Thursday, August 30, 2012

Croissants ala Cobb

Famed ball player and easily enraged bigot Ty Cobb said memorably of our National Pastime:
Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It's no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It's a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest.

That quote has absolutely nothing to do with making croissants, but the idea of a man of such notoriously foul temperament as Cobb using a word like "mollycoddles" with a straight face is hilarious to me, and you'll need to have a sense of humor to make this recipe, because, like Cobb, it's a ferocious pain in the ass.

Oh, and I hope you have some fancy pants, maybe something in a Zubaz or a Z Cavaricci, because this is a fancy pants kind of recipe. Word. When making croiss…

you: (irritated) ahem

me: What? What the hell do you think you're doing? I'm trying to write a recipe here, dick. This isn't an absurdist blog.

you: I'm bored. Let's play some Sega Genesis.

me: Sega Ge… what the fuck is wrong with you?

you: Me? What's wrong with you, chief? Let's throw on some Color Me Badd! I taped some songs off the radio. There's DJ chatter over the beginning, but...

me: It's 2012, not 1991. Asshole.

you: You're saying one thing, these sweet Zubaz pants are saying another…

me: Can you just sit quietly and wait from the Dream Team to exist?

you: Dream?... Team?

me: Nevermind. I think New Jack City is playing at the dollar theater, how about you…. Aaaaand you're gone. Perfect.

Wow, having a made up conversation with a not real version you is exhausting work.

Making croissants kind of is too, as I alluded to before you rudely fake interrupted me. There's a lot of waiting, which is something you usually say to make a long recipe sound easy. Unfortunately, there's tricky shit involved in between the waiting periods. I know, bullshit, right? People that make these things for a living must either have an autism-like focus or be addicted to xanax. I've made these croissants several times, and I'm still certain I'm going to fuck them up every time. I don't -- they turn out beautifully --but the emotional stress takes its toll. I used to be 23. I've aged like 9 years since then.

Anyway, that was a really weird intro to a difficult recipe. Here's an awkward transition, and cue difficult recipe:

(makes 8)

2.5 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 packet active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup warmed milk
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp butter
egg wash (1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp cold water)

Hello, and thanks for reading this intro to croissant making.

Croissants are a yeast pastry comprised of layers and layers of buttery, flaky... you know what a croissant is like. You get the layers by enveloping a flat square of butter in a yeast dough, then folding it over itself multiple times. The steam created from the water in the butter gives them their airiness. Butter is very difficult to manipulate** unless it's at the proper temperature, and it changes temperature quickly, which is why this recipe takes so fucking long -- you have to keep chilling the butter***, or else it acts like a shifty teenager crossed with a toddler who has decided to just go limp rather than continue on any further.

Mix the 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and milk and 2 tbsp butter into a shaggy dough ball. Knead the dough for a few minutes, until it's smooth and elastic. Let it rise until it's more than doubled in size. Several hours or overnight in the fridge.

Butter Square:
I've experimented with doing the butter square a few different ways. The most effective, I think, is cutting the butter in half, lentghwise, dusting top and bottom with the 2 extra tbsp of flour. Then, with a rolling pin, you whack/roll the sticks until you've got about a 10"x10" square and the pieces are fused together. Then stick it in the freezer.

The Waiting:
As I said before, there's a lot of waiting. When you get to the part in the recipe where it says to wait, just wait. Don't do shit. Just wait.

Vegan Version: 
Use Earth Balance Whipped Buttery spread and Silk Almond Milk in place of the butter and milk and ditch the egg wash. And maybe don't wear your apron made of baby penguin skin. 


1. Make a dough ball, let it rise, then make a butter square. Roll the dough ball into a broad enough circle that you can plop the butter square in it, then fold the dough over butter square to form a square envelope. Roll the envelope to about 15"x15". Fold it like a letter, into thirds, so that it's 5"x15". Now fold it in thirds again, so that it's 5"x5". Cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Wait.

2. Flatten the folded dough to 15"x15" again and fold it up to 5"x5" again, Refrigerate 2 hours again. Wait again. Repeat again.

3. Roll foldy square thingy (pictured above) out to 10"x20". Cut into 8 triangles 5" wide (OK, mine maybe weren't quite that wide) and 10" long. Cut a 2" slit in the middle of the broad end and roll the triangles into croissants, pinching the ends together. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Let the formed croissants stand and puff up, covered with a towel, at room temperature, for about an hour.

4. Give the croissants an egg wash (look it up, if you don't know how) and bake at 375 about 15 minutes. Over temperatures vary wildly, so keep and eye out; they may take longer, they may not.
(memorable caption)

* I didn't actually have a first asterisk in the text. Sometimes I wonder if I overuse that gimmick.
**Even by lying to it.
***And, sadly, there's no fast-track to chilling butter. So yeah.

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