Croissants are a very special food for me and my mom. I have more wonderful memories associated with croissants than almost any other food I can think of.
When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money. We didn't eat out, and we ate simple food. One treat that we ate about once a month though, was croissants. Not fancy croissants, mind you, they were frozen in fact. But they were something that seemed so decadent and so sophisticated. I just loved them. There was a ritual to the way my mom and I ate our croissants; we heated them up, tore off one end, hollowed out the insides and stuffed them with a link of veggie sausage. Sometimes we ate them with cheese, sometimes not. They were especially wonderful when dipped in mustard.
The summer before my senior year of high school, my mom arranged for us to go to Europe by becoming a tour leader for an educational tour company. The tour was 2 weeks in Italy, and then the two of us stayed in Europe for an extra 2 weeks which we spent in Greece. Some of our first nights there were spent in Nafplio in a pension that was above a bakery. You have not known heaven until you've woken up every morning to the smell of fresh bread, and the satisfaction of attaining that bread through nothing more difficult than a flight of stairs and a few dollars. It quickly became an addiction, and even after leaving Nafplio we couldn't function in the mornings until finding ourselves a fresh croissant and our other weakness - a cup of hot cocoa.
I've wanted to make croissants for as long as I have been baking. There are a lot of recipes out there, but the one that caught my eye was this one from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. I've had the book for a few months but hadn't made anything out of it yet, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
These croissants are a whole lot easier - and less time-consuming - than traditionally made croissants, anything that helps me save time is pretty great in my book.
I only made a half recipe of these, because I made them by hand instead of with a food processor as the original recipe calls for. They turned out beautifully, so I wish I made a full batch!
These croissants are delicious; unbelievably flaky, buttery, tender on the inside, crisp on the outside - all in all, perfect little croissants!
Are they as good as croissants made with a preferment, laminated dough, and given lots of time to rise? I'll have to let you know when I find the time to make those! I'm planning on trying out the recipe from Tartine sometime soon, they come highly recommended. Until then, these are a wonderful alternative that are ready in a few short hours, and that in itself makes them amazing. Next time, I won't make the mistake of only making a half recipe!
One-Step Croissants (full recipe)
adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri
1/2 cup milk
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tablespoons palm sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
egg wash: 1 egg, well beaten with a pinch of salt
Heat half of the milk in a small saucepan (keeping the other half of the milk cold) until it is lukewarm - about 90 degrees. Pour into a small bowl and whisk in yeast. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, palm sugar, and salt. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter - keeping the rest of it in the refrigerator - and using a pastry blender, cut the butter in until it is finely mixed into the dry ingredients. Cut the rest of the butter into small chunks and add them to the mixture. Cut in with a pastry blender, just until the chunks have broken up somewhat - about 20 strokes with the blender - but large pieces remain. Add the cold milk to the yeast mixture and pour it into the bowl. Cut the dough once more with pastry blender for about 45 seconds - the dough will not form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, flatten the dough into a disk and roll out into a rectangle about 12" x 15". Fold dough into thirds - like a business letter - then roll up the folded dough and press into a rough square. Lightly flour dough, place in a plastic bag and seal it. Let dough rise inside the bag for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. The dough will not double in size. After the dough has risen, using the palm of your hand, deflate the dough and place bag in the fridge for at least 1 hour or as many as 8 hours. Remove dough from bag, place on well-floured board, gently deflate, and roll out to a rectangle about 12" x 15". If the dough seems hard to roll, let it rest for 5 minutes then resume rolling. If at any point the dough becomes too soft, slide a baking sheet under it and place it in the fridge for 15 minutes. Once the dough is rolled out, straighten the edges, and using a sharp knife (or pizza wheel) cut dough lengthwise into two strips, then cut each strip into 6 triangles. Roll each triangle starting at the flat end and ending at the point. Tuck point under, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. (You'll need 2) Repeat with remaining triangles until all are rolled. Cover each sheet of rolled dough with buttered plastic wrap and let rise until they are almost doubled in size. About 20 minutes before the rise is complete, preheat oven to 350. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Just before baking, carefully brush each croissant with egg wash, making sure it doesn't pool under the dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, then rotate pans. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until they are deep golden brown and springy to the touch. Slide parchment with croissants from baking sheet to rack to cool.