Monday, August 29, 2011

All-day Croissants

It's a bit unbelievable that I am able to make bread. Shocking really. Patience is a trait everyone who knows me well teases me about not having. When I was in high school, my parents told me I wouldn't make a good social worker because I wasn't patient. I would expect people to change on my schedule, and they wouldn't. My friend Katy once gave me a "patience" candle. Maybe one of those aromatherapy things, or possibly a sales gimmick--either one.

Yeast bread is one of those things that comes absolutely on its own time. And maybe that's why it has taken me so long--with so many trials and errors--to get it. It involves precision, attention to detail, (another thing NOT on my list of strengths) and waiting. But I think I like it because it's such a challenge. Plus, wow, the payoff is pretty great.

I made croissants for the first time when I got back from Thailand. It was this phase I went through, cooking everything I had never tried before. At the time, I only had a part-time job then and had just spent six months in Thailand without a kitchen. The apartment I was living in there had like one pan and someone gave me a rice cooker, which was completely ridiculous since I could go downstairs and buy plain rice for like 20 cents. Back in Omaha, I had my mom's newly remodeled kitchen and an endless supply of free food waiting for me to experiment with. I can recall making croissants, French baguettes (which turned out horribly), squash risotto and a pork roulade. The croissants, I recall, were incredible. A fluke I'm sure. I hadn't made them again since probably because they are definitely something worth buying over making.

It takes hours, half a day to finish. Whereas one can buy a perfectly crafted chocolate croissant at the Bread Oven in Dundee for probably $2. Well worth it. Not that I think my time was wasted making croissants five years ago or a couple weeks ago for that matter. Au contraire. It's illogical to think that I would spend six-plus hours on anything that had incredible potential to be a bust based on my lack of skill. I do possess the tools now to make something that in this case turned out incredibly tasty, light, flaky everything croissant-like yet very lopsided and burned on the bottom. I couldn't even eat all the croissants I made. I gave more than half of them away to happy recipients: friends and neighbors. These were filled with not quite enough almond frangipane cream and strawberry jam (if it's even possible to overdo this not-too-sweet almond filling).

The process in making something like a yeasted croissant is not difficult, but it is so impractical and food is above all things practical. It's essential to life, yet here I am go taking all day to make something that did turn out quite delicious. It's essential to me in another way. To me, cooking is good for the soul. It's essential to me to spend a quiet afternoon listening to Cat Stevens while crafting a not-quite-perfect but soft and flaky pastry.

Almond Cream: from Tartine Bakery Cookbook
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup almond meal (ground of nuts of any sort really)
2 tablespoons flour

Cream the butter and the sugar in a mixer. Add the egg, mix, and then add the vanilla. Add both the almond meal and the flour at the same time, mixing until smooth. Set aside.

Laminated Brioche: (for other ideas with laminated brioche go here)
600 grams flour
15 grams salt
65 grams sugar
250 grams butter
30 grams yeast
50 grams water
6 eggs

Make sure all the ingredients are cold. Mix all ingredients except butter in a KitchenAid or similar mixer with the dough hook until you can pinch a piece of dough, pull it away and have it stretch but not break (that is full gluten development). Add the butter a tablespoon at a time while still mixing. Ferment until doubled in size. Move on to the lamination step. 

400 grams dough
80 grams butter

Roll dough out into a rectangle. Beat the butter with a rolling pin until it is thinner and more pliable. Place the butter on half the dough and then fold the top half down over it. Roll it out. Fold it three times, roll it out. Fold it three times again and roll it out, resting the dough in between folds, possibly in the fridge to keep the butter cool. 

To form croissants, roll out laminated dough into a large sheet about one-fourth an inch thick. Cut into triangles. Spread the almond cream and/or a fruit jam or compote of any sort along the full length of the triangle. Starting at the flat end of the triangle and moving toward the point, roll the dough. Let the dough ferment again for another hour or so. Brush with an egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown on the outside and flaky.

1 comment:

Jess said...

I have to say, I am so impressed! It is beautiful, I want to eat ten of them right now. I wouldn't dare spend half a day making them, not at this stage in my life, but hope to return to more leisurely baking adventures some day. Way to go, Lainey!