Thursday, November 13, 2008

croissant (very long post)

I like to have my own breads for holiday dinners. This year it's going to be croissants. I know what you're thinking: that it this is a daunting task. It really isn't that bad. If you have experience with hand mixed and kneaded bread, it's not so difficult. Croissants are kind of like math, "they" tell you how difficult it is and if you aren't careful, you'll be intimidated before you even try.

I use a recipe without milk. I don't like working with milk in breads. It's silly of me, I know. This recipe is from The Italian Baker by Carol Field. (I know, it's not french).

Note: Be sure to use unsalted butter. Salted butter will change the consistency and make the whole thing greasy instead of rich.

Savory Croissant Dough
Croissant Salato Dough

Makes 3 pounds (1350 grams) of dough

3¾ tsp active dry yeast or 1½ small cakes fresh yeast
1 tsp malt syrup (or honey)
1½ cups warm water
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup less 2 tbsp (bread flour
2½ tsp salt (it's better if you use a little less, 1½ - 2 tsp)

Stir the yeast and malt (or honey) into the water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Beat in the butter. Mix the flours and salt and stir into the yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time until the mixture comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, firm and velvety, 2 to 3 minutes (may take a little longer). Do not over knead or the dough will be too elastic.

on to first rise
First Rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours

Chilling. Punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface, flatten to a 1-inch thick circle without kneading it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is absolutely cold throughout - at least 4 hours or overnight.

Butter Block

4 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Place the butter on a work surface. Holding a rolling pin by one handle, beat the butter until malleable and creamy (i like this much better than using the mixer). Sprinkle the flour on the work surface. Scrape the softened butter from the work surface with a dough scraper and, using the scraper, cut the butter into the flour. Working quickly, smear the butter and flour together with the dough scraper and the heal of your hand until smooth. (Note: You don't want the butter to get warm.) Scrape the mixture together into a smooth block about ½ thick. It should still be cold, but if it isn't, refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, 15 to 20 minutes.

first roll out after adding butter block Enclosing the Butter Block. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and roll into a 20 x 12-inch rectangle, so that one short side is nearest you. Break off small (½ inch) pieces from the butter block and dot them over two-thirds of the dough rectangle nearest you, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Fold as if you were folding a business letter" fold the unbuttered third over the middle and fold the remaining third over the top. Pinch the edges together so the butter doesn't fall out. Shape the folded dough with your fingers to even the edges and keep the rectangular shape. Tap the surface of the dough lightly with the rolling pin to evenly distribute the butter.

fold into thirds and roll out againFirst Set of Turns. Turn the dough 90° so that the top flap faces your right (like a book). Lightly flour the work surface and the dough. Roll the dough into a 20 x 12-inch rectangle, lifting the dough and lightly dusting the work surface with the flour to prevent it from sticking. The dough should slide freely on the surface and you can brush off any excess flour later. Fold again as if you were folding a business letter; pinch edges to seal and tap the entire surface lightly with the rolling pin. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Second Set of Turns. Lightly flour the work surface and the dough. Place the dough on the surface with the top flap facing your right. Lightly tap the surface of the dough evenly with the rolling pin. Roll into a 20 x 12-inch rectangle, rolling first for length, then width. You may need to pull the dough gently with your fingers to get the right width. Adjust the corners carefully to keep the dough even. Fold the short edges to meet in the middle and then fold in half flipping one piece over the other (as if closing a book). Brush off the excess flour and turn the dough 90° so that the top flap faces your right. Lightly tape the surface of the dough evenly with the rolling pin. You may need to refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before the next turn if the dough is too elastic, is feisty and fights back. Roll again into a 20 x 12-inch rectangle and fold like a business letter (thirds) and brush off the excess flour. Pinch the edges to seal and lightly tap the surface of the dough evenly with the rolling pin. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Freezing. The dough may be frozen for up to 10 days after the final turn or after shaping. Wrap the dough airtight in aluminum foil or tightly cover the shaped dough on baking sheets with the foil. Thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Shaping & Baking

1 pound Croissant Dough (above)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp water

Cutting. Place the cold dough on a lightly floured surface and dust the top with flour. Roll the dough int a 28 x 11-inch rectangle. Trim to a 28 x 10-inch rectangle with a sharp knife, then cut the rectangle lengthwise in half. The croissants will be formed from the triangles cut from the 2 pastry strips, now each 28 x 5-inches. Cover the strip of dough that you are not working with. Place 1 strip on the work surface so that the long edge is facing you. Measure each strip into 14 triangles by marking off every 4 inches at the top and base. Beginning at the lower left-hand corner, cut across diagonally to the first mark on the top. Cut straight back to the first mark on the bottom. Keep cutting triangles by cutting diagonally from bottom to top and straight down from top t bottom, connecting at the marks. Repeat with the second strip of dough.

cutting and shapingShaping. Position a triangle so that the base is nearest you. Stretch the base to 5 inches and gently stretch the height to 9 inches. Holding the top with one hand, tightly roll up the triangle from the base with the other hand. Put firm but gently pressure on the sides, not the center, of the roll. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the tops wit the egg wash. Repeat with the remaining triangles. Place 1 ½ inches apart on buttered or parchment-lined baking sheets. Either leave straight or shape into a crescent.

tiny little croissants ready to rise and bake
Rising. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise until doubled. 1 to 2 hours.

Baking. Heat the oven to 425° F. Bake on a rack in the upper third of the oven 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° F and bake until dark golden. 12 to 14 minutes longer. (Take care to watch as they continue to cook a little after removal from the oven.) Cool completely on racks.

These are very good with a 'melt in your mouth' consistency.

edit to add: these puff up nicely, i forgot to take a picture of the baked croissants

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