Monday, June 14, 2010
The summer I turned 16 I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks traveling through Europe. I went on a whirlwind visit with a choir tour to 7 countries in 16 days (and, how awesome is this?! I got to sing in Notre Dame on my 16th birthday. That definitely takes the cake as one of the highlights of my life). During the 2 or 3 days in France we would wake up every morning to a gorgeous spread of food the hotel set out for us. Every day, the shining breakfast moment were the flakey, buttery croissants.
Croissants were the very first thing I'd added to my mental to-make list when I started tackling more complicated recipes, but I've put them off for quite a while because of how complicated laminating dough sounded. As so often happens, I built up the difficulty in my head so much that when it came time to actually do it, it was NOTHING! Sure, I had to stay near to the kitchen for a few hours, but oh darn! Other than that, it was actually quite simple. These fluffy and buttery croissants lived up perfectly to the memory of 16th birthday in France breakfast croissants. Impressive.
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3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus some for rolling
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk, cold
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
24 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-Tablespoon pieces, kept cold
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
To make the dough
In a medium bowl mix together 2 3/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric mixer, and add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough forms into a ball, about 5 minutes.
Cut the butter into small pieces, then add into the mixing bowl. Continue to beat on low speed until the butter is fully blended into the dough. If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl, sprinkle in the additional 1/4 cup of flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not sticky.
Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
To make the butter square
Mix together the butter and flour on a clean surface and blend together with a bench scraper. (I mixed the flour and butter together in an electric mixer until fully blended.) Once the flour and butter are completely combined, scrape the butter into a 7-inch square. Wrap the square in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
To make the dough turns
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Place the dough on top of the flour and roll out to an 11 inch square. Place the butter square diagonally (butter square corners pointing to the flat edges of the dough square). Fold the corners of the dough square into the center and pinch the edges together to seal.
Tap the dough with a rolling pin, starting at the center and working outward until the butter softens. Work the dough into a 14-inch square, dusting with flour if the is sticking.
Fold the dough in thirds (like a business letter). Fold in thirds again so the dough is square. This is the first 2 turns of the dough.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and repeat the above turning process to complete 2 more turns. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a 20-inch square. Cut the dough square down the middle to make 2 long rectangles. A pizza cutter works great for this. Cut each rectangle in thirds. Cut each remaining rectangle in half diagonally to end up with 12 dough triangles.
Gently lift a dough triangle and stretch the short end of the triangle until the 2 long sides are even. Make a 1-inch cut in the middle of the short base of the dough triangle, then roll up the dough, starting at the base, leaving 1/4 inch of the triangle tip unrolled.
Place the croissant, triangle point facing down, on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough triangles.
Cover the croissants with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Brush the tops of the croissants with the beaten egg using a pastry brush. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through. Let cool a bit on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Source: Baking Illustrated