Friday, August 13, 2010

Brussels Challenge #10: Croissants

Bonjour! My morning walks to work from General Jacque to Rue Guimard and Avenue Louise are accompanied by a certain beauty: Scenery you might ask? People you might think? Well…yes, but the true beauty – the smell - those aromas of fresh baked breads and pastries wafting out of the boulangeries and patisseries. It’s hard to beat the warm smell of freshly baked French bread in the morning…unless of course you happen catch a buttery waft of another French classic – the croissant!
Being, that I have only 2 weeks left on my European summer internship and to gear up for a short holiday in France, it was time for the ultimate challenge with the ultimate French ingredient – Butter.
Butter, Flour, Yeast, Butter, Sugar, Butter, Salt, & Butter…’nough said. I experimented with 2 varieties of croissants: plain and chocolate. The result from the taste-testers at the European Food Information Council (including a French woman with a discerning palate)… délicieux!

What you’ll need:
1. Measuring Device – My personal preference was the BMI measuring tape I got from reporting at the International Congress on Obesity…some would call this a paradox, I prefer to think of it as an efficient use of resources.
2. Rolling Device – Rolling pin if you’ve got it or my instrument of choice – a half-full (or half-empty, depending on your outlook on life) wine bottle
3. Plastic Wrap
4. Parchment Paper
*3 sticks unsalted BUTTER (seriously, if you are not going to use butter…do not bother) J
*1 ½ cups whole milk, heated to warm (105-110 degrees F)
*1/4 cup packed brown sugar
*1 TBS. and ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
*3 ¾ to 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
*1 TBS kosher salt
*Chocolate pieces (optional for the chocolate croissant option, can be dark, semi-sweet, milk, or whatever you like).
Stir warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in a bowl (if you have a stand mixer great, if not just do it the old fashion way). Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it does not get foamy, start over). Add 3 ¾ cups of flour and salt. Mix with dough hook or strong arms until dough is smooth and soft, about 7 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for about 2 minutes, adding a bit more flour if necessary make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Form into a 1 1/2 –inch thick rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill about 1 hour.

While the dough chills, arrange the sticks of butter to touch on parchment paper. Pound butter with a rolling pin/wine bottle to soften the butter slightly. Scrap the butter into a block and place an additional piece of parchment paper on top. Pound and roll out the butter until it forms an 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in parchment paper, while rolling out dough. (Here I used my nifty BMI ruler to measure J).

Unwrap the dough and roll out on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching the dough into a 16-by10-inch rectangle. Arrange the dough with the short side nearest you. Put butter in the center of the dough so that the long sides of the butter are parallel to the short sides of the dough. Fold the top third of the dough over the butter followed by the bottom third.

Turn the dough so the short side is nearest you, and then flatten the dough with the rolling pin/wine bottle across the dough at regular intervals. Roll out the dough into a 15-by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over the edges.
Fold in thirds like a letter and stretch corners to square off the dough, making a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. Congrats you just did your first croissant fold!!! J Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Make 3 more folds in the same way as described above, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold. (Total = 4 folds). If butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours (no more than 18). The dough will rise substantially in the refrigerator.
Cut the dough in half and chill 1 half. Roll out the other half on the lightly floured surface into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Trim he edges.
Arrange the dough with the short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut the remaining half vertically into thirds, forming three rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.

Hold the short side of the triangle in one hand and stretch the dough, tugging and sliding with the other hand toward the tip to elongate by about 50%.
Place on work surface and with the short side of the triangle nearest you; roll up the triangle towards the tip, stretching slightly while rolling. (If making the chocolate croissants, add a few shavings of chocolate to the wide end before rolling).
Place the croissants tip side down on parchment-lined baking sheets and curve ends inward. Make more croissants with the remaining dough.

Cover the croissants lightly with plastic wrap (if you can, place a glass on the tray so the plastic wrap does not touch the croissants. (Garbage bags could be used as well). Let rise 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Using one egg and about a tablespoon of water, whisk and brush over croissants.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove baking sheets from bags/plastic wrap and place in oven. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and back 10 minutes. Switch the position of the baking sheets and rotate 180 degrees, reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake until golden (about 10 more minutes).
At this point…your home/life will smell of butter – warm, luscious, and inviting butter. Cool the croissants and eat…and from the bottom of my heart…bon appetite! J

1 comment:

  1. oh wow! that's all i can say. you must teach me how to make these!


Around the Table

Around the Table
We love good food, get excited for Market Basket & Trader Joe's, serve salad out of a pasta pot, marvel in food photography, and love to laugh. You're always welcome at our table. Click on this photo to view our "People Around the Table" album.