Well, we are finally settled back in America. Moving across the world is more exhausting than I thought. Gotta love Army life. Our shipment of French wine and Belgian beer arrived today, but I’ll have to resist the temptation as I ration those treats for special occasions.
One of the best experiences I had in Europe was learning to bake French breads at le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I will share those recipes over the next few months. Today, let me start with the classic French croissant. The buttery, flaky layers of a croissant fresh out of the oven are unlike any croissant from an American grocer’s bakery. As you peel back the layers, you become enamored in the crunchy edges and the moist center that echo layer by layer. A lot of work goes into making croissants, but the best part about this recipe is that you can make them over a weekend, roll and shape them, bake a few and freeze the rest to bake later.
The secret to great French breads is fresh cake yeast…not the powdered instant stuff you find in the baking aisle. In Europe, it’s sold in cubes near the refrigerated prepared pie crusts. I had a heck of a time finding it in Las Vegas. Albertson’s said they only stock it from October through December. Whole Foods didn’t carry it either. So I went to a bakery (who wants to remain nameless), and they sold me a large block of it. I portioned it out, froze it. Another secret to this recipe is measuring by weight instead of standard measuring cups. You will need a digital kitchen scale. Target sells a nice one for around $30.
I baked this batch of croissants while I was still in Vegas, and they were a sure hit. They’re great for breakfast and superb with a Chicken Salad Recipe I’ll share later in the week.
- 13 grams salt
- 665 grams King Arthur's All Purpose Flour
- 20 grams fresh yeast
- 65 grams sugar
- 400 grams water
- 350 grams butter
Mix salt, flour, yeast, sugar and water in mixer until a dough forms. Let the mixture rise uncovered at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours). Then, rework the dough and place it in the refrigerator covered overnight. It needs 24 hours to ferment to get the best flavor.
After the dough has rested overnight, place the butter on the counter (granite is best), and pound it in the same direction with a rolling pin so that it is slightly softened and flattened. Flip it over, turn it ¼ turn and flatten some more. If the butter is too hard, it will puncture the dough. It should be about ½-inch thick. Set aside. Dust the counter with flour, and place the dough on the floured surface. Roll it flat like a pizza. Place the pounded butter on top and pull the sides of dough over the butter to cover it entirely. Press seams to enclose all of butter.
This is the trick to all the flaky, buttery layers
With seams up, hold the rolling pin horizontal to your body and pound the dough in the same direction to lengthen. Roll in same direction until it’s the length of 1.5 rolling pins. Make sure it is never sticky. Dust lightly with flour if needed, but brush flour off when not needed. Once rolled out, dust off the flour. Fold one end in and then the other end in so it overlaps (like a trifold brochure). Flip the dough over and turn ¼ turn, so that the openings are horizontal to you.
Hold the rolling pin horizontal to your body and roll again to lengthen to the same length. Dust off flour and fold like a trifold again. Turn ¼ turn. Roll just a bit and flip it over. Roll it a bit more. Dust off flour on both sides. Wrap in parchment paper, and put in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
Take it out of the fridge. Again, place the opening of the fold horizontal to your body. Dust with flour and roll to the length of 1.5 rolling pins. Fold like a trifold and flip it over.
Turn ¼ turn. Roll again to length of 1.5 rolling pins. Clean off the flour while dough rests.
Turn ½ turn, roll more. Turn ½ turn, roll more. Turn ¼ turn, so that the length of the dough is now horizontal to your body. Dust off flour on top and under dough. It should stick slightly to the granite. Roll one more time lengthwise.
Cut into triangles. Stretch a bit and roll the wide end in toward point. Place on parchment-lined pan. Seam side down. Brush egg wash (1 egg and one egg yolk whisked) on top and let rise.
Brush with egg wash a second time. Then, bake at 370 degrees until brown and flaky.
Instead of brushing with a second egg wash, place the unbaked croissants in the freezer. It’s best to place the parchment lined pan in the freezer. Once the croissants are frozen solid, you can place them in a Ziploc bag. When you’re ready to bake them. Take them out of the freezer to thaw. They will rise a little more. Brush with egg wash and bake at 370 until brown.