Monday, January 25, 2010

Ham and cheese croissants at home, you never need to go to Au Bon Pain again

Every year for MLK weekend my husband goes on a family skiing trip. I am invited every year, I even went one year but it was so freaking cold the break fluid in my car froze. NOT OK!

So last year, when I was still recovering from hip surgery, my friend Pam stayed with me all weekend. It was awesome, one of the best things about that weekend was that she made croissants. I had never thought of croissants as a thing you made at home. They are something that you buy. That was the end of my ruminations on croissants. Then she made them for me and I was in love. I honestly don't think I had eaten a croissant since sampling her delectable creations.

So, this year for christmas breakfast when I was wracking my brains for something delicious to make, I settled on croissants. I figured ( as I do with many of our more adventuresome food prospects) if Pam can make them then maybe I can too. She makes things less scary when I watch her effortlessly pull off pastries or create a loaf of bread from nothingness.
For my first foray into pastry making I decided that we would have plain, chocolate, and ham and cheese croissants, I even went so far as to purchase special cheese and ham.

Then the fateful day before christmas arrived and my husband and my friend April, who was visiting from out of town, marveled as I beat the crap out of not one butter block, but two. ( The first one crumbled and I forgot the flour.) As I beat the butter into the dough, Nathaniel asked, "Is that it? Are you done?" To which I replied, "No, I have to let it sit for two hours and roll it again, and then do it again, and then shape the croissants and let them sit in the fridge for 10-16 hours." To which my husband who knows me as a woman of little to no patience replied, "Yeah, right."

But, as the day wore on, and we watched an entire season of Big Bang Theory, I continued to get up every few hours and roll out the dough and carefully fold it back in on itself and let it sit in the fridge. You would think with all that work when it came time to cut the dough that I would be extra careful. Nope!

I didn't pay attention to the directions ( after 12 hours I can't be expected to pay attention to directions right?) And instead of cutting mostly rectangles ( for the chocolate and ham and cheese) with only a few diagonal pieces for the regular croissants I cut way too many rectangles. So I decided to dedicate most of my rectangles to the chocolate croissants and only a few to the ham and cheese and to risk dribbling by adding ham and cheese to some of the diagonal cut pieces. Then we waited, And as we opened presents the next morning buttery goodness puffed and baked away in the oven. It turns out that the leaky meltyness happened in the rectangular ham and cheese croissants where the triangular cut ones had a perfect distribution of savory goodness.

Would I recommend making these every day? No. But I would recommend keeping yeast in your fridge because these are perfect for a New England snowed in weekend when there is nothing to do but bake, watch TV, and enjoy being snowed in.

Croissants (I totally lifted this recipe from Cave Cibum but I don't think she'll mind :)
3 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp instant or rapid rise yeast (about 1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup warm milk
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (optional)
4 small pieces ham ( about 1/2 an inch thick)
4 slices of muenster cheese.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 3/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. With the mixer at low speed and the dough hook installed, slowly add milk and mix until the dough begins to pull together, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough becomes sticky and elastic, about 8 minutes. If the dough isn't forming roughly into a ball by about 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and put the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper on a counter. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of flour on the parchment, then lay the 3 sticks of butter side by side on the flour. Sprinkle 1 more Tbsp of flour on top of the butter, then top with another sheet of parchment. Working with a rolling pin, gently pound the butter until it is softened and the flour is incorporated. Roll butter into a 12-inch square. Keeping the butter in the parchment, refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out dough so that the butter square will fit diagonally in the center. Place the butter in the center of the dough in a diamond shape, with the corners of the butter at the middle of the sides of the dough. Fold the dough over the sides of the butter so that they meet in the middle and press to seal shut. Roll the dough out to a 14-inch square, sprinkling on more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Once dough is rolled out, fold the square into thirds, like a letter, to form a rectangle, then fold that rectangle into thirds to form a small square. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough again, lightly dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Repeat the previous folding process, folding the dough into a rectangle and then a square. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper (rimmed baking sheets are best). Roll the dough into a 20-inch square. Cut the dough into two halves down the middle.

For regular croissants, cut each half into 3 rectangles, then cut each of those pieces diagonally into 2 triangles. Cut a small slit into the wide end of the triangle, then gently roll the dough, starting at the wide end and moving towards the point. Place the croissants on the baking sheet and curl the arms around to form the crescent shape.

For chocolate croissants, cut each half into 6 even rectangles. Place a tablespoon of chopped chocolate at one end, then roll the dough up around it into a log shape. Arrange on the baking sheet with the seam on the bottom.

For ham and cheese croissants cut each half into 3 rectangles, then cut each of those pieces diagonally into 2 triangles. lay the cheese slices down first starting at the wide end of the triangle and placing them to about halfway to the tip of the triangle. If you are using deli cheese slices you want to cut them in half lengthwise so they don't stick out the sides when you roll the croissant. Then, place the ham at the wide end of the triangle ( 2-3 strips about 1/4 of an inch wide and 2-3 inches long).Then gently roll the dough, starting at the wide end and moving towards the point.

Loosely cover shaped croissants with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 to 16 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush the croissants with egg wash and place the sheets in the oven, using both racks. Bake until golden, 18 to 22 minutes. Rotate and switch the baking sheets halfway through baking. Serve warm or at room temperature. For chocolate croissants, wait until the croissants have cooled, then drizzle with melted chocolate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cocoa Metro

Ok, so last week I was browsing with a friend at Russo's when I noticed one of my favorite things. Chocolate milk in a glass bottle. Intreigued, I of course bought a bottle of the thick silky looking concoction. When I got it home I opened it right away and poured a little into a glass. I have to say, this stuff is AMAZING. It's thick and packs enough rich chocolaty punch to satisfy even the most demanding chocolate craving. My husband compared it to melted Haagen dazs ice cream. And then, this morning, after french pressing a pot of godiva coffee, another chocolate lovers delight, I decided to try Cocoa Metro in my mocha. Best decision ever!
In fact, it was so delicious that I was inspired to march right up stairs and write about its awesomeness. So, In conclusion if you are a chocolate fan, a mocha fan, a milk fan or a fan of amazing feats of foodie goodness, go out and buy a bottle of Cocoa Metro, you won't regret it.