Cava Bien! by Margo Elfstrom
Croissants! Love to eat them, my waistline doesn’t agree. At some point I made the pledge that if I must eat fattening food, I needed to make it from scratch and so croissants fell off the list. It’s times like these when I ask myself, “where did these temptations come from?”. I can only imagine the conversation as someone tells the baker, “Put more butter in it.” The baker scratches his head and says, “I’ll just fold a block of butter right into it…shall I!!!” In my mind, the baker is using sarcasm but the 2nd party responds “GREAT IDEA…do it!”. Of course, that’s just my version.
There are a few stories about how the croissant became a French breakfast staple, the best being that it was developed by a baker in 1638 to commemorate the fact that the Turks were unable to tunnel into Budapest. It’s shaped in a crescent to symbolize Islam. Great story, no proof. The earliest recipe is from 1891 (apparently, it was a prototype) and what we know as the flaky delicious puff pastry that we know and love today wasn’t published until 1905. What I got from all of this is that there is no solid history of this French culinary staple and the other thing I learned was that I spend way too much time on the internet.
I will also say that this is one of the more challenging recipes, for me. Once again, it isn’t that it’s so hard but it is time consuming and this past week has been a constant exercise in schedule juggling. None the less, this morning, troops were waiting for their puff pastry. Troops in the sense of a couple of my friends, who can eat like they are an entire army and none of them seem to have to worry about what they eat. I’m secretly envious because I have to weigh and measure everything that I put in my mouth if I don’t want it to show up on my rump. There were a couple of times when I considered going to the store and getting pre-made but that would be cheating.
Is it worth it for fresh croissants? Yep, there is nothing like a freshly baked croissant with a cup of coffee! Buttery, flaky, melt in your mouth warm croissants are one of the finer things in life. The time and energy it takes to get there folds in like so much butter and makes them even more delicious. I sometimes think that blood, sweat and tears is really the best sauce…not literally of course but you get my drift. So although no one seems to know the history of this yummy little treat, that’s a bonus….you can always create your own! Bon Appetite!!
Don’t forget to visit Sam at Comfortably Hungry! Have to admit that her’s are a little prettier, I played a little fast and loose with forming mine.
- 2 cups All-purpose flour, unbleached
- 2 1/2 tsp Instant yeast
- 2 Tbs Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 3/4 cup Milk, scalded and cooled to room temperature
- 12 Tbs Butter, unsalted
- In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), whisk together the flour, yeast and sugar. Then add the salt.
- Scald the milk. Allow the milk to cool to room temperature before use.
- Add the milk to the flour mixture and mix with a mixing spoon (or dough hook on speed #2 if using a KitchenAid mixer) until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Knead dough either by turning it onto a lightly floured counter (6 minutes) or by increasing the speed to #4 on the stand mixer for 4 minutes. The dough should be soft, silky-smooth and slightly cling to your fingers. It should not be sticky.
- Lightly spray a 1-quart bowl or dough rising bucket with nonstick cooking spray. Place the croissant dough into the bowl. Lightly press the dough down and spray the top with nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.
- Gently lift the dough from the sides and press down in the middle to slightly deflate the dough. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter then put the butter on top of it. Wrap the plastic around the butter. Use a rolling pin to pound the butter to flatten and soften it; shape the butter into a 4-1/2-inch square. The butter should be cool but not warm (about 60° F).
- Roll the dough on a well floured counter to form an 8-inch square. Place the butter diagonally in the center of the dough. Use a butter knife or your fingers to gently mark the edges of the butter square. Remove the butter and roll each corner of the dough into a flap.
- Moisten each flap with water and place the butter back in the center. Wrap the butter with dough by stretching the flaps so they overlap. Wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for no longer than 30 minutes.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured counter. Gently roll the dough into a rectangle that is 7-inches by 16-inches wide. Brush of any flour from the surface and fold the long sides into the middle of the dough. Then fold the dough in half again. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
- Roll and fold the dough a second time. Be sure to try and keep the rectangular shape as much as possible when rolling. Refrigerate for 40 minutes. Do two more turns, refrigerating the dough for 40 minutes between each turn. If the butter breaks through while rolling, just patch the hole with a little flour. After the fourth turn, refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours before shaping the croissants.
- Remove croissant dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit on the counter for 15 minutes. Roll the dough on a floured counter to form a rectangle about 14-inches by 24-inches.
- Brush off any excess flour on the dough’s surface. Fold the dough in half lengthwise so it is about 6-inches by 22-inches. Use a Chef’s knife or pizza wheel to cut the dough into triangles with a 5-inch base.
- Make a 1/2-inch notch in the center base of each triangle. Unfold the triangles and cut them in half to form 2 triangles.
- Use the dough scraps to make 12 to 14 balls (one for each triangle). To shape the croissants, gently stretch each triangle to about 9-inches long. Working one at a time, first pull the base sideways to make it wider. Then, hold the base with one hand and use your thumb and forefingers of the other hand to stretch the triangle the long-way; making it longer.
- One at a time, place the triangle on the counter with the narrow point facing you. Shape one of the little balls of dough in to a 1-1/4-inch long oval. Place it at the base of the triangle and roll the base over the oval to encase it by about 1/2-inch. Continue rolling toward the point, keeping the triangle stretched as you go. Place the rolled croissant on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Curve in the sides so they point toward the opposite side of the croissant. Be sure to leave at least 3-inches of space between each croissant.
- Prepare the egg glaze.
- Lightly beat together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush each croissant with the glaze. Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg wash. Cover the croissants with oiled plastic wrap and allow them to raise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 450° F about 1 hour before baking. Gently brush the croissants with the remaining egg wash. Place croissants in the oven and turn the oven down to 400° F. Bake for 10 minutes then reverse position of the pans. Continue baking for 10 or 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer baked croissants to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.