Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Homemade Christmas Croissants! (aka Don't Try This at Home)

Have you ever thought, "I should totally try to make croissants at home (like not the ones in the tube)"? Of course you have! Who hasn't?! I know I have. Multiple times.

Allow me to divest you of this brilliant idea.

Here is the recipe I used. "Classic Croissants" from the Fine Cooking website. You can read the recipe itself, and they have SOME step-by-step photos, but I'm going to show you what I did.

First note: THIS RECIPE TAKES THREE DAYS TO COMPLETE.

Since I wanted to have these on Christmas Wednesday, I had to start on Monday (or "Christmas Adam" as the internets is so fond of saying this year. I saw it first attributed to Jon Acuff's wife; I don't know where the rest of you got it.)

DAY ONE: Make the dough. That's the easy part.

DAY TWO: Create a big old butter pocket.

I took the advice I read in a comment or somewhere and made guidelines. One smaller square for the initial layout...

And a second for the final shape.

Note: if you prefer not to have graphite touch your food, be sure to draw on the "back" side of the parchment.


Dough with butter on.



 Now comes the rolling. Good gravy, Mabel, the rolling.

"I'm just starting! I haven't lost the will to live yet!"

Roll it out until it is about 22 inches long. Now it's a long piece of dough with one butter layer inside.

Fold a third of it.

And the other third.
At this point, you have 6 layers of dough and 3 layers of butter. You have to freeze the resultant block for 20 minutes. Then repeat.

Roughly 22 inches, but who really cares.

Now 18 layers of dough and 9 layers of butter.
Freeze it for 20 minutes AGAIN. Hope you didn't have any plans!

Last roll-out. The edges aren't happy.
By the time you wrap and refrigerate the dough for the last time, you have 54 layers of dough and 27 layers of butter.

DAY THREE: Merry Christmas! You're going to be busy!

The breakfast pizza recipe is here!*

You're supposed to roll this out to 41 inches or something, but after a combined half hour of rolling, it was somewhere in the 30-inch vicinity, at the longest points, and I call "close enough."

You're supposed to use a yard stick and measure and straight edge, but, come on, people. Pizza cutter, and knowing that they're supposed to be pretty much triangles, and boom!

Oooh, right, they're supposed to have points. Whoopsie!

Fortunately, I had some good-looking help.


The recipe said that this would make 15. We made 18, not including the turn-over I did with the scraps and the little ring of dough one of the cats managed to pull off the cookie sheet before we threw her outside for the rest of the morning. Our croissants were fatter than they were supposed to be because I could not roll out anything anymore.

That ended up being okay, because as it was, butter was coming out of the dough as we worked with it. It's the weirdest feeling. As we'd pull on the points to elongate the dough, you could feel that it wasn't a solid block of dough. 

Egg wash looks nasty up close. Their pictures look a lot tidier. I call "fake."

We made sure the chocolate chips were visible on the chocolate ones, so we wouldn't try to make ham sandwiches with those croissants.
They bake for 20ish minutes, and you have to move the trays around.

We ended up "losing" a lot of butter due to our handling of the dough. I know there's a way to prevent that, but you have to be so meticulous and careful, and ours still turned out fine.

Unfortunately, all of that butter in a 450-degree oven set our smoke alarm off three times.

Merry Christmas, neighborhood! Hope you weren't trying to sleep late!

When I pulled the croissants out of the oven, I was a little disappointed at how brown/black the bottoms were. But it's just super brown from the butter; they aren't and don't taste burnt.

Croissants with flash.

Croissants without flash.



Yes, they're beautiful! Yes, they taste great! Yes, I can see how making the dough thinner would help the flaky layer effect continue deep into the croissant (which is pretty moist and chewy in ours). But I'm plenty happy with these, and we'll enjoy them for days.

However...

In the future, I will purchase croissants. This was a lot of work for a generous baker's dozen pastries, and a fun experiment, but now that I've done it, I will appreciate paying $3-7 for a really good croissant that someone else made.



______________________________

*The breakfast pizza recipe is the third time I've made something with the instructions "make a well/crack the egg" and had the egg go EVERYWHERE. What am I doing wrong? "Make the well deeper!" Well, yeah, I get that. But this was supposed to be a pizza, and if I'd put it in a muffin tin, the shape would have been off. If I'd made the pizzas wider, then I wouldn't have had enough dough on the bottom to keep the egg from leaking through.

