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Recently I've been a little obsessed with trying to bake the perfect croissant.  While the journey has been fun, it's also been a little frustrating.

There is just so much that can (and seems to always) go wrong, but I've learned a lot through several attempts.

Although I haven't achieved the perfect croissant yet, I feel I have a lot to share about baking croissants that I've learned from my mistakes.

What is the perfect croissant?


(Pictured above: My most recent - and definitely not perfect - attempt.) 

Before we get into the tips, let's discuss what we are trying to achieve. The perfect croissant to me, is one that is more of a European style, less of what you can find in American supermarkets and big chain coffee stores.

American croissants are usually bread-like and soft.

European style croissants are flaky and light.  They have a crisp outer crust/shell, and big air pockets inside that separate the thin layers of dough. 

While we have developed our style that results in the American croissant, their texture is also due to the difference between ingredients Europeans use, and those readily available in the US.

Croissant Baking Tips: What Can Go Wrong?

The short answer to this is everything, seriously.  But let's get a little more detailed below.

Butter

European style butter has more fat content than American butter.  This makes the croissants richer, more flaky, and makes the butter more spreadable during the dough lamination process.

This is important because errors in lamination can change the consistency of the croissant.  If the butter is too cold or too hard, you will get butter flakes instead of layers of butter, resulting in a more biscuit-like texture.

On the other hand, if your butter is too warm, it will incorporate in the dough and give you that softer, American style bread-like texture.

Your butter should be flexible, and ideally the same consistency as your dough before lamination.

Yeast

Real, authenticate croissant recipes call for fresh yeast.  This is what creates the large air pockets between the layers of dough, there is some type of reaction with the fresh yeast.

I don't believe that fresh yeast is unavailable in supermarkets, but I have had a hard time finding it.

Flour

One of the biggest distinctions between ingredients is the flour used.  French flour used for croissants has higher protein content than American flour.  The recommended amount is 11% minimum.  Most American flours have only 3-4g of protein per serving, whereas french flours can have 7-9g. 

However, companies like King Arthur Flour that are commonly found in American supermarkets are starting to create flours with 11% protein, as well as "French Baking" flours.

Baking Process

Most professional bakers use convection ovens.  These allow more air to circulate and give you a more even bake while lessening the chances for the bottoms to burn.  Luckily, air fryers create a similar effect because they are based on the same technology.

But if you've followed a croissant recipe exactly and then baked them in your home oven, the results might be different from what you were expecting.

Temperature

Although I can't give too much advice on this because it's so relative, it is important.  Temperature can affect the proving process of your dough and how it handles when you are making the croissants (rolling and laminating the dough).  

If it's too hot, the butter will melt faster and your dough is at risk of over-proving fast.  If it's too cold, the butter can be too hard (not spreadable) and the fermentation process can be stunted. 

While unfortunately, I cannot give much more advice on this, just try to be mindful of how your dough and butter is behaving while making croissants to prevent these mistakes.

Croissant Baking Tips

As you can see, there are a lot of variables involved when it comes to making the perfect croissant.  No doubt everyone has a different recipe and technique as well.  

But generally the process is the same and the results will most likely taste good no matter what.  

I hope this didn't scare you off!  Baking croissants is fun (after the first few attempts, at least), and can be a rewarding process.  It's definitely a way to grow your baking skill set.

This was meant as a primer if you are thinking of baking croissants for the first time, or have several failed attempts and don't know what you're doing wrong.

Even knowing all of this, I have yet to make the perfect croissants, but haven't giving up trying. 

I wish you good luck on your croissant baking journey as well!

Quick and Easy Desserts for Beginners

Baking can seem like a huge production sometimes. You have to gather up an absurd amount of ingredients, mix them together with varying techniques, and then wait for it to bake, or cool, or firm up, or rise, or whatever else your dessert needs to do. It can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be.

For anyone new to baking, or for anyone who just wants to satisfy a craving without all the hassle, there are some quick, easy desserts you can make at home, with common ingredients.

Four Quick and Easy Desserts

1. Meringue Cookies

Meringue is basically whipped egg whites and sugar. After you bake them, they come out light and crispy, with just a hint of stickiness. Despite being some of the simplest cookies to make, they taste great! But my favorite thing about meringue isn't the taste: it's the fact that they are so easy to customize to your preference.

You can add in just about any mix-in you can think of, from dried fruit, to nuts, to chocolate chips. You can make them a wide range of colors since the base mix is white, and you can top them with whatever you want. They also bake pretty true to whatever shape you pipe them in, so get creative!

