And now that I'm funemployed, that time has come!
So, last week I rolled up my sleeves and gave this well-rated croissant recipe over at Fine Cooking's website a shot. Their recipe takes three days to make but I made mine in two, taking suggestions from some of the commenters that the dough can rest for an couple hours in the refrigerator after being made rather than overnight. I also only made two plain croissants and filled the rest with my own concoctions. The first was a Greek-style filling, complete with feta, spinach, garlic, dill, and oregano. The second was the classic French ham & cheese. But the third was something very special, candied blood oranges. I love love love love love blood oranges. Every year I look forward to January and February when the markets here in Los Angeles are awash with them. If you've never had a blood orange, it's worth tracking them down. They taste like oranges but with a hint of raspberry and more sweetness, I think most Whole Foods carry them at this time of year.
Anywho, after a little elbow grease and much waiting, I was incredibly happy when the croissants actually came out. I was nervous that I had rolled the dough too hard or that the fillings would interfere somehow with the baking process, but it all turned out wonderfully. Nice and flaky and buttery, just the way a croissant should be. I will say, though, that the baking sheet you use will affect the baking time. I used a metal baking sheet for some of the croissants and my le creuset rectangle casserole dish for the rest, and the ones in the le creuset pan took about 6 minutes longer to bake than the others, so while your croissants are baking make sure to keep a close eye on them and go by what they actually look like rather than the time, everyone's ovens are different and have their own special "hot spots".
I also just wanted to give you all a head's up that I am working on something new for the blog, a little side series that I think will be fun and that I've been wanting to do for a while but actually have the time for now. I'll be posting my first "side project" in a few days, I hope you all like it!
4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 and 1/4 Cups Butter, cold and hard
1/2 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Cold Water
1/2 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Cold Whole Milk
1/4 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter, softened
1 Tablespoon Plus 1/2 Teaspoon Instant Yeast
2 and 1/4 Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Water
Candied Blood Oranges
1 Blood Orange, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Spinach & Feta Filling
1 Cup Fresh Spinach, chopped
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/3 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Teaspoon Fresh Oregano, diced
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Dill
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
Ham & Cheese
1/4 Cup Grated Gruyere or Cheddar Cheese
6 Slices Quality Canadian Bacon
First, make the dough. Mix together the flour, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, milk, sugar, yeast, salt, and three tablespoons of softened butter in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on low speed for three minutes, then raise the speed to medium and mix for another three minutes. Wipe the sides of the bowl down with a spatula if neccessary. Place the dough on a lightly floured plate, wrap it well with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to rest for 2 hours.
While the dough is resting, begin cutting the 1 and 1/4 cups of cold butter into 1/2 inch thick slices and then arrange them in a 5 to 6 inch square on top of a piece of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and begin pounding the butter with a rolling pin with light strokes, then begin pounding harder as the butter pieces start to stick together into one large piece. Pound the butter until the square is about 7 and 1/2 inches wide & long, then peel back the top layer of parchment paper and trim the edges of the butter square so that they are straight, placing the trimmings in the center of the square, placing the parchment paper back over it, and pounding the trimming gently into the center of the square until flat. Place the encased butter sheet on a flat surface inside the refrigerator.
Once the dough has had a rest, take it out of the fridge and place it on a lightly floured flat surface. Roll it into a 10 and 1/2 inch square, brush off any extra flour, and take the butter square out of the refrigerator. Remove it from the sheets of parchment paper and place the butter square in the center of the dough square so that the butter's corners are centered along the straight sides of the dough square. Now gently pull up each corner of the dough and wrap it over the butter and into the center of the square and repeat with all the of corner flaps. Now press the edges together to create a seal that keeps the butter inside of the dough.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough and begin pressing on it with the rolling pin to elongate it, and then begin rolling it out even longer. We're trying to lengthen the dough now into a long 8 x 24 inch rectangle. Try to keep the edges of the dough straight while you're rolling. Once the dough reaches 8 x 24 inches in size, brush off any excess flour and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over the dough, leaving 1/3 of the dough still exposed. Pick up the exposed dough and fold it over the previously folded flap. Place the dough on a flat surface, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 20 minutes to relax the dough.
