croissants and pain au chocolat

I hesitated sharing this post with you, as I realize how labor-intensive and unrealistic making croissants at home can be, especially considering the multitude of bakeries that offer high-quality, delicious pastries without any of the work. I also can’t take complete credit for this recipe, as I only slightly adapted it from The Faux Martha, who adapted it from Tartine. And, while this space was once more of a reflection of others’ recipes that I had tried and loved, it has since evolved into an almost exclusive journal of my own recipes  — hence my hesitation to share something I couldn’t truly take credit for. But, after making these croissants, tasting them, and feeling the profound sense of accomplishment in having created them, I couldn’t help but share the process with you.

So, if you ever find yourself at home over a weekend, without many plans, I hope you’ll think to visit this space and try your hand at making croissants. I promise you that biting into a buttery, flaky, warm croissant that YOU have created in your own kitchen, is reward enough for your efforts.


croissants and pain au chocolat

These pastries are the epitome of decadence and comfort. Buttery, flaky, and simply all around delicious. While they are labor-intensive and take almost a full weekend to make, the effort is completely worth it. This is not a process to rush — enjoy the slowness and exactness of it and you will be rewarded.

Slightly adapted from The Faux Martha’s recipe, which she adapted from Tartine.

 

ingredients

preferment

3/4 cup nonfat or lowfat milk

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

dough

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 3/4 cup whole milk

5-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

roll-in butter

2 3/4 cup (5 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool but pliable

egg wash

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup heavy cream

pinch of sea salt

 

instructions

Preferment: In a small sauce pan, heat milk until just warm [approximately 80-90 degrees]. Pour into medium bowl and add yeast. Stir until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2-3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Dough: [Throughout these steps, try to work the dough as little as possible. An overworked dough will result in a tough croissant]. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the preferment mixture and 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant yeast to the bowl. Mix on low speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides if necessary. Increase speed to medium; while the mixer is running, gradually add half the milk and beat for 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add remaining milk, 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Mix until a shaggy dough forms, about 3 minutes. Allow dough to rest for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, set the mixer to low speed and add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough is smooth and elastic [not sticky or dry]. [You may not need to use all of the flour — I only used 1/4 cup additional]. If you find that your dough becomes too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Transfer dough to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a cool place for 1 1/2 hours [dough should double in size].

After 1 1/2 hours, transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Press into a rectangle, about 2 inches thick. Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Allow to rest for an additional 4 hours.

Roll-in butter: About 3 hours into the dough’s resting period, prepare the butter. Add butter to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium until malleable, about 3 minutes. Wrap butter in plastic wrap and shape into a square, about 1-inch thick. Transfer butter to fridge to chill, but not completely harden.

Laminating process: Remove dough and butter from fridge. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle closest to you, add the butter square to the left side of the rectangle. Spread butter over 2/3 of the rectangle, leaving the right-most 1/3 of the dough uncovered. Fold dough in thirds, like you would a letter: first folding the right, non-buttered portion over the middle, then the left, buttered portion over. Press the seams together to seal the butter in. This is called a plaque.

Turn the plaque so that the long edge is closest to you again. Roll out into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough in thirds again, and wrap lightly in plastic wrap. Return dough to fridge and allow to rest for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove dough from fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough in thirds. The dough should measure 9-inches x 12-inches, and be about 2-inches thick, once folded. Wrap again in plastic wrap, but this time place in freezer to chill for 1 hour.

Assembly: Remove dough from freezer and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll our into a 32-inch x 12-inch rectangle, about 3/8-inch thick. [This is not the easiest step — just keep at it!] Using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel, cut long triangles, 4-inches wide at the base and the length of the short side of the rectangle, for croissants. For pain au chocolats, cut 6-inch x 4-inch rectangles.

Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, Silpain, or parchment paper. To shape the croissants, begin with the base of the triangle closest to you and tightly roll away from you, towards the point. Make sure the point sits under the croissant. [I found that it was easiest to stretch my triangles slightly before rolling, so that the croissants weren’t too squat]. To form pain au chocolats, add a chocolate baton or dark chocolate chips in a row along a short side of the rectangle. Beginning with the end with the chocolate, roll tightly away from you into a cylinder, making sure the seam is under the pastry. [Same with the croissants, I felt it was easier to slightly stretch the rectangles before stuffing and rolling. Make sure NOT to over stuff with chocolate, as it will ooze out during baking!]

Place pastries on the lined baking sheet, at least 2-inches apart on all sides. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free room for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. [At this point, you can retire the pastries to the fridge, and bake them off the next morning, or freeze them and bake them another time. Make sure to defrost frozen pastries on the counter, or in the fridge overnight, before baking].

Egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, heavy cream, and salt until pale yellow.

Bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, carefully paint the pastries with the egg wash, being sure to cover all sides. Once pastries are covered, make sure to wipe any drippings off the baking sheet. Allow the egg wash to dry slightly before baking.

Place pastries in oven and immediately turn heat down to 400 degrees F. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to bake for another 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, and transfer pastries to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Make sure to eat warm!

Storage: Once cooled, keep pastries in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one day. Or, store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for 7-8 minutes.

makes about 14 – 17 croissants

beet and egg toast

Winter seems to be lingering a little longer than usual around here. I felt my heart sink a bit as we descended onto a snow covered ground on Saturday after a week in Utah, where the sun had already shaken its Winter gloom. Shades of brown and gray replaced the brilliant blue sky we had reluctantly left only hours before. “We’re beginning our descent into New York City — the skies are partly cloudy, and the temperature is 38 degrees Fahrenheit.” 

The doors of the airport opened to a burst of frigid air and I pulled my jacket tighter than I had in the past week, cringing against the sting of the cold and the persistent bitterness. My hopes of returning to warmer weather quietly slipped away. New York was just as we’d left it. 

Every Winter around here seems to last a bit too long — around the end of March, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to step outside without bracing myself and to leave the house without the burden of layers. This Winter in particular though has tried my patience more so than other years. As I reluctantly slid from the covers of our bed this morning, I thought to myself — I can’t take one more day of this. I’m not sure what makes this year seem worse than others, but I feel myself resenting the cold and lack of color more than I ever have. Rather than a gift, Spring feels like a necessity at this point. 

I have a feeling I might not be the only one feeling this way, so, in the spirit of chasing this gray away, I thought I’d share a bit of color — in the form of deep, robust pinks, bright yellows, and a touch of green. Here’s to colorful and brighter days ahead.


beet + egg toast

Toast is my go-to breakfast. It’s the perfect vehicle for so many different flavors. My usual is a smear of cream cheese with avocado, but this makes for a special alternative. Creamy neufchâtel cheese, earthy beets, and fruity olive oil make a great combination of flavors.

 

ingredients:

1 beet (any variety) – *see note

pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 pieces of whole grain bread, lightly toasted

1/2 of a lemon

neufchâtel cheese

drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil

ricotta cheese or farmer’s cheese, for garnish

fresh dill, for garnish

flaked sea salt, for garnish

*note: while I only used the equivalent of 1 beet for this recipe [to serve 2], I boiled 6 in a large stockpot and used multiple varieties on the toast. I used the leftover boiled beets throughout the week – for more toast, salads, sandwiches, etc. I even reserved the water that the beets had cooked in and Henry used it for smoothies. 

 

First prepare the beets: wash and remove greens. Place in a stockpot or saucepan [depending on how many beets you are making] and fill with water until beets are just covered. Throw in the 1/2 of lemon and a big pinch of salt.

Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce to medium heat [water should be boiling, but not at a screaming boil]. Boil until beets are fork tender — about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets. Drain, reserving a small bowlful of the water, and set beets aside until cool enough to handle. *you can reserve all of the water, if you wish. It makes for delicious smoothies.

Meanwhile, place 2 eggs in a small saucepan and fill with water until eggs are just covered. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and cover. Let eggs sit in the hot water, covered, for 8 minutes. Immediately plunge eggs into ice water. Once cool enough to handle, peel them and place in the reserved beet water [this step is completely optional — it just adds a bit of color to the eggs and makes for a nice presentation].

Once beets are cooled, scrape off skins with a pairing knife or the back of a spoon. Slice 1 beet into 1/4-inch medallions [and, if you’ve made a batch of beets, refrigerate the rest for another use].

Remove eggs from beet water and slice into medallions. Spread a smear of neufchâtel cheese over both pieces of toast, top with slices of beets and eggs and crumbles of ricotta or farmer’s cheese. Drizzle with high quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaked salt. Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill and serve. 

winter citrus smoothie

I’ve been feeling uninspired lately. The lack of color, bitterly cold days, and fleeting sunlight seem to suggest nothing more than big, comforting pans of lasagna and hearty bowls of carbonara. While I enjoy these meals, the monotony of eating them everyday leaves me craving something bright to refresh my palette and my mind.

I spent most of last week sick, and longed to lift the fog that had settled in my head. I didn’t feel well enough to leave my apartment, nor did I have much produce on hand other than oranges. A can of coconut milk in the front of the pantry caught my eye though, and I thought the combination, while unfamiliar, seemed intriguing. I threw the two together in a blender, along with a touch of freshly ground nutmeg [for a bit of warmth], and chia seeds [for the added nutrients].

