Recipe for Disaster: Hurry Up With My Damn Croissants (or No More Croissants in Fort Greene)
Meredith Graves for the Village Voice
Folks, I’m not waving, I’m drowning (in Kanye thinkpieces).
Kanye announced a track listing for his album. Then he changed the title. Then he added more songs, then he rearranged some songs. Then he got in an internet argument and did some slut-shaming. Did you know he doesn’t know anything about weed? Kanye talked about pants. Kanye likes to get his butthole touched. Kanye doesn’t want to get his kids involved…this time. Kanye denies liking to get his butthole touched. Kanye announces that his new album will be released via theatrical screening. Kanye’s wife and former partner get together to take a selfie, which is almost like a UN special task force being called in to stop Kanye from saying anything else about either of them on the internet. Kanye did it in a box, Kanye did it with a fox (OK, a couple of them, if I'm being real with you).
I love the man and I love his music and I really love that accusations regarding his butthole have replaced starlets’ psychiatric episodes as tabloid fodder in this, the second decade of our beautiful century. But naturally, I am still thinking about an unresolved Kanye issue from years past, one that has been chiefly met with documentation that, albeit false, was somehow initially reported by Time magazine.
I know. He’s talking to the waiter, or the bellhop, or whoever else is bringing him the croissants, not the baker herself. Kanye doesn’t have time to stand around the back rooms of bakeries and monitor for productivity. But if he did — oh, if he did — he would learn what I learned over the last three days. He would learn why this column is late when, frankly, I’m always on time.
Hurry up with what now? Croissants take an unbelievably long fucking time to make. Holy Mother of Christ, this is the most momentous project I’ve taken on since I rekindled my love of baking. I don’t make pastry. I definitely don’t make laminated pastry. Given the history of the croissant, lovingly and incredibly documented by Lily Starbuck over at Lucky Peach, one could argue that Kanye is metaphorically asking us to speed up nearly 500 years of trade and science and development. Hurry up with my damn Mona Lisa. Hurry up with my Large Hadron Collider. The croissant is an objet d’art.
If you’re smart, you’ll time this over three days, or two if you work from home. You’ll need to start at an appropriate hour to allow the dough time to rest and chill between turns. Hell, you’ll need to learn what a turn is. And a book fold. And lamination. You’ll need to be gentle-but-not-too-gentle with a dough that eventually gets folded something like 74 times. Seventy. Four. Layers. Of. Flour. And. Butter.
Speaking of which, remember when I ran you through a tiny bit of the science behind butter consistency? Here’s another great example. Laminated pastry must be chilled in between rollings because you don’t want the butter and flour layers to compress into each other and combine. You want the butter to remain solid and separate. That way, when you bake it, much like pie crust, the butter will cook out, leaving gaps between the layers of pastry. Melted or even soft butter would be compressed down into the dough.
And yeah, I hate this. At the time of writing, I haven’t even managed to get mine in the oven, so who knows if I compressed my butter too much. You can see my layers in the live-tweets I made yesterday, so I’m assuming they’re all still in there, but who knows. I’m at the "resting triangle" stage, meaning all I have left to do is proof, wash, and bake.
The recipe I used was one I found on Iron Whisk. I followed it to the letter, including cutting away the edges of dough to expose the butter layers. It has 10,000 steps. You start with a dough called a détrempe, which just means something like "the dough that you use to make laminated pastry," and then you make a beurrage, which means "giant butter object" or something.
And then you sign your life over to the croissant, as I have done. As well as your Twitter — I was asked by a pal to live-tweet my impending psychosis, with pictures, so follow my twitter if you want the play-by-play of my descent into a lightly laminated hellscape. I got trapped by laminated pastry. No regrets.
Real-Ass French-Ass Croissants!
(recipe adapted from Iron Whisk)
For the dough:
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (a packet plus 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 cup + 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
For the beurrage:
1 cup butter (two sticks — I used one salted and one unsalted, as the recipe didn’t specify)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon water
1. Make the dough: Warm 1/4 c. milk to about 100 degrees. I did this by warming 1/2 c. milk to allow for evaporation, then pouring 1/4 c. into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add your yeast and stir a little. Wait five minutes for the yeast to proof — that is, to get foamy and bubbly.
2. When your yeast proofs, add sugar and the 3/4 c. of cold milk.
3. Sift your 3 c. flour into a medium-size bowl.
4. Transfer your yeast mixture to a medium bowl, then add 2 c. of sifted flour, as well as that teaspoon of salt. Stir until you get a sticky, gloopy dough that kind of looks like a sourdough starter.
5. Flour the shit out of your counter, then plop the dough down on it. That remaining cup of flour is for use as needed — kneaded? — to get the dough to turn into a neat little ball after a couple of minutes of kneading.
6. Using a razor or a real dough cutter or a sharp knife or whatever, cut an X about 1" into the surface of the dough ball. Transfer to a plate, dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Apparently you can also leave this overnight, if you want to start your dough the night before.