Repeat the rolling, folding, and relaxing process again, now rolling in the direction of the two open ends. Repeat this process a third time, then place the folded dough on a lightly floured flat surface, cover well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Sometime early the next day, prepare the fillings. For the spinach and feta filling, simply mix together all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until combined, then cover and refrigerate. To make the candied blood oranges, bring the sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a boil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Then lower the heat to a steady simmer and place the orange slices in the syrup in a single layer. Allow to simmer for 40-50 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until the whites of the slices become slightly translucent. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then place the orange slices on a wire rack to allow any excess syrup to drip off. Reserve the syrup for your own use and place it in the refrigerator.
Now finish making the croissants. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, lightly flour it on both sides, place it on a lightly floured work surface and press down firmly along it's length with the rolling pin to help invigorate and lengthen it. Begin rolling out the dough to make a very long rectangle, about 8 x 44 inches (I know it seems crazy, but it is possible, trust me!) If the dough starts to shrink back as you roll it, fold it into thirds, put it in the freezer for 10 minutes, and then remove it, unfold it, and start working the dough again. Once the dough is about 8 x 44 inches, trim off the edges so that they are completely straight. After trimming the edges the dough should still be at least 40 inches long, if not roll it out a little bit more until it reaches 40 inches in length.
Lay a tape measure along the top edge of the dough and make a small knick on the top edge of the dough every 5 inches, there should be 7 marks when you're done. Now move the tape measure to the bottom edge of the dough and make a small knick on the bottom edge of the dough at 2 and 1/2 inches from the end of the dough. Make knicks at 5-inch intervals from this point along the bottom edge of the dough.
Now you can begin cutting the dough. Lay the tape measure or a ruler at the top corner of the dough so that it crosses down to the first cut on the bottom edge of the dough, use a pizza cutter to cut along this line. Repeat this process with the next set of marks until you reach the other end of the dough. Now flip the angle of the tape measure/ruler to connect the other top corner with the nearest bottom knick and start cutting along this line to create a triangle. Repeat with the rest of the knicks until the dough has been cut into 15 triangles and you have a small extra piece of dough at each end.
Before rolling, cut a 1/2 inch long knick in the center of the short side of each triangle, this will help the croissant bend when you're making it into a crescent shape. Now, take a triangle and, with one hand holding each end, gently pull on it until it is 10 inches long. Then lay it flat with the knicked side closest to you. Place a bit of your filling of choice on the dough along the kicked side, and then begin to roll the dough over the filling towards the pointy end, flaring your fingers out as you roll the dough to help widen the croissant and pressing firmly enough that the layers stick together, but not so hard that they start to smear into each other.
Stop rolling when the pointy end is directly underneath the croissant and bring the ends in towards the center and press the ends together. (Don't worry, the ends will eventually come apart and form a nice crescent shape). Place the croissant on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and repeat until all of the croissants have been assembled.
Now it is time to proof them. Whisk the egg with the teaspoon of water until just combined, then brush the croissants lightly with the mixture. Set the egg white mixture aside for later use. Place the pans in a non-windy location where the temperature is between 70-80 degrees fahrenheit and allow them to sit for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. About 15 minutes before they're done proofing, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for convection ovens or 425 degrees Fahrenheit for conventional ovens and place the oven racks in the top and lower third slots of the oven.
Once they're proofed, lightly brush the croissants with the egg white mixture again. Place them in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, then switch the pans places places and rotate the pans and bake for another 8-12 minutes. The type of pan you use and your oven will also affect the baking time, so it is best to keep a very close eye on them when baking. When they are done they will be a nice and rich golden brown. If the outsides are browning too quickly, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and cover the baking sheet with tin foil. When done, remove the pans from the oven and allow the croissants to cool on the pans.