With croissants of course. Pain au chocolat especially. One or two of those and I’m good for at least a full weekend of laying on the couch reading technical manuals. Laminated pastry may or may not have the same effect on your spouse, but you won’t know until you try, will you? So here, if you’ve ever wanted to know, is how to make a great croissant.
Start with the croissant dough recipe here. I generally only make about half the finished dough into croissants right away. The rest I freeze for another time (even on her best day, the wife could never put away two dozen of these things at a time, but I digress). So, starting with about a 1 1/2 pound piece of dough, roll it out into a sheet about 20 inches long by 15 inches high, a quarter to a third of an inch thick, like so:
Next, cut it into quarters.
If you’re making traditional “crescent”-shaped croissants (or is that redundant?), cut the quarters from corner to corner into triangles.
You’ll be left with a piece of dough that isn’t quite symmetrical.
No problem, just tug on the bottom corners until it is:
Now, you want to make about a 3/4″ slit up the middle…
…fold the bottom flaps up and pull them outward a little…
…then just roll that puppy up.
Stop when you get most of the way up. You want to leave about a half-inch “tail” in the back so the croissant doesn’t start to unroll as it proofs and/or bakes.
Now just curl the ends down and you’re done. Easy!
Pain au chocolate (“chocolate bread”) is even easier. For that you just cut one of your rectangles in half the short way.
Give it a little stretch to lengthen it (if necessary), then drop about an ounce of your favorite chocolate in the center.
Then just fold in the sides and turn the roll over so the seam side is down.
It’s possible to buy special pain au chocolate “chocolate sticks”, but I don’t suggest it. They’re useful in a bakery, but to my mind a waste of money for the home baker. Much higher quality chocolate is available in bar form, and anyway it’s fun to experiment with different varieties.
Once your croissants are shaped all you need to do is spray them with a little cooking spray to keep the skins supple, then proof them for about an hour until they look like so:
Notice that while they are nicely puffy, they aren’t “doubled” as some recipes instruct. My experience is that by the time croissants “double” their shaping size they are in fact over-proofed and will emerge rather flat from the oven. At this point you just paint them with egg wash, even and especially the dough edges. This flies in the face of conventional laminated dough wisdom since you usually don’t want to stick the edges of the thin dough sheets together. However in this case the egg wash acts like a sealant, keeping the butter from running out. Bake them at 400 for about 15 minutes until golden.
For best eating, let them cool down to room temperature…if you can resist them that long.