Saturday, March 3, 2007

flaky french croissants

i know well the old vegan lament: "none of my pastries are flaky, but all of my friends are!" how often have we vegans longed to enjoy again those delectable and immaculately flaky pastries? tantalizingly besmirched with butter, traditional croissants daily taunt us from behind just about every coffee shop sneeze-guard we encounter. but no more! i spent a good half-day working to unravel the secrets of these crowd-pleasers, and met with much success. (the key, it turns out, as with any flaky pastry, is careful folding and frequent refridgeration.) offer these delights freshly-baked at your next veggie potluck, and I swear people will start calling you back.

pictured: a batch of mini-croissants,
with superfluous chocolate icing

2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup earth balance
1 cup pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 package dry active yeast
1/8 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm almond milk
1/4 cup warm soymilk
2/3 cup water
3 tbsp corn starch

place chilled earth balance and 2 tbsp flour on the work surface. blend together and work with your hands until homogeneously soft. (it should be a pliable solid, not melty.) shape this paste into a 4" square about 1/2" thick. place on a sheet of tin foil, and fold over the sides to cover completely. refrigerate.

mix 1/2 cup pastry flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with salt and sugar. dissolve yeast in warm water and add to flour mixture. add warm almond milk and warm soymilk to flour mixture. with a wooden spoon, mix for about 2 minutes. stir in the rest of the flour (total 1 cup) 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating it thoroughly. the dough should be solid but sticky. knead for 5 minutes. cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

bring out the "margarine" and the dough -- both should be the about the same temperature. the margarine should be able to bend without breaking; nor should it melt. place the dough on a floured work surface and with hands press into an 8" square. unwrap the block of margarine and lay diagonally on the dough. fold each corner of the dough over the margarine to the center, so the folds overlap about 1" each, creating a sort of envelope. with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 6" x 14".

fold the dough into thirds -- like a letter. turn the folded letter sidways and roll into a new rectangle. fold the rectangle in half, like a book. wrap the dough in a damp cloth and refrigerate for 2 hours. remove dough again. roll out into a rectangle, and fold again into thirds. wrap again in the damp cloth and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight -- this will allow the dough to relax enough so that it can be rolled out into its final thickness, and shaped into the lovely croissant forms.

remove dough from refrigerator and, on a floured work surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle that is 1/4" thick. Cut the dough into identical squares about 6" diagonally each, then subdivide into equal triangles. place triangles on a well-oiled and -floured pan and refrigerate 45 min to 1 hour.

while the dough is refrigerating for the last time, simmer water and cornstarch until thick. set aside to cool. remove triangles from refrigerator, and roll them into the familiar crescent shape -- wide end first. leave them at room temperature for approximately 1 hour, until they rise to about double their size.

after the croissants have risen, with a pastry brush, lightly brush the open surfaces of the croissants with the cornstarch, like a glaze. (this will allow the outer surface to crisp and turn golden without drying out; it's the substitute for the "egg-wash" often used in croissants.)

preheat oven to 400 degrees, and bake for 16 minutes. yields about 8 croissants.


carmichael said...

if you're concerned about the fat content of these croissants, get on a bicycle and ride to coney island and back.

they look awesome.

Matthew said...

i made a few alterations to this recipe, and removed some of what i felt were its shortcomings.

after experimenting in a similar recipe with the coconut oil (Danish pastry with cherry filling, actually), i decided it best to completely leave it out of the recipe. coconut oil is lovely, being a room-temperature solid, and has many applications, i feel as though it's a bit too obstinate in its solid form and quite too runny in its liquid form to make its use warranted in a delicate pastry like this. pie crusts, yeah, but puff-pastries, not so much. earth balance is naturally silky.

my other alteration involves the refrigeration time. i at least doubled the total refrigeration time in my revision. (refrigeration allows the gluten chains to relax and therefore make the dough more workable.) also, i felt like the yeast could use more time to do their magic, and now recommend at least 1 hour of rising time immediately before baking.

(if anyone figures out a way to make solid-state coconut oil creamier, let us know. also, somebody try adding a splash of lemon juice to the dough, and let me know if that makes them more delicate, or just makes them disintigrate.)

beth said...


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