My Favorite Croissants

For a long time I’ve been searching for a croissant recipe that will suit my taste. I’ve tried many recipes and they were all good, but still not what I was looking for. I really like a rustic kind of croissant, that’s crispy outside and has nice, textured layers inside. If you like the same, look no further because this recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook is the right one for you.

This baking book is SO good, I absolutely love every single recipe inside of it. There are also step by step directions and pictures for making bread, croissant dough, danishes dough, etc. If you didn’t get the book yet, please do, you will be inspired, mesmerized and if you are not already in love with baking, you will definitely be after going through this book. Please read David Lebovitz impression of The Bourke Street Bakery – Sydney, AU.

This recipe might seem a bit too long and complicated, but in the end it’s just repeating one same process three times.  Once you start making it, it is really simple and the results, oh the results are exceptional! 🙂 Give yourself plenty of time. I usually start making the dough in the late afternoon or evening. There is a lot waiting and resting. I do the final two steps the next morning when I plan to have croissants for breakfast.

This quantity of dough will make about 18 large croissants. That was way too much for the four of us, so I divided the dough in half and made bear claws the next day. Making pain au chocolat would be an idea too.

Croissants - bourke street bakery recipe

My Favorite Croissants

[printable recipe]

(Recipe from The Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook)

Makes approximately 18 large croissants

For the ferment

(Ferment is a small amount of dough that needs to be made first and will help your croissant dough develop and rise):

  • 100 g plain flour, chilled (3.5 oz)
  • 55 ml whole milk, chilled (1 ¾ fl oz)
  • 5 g (or 1 tsp) brown sugar, chilled
  • A pinch of salt, chilled (1/2 tsp)
  • 5 g fresh yeast, chilled (1/8 oz)
  • 20 g unsalted butter, softened (3/4 oz)

Make the Ferment:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until it becomes a ball. Knead it for about 10 minutes until becomes elastic and smooth. If using electric mixer, use dough hook and mix on low speed for 3 minutes.

Put the ferment in a bowl covered with plastic and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to ferment. After, store the pre-ferment in the fridge overnight (this can be kept for few days in the fridge).

For the croissant dough

(Chill everything in the fridge before you start making the dough, including the flour and sugar):

  • 935 g strong white flour (2 lb 1 oz)
  • 550 ml whole milk (19 fl oz)
  • 60g brown sugar (1/3 cup)
  • 15 g salt (3 tsp)
  • 35 g fresh yeast (1 ¼ oz)
  • Plus 500 g unsalted butter (1 lb 2 oz)  for laminating (the rolling and folding process for the dough)

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 80 ml (about 1/3 cup) milk
  • Pinch of salt

Make the Dough:

Divide the ferment into 8-10 small pieces, mix it together with all other ingredients, except butter, in a mixing bowl until a dough ball is formed.

Transfer the dough ball to a bench and knead for 10 – 15 minutes (by hand) until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, and doesn’t tear when stretched gently. If using electric mixer, using dough hook, mix on low speed for 3 -4 minutes, followed by high speed for another 2 minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl covered with plastic bag or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Laminate the Dough:

Before starting the dough laminating (i.e. incorporating butter into the dough) remove the butter from the fridge. Pound the butter with rolling pin between two sheets of baking paper into 20 cm (8 inches) flat square. If the butter becomes too soft, store it in the fridge for 15 minutes before using.

Take the dough out of the fridge, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 20 x 40 cm (8 x 16 inches). Place the butter in the centre of the dough and fold the dough over the top. Seal the edges of the dough together to ensure the butter is completely enclosed in the dough.

Gently and carefully roll the dough out into a rectangle, about 20 x 90 cm (8 x 35 inches) (approximately 3 times longer than the piece you started with). Mentally divide the rectangle into three equal sections, top, middle and bottom. Fold the top section over the middle, and fold the bottom to the middle, like folding a letter. Wrap the dough in a plastic bag or cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Take the dough out of the fridge and rotate the dough 90 degree so that the dough will be rolled in opposite direction from previous fold. Repeat the rolling, folding, and resting process as above two more times. There will be three foldings and rollings (the term is “three turns”) altogether and you need to rotate the dough 90 degree with each rolling.

After the final rolling and folding, store the laminated dough in the fridge for 20 minutes before shaping into croissants.