The end result was exactly what I had envisioned, and craved — a creamy, comforting base with bright notes of citrus.  An unexpected combination, that together made perfect sense. After writing the recipe, I came across a few other bloggers who had put together strikingly similar combinations, and I realized that I wasn’t so inventive after all [I guess in the heart of winter, there are only so many combinations to be made from the produce at hand]. While acknowledging the redundancy, I’m sharing my recipe with you anyway, as in my mind there can never be too many takes on one thing. I hope it brightens your day the same way it did mine.


winter citrus smoothie

This smoothie combines bright citrus with an unexpected warmth from freshly ground nutmeg. The two together work beautifully, especially amid a creamy, rich base. Comfort in a glass.

ingredients:

1 orange, peeled and cut into segments

1/3 cup whole fat coconut milk

1/4 cup plain yogurt 

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

3-4 ice cubes (optional)

Add all ingredients to a blender (ice cubes are optional – I like my smoothies to have an icy quality, but if you prefer yours creamier, feel free to omit them), and blend until smooth. Serve in a glass and garnish with chia seeds and nutmeg. (Serves 1).

olive oil citrus cake

It was Saturday – the beginning of the weekend, but the end of vacation. The streets were lined with discarded, naked Christmas trees, serving as an unwelcome reminder of holidays past. We walked towards home, numb fingers and rosy cheeks, trying to focus less on what was fast approaching, and more on the present moment. Dreaming of something to lift our spirits, my mind settled on cake – cake with bright, citrus flavors to oppose such gray feelings. I made a promise to myself to move slowly, and to relish in the joy of doing something that I love. Yet, I found it hard to shake the gloom that had rooted itself within me.

And so I found myself in a pattern that I often do in the beginning of a new year. The cheer of celebration and anticipation of untapped opportunities that define the final days of December and first days of January, fade into a less ambitious reality. Goals and dreams that seemed so palpable, suddenly seem distant and unattainable. Confidence and drive slam against a wall of self doubt and fear.

I pour my carefully prepared batter into a springform pan, open the oven, and lift. The spring on my pan releases, and in a cliched metaphor for my slipping ambition, I watch in shock as the batter flows, without restraint, from my hands. Batter covers the stove, spreading almost greedily to the floor – as to say, yup, you failed. The promise of a cake, gone – an opportunity, missed; a goal, unmet – and with it my confidence. The symbolism was staring me in the face.

With a nod of recognition, I picked myself up and started again. I made that cake. I made two cakes, actually. And, with those two triumphs born from one failure, I taught myself a timely lesson amidst a cloud of self doubt. Failure hurts – it’s merciless and cold. But, I’m stronger – we’re all stronger. And, if we stare that failure in the face and push on, we’ll have a greater success to show for it. 

Here’s to a year of letting my hurt confidence drive my determination. I hope you’ll join me.


Olive Oil Citrus Cake

This cake recipe comes from Maialino Restaurant in New York City. I made a few slight changes, and added a glaze and candied citrus slices, which I found even further brightened the herbaceous flavors of the olive oil in the cake. If you’ve never tried olive oil cake before, I highly recommend that you give it a try. Its laden with moisture – almost similar in texture to a bread pudding – and deep flavor. 

for the glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 vanilla bean [split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds]

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. The glaze should be runny, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You can adjust the thickness by adding additional orange juice or confectioner’s sugar, if needed.

 

for the candied citrus:

recipe from Food & Wine 

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 orange [or lemon, or grapefruit], sliced crosswise very thinly [about 1/8-inch] 

In a medium sauté pan, combine cup sugar and cup water and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices, in a single layer [the edges of the slices can be slightly overlapping, but you want them mostly in a single layer – if your pan is too small, just split into batches, adding 1 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar for each batch]. Simmer over medium heat, flipping slices occasionally, until mixture starts to appear syrupy and slices are translucent [about 20 minutes]. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture reaches a thick syrup [about 10 additional minutes]. Carefully remove slices from pan [they should still hold together, but will be very delicate], and transfer to a wire rack to cool. I found that my syrup was too reduced at this point to save, but if yours isn’t, I’m sure it would be lovely in a cocktail. [note: I made one batch of candied orange and one of lemon, and had plenty slices left over after garnishing two cakes].

for the cake:

recipe slightly adapted from Maialino Restaurant

2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour [cake flour will result in a slightly more delicate cake, which I like with the moisture-rich texture of olive oil cake]

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep, and dust with flour. [If your cake pan is less the 2 inches deep, divide the batter between 2 pans – I ended up dividing between an 8-inch and a 5-inch pan].

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and Grand Marnier until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan[s] and bake until the cake is golden and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean – this should take about 1 hour for one 9-inch cake. I found my 5-inch cake was finished around 40-45 minutes, and my 8-inch cake closer to 50 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Once cake is cooled, drizzle with glaze and top with candied citrus slices, if desired. Enjoy!