30 January, 2009

The Paris Beat: Chartres

Massacre Street
Originally uploaded by Jeanlouise: Jolie

13 January, 2009

The Paris Beat: Christmas and Croissant Lesson

Buche de Noel in County Waterford

Dear Macmac:

First of all, happy new years to you. I hope that you had a great holidays and enjoyed your time slaving over the smoker for the relatives. I myself had a great time. . .especially cooking with the crew in a real life sized kitchen. We whipped up several batches of pain raisin, pain au chocolat, ham & cheese croissants and a buche de noel complete with very real looking Italian meringue mushrooms!

I think I am now at the point where I feel like croissants are in the bag. It’s no longer a serious production to put them together and a little advance planning makes things really simple. So what has caused this? Besides plenty of practice, two pieces of information thanks to my fantastic chefs at cordon bleu. Firstly, the detrempe (or initial dough mass) does not, should not in fact, be kneaded. Oh, if only I had known this before I broke mom’s kitchenaid while working up dough for croissants. Ok, so all you do is dump everything together in a bowl and stir it up so that everything in well combined (the flour, yeast (instant or fresh), sugar, salt, water). Let this marinate overnight in the fridge. C’est ca. The kneading is not necessary because you are going to be giving the dough enough of a workout as you do your turns (or folding). Which brings me to my second major lesson: croissants only need three simple turns. In my pre-cordon bleu days, I always did six. This is what Dionne Lucas recommended, so I thought it must be. As it turns out, three is enough (but puff still wants six, ok!). So when it comes to folding in the butter, you do two simple turns, chill 15 min, then one final turn, cut, shape, rise and bake. Or if you have the time, let the dough rest overnight. I’ve gotten much better flavors this way. We have these real fancy proofing machines at school set at ideal rising conditions. Well, when these were full, chef put our croissants in a very low oven for a rise. And it works: instead of taking 2 hours, I get properly risen croissants in less than 30 min. Careful though, if the oven is too warm, the butter will leak out and that is no good. An oven temp of around 90 f or 50 c is ideal for rising. Oh, do I have one more pearl: egg wash. Two coats is the best, with one coat done before rising and another done just before they go into the oven. Best looking croissants you ever saw, deep golden brown beauties.

Now what! Pain aux raisins is a very yummy, easy thing to do with croissant dough. Roll out a rectangle of dough, maybe 12x20 inches. Arrange the dough so that the short side is facing you. Roll out one short end so thing it is basically smashed on to the counter (super thin). Spread a thin layer of pastry cream over the top 5/8ths of the rectangle. Sprinkle with raisins. Brush the smashed short side with a bit of water or egg wash (this will be the glue for the roll), and roll the dough up into a log. Cut off ½ inch slices and place them on a baking sheet. Let rise until doubled then bake until golden brown. Brush with a simple sugar syrup as soon as they come out of the oven and you will get a very nice shiny finish. Not that you will have too much time to look at them, especially if there are any Eliots or Christophers in your general vicinity.

Croissant dough:
1kg AP flour
25g salt
150g sugar
30g fresh yeast (or 12g instant yeast)
550 ml water (more or less depending on the season and the flour)
600g butter for the turns