Make the egg wash by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Take the laminated dough out of the fridge and roll it out into a rectangle about 25 x 100 cm (10 – 40 inches) with 5 -8 mm (1/4 inch) thickness.

Trim the edges of the dough so that it becomes a neat rectangle.

Cut the dough into triangles with 9-cm (3.5 in) base and 21-cm (8 in) height. Stack triangle sheets on baking sheet/papers and chill for 10 minutes.

Shape the Dough:

Take the chilled triangles out of the fridge and shape into croissants. Gently pull the tip of triangle to make the triangle longer. Working from the base, roll it towards the tip. Make sure that the tip is tucked underneath the croissant.

Place shaped croissants on trays lined with baking sheet or paper.

Shaped croissants can be kept in the fridge overnight and baked the next day. Take them out of the fridge next day and follow the proofing and baking steps as below. Brush the surface lightly with egg-wash. Cover the tray with tea towel. Let it stand at warm room temperature for 2 hours until it almost double in size. Croissants are proofed and ready for the bake when the layers become visible and the croissants are very soft and wobbly.

Bake the croissants:

Preheat the oven to 240 C (465 F)

Brush the surface of croissants with egg wash before baking. Put the croissants into the oven, then immediately reduce oven temperature to 190 C (375) and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until deeply golden brown.

Adding ferment to the dough mixture
Adding ferment to the dough mixture
Rolling butter into 8X8 inch square before putting in the fridge to chill
Rolling butter into 8X8 inch square before putting in the fridge to chill

Croissant preparation 1

Croissant dough up close - notice all the layers!
Croissant dough up close – notice all the layers!

Croissant preparation 2

Almost ready for the oven
Almost ready for the oven
Fresh from the oven!
Fresh from the oven!
Layers of goodness!
Layers of goodness!
 Croissants - bourke street bakery recipe
 
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Herbed Butter

It has been unusually warm in the Midwest the past couple of weeks. Somehow we jumped from winter right into summer. Crocuses and daffodils usually bloom in April, but this year they are blooming right now. It is not that I am complaining, I’m really loving it. 🙂 People are out and about, walking their pups, cleaning their yards and just enjoying the outdoors. You can’t miss the inviting smell of grilling either. It is that time of the year when you can get out of the kitchen, fire up your grill and enjoy good food and conversation. As my preparation for the grilling season, I made some herbed butter today. It really goes with any kind of meat, and possibilities (as of which herbs to use) are endless, just depending on your taste.

Herbed Butter               

 Printable recipe

  • 2 sticks (226 g) butter (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp salt (exclude salt if salted butter)
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme

*** Choice of herbs is all yours, You can mix and match what you like the most.

Whip the butter with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add salt, pepper and garlic and mix for about one minute. Add all the herbs and mix them into butter by hand.

I usually store Herbed Butter two ways:

1. I take plastic wrap and form the butter into a log. I freeze it and then when needed take out of the freezer and cut into ¼ in slices and top the grilled meat with it.

2. Other way is to fill the butter into a cake decorating bag with the star tip and make individual stars on a flat surface covered with parchment paper. Freeze the stars and then store them in a plastic container in the freezer.

My Boeuf Bourguignon Adventure

For quite some time I’ve been thinking about making the famous Boeuf Bourguignon. This Christmas I received Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” as a present from my husband and kids. I was really delighted to have this book! The first recipe I read was Boeuf Bourguignon! I was ready to take on the challenge and make this delicious dish.

Finally, about four or five weekends ago, I decided I had enough time to make it. On Saurday I only managed to make the beef stock since I was baking and didn’t finish in time to do more. So, I decided that Sunday was The Day! I woke up quite late, but managed to make it to the store, despite the ‘lake effect snow’ and the freezing winds. I bought all the missing ingredients and then I remembered that I only had white wine in the house and the recipe called for a good red wine. My problem was that you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays in Indiana. It really is nonsense, but it is a law and it supposed to be followed I guess… Sooo, determined to make the Boeuf Bourguignon THAT DAY, I got into my car and headed toward Michigan (where you can, as in any other normal place, buy alcohol on Sunday). Luckily, Michigan isn’t too far from here, just a few miles North, but the whirling snow and strong winds were starting to make this a real challenge. Oh my God, this Boeuf Bourguignon better be good!

