Croissants and Pain au chocolat

Croissants, like any bread, take a while to make, but I was surprised to learn that the actual work croissants require is minimal. They (thankfully) require no kneading — just rolling with a rolling-pin multiple times.

Due to the structure of waiting time, its good to begin the process the night before a day when you will be around the house, or the morning before you work. The first waiting time is longest and doesn’t involve you, the baker, at all. After it is mixed, the dough needs to rest for 6 – 8 hours or overnight. The second stage is similarly lengthy but punctuated rolling every 2 – 3 hours, 3 – 4 (or more) times. So, you will need to be home to make croissants, but will be able to concentrate on doing something else for pretty much the entire day.

In the end, you will have about a dozen large croissants, or many small ones. I like to make one pan with half the dough, then form and freeze the rest to have infinite fancy breakfasts.

croissant

• 2 cups flour
• 1 packet dry yeast
• 2 T sugar
• 2/3 c (almond) milk
• 1 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 egg
• butter

1. Pour milk into a medium bowl and microwave until 90-100 degrees, or for 2 – 3 minutes.

2. Add sugar and yeast; mix to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour. Mix and allow to sit for 15 minutes, when it should start to bubble.

3. Mix in remaining flour and form into loose ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

[[Optional Step 3.5: At this stage you can prepare the butter by allowing it to reach room temperature then slowly mixing until pliable or by slicing, laying out in a thin layer on plastic wrap, and beating it with a rolling-pin. In either case, you will form it into a medium-sized square and refrigerate to chill again. I did not do these steps as I wasn’t sure how big my dough square would be.]]

4. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll, trying to maintain a square or rectangular shape.

5. When it is rather thin but not translucent, add cold butter. Slice and line up in continuous square about 2 – 3 inches from each edge.

6. Fold edge flaps over butter to form square. The butter should be tucked and nestled in there so the whole thing looks like a butter galette. Then, fold one edge one-third of the way over. Fold the opposite edge over that edge, so it is a rectangle of dough hugging itself.

7 . Roll gently into rectangle that is slightly smaller than your first rectangle. Fold one end one-third of the way, then fold the opposite end over it to create another hug. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.

8. Repeat step 7, rolling dough, folding it over itself, then refrigerating for another hour. Repeat again once or twice, depending on how much time you’ve allotted for this process. It should be folded at least a few times, as more folds will mean more butter layers and therefore more flakiness.

9. Heat oven to 200 degrees (or the lowest possible setting) and roll dough into another rectangle. Make a single line lengthwise. Fold one half in thirds, cover with plastic wrap, and put back in refrigerator.

10. Coat a baking sheet with butter, then flour. Cut dough strip into triangles.

For croissants, roll, starting with the longest side, over itself, leaving the final tip on the bottom. Place on baking sheet straight or curve the ends together to create a crescent shape.

For pain au chocolat, position the triangle with the longest side near you. Put a vertical stripe of chocolate near each side closest to you, essentially making two mini triangles. Fold both sides over into themselves and place on pan seam side down.

11. Turn off oven. Brush croissants with water and put in oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, use a proofing box, set or otherwise regulated to maintain 70 – 80 degrees.

12. Remove from oven after about an hour. Croissants should be nearly double in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush croissants with beaten egg. If you are making pain au chocolat, sprinkle with sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes.

13. Bake for 20 minutes, or more if you prefer them darker.  Freeze remaining dough.

Poppyseed Roll

The dough in this recipe can also be used for virtually any other filling. It is a vaguely sweet, heavy, and dry dough that pairs nicely with bright tasting fruit or a heavier texture like chocolate or nuts. My family makes poppyseed rolls each Christmas, but when Grandma was around she would make walnut rolls as well.

We tend to half the recipe, which makes anywhere from 5 – 10 rolls depending on size. It is more than enough, but the full recipe is included [in brackets] for posterity. If using the full recipe, it is a good idea to use multiple fillings then freeze the remaining (whole) rolls.

poppyseed

• 1 packet or cake of yeast [2 cakes]
• 1/4 cup warm water [1/2c]
• 4 cups flour [8]
• 1 egg and 2 1/2 yolks (crack 1 yolk into liquid measuring cup, mix, and half)[2 whole, 5 yolks]
• 1/4 cup butter [1/2c]
• 1/4 cup shortening [1/2c oleo]
• under 1/2 cup sugar [3/4c]
• 1/2 pint (8 oz, according the internet) sour cream [1 pint]
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 – 3 standard or 1 large can of poppyseed filling

1. Pour warm water into liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, whip eggs a few minutes, then add sugar and continue to whip until slightly frothy. Then add butter, whip for a few minutes, then sour cream, yeast mixture, salt, and vanilla. After a moment, add flour and stop as soon as combined.

3. Knead for about 15 minutes. Make a ball, then elongate into a log. With a knife, cut dough into softball-sized portions for rolls that will be about a foot long. You can make larger, smaller, or even mini rolls, so cut according to what you will be making.

