Category Archives: Pastries

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 24: Croissants

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).


Hey guys, this week I made croissants. If you’ve been paying like weirdly close attention to my progress through GBBS, you’ll know this isn’t what I was supposed to be making, because for the first time ever, I skipped some stuff.

Please see my last blog post where I explain why things are a bit jumbled up at the moment – and why I’ll no longer be baking every single bake from every single episode. I give a lot of reasons for that in my last blog, but one of the main ones is because it is quite frankly, taking forever. And, well…

Photo Credit: Giphy

So instead, I’ve started to make just one of the challenges per episode. (Reminder: I’m going through the seasons as they appeared on Netflix in the U.S., which is so not the order in which they aired in the U.K.)

Or, that was what I had decided anyway, but then all of the bakes in Season One Episode 10 were so good, I decided to make almost all of them. I know, I know. I’m all over the place these days. It’s anarchy up in here.

Photo Credit: Giphy. P.S. This GIF is from the Netflix show, Maniac. It was so weird, but I loved it. Just FYI.

But at least it’s chaos with pastry.

Anyway, on to the croissants.

I’ve always loved croissants, but I’ve never made them myself, much in the same way I love hand-knit sweaters, but I’ve never tried to make one of those either, because that looks hard and time-consuming, plus you can just buy them instead.

And it turns out, making croissants did take forever, but it wasn’t particularly hard.

What I’ve noticed going through this baking challenge is that, by and large, I much prefer making breads or pastry rather than cakes or desserts. Because, for the most part, the cakes or desserts on this show have about a million steps and as many ingredients.

With the breads and pastries, there are usually fewer steps (and ingredients) and though the process itself may take forever, most of your time is just spent doing a little something then abandoning the dough while it rises or chills. From there, it’s just a matter of killing time between small bursts of activity. And I’m pretty good at that.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

At this point, I usually tell you which recipe I’m using. But, this time, I’m not going to do that because I had some issues with this recipe – in that some of it appeared to have mistakes and I don’t want to throw the cookbook under the bus.

So yeah, if you want a croissant recipe that’s more fool-proof, I recommend checking out Nancy’s recipe for Raspberry and Almond Croissants from this episode of GBBS. That woman can bake. I should have used that recipe too, but I didn’t. You live and you learn ya’ll.

For instance, I learned that I like making croissants, but I don’t like doing it with this recipe. Because this recipe got confusing right from the start. Like I said, there were very few ingredients listed in the recipe: just all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, one (1/4 oz.) package dried yeast, 18 tablespoons butter, 1 large egg and milk. But here’s the thing – the recipe’s instructions never told me to add the milk, it told me to add water instead. So I had to make a choice. I made an executive decision to add water instead of milk (in the same amount the recipe specified for milk).

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Photo Credit: Giphy

This was likely the wrong decision as almost all of the other croissant recipes I saw called for milk. But I didn’t look at those recipes at the time, I just forged ahead with my water over milk choice. It seemed like the best idea at the time.

How was I supposed to know? This blog is called “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes” not “Always a Master Baker Who Does Everything Perfectly” which would be a totally braggy, jerkface name for a blog anyway.

Though I had some issues with the recipe’s instructions, I was very happy about its ingredients, because I had all of them on hand – including way more than 18 the tablespoons of butter needed for the recipe. (Sidenote: ever since I started doing this baking challenge, I’ve been stockpiling butter like nobody’s business.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, to make the croissant dough, I combined flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Then using a knife, I mixed in enough warm water (that probably should have been warm milk) a little bit at a time until it formed a soft dough. Then I  popped that soft dough back into the bowl and covered it with plastic wrap lightly-coated with cooking spray. From there, it was chill time, so I put the dough in the fridge for an hour.

Then after that, I rolled out the dough to a rectangle that was 10 by 17 inches, and it was time to add the butter. So much butter.

Photo Credit: Giphy

I got those 18 tablespoons of butter and smashed em up with a rolling pin until it was one cohesive butter block that was about a half inch thick. Then I put that butter into the middle of that dough rectangle and folded it up like a little butter package, folding the right third of the dough to the center and the folding the left third of the dough on top of that.

