Alex’s Chocolate Croissants

To celebrate the release of Winter’s Harbor, I thought I’d do a series of recipe blogs. First, because I love recipes. Second, because there is a lot of cooking and baking in the book. A lot. To kick things off, it really has to be chocolate croissants…

  

I didn’t set about to make chocolate croissants a recurring theme in Winter’s Harbor. It just sort of happened. Not like that’s a bad thing. Although I’m technically partial to almond, chocolate croissants are the ultimate bakery treat. Despite being old fashined, they’re fussy. Not the sort of thing you whip up on a Saturday morning. At least, not without a whole lot of forethought.

Lia orders one on her first morning in P-town. Then there’s a scene where Alex and Lia make them together. Not to be a tease, but yes, things get a little steamy. 

Ahem.

Here’s the thing: I’ve never made croissants. I’ve made five-tier wedding cakes and caramel from scratch and homemade pasta, but I’ve never attempted the intricate layering, hours or resting, and delicate shaping that result in buttery, flaky perfection.

Until now.

I knew I couldn’t blog recipes from the book and get away with excluding chocolate croissants. So I pulled out my gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook (which I read for pleasure more than cook from) and attempted set aside a weekend. This proved easier said than done. It’s event season at my day job and having an entire weekend at my disposal didn’t pan out. At that point, I chucked the Bouchon recipe and it’s extra day of planning  and poulish making (sorry Thomas Keller) and settled on one that only required one overnight.

I made chocolate croissants. Turns out, they’re not actually all that hard. You can, too. Sure, the process is kind of fussy, but I’ve decided you can do the dough in the evening in between watching a movie or football. Roll them out in the morning with your first cup of coffee and then have them by mid-morning. I’ve had a lot of croissants, including a few in France. They all pale in comparison to the ones that come hot from your very own oven. Trust me.

If you want to read the first croissant scene from Winter’s Harbor, check out the excerpt on the Bold Strokes website. If you want to read the steamier scene, well, you’re just going to have to buy the book.

My recipe is adapted from Epicurious.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups milk, warmed (105°F–110°F)

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 packages active dry yeast (1/4-oz each)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter

8 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate (fancy stick are fun, but I used chocolate chips)

1 egg, beaten wth 2 tablespoons water

additional flour for kneading and rolling

PREPARATION
Make dough: Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) 

  
Add flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes. Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.

  
Prepare and shape butter: Arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a large piece of parchment. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Cover with parchment. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill.

  
Roll out dough: Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.

  
Roll out dough: Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends. Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.

Make remaining “folds”: Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).

Make croissants: Working with half the dough at a time, roll out into a 10×18 rectangle. Cut into 16 rectangles. Place about two teaspoons of chocolate chips on each, then roll. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet seam side down, at least two inches apart. Brush with egg wash and let rise for 1 hour. (You can do a second round of chocolate, or use the second half of the dough for anything your heart desires.)

  
Preheat oven to 425F. Place croissants in oven. Spray oven walls with water or pour about 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of oven. Close door to trap steam. Lower over to 400F and bake 10 minutes. Rotate pans, lower over to 375F and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until deep golden brown.

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