It's also an excellent beginner's recipe, because you can use meringue in a wide range of other desserts. When you master it, frostings, cakes, and even macarons will be one step easier. (And we all need macarons to be at least a little bit less of a challenge.) And you can probably make them right now, without a trip to the grocery store. (Cream of Tartar is the only unusual ingredient, but you can easily substitute is for lemon juice or white vinegar.)

The only downside is that they have the longest baking time on this list, at near 30 minutes. But I think the convenience more than makes up for that.

Here's my meringue recipe of choice: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9847/meringue-cookies/

2. Mug Cakes

Mug cakes are growing in popularity because they don't require any difficult ingredients or techniques. Mix up some combination of oil, eggs, flour, and water, and you have mug cake batter ready to go. That's not to say that these are an inferior dessert. When paired with your favorite flavors and toppings, they can be just as decadent as any cake slice.

Since this baking is small scale, I like to go the extra mile. For example, when I make mug brownies, I use the dark, decadent cocoa that I save for a real treat. It's great to add a fancy touch because the recipes are pretty hard to mess up. You can be confident that whatever you're putting that expensive chocolate or fresh fruit on is going to be edible.

I don't have a favorite mug cake recipe, since I tend to modify a few existing recipes. However, a good recipe isn't difficult to find. In fact, there's probably a mug cake equivalent to any type of cake your heart desires. You can search whatever type of cake your in the mood for, add mug to the name, and pull up a recipe. This is also another recipe that's easy to make with common pantry ingredients.

3. Crepes

Crepes are sometimes seen as more of a breakfast food in America, but in countries like Japan you can get them filled with ice cream, fruit, and whipped cream as almost a handheld sundae. The most recognized crepe ingredient is probably Nutella, but you can fill them with just about anything.

My favorite combination is pastry cream, chocolate sauce, and some fresh berries. However, a quick and easy way to fill them is chocolate syrup, store bought whipped cream, and fruit. And if you have any leftover crepes, use them for a savory meal the next day!

The main difficulty with this recipe is that crepes can be a bit of a pain to cook, but they're surprisingly easy when you get the hang of it. I've made them in just a regular, nonstick pan, with a regular spatula. It's not all that different from a pancake, just a little more delicate. When you're starting out, you can make them a little bit thicker until you feel more confident in your ability to flip them.

I recommend making a proper crepe batter at some point (my favorite recipe is this one: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe-1911037).

But you can make a decent crepe batter quickly by adding milk and eggs to any boxed pancake mix. Let the mix rest in the refrigerator for a while

4. Homemade pudding

Homemade pudding can be a bit tricky the first time you make it, but with a bit of practice, you'll be able to make it in a flash.  Most recipes recommend refrigerating your pudding for a few hours, but if you're in a rush you don't have too. I like to let my cool for a bit and then eat it warm.

It tastes just as good and has a smoother texture, and it's perfect for the winter. The trick with pudding is to heat it enough that the eggs cook and thicken the mixture, without getting scrambled eggs. The first time you make it, be patient and take it slow. When you get more confident, you can turn the heat up and cook it a little faster.

Pudding may seem plain, but this is another recipe that very easy to customize or elevate depending on your tastes. Custard style desserts usually have a slight eggy taste, but pudding lends itself well to a wide variety of flavors. With a plain pudding base, you can add in chocolate, flavored liquors, or a bit of booze for a weekend treat. You can also serve them with whatever toppings you want.

Quick and Easy Baking

When you're in the mood to bake, or just to eat something sweet, you don't have to worry about a trip to the grocery store and setting aside three hours of your day.

There are plenty of great desserts you can make in a pinch, with ingredients that most people already have at home. Things like meringues and pudding may seem plain and boring on paper, but with the right touch of creativity, they can be customized into something unique and delicious.

With mug cakes and crepes, you won't even have to turn on the oven. (Which is nice for those hot summer months.) These recipes are easy, fast, and great for anyone who just recently got into baking. Of course, they work just as well for those of us with no patience and a sweet tooth.
While looking up recipes for croissants, it has come to my attention that there may be some confusion between croissants and crescent rolls.

So, what's the difference between a croissant and a crescent?

For starters, their country of origin.  A croissant is a french pastry, made from laminated dough with many layers.  The dough is cut into triangles and then rolled up into the "croissant" shape, which confusingly enough is technically a "crescent" shape, like a crescent moon.

The pastry when baked is very flaky and rich from the butter lamination.  In France, variations include chocolate croissants, which is the croissant dough with a stick of chocolate rolled in the middle.  For this type, the dough is usually square shaped instead.

