Monthly Archives: December 2010

Very Buttery Croissants

Have you ever thought about making croissants? Does anyone besides me actually have thoughts like that? Well maybe you have, and probably, like me, you had seconds thoughts once you actually read the recipe. Yes, “laminated dough” is a scary term. Yes, there’s a lot of butter. Yes, there are many steps and lots of time involved. All these things are true, but having found myself with three weeks of free time and no plans, I decided this was my chance. Having now made the croissants, I can tell you that it’s not as scary or difficult at is sounds. It does take a lot of time, but, like most yeast dough, much of the time is inactive.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t follow this recipe exactly as written. This is not something I recommend, especially with recipes you’re trying for the first time. I didn’t do it on purpose! That sounds defensive, doesn’t it? You’re not even judging me, are you? I shouldn’t be this paranoid on vacation.

I made a few changes to the original recipe and still ended up with delicious, buttery, flaky croissants. I used active dry yeast instead of instant, but I also let my dough hang out in the fridge for a couple of days after making the turns which I think gave it enough time to proof.  My dough also ended up being really wet. The instructions say that the dough is ready when it sticks to itself more than it sticks to the bowl. Well, I thought I had reached that stage, but when I went to unwrap it from the plastic wrap later that day, I found that I was sadly mistaken. I found some other croissant recipes that were nearly identical except that they had nearly a cup more flour, so that’s how I’ll suggest you do it.  I didn’t have whole milk so I used 2 percent with a splash of heavy cream. I also forgot the 2 tablespoons of butter that you’re supposed to add directly to the dough, rendering these croissants “reduced fat” (ha!).

Seriously people, you can do this! I have faith in you. P.S. I know the croissants in the pictures look a little, ahem, toasty. I made the croissants smaller than the original recipe suggested but neglected to reduce baking time. Following the directions below should give you lovely, golden brown croissants.

Croissants
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups flour plus 2 tbsps (and more as needed)
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk (or 2% with a splash of cream)
  • 3 sticks butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and kept cold
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Whisk together 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Place milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add flour mixture to the milk and knead at low speed until a smooth ball forms, about 8 or 9 minutes. Add more flour as necessary. You want the dough to be sticky but not so wet that it will not come off of the plastic wrap. Wrap the dough in plastic sand refrigerate for an hour.
  2. On a clean work surface, toss butter with 2 tablespoons of flour. Using a bench scraper, smear the butter back and forth against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth, homogenous mixture. Wrap the butter in plastic and use the plastic to shape the butter into a 7-inch square. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Dust work surface with flour and roll dough out into an 11-inch square. Place the butter square diagonally on top of the dough so that the corner of the butter square points to the edge of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough in so they met in the center and pinch the ends of the dough together to seal it.
  4. Using the rolling pin, gently tap the dough, starting from the center and going outwards until the square gets larger and the butter begins to soften. Gently roll out into a 14-inch square, making sure that dough isn’t sticking to the work surface and dusting with additional flour as needed. Fold the square into thirds, like a business letter, then in thirds again so you have a square. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  5. Repeat step 4 and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chilled dough on a floured surface and roll out into a 20-inch square. Cut the dough into three equal rectangles then cut each rectangle into thirds. Cut each rectangle on the diagonal to yield a total of 18 triangles. Lift each triangle with the base (the short side) in one hand and the tip in the other and gently stretch. Cut a 1-inch slit in the center of the base. Fold the two sides of the slit outward and roll the triangle, gently stretching the dough as you roll, leaving the last ¼ inch unrolled. Gently transfer the croissant to the prepared baking sheet and curl the ends towards each other to form a crescent shape. Repeat with the remaining triangles.
  7. Cover croissants loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until puffy, 45 to 60 minutes
  8. Adjust over racks to the top and lower middle positions and heat oven to 400°. Brush the croissants with beaten egg and bake until golden brown 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Cool the croissants on a wire rack until warm, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Croissants will keep at room temperature for 2 days.

Makes 18 croissants

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Chanukah Sugar Cookies

Chanukah means many things: candles, latkes, presents, etc. But if you’re in my family it also means sugar cookies. As far back as I can remember we’ve been making sugar cookies for Chanukah, proven by the fact that this recipe is printed on stationary that says it’s from “the kitchen of the Dinosaurs”.

The Dinosaurs was the name of the preschool class my mom used to teach when my brother and I were little kids at the same school. She loved to bake (it’s in my blood) and loved to do baking activities with the kids. This is the first recipe I think of when I think about the kitchen of the Dinosaurs, but a close second is soft pretzels shaped like your initials. Delicious AND educational! You may be seeing that on here soon.

As for the nonpareils, I have no idea why we use them. It’s not a Jewish thing. It’s just what we do.

Please don’t hold it against me that I’m posted this after Chanukah has ended. Final are coming up. You understand.

Chanukah Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 c flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Nonpareils or other sprinkles for decorating

Directions

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Bend in oil, egg, vanilla and orange juice. Sift dry ingredients together then blend into wet ingredients. Split dough into two disks and wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight if you can.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°. Roll out chilled dough to about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle liberally with nonpareils then gently press into dough with a rolling pin. Cut out into whatever shapes you like then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Gather scraps into a ball then roll and cut out again. Cookies spread slightly, so be sure to leave a little room between them. Bake 6-8 minutes and watch closely. When cookies just barely start to brown on the edges, they’re done.

Makes about 2 dozen depending on shape and size.

Garlic Bread (with spaghetti and meatballs)

Boys love meatballs.

Well maybe not all boys love meatballs, but all American boys love meatballs.

Alright not all American boys love meatballs, but American boys that come from Italian families love meatballs.

I’m almost certain about that last one, but in case it isn’t true at least I know for a fact that the American boy from an Italian family that I cook dinner for most often loves meatballs.

I’m not going to tell you how to make meatballs today. What a tease! I am going to tell you that you shouldn’t have spaghetti and meatballs without garlic bread. It’s just not right.

So here’s what you do: Get a baguette. Split it in half lengthwise. Spread it GENEROUSLY with butter (it helps if you let the butter sit out on the counter for a while first so that it’s soft). Sprinkle the top with as much garlic powder as you want. This amount will vary depending on your tastes and what your plans are for later that evening. Then just stick it in an oven set to 425 degrees or so. Bake until the bread is nice and toasty and delicious looking.

You can sprinkle the top with chopped parsley if you’re feeling fancy, but you could also just slice it up and eat it if you’re feeling more hungry than you are fancy. If you’re feeling especially hungry and especially non-fancy you could skip the slicing step all together. Oh yes.