Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easy(er) Croissants - and a chocolate croissant variation

There may not be such a thing as easy croissants, but I guarantee these are easier than any of the more traditional recipes. The first time I made croissants, it was quite a production as I read the instructions, measured the dough exactly, and folded different ways at different stages.

And of course, the dough had to be refrigerated in between the different rolling and folding stages. Those resting stages in between meant that I had to work on this on a day I'd be around to work on the dough at intervals throughout the process. The resulting croissants were good, but it was definitely a recipe for special occasions or for days when I had nothing else to do.

After a few batches of croissants with different recipes, the process got a little easier, and I got a little sloppier with the measuring. Seriously, the croissants are not going to fail if you roll the dough a half-inch longer or shorter than the recipe demands.

Then, this brainstorm came along. Why not make the method easier? The important thing is the flaky, buttery layers, and that doesn't require military precision or strange folding rituals. This dough recipe is a cross between pie dough, sweet flaky pastry dough, and traditional croissant dough, and easy enough to make just about any time you want it.

If you've always wanted to make croissants but the idea has intimidated you, give these a try. They're just as buttery and flavorful, with beautiful layers, a shattery crust, and tender insides. What more could you want?

Okay, how about this? We all know that croissants are best the day they're made. You can make this recipe up to the point where the dough is folded and refrigerated, then bake it over the next few days, as you need it, and some folks think they're even better after a day's rest.

The recipe makes 16 small croissants, so the serving size is reasonable.

Easy(er) Croissants

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold milk
1 large egg
11 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick salted butter, frozen
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen

Take the butter out of the freezer and let it sit at room temperature while you work on the rest. You want it as cold as possible, but still able to be cut.

Put the yeast, water and sugar into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside until it begins to get foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and egg, and beat lightly to break up the egg and combine it all.

Put the flour and salt into your food processor, and pulse to distribute the salt. Cut each stick of butter into tablespoon-sized pieces, then cut each of those pieces in half. Put all of the pieces into the food processor with the flour and pulse about 10 times to distribute the butter and break the chunks just a little. You don't want small pieces as you would for pie crust; larger chunks are preferable.

Add the flour and butter to the liquid in the bowl, and fold gently with a spatula until all the flour is moistened and it is well combined, being careful not to break up the butter. The butter should still be fairly hard at this point. The dough will be very wet; don't worry about it. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The mixture can be used the next day, or kept refrigerated for an additional day if you aren't ready for it. When you are ready, flour your work surface generously, and have more flour standing ready. Turn the dough out onto your work surface, sprinkle some additional flour over the top, and form it into a rough square.

Working quickly, roll the dough out to an approximate 16-inch square. Because it's so wet, it should roll easily, but it might be a bit sticky. Add flour as needed on top and underneath to keep it from sticking. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter.

Then fold it in thirds again, to make a square.

Keep the work surface lightly floured, just to keep it from sticking, but it shouldn't need as much as before. Do the same roll-and-fold two more times. Since the dough is so soft, you should be able to do this fast enough that the butter won't get too soft and squishy. If you get delayed and the butter does soften, put it in the fridge and continue once the butter has firmed up again. After the last fold, flatten it a bit, then put it into a plastic bag and put it into the refrigerator for at least an hour, or up to three days.

When you are ready to make the croissants, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

The dough will have risen while refrigerated. Cut the dough into quarters.

 Roll the first quarter into about a 6-inch square. Cut the square into quarters diagonally.

Take one of your right triangles of dough and roll or stretch it into a pie-shaped wedge at least seven inches long. You can make it longer if the dough is thick enough to allow it, but at least seven inches will give you enough length to have attractive wraps.

Starting at the wide end, roll the dough toward the the point.

Place the finished croissants on the prepared baking sheet with the point underneath. Curl the dough into a crescent shape.

Continue with as many croissants as you want to bake, leaving room on the baking sheet for them to rise as they bake.

Cover them with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. They won't rise much at all, but they should feel puffy instead of firm. Brush the croissants with an egg wash, if desired, or leave them plain.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool. The croissants on the left were eggwashed. The ones on the right were left plain.

Variation:  Chocolate-Filled Croissants 
(like pain au chocolat)

For chocolate-filled croissants, roll the quarter of dough into a rectangle about 10 x 6 inches, then cut that into strips about 2 1/2 inches wide x 6 inches long.

Put your favorite chocolate at one end, and roll up. It works best to make sure the dough is just a little wider than the chocolate and fold it over to enclose the chocolate when you start rolling, so it doesn't seep out during baking.

Place the rolls seam-side down on the pan and allow them to rise and bake as before.

Looks good inside, hmmmmm?

These are great served while they're still a little warm, and are best the same day.

This was published on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.


j3ss kitch3n said...

divine croissants

Catherine said...

I am drooling here....

cedarglen said...

As you well know, 'crosissant' dough is +/- the same as 'Danish' pastry dough; perhaps the latter is a tiny bit sweeter. Your fomula is so close to what I use for Danish pastry as to be the the same. The rolling land layering method is similar, but I think yours is even easier. For sure, this is a keeper and a trier.
I'm happy to see that you mention and push the idea of keeping it cold as that is vital, especially whenusing chunks, not spread butter.
Idea: For Danish pastry, increase the sugar just a bit and mix/process as indicated. Of course, cover and chill again. When ready to form fluffy, filled rolls, roll the sheet into a semi-square or rectangleular shape, perhaps 5/8" - 3/4" thick. Mark with a proportional divider, then cut into strips with a pizza wheel, using a small pin as the guide. To shape Daanish tyupe rolls, twist each strip of dough byt holding one end and rolling the palm over the other to create a spiral. Then curl or whatever (figure-8, knot, double loop - whatever suits the mood) and place on the parchment-covered pan. When done forming rolls, use a thumb to make a small dent in the center - or two centers - and fill with a short squirt of filling of choice. (Custard-like, cream cheese, fruit, chocolate, or [Baker's Choice]. If making more than 12, I use a disposable parchment 'pastry bag' to squirt the fillings. Proof as usual and bake.
The simple key here is to cut the dough into long, equal strips and twist it, before curling into a coil of figure-8 etc. It gives the finished pastry that nice, layered edge.
OK, it was 40+ years ago. How many? Tens of thousands. Where I worked, the "Danish guy" for the day could spend 6-7-8 hours, twisting and curling. On Saturday night, we often had a special order for a huge Lutheran church: Twenty or thirty dozen for the pastor's invitational coffee hour. Same process, but a half-sized/thinner strip of layerd dough, resulting in a much smaller product.
I hope this makes sense. The take-home is perfectly equal measures of (COLD) dough, in long stips. Twist before shaping and done. Gawd, I could do it with a blind-fold! As I was taught, it is vital to keep it cold! Roll and cut only enough stips to be formed and panned in about 10 minutes. (With two or four experienced hands on a very big bench, that could be a lot. With only two hands that are in learning mode, it might be as few a six strips. Again, keep it COLD!
Of course, our folding and rolling process was much more formal and the fat was only 50% butter. Trust me, rolling and folding a 40# - 50# batch of this stuff was VERY hard work. Yup, the rolling was sdone by hand and with 'pins' about 6" in diameter and 24" - 28" long. If one did not roll and fold fast enough to suit the master, the dough went back into the 'retarder' (fridge)for an hour and was that much harder to roll the next time. Difficult work but a glorious end product.
Your method is easier and I think it will work jus fine for small batches. COLD dough is the operative word.
Thanks for sharing this improved method. I make Danish dough for 'therapy' and when I need a bit less , your method will work. Yummy stuff!

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