A crescent, as far as I know, is an American invention.  It most commonly refers to the canned dough (Pillsbury crescent rolls) that you can find in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, next to the canned cinnamon roll and biscuit dough.

When you open the can, the dough comes out in a single rectangular sheet (after being unrolled) that has perforated cuts to shape the triangles.

You roll these up to make the crescent shape, just like croissants, then bake them.

The dough is not the same as croissant dough, but is it's own unique texture.  It's most similar to a cross between biscuit dough and soft yeast rolls.

Americans use crescents for just about anything from pizza rolls to s'mores crescents.

Sidenote: Americans also prefer to use croissants as bread for sandwiches. It's common to see breakfast sandwiches with croissants or lunch sandwiches like ham and turkey.  However, this is not common in France.

That is the difference between croissants and crescents.  Hopefully this helped clear up any confusion!
coffee-themed-apron
These aprons are perfect for coffee lovers and drinkers.

An underrated tool in the kitchen is an apron.

It can save your clothes from stains and odors, prevent you from getting burned, and give you a handy place to wipe your hands at all times.

Like most people, I hang my kitchen towel on my oven door handle.  The problem is that it's constantly falling down.

It's inconvenient and possibly unhygienic.

Because of this, I've been meaning to get an apron for a while now.

If you face that same problem perhaps you've been looking for one as well.

I certainly believe that it can help with efficiency in the kitchen.
coffee-apron
Or if not for yourself, perhaps you're looking for a gift for the cook in the family.

For the same reasons stated above, I think it's a great idea that they'd really appreciate.

These aprons are obviously coffee themed, and are perfect for the cook that loves coffee.

Whether you want to go for the barista inspired one which lists types of coffee drinks that surround a coffee cup made of coffee beans, or the vintage Americana, advertisement inspired design is up to you.

I personally love the clean looking design of the coffee cup one, but I understand that some people like a little more color.

Whichever you choose, I'm sure you or the coffee addict in your house will love it.
red-and-white-checkered-oven-mitt-set

Don't you just love how nostalgic the picnic basket inspired print on this oven mitt is?   Every time I see it it reminds me of homemade apple pie and clear blue skies.

Perhaps that's why it's so popular.  This red and white checkered, or gingham pattern is very common to find on anything that you can put patterns on.

In fact, if you are looking for this design in particular, you probably want it to match some items that are already in your kitchen.

If that is the case, this is a good set.  It comes with two oven mitts and two pot holders.  The thing I like about the oven mitts is that the top half, the part that touches the hot pans, is made of silicone.  Silicone does a much better job of preventing you from getting burned than just regular fabric.

But they managed to make the bottom half fabric, so that they are not too plain looking.

As someone who bakes a lot, I know how it important it is to have the right equipment.  Don't overlook having quality oven mitts to keep yourself safe.

teardrop-cookie-cutter

The first thing that comes to mind with these teardrop cookie cutters is paisley.  I would love to decorate these with a paisley pattern all over.

Or even some fake pearl-like decorations with a glamours white and pink color scheme sound great.

Although teardrop is a common shape, I can't think of anything specific you would use these for besides to just create a pretty design on top.

I would be interested to know if you are looking for something like this, what are your plans for it?
Cream puffs might seem like a daunting recipe to beginner bakers, but they are actually quite easy if you have used similar techniques before.

They are essentially made from the same ingredients as a roux, just with eggs and sugar added.  You can just use whipped cream for the filling.

My go-to easy cream puffs recipe is:


The recipe is straightforward and the video is very informative as well.

I've even made a mistake such as adding in an extra egg before and they still came out pretty tasty, that's why I call these a "no-fail" recipe.

If you've been wanting to try making cream puffs but been putting it off because they are intimidating, give this recipe a try. 
mermaid-tail-cookie-cutter
Along with unicorns, mermaids seem to be a big trend recently.

Although, mermaids have pretty much held a constant place in pop culture for many years now.

This mermaid tail cookie cutter is great because it happens to double as a whale tail!

So whether you are looking to decorate a mythical creature or one of the largest fish in the ocean, this cutter is for you.


sea-creature-cookie-cutters
These sea creature cookie cutters are absolute enchanting.  Whether it's an under the sea or Little Mermaid party, these would be perfect.

I love sets that come with a lot of variation, not just the same thing but in slightly different ways.

This set definitely achieved that with seven very different sea creatures.

There's so much here that you might not even get around to using them all.

I know this is a popular theme for children's birthday parties and I think it would even be fun to let them try their hand at decorating these!
fish-shaped-cookie-cutter
Fishing happens to be another hobby of mine, so I think these fish shaped cookie cutters really fun.

