Farmer’s market Croissants

A few weeks ago, I made croissants for the Troy Mother’s Day farmer’s market, and I’ve had so many requests for the recipe, I thought I’d jot it down here. Croissants have a reputation of being complicated to make, but I don’t think they are, just time consuming. I hope you’ll try them, because it’s so satisfying to make this French bakery staple at home, and if you, like me, live very, very far away from the nearest good bakery, sometimes you must take matters into your own hands!

***Allow five hours for initial prep of the dough, 8-18 hours resting time and another two hours to roll, form, rise and bake the rolls. Most of this time is inactive. I usually start the process in the early afternoon, rest the dough overnight and get up and bake in the morning. ***

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter [I use salted sometimes too, and cut the salt down to about a teaspoon]
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten, for egg wash

This recipe makes about 20-25 croissants.

First, make the dough. Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then add yeast, stir, and let sit until it starts to foam. Add the flour and salt and knead until you have a soft, sticky dough. You can use extra flour to make kneading easier if your dough is very sticky.

Form the dough into a rough rectangle and pop it in a plastic bag in the fridge until very cold, about one hour.

When your dough is close to being chilled, begin to prepare your butter. I find the easiest way is to take the three sticks of butter and cut them in half horizontally, then line them up next to each other on a cutting board to make a rectangle.

Now make the butter into one thin, uniform piece as much as possible, by pounding with a rolling pin, so it can more easily incorporate into the dough.

pound

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out. It will spring back and “fight’ you. Let it sit for minute to relax if you want, or just keep rolling until you have a long, thin rectangle of dough.

roll

Scrape the butter off the cutting board in one piece and place it in the middle of your strip of dough.

crop

 

Then fold both ends of the dough over the butter to make an envelope shape [the process is only half done in the picture]:

fold

Roll out thinly, and fold again the same way and put the dough back in the fridge for an hour.

It’s a lot of rolling. Bakeries have rolling machines that can make the dough much thinner than we can by hand.

In the pictures [taken by the lovely Madeline – thank you] I had just gotten home from yoga, and with the amount of rolling you will be doing, you might want to limber up and get some exercise wear on as well. I call it the French housewife workout, and it’s a nice way to offset all the croissants you will be eating later!

roll 2

Then wrap the rough rectangle of dough tightly in a plastic bag or plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 8-18 hours.

When you are ready to bake, take the dough out and roll it, as thinly as you can, into a long rectangle. It might take some time and wrestling to get it as thin as possible and you may have to re roll as you go as the dough springs back.

Cut your first croissant. You want to make as many long, thin, wide based triangles as you can from the dough.

Stretching the dough as you work, start to roll from the wide base of the triangle to make a croissant shape. [I don’t have pictures of this stage, but here are the finished, unbaked rolls]

raw

 

Pre heat your oven to 350F/180C and let the croissants rise in a warm place for about half an hour, then brush them with egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and well risen.

baked

Yum! enjoy. My croissants are never as even as commercial ones, and sometimes they un furl in the oven and look more like snails, but despite their looks, the first warm, crunchy bite always takes me back to an early morning in a little village bakery near Lyon, France, where I ordered croissants and ate them all before I got back to the house.

Because of their high fat content, croissants freeze and re heat beautifully, so pop any leftovers in a bag in the freezer, and thaw at room temp for 10-15 mins before cutting in half and toasting, or crisping in a hot oven for 10 mins.

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The USA’s love of fake cream, and why it has me beat.

I love a good creamy dessert. Custard. Mousse. Trifle [What is a Trifle?]. Creme Brulee. Plain old whipped cream dolloped on warm cake.

But every now and again while we’re in Montana I’ll greedily load my plate with creamy dessert at a potluck or work lunch and after the first bite realize that the “cream” in a dessert is too thick, too greasy and too white to actually be cream.

Americans love whipped topping. And they love to share recipes using whipped topping like this chocolate and marshmallow pie which involves opening a package, a tub, a box, and mixing stuff together.

Made from a hydrogenated blend of vegetable oil and sugar or corn syrup,  whipped topping was invented by New York dairy farmer Robert Rich, in 1945, when world war two rationing affected the availability of dairy foods.

But it was actually the automobile maker Henry Ford whose company was the first to begin experimenting with making cream and milk substitutes from soybeans. Ford was apparently a soybean enthusiast and shared what he knew with Rich, who based his recipe on soybean oil.

Although neither Ford nor Rich were associated with the Seventh Day Adventists, who believe in eating a high fiber, vegetarian diet [John Harvey Kellog, of cornflakes fame, was a member of the church], the religion seems to be at least partly responsible for the early success of Rich’s soybean products.

One of the religions founders, Ellen White, wrote in 1873: “We have always used a little milk and some sugar. This we have never denounced, either in our writings or in our preaching. We believe cattle will become so much diseased that these things will yet be discarded, but the time has not yet come.”

White was onto something – milk and cream, in a time before refrigeration and sanitation, were a bit like Russian roulette. A bad batch could cause serious illness, or death. A person could even contract bovine tuberculosis through contaminated milk.