Then I chilled the dough again for an hour. When I took it out, I rolled it out again, this time to a lager 24 by 14 inch rectangle, which I again folded into a little dough bundle and chilled for another hour.

From this point on, there’s a lot of dough rolling, folding and chilling (including an overnight chill) but that’s pretty boring to talk about, so instead I’m going to skip ahead to when I brought the dough out of the fridge after its overnight chill.

At this point, I ran into a bit more confusion with the recipe,  which called for me to roll my dough out into a larger rectangle, cut that rectangle in half and then cut each half into squares which I would then cut into triangles.

Now, I’m not going to say I’m a pro at math – because I’m not. But I do know that a square needs to have equal sides, so when the recipe told me to cut the dough into 1 by 5 inch squares, I was like seriously confused, because isn’t that a rectangle?

This was me:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

It was so confusing, so instead I made the executive decision to ignore their recipe’s measurement instructions and instead just make squares that had, you know, equal sides. Guys, I literally just looked up a square to make sure I wasn’t the one messing up. Somewhere along the line, a geometry teacher seriously failed me, because I was only like 89 percent sure I was right. But then again, I’ve also never been great at percentages.

Me again:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, back to the bake that had way too much math in it. From there, I took my dough triangles and rolled the long end toward me and curved the ends of it to give it a crescent shape – you know, like crescent rolls. Then I set them on parchment-lined baking sheets, covered them with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and let them rise again. There’s a lot of rising and chilling in this. Croissants are lazy apparently, just resting and chilling all damn day.

Once the croissants were successfully risen – they were supposed to double in size – I brushed them with one lightly-beaten egg and baked them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then I reduced the oven’s temperature to 375 degrees and baked them for another 10 minutes because the recipe said to bake them for another five to ten minutes and I always go for the higher number. I like my foods well baked, just to be safe, because:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway… when I took the croissants out of the oven they looked a lot like croissants and they tasted a lot like croissants too. Though, in retrospect, they did taste sort of like something was missing and with the benefit of hindsight, I now know that something was milk. The milk was the missing thing.

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Photo Credit: Giphy P.S. This GIF is from Schitt’s Creek. You should watch Schitt’s Creek. P.P.S. I just realized I keep telling you to watch shows on Netflix. I’m not even doing that on purpose. It’s not like they’re paying me or anything. Though, that’d be really cool if they did. Just throwing that out there internet. 

FYI, It was not my fault, for once. It was totally the recipe’s fault.

The missing milk aside, the croissants were pretty good. After all, it’s hard for something to be bad if it has that much butter in it. Though they weren’t as flaky as I would have liked them to be or as nicely shaped.

Next time, I’ll try a different recipe and see if I can’t improve on my croissant-game, because this is one bake I definitely want to try again and again – until I get better at it and my croissants get better too.

Full disclosure, I’m not good at being bad at things. For most of my life, if I tried something, and it didn’t come naturally, if it didn’t come easily, I would simply never do that thing again. That’s something I’m trying to work on – hence this blog. Because it may have taken me 30-some years to figure it out, but I realized that failing things, being bad at things, is good for you. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.

And if right now you’re thinking, “Uh duh, everyone knows that,” well, good for you, pal. You obviously are more well-adjusted than me, though frankly, it’s rude to say “Uh duh” to people so it seems like you have room for improvement too.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So let’s grow, improve and learn together, ideally while we’re eating pastries.

Until next time, I’m wishing you better days and buttercream. –Ash

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 20: Kouign Amann

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).


When most people can’t sleep, they read or watch T.V. or you know, do something normal.

But, I’m not most people. So when I can’t sleep, I bake obscure pastries featured on The Great British Baking Show.

Because, well, because…

Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, the weird thing I did this week was make kouign amann, a Breton cake, which was the technical challenge in season 1 episode 7 of GBBS.

Don’t know what kouign amann is? Yeah, I didn’t either, and neither did any of the contestants on the show.

Basically, it’s a traditional pastry from the Brittany region of France – a region known for its butter. According to this handy article from the Huffington Post: “kouign amann” is the Breton phrase for butter cake. Which makes sense, because there’s a hell of a lot of butter in this thing.