7. Make the beurrage, or butter block: Beat the cold butter with a hand mixer (or a big wooden spoon if you’re a fucking masochist) until it’s smooth, then beat in the 2 tbsp. of flour.
8. Transfer the butter blob onto a floured surface and mold into a 4 x 4" square. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill along with the detrempe dough. You will be ready to work with both when they have the same pressure resistance — not the same temperature, mind you, but the same feeling when you gently press on them.
Making the dough (directions taken directly from the Iron Whisk recipe to allow for physical inch/cm measurements — and I SERIOUSLY suggest looking through the picture guide for this one if you’re like me and can’t do origami based on written instructions. This part took me two days, as I didn’t have "at least six hours" and instead let my dough chill in the fridge overnight, throwing it in the freezer for half an hour this morning):
9. Place the detrempe on a lightly floured work surface so that the tips of the X you cut are at approximately the 2, 4, 7, and 10 o'clock positions. It should now look like four quadrants of dough at the north, east, south, and west positions.
10. Using the heel of your hand, press each quadrant away, flattening and stretching it about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm). Make sure that the center square of the "clover" is thicker than the "leaves."
11. Roll each cloverleaf with a rolling pin until it is about 6 inches long and 5 inches wide, still leaving a raised square in the middle. Your goal here is to roll the leaves thin enough so that their combined thickness is equal to the thickness of the center square.
12. Place the beurrage onto the square you just made.
13. Take the flap, or leaf, of dough that is farthest away from you and fold it onto the butter. Take the flap that is nearest you and do the same. Continue with the other two flaps, until you have a square piece of dough.
14. Take your rolling pin and lightly hit the dough a few times to distribute the butter in it.
15. Roll the dough into a 17 x 9 inch (43 by 23 cm) rectangle and cut away a few millimeters from each side to reveal the butter. If you don’t see butter, cut away more until you do. Make sure to repeat cutting away a little bit of dough for every fold to ensure there aren’t areas of the dough where layers of butter are missing. Also, never put the cut-away dough back into the main dough, as it will ruin the lamination.
16. Complete a single turn of the dough by folding the left third of the dough into the center, and then the right third of the dough onto the left. This way, you should end up with a rectangle that is about 6 inches wide by 9 inches high (14 cm by 23 cm).
17. After folding, take the rolling pin and lightly roll it over the dough to press the layers together. Then, refrigerate everything for at least one hour, and then place the dough in the freezer for half an hour.
18. Roll out the dough into another 17 x 9 inch (43 by 23 cm) rectangle to prepare to do a book turn. Remember to cut away some dough!
19. Complete a book turn of the dough by folding the short right edge of the dough 2 inches (5 cm) to the left (this is the spine of the “book”). Then, fold the short left edge of the dough to the right to meet (but not overlap) the right edge (this is the pages of the “book”). After that, fold the dough from left to right so that it lines up.
20. Using your rolling pin, gently roll over the layers to compress them together. Place the dough in the fridge to chill for at least another hour, and then place in the freezer for thirty minutes.
21. When you take the dough out of the fridge roll it into another 17 x 9 inch (43 by 23cm) rectangle and do another single turn of the dough after cutting away some dough. Compress the layers slightly using your rolling pin.
22. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least six hours, and then place in the freezer for thirty minutes.
Making the actual croissants:
23. Roll the dough into a rectangle 9 inches high by however much you can wide. Use a knife to cut off any uneven parts so that the dough is perfectly rectangular. Mark points 4 inches apart on the bottom of the rectangle, and then 4 inches apart on the top of the rectangle, starting 2 inches away from the edge. Cut along these points to create triangles. Your first and last triangle will be smaller than the others. Place all triangles in the fridge to chill for thirty minutes.
24. Take one of the triangles that was not from the ends and hold it in your hands. Stretch the base of the triangle so that it is about 5 inches (13 cm) wide. Then, stretch the triangle until it is about 11 inches (28 cm) long. For the half triangles at the ends, combine them by overlapping them slightly and pressing together. Then, stretch them like the regular triangles.
25. Starting from the base of one triangle, roll it up to the tip. That’s all you need to do to make a straight French croissant. As you roll, try to stretch the dough slightly. Your goal is to have seven "steps," caused by three full rolls of the dough.
26. Continue rolling the other triangles and place them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with the tip of the croissant at the bottom so that it doesn’t unravel.
27. Brush the croissants with egg wash (an egg beaten with a teaspoon of water).
28. To proof the croissants, leave them at room temperature for a few hours until they are doubled in size.
29. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly brush the croissants again with egg wash (double egg washing helps them develop a nice crispy exterior). Bake for about 15–25 minutes, or until the croissants are golden brown.
Optional step 30: die, or have a stiff drink if you're not trying for a Sober February like yours truly, or smoke a fat joint and listen to Kanye while eating croissants, provided they come out correctly.
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