Finally, I made it to a small liqour store just a few miles accros the Michigan State line. I thought they might not even sell any good red wines… As I was walking toward the door, in a split second my legs went under me in and I fell on my back. Ughh, #@!!& the Bouef Bourguignon! My behind was hurting soooo bad! Well, I thought since I made it this far, I might as well walk in and get the stupid wine! Amazingly, for such a small liquor shop, they had quite a nice selection of imported wines, so I decided to go for Chianti.

The drive back home was just as much fun. I could barely sit on my butt, but I was more than determined to cook this thing! As soon as I came home and started cooking, I was feeling much better ! About 5 hours later we had probably one of the top ten dishes I’ve ever had. The beef was tender, the wine sauce was superb and the whole dish was just very rich and flavorful. No regrets here!

Boeuf Bourguignon printable recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon (By Julia Child)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
  • 6 ounces (170 g) bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds (1.4 kg) lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups (700 ml) full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups (500 – 700 ml) brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs

Directions

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

Prepare onions and mushrooms

Braised onions

  • 18 – 24 peeled pearl onions
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ tbsp oil
  • ½ cup beef stock (or bouillon, red wine or water)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp thyme

Directions:

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions andd saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown evenly. Be careful not to break the skins.

Pour in the liquid and season to taste. Wrap the herbs in cheesecloth and add the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and serve them as they are or in another recipe.

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp oil
  • ½ lb fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small or quartered if large

Directions:

Place a non-stick skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms.

Toss and shake the pan for 4 – 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface and the mushrooms will begin to brown.

As soon as they have brown lightly remove from the heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Bon Appetite!

Pretzels – Remembering southern Germany

At the beginning of the 90’s when there was a war going on in Bosnia, we spent about six years in south-western Germany. That time was kind of a bitter-sweet time for us. Bitter, as we were adjusting to the completely new life, new language, new country, new people, and we worried about the loved ones that were still in Bosnia. Sweet, because we got married and had our babies, and we have learned a lot about life and to always look forward no matter what the circumstances are.

Well, how do the pretzels tie into this whole story? Simply, every time I see them, a wave of memories splashes over me and brings back the pictures of the beautiful German towns, walks and bike rides along the Rhein river and Fairytale-like Black Forest villages and small bakeries filled with the best bread and pretzels in the World.

The preztels have somewhat crispy crust and are soft inside. In southern Germany, they are called Laugenbrezeln because of the specific way they are made. Before baking they are dipped in a NaOH solution, which is neutralized during baking and gives the pretzels their distinctive taste.  When made at home they are dipped in solution of baking soda and they taste fantastic (maybe not 100% as the German original, but 90% for sure).

Ingredients:                                  Printable recipe

  • 3 ¾ cup (500 g) bread flour (used King Arthur)
  • 1.5 oz (42 g) fresh yeast***
  •  ½ TSP salt
  • 3 ½ TBSP (50 g) butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) warm milk
  • 3 quarts (3 liter) boiling water
  • 5 tbsp baking soda

Preparation:

  1. Sift the flour mixed with salt into a bowl and make a small hole in the middle. Thinly slice butter and place around the hole.
  2. Dissolve the fresh yeast in the warm milk and start pouring into the flour, mixing at the same time.
  3. Knead the dough by hand for at least 5 minutes. Dough will be quite firm and smooth and not sticky at all. Form a dough ball and let it rest covered for about 30 minutes.
  4. Place the dough on a work surface and cut into 10 equal pieces. Form the pretzels or rolls.
  5. Butter the baking pan. (Do not use parchment paper!)
  6. Boil the water and add the baking soda. Adding soda to the boiling water will make quite a reaction, so be careful!!! Let the water simmer and place each pretzel in the solution for about 30 seconds.
  7. Take out pretzels with a skimmer spoon and place them onto a well buttered baking pan.
  8. With a sharp knife or a razor cut the small slit on a top of each pretzel or a small cross on each roll. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  9. Bake at 395 F (200 C) until golden brown.

Bavarian pretzels are usually served sliced horizontally and spread with butter.

*** Fresh yeast can be substituted with the dry yeast (use 1 and ¾ TSP). Mix the yeast with flour and salt, then add butter and warm milk and make the dough.