Photo Credit: Giphy

Kouign amann is usually a round cake made with bread dough which is layered with butter and sugar. Supposedly it’s similar to puff pastry, but it just has fewer layers. Ideally, it’s cooked slowly so that, as the dough puffs up, the butter melts and the sugar caramelizes. According to the Huff Post article, it’s “simple.”

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So I went into the kouign amann challenge relatively confident, with emphasis on the word “relatively.” The way I figured it, if even the GBBS contestants didn’t know how to do this thing, I shouldn’t feel bad even if I totally blew it.

That being said, the GBBS contestants had very minimal instructions whereas I had a complete recipe. But hell, they’re practically pros and I’m just some woman baking in her small kitchen in Nebraska when she should be sleeping. I figured if I made something edible I’d call it a win.

I did.

(And I only set the fire alarm off once.)


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Photo Credit: Giphy

More on that later – first, let’s start from the top where, I totally killed it. Compared to other technical challenges that can have upwards of 20 ingredients, the kouign amann ingredients list was very short.

All I needed was strong plain flour – or as we say in ‘Merica – “bread flour”, fast action yeast – or instant yeast as I usually call it, salt, warm water, melted butter, cold butter and caster sugar.

Note that the recipe mentions butter in two forms – it’s not messing around.

Photo Credit: Giphy

I just had to put the flour in a bowl of a freestanding mixer with a dough hook. Then I put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. (This is important for fancy baking reasons that Paul Hollywood always talks about). Then I put the water and melted butter in and mixed it on slow for two minutes and medium speed for six minutes.

When I was mixing it on medium speed, it definitely sounded that the dough was going to fly out of the mixer and hit me in the face or something. It didn’t. And I was totally not worried that it would. Not at all. I just always make this face.

Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, after the dough miraculously stayed in the bowl, I just had to dump it on my floured work surface, make it a ball and put it in a lightly oiled bowl. Then I had to cover that with Saran Wrap and let it rise for an hour.

And I totally nailed that whole process, ya’ll. 

I was smug, like this. I was, however, significantly less adorable because, unfortunately, despite how much I want to be, I am not Kristen Bell.  P.S. I love Kristen Bell, in case that was not clear.

Then came the fun part. I had to take a big ole chuck of butter, place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bash the crap out of it. Okay, technically, the recipe didn’t say “bash the crap out of it” but I assure you, that was the gist of it. Then I had to roll my bashed butter out into a 5 and a half inch square and put it in the fridge to keep chilled.

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This is all just butter.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm, that seems like an awful lot of butter,” you’re right. It’s so much butter.

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Since butter’s not a carb, it’s practically a health food, right? I thought so. Photo Credit: Giphy 

Now here is where things got tricky, because I had to do a bit of math – or just, you know, simple counting and measuring.

I had roll out my risen dough into an 8 inch square, then I had to place my butter square inside of that square on a diagonal. That meant that each side of the butter should face a corner of the dough. Then I was supposed to fold the corners of the dough, up and over the butter to close it up like it was in an envelope.

(Best thing to ever be in an envelope.)

From there, I had to roll the dough out into an 18 by 6 inch rectangle and then fold it in thirds. This was supposed to make a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Then I had to wrap it in Saran Wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

I had do do this process twice more so that in the end I had done a total of three of these turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between each turn. Since I’m easily distracted, I could have totally forgotten a turn – so that’s why I kept track of what I did on this handy Post-it-Note. (Shh…I know I spelled “kouign amann” wrong there.)

After the last turn, I was supposed to roll the dough into a rectangle like before and then sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and fold it into thirds again. Then I had to roll it into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle, sprinkle the dough with more caster sugar and cut it into 12, equal squares.

If that looks like a lot of sugar to you, you’re right. Also if it looks like my square are not equal or even squares, you are also right. At this point, I didn’t care that they weren’t equal or squares, I just cared that they looked like dough, so I shoved them into my prepared muffin tin as instructed.

I had greased a 12-cup muffin tin with oil. Then I was supposed to gather these “squares” up by their four corners and put them in the tins. The corners were supposed to come together in the middle of each tin so they looked like pretty, four-leaf clovers. Then I was supposed to sprinkle them with MORE caster sugar, and leave them to rise for 30 minutes until they were slightly puffed up.

