Cooking

Croissants for the New Year

I like New Year’s Resolutions. Some say that resolutions are a waste of time, but I don’t agree. I like the idea of a fresh start and  a new year being an instigator for positive change. I like to make large, vague resolutions for myself – nothing  too specific, like quit drinking Starbucks (I save this one for Lent), or lose 15 pounds (which is what I’ve heard from experts lately is what you shouldn’t do – specific is better apparently). I want it to encompass lots of things I can do in my life, so that there are lots of things I can do to feel accomplishment. One year, it was “Be more efficient – with my time, money and energy”, so I worked hard at being ready for things. Being prepared really has become a way for me to deal with anxiety. Last year, my goal was “Do things to make me happy”. I found myself a personal trainer and worked to become strong and healthy. I started running races so I could feel the thrill of crossing a finish line. I used 3 weeks of my summer vacation and spent every one of those days in the kitchen making whatever I fancied. I probably wouldn’t have taken on these things if I hadn’t resolved to do things that make me happy.  I think resolutions are very worthwhile and valuable. Definitely not  a waste.

We’re now almost 2 full weeks into a new year, and I’ve finally decided what my New Years Resolution for 2012 will be. My new resolution is “Stand up for me”. The last few weeks in 2011 were full of stress, anxiety, disappointment, and regret. I’m leaving those ill-feelings behind, and trading them in for a fresh start. This is exactly why I think resolutions are so important. In order to do things that make me happy, I need to stand up for myself and recognize that I  matter – my opinions, my likes and dislikes, my hopes and dreams. Although I might have to say no a bit more, I may also need to say yes a bit more. I have a tendency to do a lot of things for others (because I like to), and forget about myself along the way (I don’t like that). I need to stop that.

So, in keeping with my new resolution, I offer today a recipe for croissants. I think this is the perfect recipe to start my new year a bit happier. Croissants take a bit of time, just like anything that is good and worth it in life. Croissants aren’t really good for your diet, but they’re good for your soul…well, they’re good for my soul and butter makes all things just a little bit better. Being lactose-intolerant, I’m so happy to indulge in such a treat. As with all of my baking, I take on recipes I typically can’t have and make them something I can have. Not only are they tasty, they’re worth the effort and wait. I think a lot of my ill feelings towards the end of 2011 were beat and rolled out in these little rolls. Pulling them out of the oven, golden brown and lovely, felt like a new finish line crossed. It felt like I’d kicked the butt of everything I’d let get me down.  I hope you enjoy these croissants as much as I did, whether they’re filled with all the emotions mine were, or you’re simply looking for a nice little treat.

(Note: I used a recipe transcribed from the following Julia Child episode, it’s rather amusing and educational.)

Lactose-Free Croissants

Yield: 12 croissants

Prep Time: 8 hours | Cooking Time: 10 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Yeast Mix
1 Tsp traditional dry yeast
1/4 Tsp salt
1/2 Tb sugar
1/4 cup warm water (between 105 and 110 degrees F)

Croissant Dough
2 cups of flour (Julia Child suggests using a low-gluten flour like pastry flour, or a mix of all-purpose and pastry flours)
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 cups tepid milk
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Yeast mix (from above)

1/2 cup butter, chilled (margarine shouldn’t be used – the flavour and texture just won’t be the same)

1 dark chocolate bar (if you’d like to make a few Pain au Chocolat – I did)

Glaze
1 egg
1/2 tsp water

Preparation:

1. Start by mixing all the yeast mix ingredients (dry yeast, salt, sugar) with the warm water until dissolved, and let it sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast is active it will look foamy. (If it isn’t foamy, check the expiry date. If it’s expired, buy new  yeast. If it’s still good, try to make the yeast mix again – the water might have been too cool or too hot. Just don’t wait 8 hours to find out your yeast didn’t work out!)

2. While the yeast is sitting, blend all the ingredients in the croissant dough (flour, sugar, salt, milk, vegetable oil) in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the yeast mix. Blend on low until the dough pulls together – it will be a little bit sticky.

3. When the dough has pulled together, turn up the speed a little bit. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. It will become smooth and elastic, and won’t stick anymore.

4. Form the dough into a ball and snip a criss-cross in the top. Allow the dough to rise covered until doubled in size (about an hour, depending on the warmth of the room).