4. Cover with towel and allow to rise for 2 – 3 hours.

5. Roll with rolling pin and spread filling (as thick as you’d like-more is more delicious, but as I didn’t have enough the pictured roll has about 1 cm filling) from end to end. It is not necessary to leave space for wrapping as it will be cooked with the fold on the bottom.

6. Roll tightly and cover with towel. Rise 2 – 3 more hours.

7. Coat a heavy baking sheet completely with butter, rubbing with wax paper or just holding the stick and fully covering the pan. Sprinkle flour, then hit and shake the pan to coat completely. Place rolls onto baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar on top and allow to set for 10 minutes.

8. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 350 degrees, until golden brown. Allow to cool before eating.

Walnut Filling
• 1 tsp vanilla [2]
• 3/4 cup heavy cream [1 1/2c]
• 1 T crushed walnuts [2]
• under a half cup brown sugar [3/4c]

1. Combine ingredients and use instead of poppyseed filling.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry is a versatile and light dough that can be used for spectacular desserts and savory treats. Considering how special and *fancy* puffs are when baked, they actually are rather straightforward to make. If you’ve made choux once, subsequent attempts will seem incredibly simple. I like Jacques Pépin’s recipe and directions because the ingredients are minimal/elemental and the long wait times allow you to go about your day while making something magnificent.

I use most of the batter for sweet cream puffs, reserving a half or third for savory cheese gougères.

choux

Choux pastry
• 1 cup water
• 4 T butter
• 1 cup flour
• 4 eggs
• 1/4 tsp salt

1. Boil water, pieces of butter, and salt in saucepan.

2. When butter is melted, remove from heat and add all flour.

3. Quickly mix with wooden spoon until dough begins to form a ball.

4. Put pan over low heat and ‘dry’ for 1 to 2 minutes, mixing occasionally. Try to collect all dough into a single ball to avoid dry bits.

5. Transfer to a slightly larger bowl than would seem necessary and let cool at least 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. The dough will seem to resist coming together, with large pieces sloshing about in the egg (so the larger bowl should be helpful), but keep mixing. It is finished when the dough is thick and creamy.

6. Coat a heavy baking sheet completely with butter, rubbing with wax paper or just holding the stick and fully covering the pan. Sprinkle flour, then hit and shake the pan to coat completely.

8. For Cream Puffs, put dough into pastry bag with large round tip and pipe golf ball sized puffs.
For Éclairs, drag the pastry bag to make a puff that is about 3 inches long and oval.
For Gougères, add some shredded cheese (Gruyére, Cheddar, Parmesan, etc) and/or herbs to dough. More makes for flat puffs, which will look like boring, normal biscuits. Just using a tablespoon or two will allow for savory flavor while preserving the fun puffiness.

9. Brush with beaten egg, smoothing out tips and obvious imperfections as you go. For a design, drag a fork across the top. Allow to dry for at least 20 minutes.

10. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. When finished, turn off heat and open oven door halfway, letting the puffs cool slowly and dry for a half hour (inside oven).

Filling

Make Custard Cream Filling:
• 2 cups (vanilla almond) milk
• 2 beaten eggs
• 2/3 c sugar
• 1/2 c flour
• pinch salt
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 T butter

1. Warm milk in saucepan over medium low heat.

2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in bowl. Add eggs and combine, beating well.

3. Slowly add flour-egg mixture to milk, stirring with whisk.

4. It will thicken in a few minutes, but if it does not, add more flour until desired thickness is reached.

5. Add vanilla, continuing to stir.

To fill puff pastry, stab side of puff with pastry tip and squeeze until puff feels full.

Éclairs can be filled the same way depending on your tool, but it is efficient to make a slit lengthwise along the side of the éclair and fill.

Gougères are great on their own or can be filled with a soft cheese and/or other vegetables. Goat cheese with herbs and minced mushrooms and olives is quite good.

Ganache
• 1/2 cup or 4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup regular milk
• 1 T dark rum or Kahlua

1. If you don’t have one (like me), make a bain-marie using two pans of approximately the same circumference. Fill the first with water and boil.

2. Turn heat down to high to preserve a delicate/light boil and place pieces of chocolate in second pan. Put second pan on top of water pan and allow chocolate to melt, mixing frequently with rubber spatula. Alternatively/rationally, melt chocolate in microwave.

3. Pour cream and rum into bowl, then pour melted chocolate into mixture. Whisk until it is creamy. It will be slightly thinner than seems necessary but if it is too watery/thin, melt and add more chocolate. It should be thick enough to coat a cream puff without being translucent, but thin enough to pour.

Pour over cream puffs or éclairs.
For gougères, sprinkle grated cheese and herbs on top instead of ganache.