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These do not look like four leaf clovers.

Anyway, this is when things took a slight turn for the worse. Okay, remember in the past when I would complain about my oven? It was basically my arch enemy. It was one of my least favorite things. It would not preheat. Or it would preheat and then decide to turn off in the middle of cooking for no reason and with no warning. It was a wild card basically.

This was my oven. Photo Credit: Giphy

But last week I got rid of that crazy jerkface of an oven and got a brand-new one. The good news is it works great. The bad news is, when I screw up recipes, I have no one to blame but me, so this one is on me guys. This burnt one is on me.

So the recipe told me to bake the pastries for 30 to 40 minutes at 425 F. until they were golden brown. I was supposed to cover them with foil halfway through cooking if I felt that they were starting to brown too much. So that’s what I did. I checked ’em around the 20-minute mark and they looked like this:

partially cooked kouign
They look promising, right?

I thought they still needed a bit longer though, so I put them back in the oven. And here’s where things went a bit wonky. Remember that butter? All of that butter? It started pouring out of these babies like crazy – so much so that it rained down onto the bottom of my (formerly pristine) oven and started to burn on.

Which set off the fire alarm – at midnight.


By frantically turning on every fan in the house and waving a tea towel in front of the alarm, I got it off pretty quickly. The dog didn’t even bark and my husband didn’t even seem to notice. (In retrospect, I’m not sure either one of them woke up, which is sort of not good. Since that’s what the alarms are for.)

Anyway, while I was doing this – I ended up cooking my kouign amann too long. Like way too long – so that when I took them out of the oven, they looked like this:



But, then I figured, eh, why don’t I try to scrape off the brunt bits. So I did, and turns out that, underneath that pile of crap were actually delicious, buttery, sugary pastries – which yeah, may have been a bit too browned – but were so full of butter it didn’t really matter.

finished kouign aman

There’s probably some lesson in here about how you should look for the best in even the crappiest of situations. But, I’m going to ignore that lesson and instead suggest two things I learned from this: number one: don’t bake at midnight, number two: you can never have too much butter.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Next week, I’ll move on to the showstopper challenge of the Pastries episode, which means I have to make éclairs.

This should be a breeze, right?

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Tune in next time for what may well be a complete disaster.

P.S. If you like the blog, please consider following it by email. Just click on the convenient “follow” button on the right-hand side of your computer screen that looks like this:

How to follow

You’ll just get an email every time I write a new blog – which, let’s face it, is supposed to be every week, but is more like once a month. So though that means I’m lazy, that also means I won’t be clogging up your inbox.

P.P.S. Or follow me on Twitter @ashleystrehle. Sometimes, the amazing Nadiya Hussian from GBBS likes my stuff, for real. It’s really happened. I’m not even making this up.

OK, that’s the end of my post-scripts.

Photo Credit: Giphy





Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 19: Savory Parcels – Empanadas

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).


It’s been a rough couple of weeks on top of a rough couple of years.

At times like this, you’re supposed to talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

But, let’s be real, guys, lemonade isn’t that darn great.

Photo Credit: Giphy

So I say, when life hands you lemons, just shove those in the crisper drawer of your fridge where you will inevitably forget about them and then need to throw them away in a few weeks when they get all gross.

And in the meantime, make something actually good instead, like something fried.

Admittedly, this doesn’t have the same ring to it as the lemons to lemonade thing, but I find it works better.

Because do you know who likes fried food? Everyone.

Photo Credit: Giphy

Which leads me to this week’s baking challenge – savory parcels. In Season 1 Episode 7 of GBBS, contestants were charged with making a fried pastry with a savory filling.

I chose to make an empanada – a stuffed, fried pastry popular in Spain, and Latin American countries and well, here, too, because they are delicious.

I didn’t go with just any empanada though, I made Gloria’s Empanadas from the Modern Family cookbook.

(Because of course I have a Modern Family cookbook. Thanks, Mom, for buying me a gift that perfectly combines my love of T.V. with my even greater love for food.)