But not so much sweet whipped vegetable oil: I left this container of whipped topping on my counter overnight and it looked pretty similar in the morning [this is, of course, thanks to preservatives as well as a lack of bacterial contamination from not being an animal product].

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But why has fake cream stayed in the market in the US, while other countries, like the UK and Australia, also suffered food rationing during the war and returned to dairy cream?

The answer partly lies in the US’s historically low wages and the insane cost of private health insurance, which leaves low to middle income households with not much of a budget for food [several friends I’ve talked to pay around $10,000 a year for family of four, and that is considered “good” insurance, where the employer also contributes $10,000-20, 000 annually. I think I’d rather pay a little more in taxes and have universal health care].

As well as being cheaper than cream, whipped topping is convenient because it can be frozen and holds its shape for much longer than whipped cream [it’s often why the slices of cream pie in the revolving pie stands you see in diners here stand up so well, even after hours of display.]

Along with his whipped topping, Rich created a non dairy coffee creamer in 1945 and sensitively called it “coffee whitener” to avoid lawsuits by the dairy industry.

Coffee has been the hot drink of choice in the US since tea was thrown into the sea in Boston in 1773 – a pivotal moment in the American revolution and separation from Britain.

Here in the north west, people still drink lots of drip coffee [much weaker than your average Aussie coffee], and if they’re not drinking it black, they top it off with cream.

But an American is talking about putting cream in coffee, it’s usually a product called Half and Half that they’re talking about, which is half whole/full cream milk and half cream.

But even in the time I’ve been living the states, pre sweetened and flavored non dairy creamer has become a more common addition to coffee.

The picture below shows the scope of brand and flavor of creamer at our tiny IGA supermarket in our town of 900 – french vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, peppermint mocha …

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Some creamers do contain milk, and some are entirely dairy based but sweetened. Some, like Rich’s original, are based entirely on vegetable oils.

The comparison of dairy foods versus hydrogenated vegetable oil foods is not clear cut, except to my taste buds. Many fake dairy products are vegan, and could arguably be a better choice for the environment and animal welfare.

While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was lucky to grow up on fresh goats milk.

Our goats – cared for then by Pauline and Jenny, were fussed over.

I remember them being given spoonfuls of molasses on whole organic oats, sweet chaff, seaweed meal and, when a goat showed any signs of illness, garlic and bunches of parsley and other herbs were added to their food tubs.

Their milk was delicious [and not garlicky at all!] and my love of dairy foods remains pure because of my early experience of respectful animal husbandry.

I hope that the move towards smaller, more animal friendly dairy’s can continue, and spread even to low income areas like our home in Montana.

Just before we left Australia last time, in late 2015, the coffee shops around my home in the Bega Valley [Red cafe and Evolve cafe were two I noticed] started using rich Jersey milk from Tilba Real Dairy to make their lattes and cappuccino’s.

Using fresh, non – homogenized milk makes a delicious difference to a latte, creating thick foam, which is pretty hard to do with 2% milk fat, as is commonly used in coffee shops here.

When we were in Missoula a few weeks ago, I noticed a jug of Kalispell Kreamery milk in the fridge where we were staying.

Pasteurized but not homogenized, the milk had the same sweet taste and thick cream on top as Tilba milk [and the dairy says on it’s website that if a cow has mastitis, they dry her up to allow recovery instead of using antibiotics].

Kalispell is two hours drive from us, and Missoula three hours – a bit far to go for milk, but I hope local suppliers will want to stock this excellent local product soon.

In the meantime, if you are  searching for the fluffy and creamy texture that whipped topping offers, please try my chocolate mousse recipe: it only requires opening a few packages [a carton of cream, some eggs, and chocolate] and the flavor and texture are off the scale.

Chocolate Mousse

4 eggs, separated

10-12 oz/ 300 grams of bittersweet or 60% chocolate chips [or a mixture]

1 small carton whipping cream [half pint, or about 235 ml – I think small cartons of cream are the same size in Aus and US]

 

Melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whip cream and mix in yolks.

Add melted chocolate to cream and yolks mixture and mix well.

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Then – carefully fold the egg whites into chocolate mixture. You want to incorporate the whites, but not deflate them – they are what gives your mousse its ethereal texture.

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Spoon mousse into pretty little cups, glasses or ramekins and chill at least 4 hours. The texture continues to improve if left overnight, but do eat it within 24 hours.

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I recently tried sandwiching thin layers of chocolate cake with the mousse and chilling the whole four layer cake for 8 hours and it turned out beautifully. 

 

 

I found information about Robert Rich, Henry Ford, Seventh Day Adventists, Ellen White and milk contaminants at these sites.

Ministry, international journal of pastors: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1989/02/milk-has-the-time-come

Soy Info Center: http://www.soyinfocenter.com/books/170

Obit of Robert Rich: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/17/local/me-passing17

Bovine Tuberculosis factsheet: http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/bovine_tuberculosis.pdf

 

Thanks for reading!