For some reason when I was looking for these, I thought they would all look like the shape of gold fish crackers.  A simple, cartoonish shape.

I was pleasantly surprised to find these semi-realistic shaped ones.

I think these would be fun to decorate in layers, to try and achieve a more realistic effect.
Claiming anything is the "best ever" is audacious of course, but this recipe is really, really good.

It also happens to be super simple and fast, making them even more attractive.

I had been requested to make sugar cookies and went online to search for a quick recipe using melted butter.

I knew most recipes would call for softened butter to be creamed with sugar, but I needed a recipe for on demand sugar cookies.

Luckily I found this small batch "Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe" Christina on her blog Dessert for Two.

https://www.dessertfortwo.com/small-batch-sugar-cookies/

They come together super quick and tasted pretty amazing.  They have definitely become my go to recipe.

I even had success doubling the recipe.

I cook them in the air fryer per her directions and am amazed every single time.  They are slightly crispy on the outside, and delicate yet chewy on the inside.  Perfection.

I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a try the next time you have a craving for sugar cookies.
Eiffel-tower-cookie-cutter
I think seeing the Eiffel tower is on everyone's bucket list.  But when that isn't possible, why not bake an Eiffel tower cookie?

Of course it pales in comparison to the real deal, but it will probably taste yummy nevertheless.

While these happen to be a popular shape for baked goods, I suspect they would be hard to decorate.

It's some incredible architecture to try to mimic.

I would definitely go the "cutesy" route to save face.


red-mixing-bowl-set
An absolute necessity for bakers is a mixing bowl.  There are a few things you can get away with, such as using a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer, but using a small, regular dining bowl is not one of them.

Even small batch recipes require larger bowls than your average dinnerware bowl.

Of course you can pick up a mixing bowl at pretty much any superstore or home goods store, but sometimes it's nice to have a matching set like this red one.

All the better if you happen to have a red themed kitchen as well.  Most American kitchen appliances, utensils, and gadgets come in basic colors such as white, black, silver, and red.  So the chances of these fitting right in are high.

Matching sets like these are also great because of the size variation.  Sometimes you will absolutely want to go with a very large bowl, where other times a standard size mixing bowl will do, so it's nice to have a choice.

Do away with the mix-matched kitchen and consider getting a matching set like this.
hot-air-balloon-cookie-cutter
While I am unsure what theme this hot air balloon cookie cutter falls under, I would be interested to find out.

You could definitely call it southwestern, but I doubt anyone is having a southwestern cookie party.

I believe some people use them for baby showers as well, decorating them in pastels and maybe adding teddy bears to match.

Of course, you could just happen to be a fan of this uncommon mode of transportation as well.

Whatever the occasion, they do seem really fun to decorate as they can have simple or really intricate designs depending on your abilities, and are usually very colorful.
As a home baker, I've taken joy in mastering a lot of recipes and techniques.  I like when my food tastes good, and I like serving it to people and seeing the satisfaction they get from eating it as well.

So, it can be disheartening when a recipe doesn't go well.

For me, this usually happens when baking bread.

I have no where near mastered the art of bread making  yet.  Which, I don't fault myself in the least considering how many factors go into making the perfect loaf.

Bread Making Considerations

There's the yeast, the flour, the kneading, the environment/humidity, the type of butter you use, proofing the dough, and probably even more factors that I can't think of off the top of my head.

It's really crazy that so many different factors can affect the way your bread turns out.

Take croissants for example, I have baked croissants at least five times now, and never been happy with the way they turned out.

Something has always gone wrong when baking them.  Whether it be the butter melting, the butter leaking out of the dough during the "laminating" process, baking them at the wrong temperature, not leaving them out to rise long enough, etc.

It seems almost impossible to make the "perfect" croissant.

How to Make Good Bread?

Even a "simple" loaf recipe can go wrong quick if you make a mistake during any of the steps.  Thus, making good bread still eludes me.

I would love to know if any of you are experiencing the same sort of problem.  Is bread-making still your worst nightmare or did you master it in no time?

Leave me best bread-making tips below!
heart-shaped-egg-ring
These heart shaped egg ring molds are a testament to how silicone has permeated the cooking and baking space.

From chocolate molds to kitchen utensils, it's hard to find something that isn't silicone these days.

But given how convenient and functional it is,  that isn't surprising.

The most fun part of silicone is that it can be used to make interesting shapes like these hearts out of your food.

I have bought molds similar to these ones and used them to make heart shaped eggs and pancakes right in the frying pan.

When made well, these are really fun to use.
unicorn-measuring-cups
It's cute kitchen gadgets like these that make me want to turn my whole kitchen into my own personal wonderland.