Photo Credit: Giphy

Whenever I get a new cookbook, I meticulously go through it and mark all of the recipes I want to try with a little Post-it-Note. I’ve had this recipe marked for years, but I didn’t make it because it seemed like a whole hell of a lot of work. And I just wasn’t feeling it most days.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Turns out I was right to be leery of this recipe. Gloria’s empanadas were so much work. Like, it took me most of an afternoon work.

The recipe wasn’t hard exactly, but it took some time because I made everything from scratch – the filling, the dough, and the accompanying salsa. And though none of these steps were hard – they were nonetheless, time-consuming.

Like this recipe just kept going on and on and on…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

The filling was pretty easy  though. It was just needed a potato, vegetable oil, an onion, garlic, ground beef, cumin, tomato sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives, capers and pepper. It looked like this:

making filling

Embarrassing sidenote: for longer than I want to admit, I thought capers were fish. Like, I was stone-cold positive capers were fish until I was well into my twenties. Okay, until well into my thirties. Okay, until like a few months ago.

Turns out, capers are not fish. They’re this – which you probably already know. I didn’t though, because I had never actually seen them, or when I saw them, I didn’t know what I was seeing. It just knew there was a thing called capers and they sounded like fish and I hate fish so I figured I hated capers too.

But turns out I really like capers, because they are totally not fish.

Mind blown.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

For the dough, things were a bit more complicated, because I needed masa for arepas or precooked instant cornmeal. I couldn’t find in my regular grocery store, so I just got it on Amazon.

I could have gotten it from a local specialty store, and I probably should have. But I’ll be honest, it’s cold out there and I’m avoiding going outside as much as possible at this point. This is pretty much exactly what I have looked like for the past two months. But grouchier and with slightly less mustache.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I may never leave the house again. Instead, I will get all my necessities, like fancy flours, delivered straight to my door.

To make the dough, I just had to put together the special flour, some hot water, a bit of butter and a pinch each of sugar and salt. Then I kneaded it a bit, waited a bit and it was done. Easy peasy.


Nailed it.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

The hard part, or just the time-consuming part, was getting the empanadas ready to fry.

To set up the empanadas, I had to make 32 lil’ balls of dough and then smash those 32 lil balls into four-inch flat circles. Then I took a tablespoon of filling and placed that into the middle of each circle. From there, I had to fold the circle around the filling to make 32 lil half-moon empanadas.

Note to self: next time, don’t use a recipe that makes 32 individual things. Because when you make 32 individual things, that means you have to do a bunch of things 32 times. Which, not surprisingly, takes forever.

After that came the important part, the reason for the deliciousness – the frying. The recipe called for me to put two inches of oil in a large pot and heat it to 350 F. But I didn’t do that.

Instead, I used my handy dandy deep fat fryer. (Shout-out to Mattie for buying me a deep fat fryer a few years back.) I just programmed the deep fat fryer to 350 F and set the timer to about eight minutes for each batch and it worked like a dream.

Which is more than I can say for my favorite GBBS contestant, Kate, who was eliminated from the show this episode. She was kicked out of the competition, in part, because she didn’t have her deep fat fryer programmed right and it shut off during cooking.

I didn’t do that, thank goodness. Though, if it did, it wouldn’t have really mattered, since I’m just in my kitchen and not in a reality T.V. baking show and I just would have turned it back on.

So I guess, for me, it’s no biggie.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Though if I were in a reality T.V. baking show, these empanadas wouldn’t have gotten me kicked out. They were pretty good. They were crispy and miraculously not burned (that much). The filling was well, filling. And the simple salsa with just tomatoes, green onions, hot sauce and cilantro was good too.

Photo Credit: Giphy

In fact, everything was so good, I might actually make this again.

Of course, I’d cut the recipe in half though, because 32 empanadas is too many empanadas to make. It’s not too many too eat, but it’s definitely too many to make.

Thankfully, next week’s challenge only requires me to make 12 things. Unfortunately those 12 things are Kouign Amanns – a Breton cake that none of the GBBS contestants had even heard of before the show. Which I am totally not scared about at all, obviously.

Actual emotion:


Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway… tune in next time to see what may well be a massive disaster, or you know a smashing success, whichever.

If you want more of Sometimes I Bake Mistakes, follow the blog on Facebook or catch up with me on Twitter.

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Laters, gators.

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Photo Credit: Giphy