The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it…Henry David Thoreau
As you may have noticed, I have been away from my keyboard for a few weeks. Not because i haven’t had anything to say, but, simply put, life has managed to once again, get in the way of living.
I had to get a real job.
I know, I know, big deal right? Welcome (back) to Adulting. Since closing Lavender Box in January, I had been spending a lot of time working on my cottage bakery…and to be honest, myself. Trying to answer the basic questions about me;
At (almost) 51 years old, one would think that I had all of that figured out; and I thought I had. For decades, I have been a daughter, a student, a wife, a mother, a friend and an employee, Some days I was afraid my neck was not strong enough to hold up my head because of all the hats I wore. But that is the life I chose. A long time ago I realized that life is much like the books that let you “choose” how the story went; at the end of a chapter, you’d answer a question that would determine the “path” your would go.
Of course, some life events are out of my control, I didn’t get to chose my parents, siblings, or extended family. The schools I attended were decided by the higher power of the school districting board, and even religion was someone else’s decision in my early years.
But even as others made those types of decisions that effected my life, the decisions I made, determined the outcome. Don’t study or do homework–get bad grades. That’s a pretty basic concept, but one that I think many people don’t seem to grasp. The result you get in life is determined by the effort you put in. You choose your path, and how you react to the story you choose will determine how your story unfolds.
But, enough philosophical musings, back to the root of this story…dough. Not just the dough that results from having a job ( I do have to admit though, having a steady income has helped a lot), but the dough that makes me happy. Dough that, when baked, is light, flaky, crispy and sweet…all at the same time. Dough that takes me 2 days from start to finish when making at home (man I miss my dough sheeter)
Okay, Okay. No wallowing today, just beautiful dough. Croissant dough to be precise.
In pastry school, when we learned to make laminated doughs (croissant, puff pastry), we learned to do it by hand. Getting a feel for the dough and knowing the steps is key to being able to get it right. So, up until the time I opened Lavender Box, I made croissants by hand; and now that I am back to being a “home” bakery, I am, once again, rolling and folding the dough the old fashioned (and sometimes tiring) way.
But the result of all that work is something almost ethereal. Delicate and light, fresh croissants are one of my favorite things, and defiantly worth the time and effort.
Good butter croissants begin with cold ingredients. Ice water, egg, sugar, salt and milk powder combined in the mixer bowl. With you dough hook, knead in the bread flour, yeast and (a touch) of softened butter.
As with any dough, texture is key. Kneading croissant dough just the right amount, helps create that wonderful texture. I have found that right amount of time is 5 minutes on a medium high (7 on Kitchen aid mixer).
After the dough has been made, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. While you dough is chilling, make you butter block. I use 2 pounds of unsalted butter in my croissants. While some recipes for croissants call for the butter to be mixed with some flour, I have never found this makes a difference one way or the other. I let the butter get to room temperature (it should be soft enough that when you press with your finger it will indent, but not so soft that you can easily push your finger through), and then roll it between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to a 10 x 10 inch square. Then refrigerate the butter. The dough and butter should be the same “stiffness”. If you butter is too soft, it will squish (very technical term, I know) out everywhere. But if your dough is softer than your butter, the butter will tear the dough. It takes some practice to learn the right level of firmness for both dough and butter, but I have found that if the dough has been refrigerated for about an hour, and the butter at least 30 minutes, they seem to laminate very well.
Now the fun starts. Roll out the chilled dough to a 20 x 10 inch rectangle. Then place the butter on one side and seal it up like an envelope. Press those edges together well, we don’t want any butter oozing out.
Since the butter is cold, it will be hard. Take you rolling pin and make “speed bumps” in the dough. The “dips” helps work the butter so that you can roll out the dough.
Roll the dough out to 10 x 24 “, fold into thirds (a single book fold). Wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Roll the chilled dough out again to 10″ x 24” and make a double book fold (fold each end into the middle and the fold in half). Refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Roll out one last time and make a single book fold. Wrap well and retard in the refrigerator overnight.
After the dough has retarded in the refrigerator overnight, Roll dough out into a 16″ x 30″ rectangle. Cut triangles 4″ wide at the base, and roll. Cover with a clean towel and let raise until double. Brush with egg wash and bake in 425 degree oven until dark golden brown. Enjoy.
If you are wanting something really amazing, turn this wonderful croissant dough into Kouign-Amann, but that is a story for another day.