23 December 2010

La petite déjeuner française

Croissants/Pain au chocolat
Recipe by New Complete Book of Breads, Bernard Clayton


Butter Block
3 tbsp flour
340 g unsalted butter

600 g flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
42 g fresh yeast
63 ml tepid water
250 - 375 ml tepid whole milk
125 ml half-and-half, tepid*
1 tsp water
70 g chocolate, chopped (for pain au chocolat only)

1 egg
1 tbsp water

*Half-and-half is a mixture of milk and heavy cream (50 % of each).

1.Butter Block: Sprinkle the flour over the butter and blend together on the work surface. On a length of foil, fashion a 16 cm of soft butter; fold over the sides of the foil to enclose. Place in the fridge to chill for 2 - 3 hours.

The butter needs to be at room temperature. This means taking the butter an houror so early to reach a workable temperature. The block of butter should not break (too cold), nor be oily or slippery (too warm), when bent slighty.

2.Dough: While the butter is chilling, prepare the dough. In a large bowl, blend 300 g of the flour with salt and sugar. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add it and the warmed milk and half-and-half to the flour mixture. Stir the dough kindly, but firmly with a wooden spoon to thoroughly blend the batterlike dough.

3.Stir in additional flour, about 60 g at a time, to make a soft, but not sticky, dough (it will siffen when chilled.) Knead by hand to form a solid mass. This begins the process of cooling the dough and at the same time allowing it to rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The longer you keep it in the refrigerator, the better the taste.

4.Place the dough on a floured work surface and press it into a 26 cm square. Unwrap the block of butter and lay the block diagonally on the dough. Bring each point of dough into the centre, overlapping the edges at least 3 cm. Press the dough into a neat package. With a heavy rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, approx. 20 cm x 45 cm. The dimension is not critical. If the butter seems to be breaking into small pieces under the dough rather than remaining solid, allow the dough/butter to warm a few minutes.

5.Fold the length of dough into thirds, as for a letter. Turn so that the open ends are a twelve and six o'clock. Roll again into a rectangle. This time, fold both ends into the middle and then close, as one would a book. The dough should now be in 4 layers. Wrap the package of dough in an old tea towel, aluminium foil or plastic wrap. Place the wraped dough in the fridge to relax and chill for an hour or two.

6.Remove the dough from the fridge and place on the floured work surface. Unwrap, roll out and fold in thirds, as for a letter. Remember, don't be scared of the dough. The dough should be scared of you. You might want to work with it. This step is thefinal turn before it is rolled out and cut into croissants. Wrap the dough loosely again. Place the package in a plastic bag so moisture will be retained. Leave in the fridge 4 - 6 hour or overnight.

The longer it stays in the fridge, the better the taste. If you have time to let it stay overnight, it certainly is worth the wait.

7.Mix together the egg and 1 tbsp of water. Have ready the eg wash, a knife or pastry cutter. Sprinkle work surface with flour and roll the dough until it is a generous 26 cm x 97 cm rectangle, and most importantly, about 6 mm thick. This is a crucial dimension, since it determines the size and texture of the croissants. Trim irregularities to make the strip uniform in width. Cut the strip lengthwise to make two 13 cm wide pieces. Here you have to make a decision: do you want croissants or pain au chocolat?

For croissants: You'll have to cut the dough into triangles. If you want, you can roll the triangles to make it wider. Then, starting from the long side of the triangle, roll the dough into the traditional croissant shape. You might need to push the tip of the croissant into the crescent to make sure it stays there. Place the croissants crescent on a baking sheet and allow to rise for 1 - 2 hours, or until they're double in volume.This is important, otherwise they'll rise too much in the oven, giving them somewhat bizarre shapes.

For pain au chocolat: Mark each of the two strips into rectangles, 10 cm wide on the bottom. Separate the rectangles, place them on a baking sheet and chill for 15 - 20 minutes. Place one tbsp of chocolate on one tip of each rectangle. Roll the dough into the traditional pain au chocolat shape, by rolling the rectangle from one tip to the other.

8.Preheat the oven to 220C. Bake the pain au chocolat for 22 - 25 minutes, or until golden. The croissants might need some more time, but this depends on your oven.

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