Did you know that TJ Maxx is one of the best places to find cookbooks? For years now, I hunt through their impulse bins as I wait in line, and find the grandest assortment of Williams Sonoma cookbooks for a fraction of the original cost. I don't care if the book sleeve is slightly bent or torn...the recipes are still flawless! Buy them. Trust me. You'll thank me, later. Actually, when you gain a few pounds from their "Essentials of Baking", you'll curse my existence.
Get ready for a long blog, a long recipe, and an awesome sense of accomplishment once you've mastered this recipe. Mastering the making of croissant pastry is considered a great achievement in the baking world. Buttery layers rise into pastries that are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. You can freeze the pastry before forming the croissants for longer storage. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in an airtight plastic bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. If you have never had a freshly baked homemade croissant, a real FRENCH croissant, you are in for a treat.
For the croissant dough:
1/2 oz fresh cake yeast or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons warm water (between 105-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup cold whole milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the butter package:
1 pound unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the egg wash:
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon whole milk
For the filling:
6 oz chocolate (bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk)
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
BY HAND: In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, the salt, melted butter, milk, the yeast mixture, and 1/2 cup of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix just until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.
BY STAND MIXER: In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, the salt, melted butter, milk, and the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed until combined. Gradually add the flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix just until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a half-sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 40 minutes.
To make the butter package: Using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60 degrees. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable.
To laminate the dough: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out he dough into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then, with a folded side to your left, roll out the dough into a 10-by-24-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Then take a photographic tour of my garden.
Return the chilled dough to the lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding, and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 4 turns. After the final turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or for up to overnight.
Then realize it's 6:00 in the evening, and you really don't want to bake through the night, so you throw it in the refrigerator, and then take pictures of your new chair.
Isn't it lovely?
So, the next evening, after work, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and lightly butter 2 half-sheet pans.
Using a box grater or a food processor, coarsely grate or chop the chocolate.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out he pastry into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 4 squares, for a total of 12 squares.
Working with 1 square at a time, place a rounded tablespoon of the grated chocolate in a strip in the middle of the square. Fold the bottom up a third of the way, then fold the top down so that it slightly overlaps the bottom flap. Pinch the seam to seal.
Place, seam side down, on a prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining squares and chocolate, spacing the rolls 2-3 inches apart. Trust me on the spacing...they get HUGE. Place in a warm, draft-free place, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the pastries rise until the double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Then get really impatient and take more pictures and do some yoga. Worked for me!
Lightly brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. Bake the pastries, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. But watch them so they don't get too brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let the pastries cool on the pans. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.