We are fortunate that the unicorn trend (going on a strong a few years now) has reached bakeware.

While you might me tempted just as I am to buy these cute little guys for yourself, these unicorn measuring cups would make a great gift for the avid baker in your life as well.

Consider snagging these for the person in your life who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, has an affinity for these mythical creatures, or likes kawaii stuff.


3-tier-cardboard-cake-stand
Cardboard cake stands are the most convenient displays for birthday parties and other gatherings.

They look great, while still offering that "grab and go"/"self-serve" ease of use.

They can hold a surprising amount of cupcakes as well.

The most fun part is that they come in all different sorts of colors and designs.

I like this one because it has a simple design and is colored a pretty, pale pink.

It's perfect for a girl's birthday party, or a baby shower for someone expecting a little girl.

These kinds of displays are also convenient because they are usually inexpensive - being made from cardboard - so they also work well if you have a lot of people to serve.

The only downside would be that I don't think they are re-usable like a regular, ceramic or glass one might be.  But then again, it's hard to find a 3 tier ceramic cake stand that is meant for serving a large group of people.

So, it just depends on what your needs are.
crescent-moon-shaped-cookie-cutter
I am big fan of the nighttime theme.  Anything having to do with the moon and stars always looks mystical to me.

It's kind of funny though, to make the moon you can't really just use a circle cutter and decorate it with a face or something.  You'd have to add texture mimicking the craters of the moon's surface.

Otherwise, it would just look like a big smiley face.

I guess that's why when we think of moon shaped things we picture this crescent shape like this cookie cutter.

We can easily just decorate this with a single layer of color and even a face if we want, and it's instantly recognizable.
XXIMAGEALTTAGXX
Making filled chocolates is one of my favorite things to do, in part because I often struggle with it.

I like that it's a challenge and I would like to think that one day I will master the art of perfectly filled chocolates that look clean and crisp.

That's what these egg molds remind me of, filled chocolate eggs.

These would make some pretty big ones of those however.

The concept of an egg shaped cake is very intriguing to me.  Although they are somewhat seasonal (for Easter), the oval shape is used a lot in baking.

I would love to make layered cake in these molds, cover them with chocolate, and decorate them like Fabergé eggs.

unicorn-face-cookie-cutter
It's unbelievable how long this unicorn trend has lasted.  It's already been at least a year or two, and there's no sign of slowing down.

Everywhere you look there are unicorn birthday parties, unicorn cakes, and of course unicorn cookies.

These mythical creatures have seemed to capture our imagination and our hearts.

I think what's really fun about them other than the cute, innocent faces we keep drawing on them, is the colors we use to create them.

Often they are really bright, fun shades of purple, blue, and pink.

You can't help but see them as pretty when they look like that.  Judging by the roundness of the face, this cutter is definitely going in the more cute direction than realistic (however realistic you can get with a mythical creature.) 


One of my favorite ways to cook a cake is in a rice cooker.  It comes out super moist and fluffy.  Best of all the process is so quick, it's almost like putting the cake in the microwave.

I like to use boxed cake mix for this recipe because the purpose of baking it this way is convenience.

How to Bake a Cake in a Rice Cooker

  1. Prepare boxed cake mix according to the package.
  2. Grease your rice cooker pan using the butter and flour method (for chocolate cake you can try using cocoa powder instead of flour.) 
  3. Pour half of your batter into the rice cooker and use the white rice setting (or the regular setting if there is only one.) 
  4. Run it through this setting twice
  5. During the second run, check on it a few minutes early to make sure it isn't getting overcooked.
  6. Just stick a skewer or knife down the center and see if it comes out clean (the cake will be moist on top because of the steam so take that into consideration when checking if it's done). 
  7. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan.
  8. Put a plate on top of the pan (the side you eat on should be the side that is facing the cake, your hand will be on the "bottom" of the plate.)
  9. Flip the pot upside down to release the cake onto the plate.  You may have to knock the bottom of the pan a few times until it comes out.  I use my hand or the bottom handle of a butter knife.

Notes

Once you release it from the pan you will see that it is very moist and delicate.  I usually don't frost the cake and just put some whipped cream (or frosting) on the side of the plate when serving this.  If you want to frost it, I would recommend refrigerating or even freezing it for some time first, then doing a crumb coat, then frosting it.

It catches on the frosting a lot easier than if you had put it in the oven.

After the rice cooker pan cools I usually rinse it and repeat the process again for the other half of the batter.

Because the cake is so moist and fluffy you can get creative on how you use it.  It's great for trifles, ice cream cakes, and cake balls.