5. Once the dough has risen, punch down into a flat circle. Wrap the dough in parchment paper. Chill in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. (The chilling time is very important – it makes the dough easier to work with)

6. Now that the dough is chilling, take out the already chilled butter. Take the butter and a rolling-pin – and beat the daylights out of that butter. You’re trying to make the butter malleable and free from lumps. If you need to, use the heels of your hands to work out all the little lumps. Work fast though, because the butter needs to stay chilled. If it’s starting to warm, put it back in the fridge for a bit, then continue beating it up once it’s cooled down again.

7. Roll out the chilled dough into a 9 ” circle. Form a 5″ circle/square (whatever it ends up being) of butter on top and centered on the dough.

8. Carefully fold the overlap of dough over to completely cover the butter. Pinch the seams to seal all the butter in. If at any point from here on in butter pops out of the dough, push it back in and seal the dough over it again.

9. Now that you have a neat little package of dough-wrapped butter, it’s time to roll and fold. You’ll need a lot of flour and a rolling-pin. Roll this package as it is on a floured surface into a rectangle that is 15″ long and 5″ wide. (Flouring the surface, the dough and the rolling-pin are very important here. The dough will stick if it isn’t floured enough, and that will end with disappointing results.)

10. If the dough is warm at this point, put it back in the fridge for about 20 minutes. If not, continue to the next step.

11. You will end up folding and rolling the dough 4 more times. For the first fold, fold the dough rectangle in 3 like you would a business letter. Once it’s folded, roll the dough back out into a 15″ long x 5″ wide rectangle again. (Trying to make your edges as straight and corners as square as possible will help make this an easier task.)

12. For the second fold, repeat the above fold again. The dough now needs to be chilled again though, because it’s warmed up from all that work. Keep the dough folded for now, and wrap up in the parchment paper. Place this in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

13. After the dough has chilled out in the fridge, it has relaxed enough to be worked again. Take it out and on a floured surface roll out the folded dough to 15″ long and 5″ wide. For the third fold, fold into 3 like a letter. Roll it out again to 15″ long and 5 ” wide, and fold for the fourth time into 3 like a letter.

14. After the fourth fold, the dough needs another trip to the fridge. Wrap the folded dough back up in the parchment and chill for another 1 – 2 hours.

15. After this chill session, roll out the folded dough into a 20 ” long by 5″ wide rectangle on a floured surface. What you have finally is 82 layers of flour and butter – the secret to light, fluffy, flaky croissants.

16. Cut the rolled out dough into 2, 10″ long by 5″ wide rectangles. refrigerate once of these halves covered in parchment, and use the other half to start forming croissants.

17. Roll one of the halves of the saved dough into a 12″ long by 5″ wide rectangle and cut it in thirds. Chill 2 of the 3rds.

18. Now take the third you saved and roll it into a 5-1/2″ square and cut it on the diagonal.

19. Roll the triangles out to form a 7″ long and shape it as much as you can into an isosceles triangle.

20. Starting at the base, roll up the dough towards the tip of the triangle. Bend it into a crescent moon form, and place on a baking sheet (greased or covered with parchment or other pan liner) with the tip of the triangle on the bottom so that the rolls don’t come undone during baking.

21. Roll the rest of the dough using Steps 17 – 20. If you wanted to make a variation, now would be the time. Place whatever it is you wish at the base of the triangle and continue to roll as normal. (I used dark chocolate on a few)

21. When all rolls are on the baking pan, cover and allow to rise for an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees F while waiting for the croissants to rise. Make sure the oven rack is on the middle position. (Note: You can freeze these rolls once they’ve risen. They can be baked from frozen at a later date.)

22. Prepare your glaze by whisking the egg and water together. When the rolls have risen, gently brush the tops withe glaze using a pastry brush.

23. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes. You will want to keep a close eye on these, as they brown really quickly. It would be a shame to spend 9 hours preparing these just to burn them! (I’ve discovered that having them too close to the element will cause them to brown very quickly, but not cook in the center)

24. Allow croissants to cool for 10 minutes before enjoying – they’ll be really, really hot fresh out of the oven.

25. Enjoy your hard-earned croissants! If you were trying to emulate Julia Child, you’d want to eat these with a cafe au lait and your favourite French newspaper.

Recipe adapted from: Croissants A La Julia Child from http://www.mamaliga.com/desserts/croissants-a-la-julia-child)

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