These ended up being beautiful AND delicious, but when I saw that white oozing all over the cookie sheet, I was initially extremely disappointed! I'd love your advice!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Baking

Last week, I spent most of Wednesday baking. First, allow me to say this:

I needed this much butter.

My plan was to make spritz cookies to decorate and trade for Cookie Day, and then to make some chocolate peppermint pull-apart bread to take to our small group Christmas White Elephant exchange.

The recipes I used for the spritz cookies (and the main reason for so. much. butter.) were both from Allrecipes. There was a chocolate spritz batch and a Swedish spritz batch. They are both good recipes. For some reason, the green dough was a little more moist than the reddish (in which I used MORE food coloring because I only had pink, not red, and was trying to darken it up a bit by adding purple then added yellow to bring it back toward orange from blue), so my "trees" looked more like amorphous vaguely-triangular blobs. Then again, they were the first ones I tried, and I hadn't used a cookie press in years. Perhaps if I'd gone back and tried them again at the end...

Speaking of the cookie press, when I taught a chocolate class to homeschoolers quite a few years ago, one of the students sold me her press for $5 because she never used it. I love it and I think about her every time I make spritz cookies!


Ready to decorate! (Or not, if you'd prefer them plain. They're great like this!)


For the bread, I used the Chocolate Peppermint Pull-Apart recipe from Hello Giggles, a website that is not typically about baking and does not, I think proofread the recipes.

So, this recipe makes a very delicious finished product, but I would add:

1) At the beginning, to proof the yeast, you use 1/2 cup of the sugar.
2) Before you add the flour to the yeast mixture, sift/whisk/stir in the other dry ingredients (baking soda and powder, and salt).

The picture on the site doesn't look hugely appetizing, and neither do mine. But trust me that this is really good stuff.


Here it is before I cut it. The recipe says to roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness, but that was not happening for me. I rolled it for thirty minutes and got that "post-push-ups" feeling. I ended up with great chunks of chocolate bread, which I think is okay. It cuts through the sweetness of the "filling," so it isn't treacly.



The recipe mentions that you might have some squares left over. I felt like it was plenty to make two loaves.


I had folded the dough over on itself several times and let it rest for a few moments, trying to control the shape and the size. I love the way it rose, with layers like this.


I do think that I made the glaze too thick, but it was still delicious!

Then, the next day, I decorated the spritz cookies. (The first loaf was gone already!)


Friday, December 13, 2013

Downtown Christmas, Visit 2

Last night, Daphne and I walked down to see the window art installments on 2nd Street. While the displays are nothing like, say the downtown New York City department store vignettes (or, really, even the downtown Dallas Macy's windows we saw last year), they were still pretty cool, and we saw a lot of festive things.

One thing I noticed as I was uploading these (and I had to ditch a couple of photos) is that the dark/night pictures look fine digitally, on the camera and on my computer, but then when I upload them (to here or Picasa or anywhere else I've tried so far), they get very pixelated. I'm guessing that the sites upload a lower-quality version to save on bandwidth, but I can't figure out how to make it upload the hi-def version, so you're going to have to trust me when I tell you that I got some neat pictures that you're just not going to get to see.

Not many lights, but the agave is creatively adorned.

Christmas boots. Anything is better than Christmas shoes.

Stopped by the Capitol to see if there was a tree or anything, but apparently that might be culturally insensitive.

No Christmas trees, but the doors are beautiful.


The Capitol Christmas tree, as the music program was starting.


World-famous 6th Street, halls decked.

The Driskell Hotel.


Daphne hadn't seen the gingerbread village yet, so we stopped by Four Seasons.

A Christmas tree in a corner office or condo. Thought about taking my monopod; next time. :)

I was taking a picture up Congress from Cesar Chavez, then Daphne yelled at me to go because the light was turning.

The lobsters were bedazzled.



This whole scene was made out of clothes! The waves were jeans, the shark was dress shirts. His teeth were high heels.


Toy Joy used to be up near us to the north, but now it's on 2nd Street. It's a really fun store!

On the roof of an outdoor concert venue near our house.

Another succulent display.