Leek & Bean Cassoulet

cassoulet

Cassoulet is a meat-intensive French bean dish, a stew of remainders. This adaptation from Veganomicon by Moskowitz & Romero has the spirit and comfort of chicken pot pie. (They also include a seitan pot pie recipe that looks very good)

Most of the time invested in this recipe is dedicated to prep, so it may help to dice and cube and mince everything beforehand. Its probably possible to prepare the vegetable mixture in advance, because the finished casserole keeps fantastically for days.

• 2 potatoes
• 2 leeks
• 1 1/2c carrots
• 3/4c frozen peas
• 1 small onion
• 1 [15oz] navy or white beans, drained & rinsed
• 1 T fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
• black pepper, 1/2tsp salt
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2T olive oil
• 3c vegetable stock
• 3T cornstarch

Biscuits:
• 3/4c plain soy milk
• 1tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 1/2c flour
• 2tsp baking powder
• 1/4tsp salt
• 1/4c (vegan) shortening

1. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from water and allow to cool.
2. Slice the leeks into thin disks and dice the onions and carrots. Over medium heat, sauté together until soft and just beginning to brown (about 10 minutes).
3. At this point, start mixing the biscuits. First, add vinegar to the soy milk and set aside to curdle. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add garlic, thyme, s&p to the cooking vegetables. Cut potatoes into cubes and add along with frozen peas. Add cornstarch to vegetable stock and pour over all vegetables. Raise heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add shortening to the biscuit flour mixture. Combine with fork so there are large clumps. Add soy milk and mix until it is moistened. ‘Knead’ with fork until dough holds together nicely and isn’t extremely sticky. (More flour can be added if necessary)
6. The vegetable mixture should be slightly thickened. Add to casserole dish(es), leaving an inch or so to accomodate for biscuits. Gently roll and flatten into biscuits or fun shapes and place over mixture.
7. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes in order to slightly brown biscuits. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Tomato & Bread Salad

tomato bread salad
This is an extremely delicious alternative salad from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz. As its just a melange of ingredients, its very easy to customize– I decreased the quantity of most everything to feed two people and made some substitutions (red pepper, shredded cheese) for ingredients I didn’t have that day (cucumber, feta). It keeps well in the fridge, with the bread getting only slightly more saturated, and is really good the next day.

• 4c bread
• 1tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 1/4tsp coarse salt
• Black pepper
• 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
• 6T red wine vinegar
• 2/3c extra virgin olive oil
• 8 medium tomatoes
• 1 cucumber
• 3/4c pitted black or kalamata olives
• 1 onion
• 1 packed cup of fresh basil, mint, and flat-leaf parsley (mixed together)
• 1/2 lb feta cheese

1. Cut bread into cubes and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning periodically for full coverage.
2. In serving bowl, whisk mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil.
3. Slice tomatoes and other veggies in half and squeeze out juice. Cube.
4. Add vegetables to bowl with dressing. Mix in herbs and bread pieces and toss well.
5. Crumble cheese on top and serve.

Bread

Bread

Basic Bread
• 4c flour
• 1 1/2c water
• 2tsp salt
• 1tsp instant yeast

1. Sprinkle yeast over surface of warm water. Pour over flour and salt. Mix, then knead until dough is smooth & elastic.
2. Continue kneading until it can be stretched without breaking. If you are making a flavored bread, you would add spices (garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc) or ingredients (olives, walnuts, etc) at this point.
3. Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap until it expands to twice its size (4-8h). It is ready when it won’t immediately spring back if you poke it.
4. Knead dough for a moment, then cover with towel and allow to rest 10-15m.
5. Shape dough and cover again with towel. Allow to rise/proof for an hour (or refrigerate overnight then allow to rise at room temperature for an hour and a half– I had to do this and it’s still delicious)
6. Preheat oven 450 degrees, then bake for 10 minutes before reducing temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 40-50m. If baking on a pan instead of within a Dutch oven, include a ramekin with 1c water in the oven for steaming, which produces a hard crust.

The above recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, which includes a lot of variations for different flavors. The core ratio is 5 parts flour : 3 parts water + yeast & salt. It’s basically the same as the no-knead bread posted below, but the kneading makes you feel like you are a professional Boulanger :)

No Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

• 4c flour
• 2c warm water
• 1 1/2t salt
• 1/4t yeast

1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast and warm water. Mix.
2. Cover with foil and let sit for 18 hours
3. Shape dough (it’s quite sticky/difficult to work with so nothing too exciting)
4. Cover with towel and let sit for 2 hours 5. Bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes.

This multigrain boule above was made in an uncovered ceramic dish (w/a small ramekin of water to steam). It was really difficult to remove, so I prefer the ciabatta recipe from Food Wishes (http://bit.ly/YhsYYT) to the messier NYT recipe (http://nyti.ms/SuMYHv).  It is slightly easier to remove if you use a covered dish rather than an open one, but I usually have to cut it out rather than taking out a pretty loaf.  Ciabatta, where you pour dough onto a pan coated with cornmeal, is much easier, pretty, and has a more satisfying rustic feel.