rosepetals are my favorites for those.

I will have to give the lilacs a go next year.



SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I need friends with a farm! What a glorious place for a getaway. The piglets are adorable.

Your duck fat croissants and lilac jelly look amazing! We only have a dwarf lilac and the flowers are small - probably not a good candidate :( I love the smell and can only imagine how delicious it must be.

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

Beautiful photos Deana! I love Vermont and it sounds like you had some pretty amazing food :) Croissants have been on my list of things that I want to try making but they look pretty intimidating. But with duck fat? oooo!

Marjie said...

I'm glad to see someone whose kitchen is more cluttered than mine. But I missed lilac season this year! The cursed rain ruined all of my flowers, and I never even got outside to inhale their spectacular perfume!

Christine's Pantry said...

Great post! I grow up in Vermont. Beautiful state!

Anonymous said...

Lilac jelly and homemade freshly baked croissants sound heavenly indeed! And your trip to Vermont must have been a lot of fun!

David Julian said...

We have a lovely lilac grove, with various varieties. I had not thought of making them in jelly. Having cocktails on the patio last night their perfume lightly sented the air. I must try your recipe. Thanks as always for the inspiration!

Unknown said...

When I was a little girl, we had lilacs planted around our pool. I remember how delicious they smelled. It is definitely my favorite flower smell. It always reminds me of being small and happy. I buy caswell & massey lilac soap because it always makes me think of those times. I didn't know you could cook with lilacs.
Croissants look amazing. I don't know if ill ever will myself to attempt croissants from scratch though.
*kisses* HH

Peter said...

And here's me thinking you were on vacation...

Lovely croissants and jelly, but no homemade butter? I must have my Son help me make croissants sometime soon.

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

Croissants with duck fat?! Amazing. Simply amazing. And that jelly looks delicious too! What a great farm and thanks for the maple syrup contact! :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

Croissants are easy to make? I need to try this one! I adore Mandy Aftel's recipes, I have her cookbook Aroma. The idea of lilac jelly sounds so so so intoxicating.

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