Posts Tagged ‘pastry’

Honey-Drizzled Cranberry Brie Pastry Braid

Honey-Drizzled Cranberry Brie Pastry BraidHoney-Drizzled Cranberry Brie Pastry Braid

“Magic” Chocolate, Coconut, and Pecan Pastry Braid

Things I learned this past weekend in Lexington, Kentucky: 1. I'm a master at betting on horse races. I doubled my money betting on a spunky little horse named Get Runnin' with 8-1 odds. Okay, so I guess it's not fair to leave out the part about the second race, where my horse came in dead last. When everyone cheered for the winner trotting by, I was yelling to my horse, "It's okay! You tried your best!" I still came out ahead overall. But I guess it's not fair to leave out the fact that by "came out ahead," I mean that I had a whopping $2.60 more than I started with.

2. You know those calendar photos that depict a peaceful street meandering between a row of bright honeycrisp-apple-colored trees? Or maybe the ones where a trail disappears behind an outcropping of rock lined with whispers and splashes of fall foliage? Or maybe the ones that show a rustic ferry piddling its way across a narrow river with old railroad trestles in the background? Yeah, every single one of those pictures is apparently taken in Kentucky.

3. Wine is gross. I tried and tried, y'all. How do you drink this stuff? Bloody Marys are acceptable, though. And margaritas are pretty darn good, particularly with a salted rim and some chips and salsa! Can I salt the rim of other beverages? Coke Zero? Trying it.

4. There's a castle in the middle of Kentucky. I was surprised, too. You drive around a bend in the highway and BAM! Camelot. Yes, we posed for princessy pictures in front of it, duh.

5. Sports fans have uniforms just like the players: for University of Kentucky football fans, it seemed necessary to wear that deep blue sweatshirt everyday, everywhere. For the horse racing crowd, however, the uniform was a bit more upscale: heels, skirts, and blazers, y'all! 6. My sister's boyfriend, Alain, apart from being an all-around great guy, is a superb chef: think meatballs filled with melty Fontina cheese on a bed of al dente spaghetti and shredded Parmesan. Heaven.

7. My sister is wonderful. Okay, I didn't learn this in Kentucky; I already knew it. But visiting her in her new Lexington apartment just reminded me. First off, she flew me up to Kentucky in the first place. Then she took me to enjoy all sorts of great food: take-out pizza; gorgeous croissants; giant plates of Mexican tortillas, chiles, beef, and over-easy eggs; a bacon, eggs, and blueberry cornbread breakfast with salted European butter; and fresh sandwiches from the market. She also let me hog her fancy massager-heater-recliner the whole time I was there. She gave me the guest bed with the awesome mattress (though I was skeptical while I was there, I now have to concede that it's even better than the one I have at home.) She took me to see all the above attractions -- horse races, beautiful countryside, and castles, for goodness's sake. And, more than all that, she's always, always, always loving and supportive. Thank you, Sarah!

In tribute to Kentucky Derby Pie, which combines chocolate and toasted pecans, I give you the "Magic Bar" pastry braid. This tender, almond-scented pastry envelopes melty chocolate, pecans, and coconut bound together with sweetened condensed milk. It's pretty, but don't be fooled: this pastry braid is super easy to prepare! What are some things you love about your siblings? One year ago: Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles Two years ago: Handmade Cheese Ravioli in Meaty Red Sauce (and the most special post I've ever written.) Three years ago: Cardamom Pumpkin Macarons
"Magic" Chocolate, Coconut, and Pecan Pastry Braid
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking Yield: 8-10 servings
If you love Magic Bars, you'll love this pastry braid! The cream cheese dough is very easy to work with, so don't be intimidated if it looks a little fancy -- you'll look like you did a lot more work than you actually had to do.
Dough and Filling Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold 3 ounces best quality cream cheese, cold 1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Filling Ingredients: 1 cup coconut, toasted 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao), plus more for topping 3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted, plus more whole pecans for topping about 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Directions: NOTE: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. (NOTE: This is the step at which you can ruin the braid. If you overwork the dough, the pastry will be tough. Just gather the dough together and don’t worry about making it smooth. It will still look a little rough. That’s perfect.)
Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Turn dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Sprinkle the coconut down the middle third of the dough (saving a bit for the top), keeping it about 1/2 inch from the mark on both sides. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the coconut. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate chunks. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top.
Make 2 1/4-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides (see photos at the bottom of this post for visual example.) Do not cut into the center filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned, rotating once halfway through.
Melt extra chocolate chips for topping according to package instructions (usually in 15 second intervals on half power, stirring between each heating.) Drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the braid. If desired, sprinkle on extra toasted coconut and pecans while the chocolate is still wet. Serve warm.
If you liked this post, please: -Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Breakfast Braid

Today is "Nerdy Day" at Woodlawn, the school where I work. All of my students are sporting taped glasses, suspenders, pants hitched up to their eyeballs, pocket protectors, and bow ties. They asked me why I didn't dress up and I replied honestly, "What do you mean? I did." I don't need a pocket protector to dress like a nerd. I'm naturally a nerd, through and through. Like I told my students: I love to read. I love to write. I love technology. I love obscure art. I love learning. I write essays for fun. I annotate the books I read in my spare time. I often ruminate on literary theory, politics, and feminism. I was born a nerd and I'll die a nerd. Amen.


Ooh. Amen!

Such was my nerdiness as a child that I detested the outdoors and was a bit of a cave-dweller. Have you ever met a kid like that? My friends usually wanted to play some wildly active (often destructive) game outdoors: Who can run down this hill the fastest, completely oblivious of oncoming traffic? Who can climb to the very highest, most excruciatingly tenuous limb of this tree? Who wants to tumble pell-mell through snakes and venomous spiders in the woods? Not me. I was a pale, chubby child who preferred to sit and read in an air-conditioned, artificially lit corner. I always bossily petitioned for an orderly indoor game: a board game, perhaps, or a polite game of snack-eating.

My aversion to the outdoors and to all athletic activity was particularly strong when it came to my dreaded elementary P.E. class. Far from "educating" me on much besides torture and pain, my Physical Education class struck fear deep into the air-conditioned depths of my heart. For one thing, we went outside all the time (much to the glee of most other students). For another, I was a klutz. I remember standing on a dusty, grassless kickball field one hot day in May. My friend and I were watching the game cynically and whining about our circumstances. First off, we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced. Worse still was the fact that we were almost up to the plate. Unless we got another "out" -- and fast! -- we were going to have to try to kick the ball in front of all of our classmates (including all of the cute boys in class). We'd then have to walk back to the team in shame, enduring their fervent, angry shouts about our athletic ineptitude.

I suggested we try to imagine ourselves jumping into a cool swimming pool. The power of visualization and positive thinking, I noted to my friend, was immense. We both scrunched up our eyes and started to visualize with all our might. One of our teammates kicked the ball into the outfield. We visualized harder. Another teammate kicked the ball even farther. We visualized with all our might. Another teammate kicked the ball into the stratosphere. We gave up with a sigh, and I walked up to the plate. Lame.

Kickball wasn't the worst, though. The worst activity -- the one that sent chills of absolute terror down my lazy little spine -- was the mile run. What sort of sadist decided to try and make us run an entire mile? Y'all, I don't care if I were getting chased by a gigantic black bear. I don't care if he were breathing down my neck with bloody bear fangs and breath that smelled of my impending doom. I don't care if he were as hungry as a hippo with razor claws and rabies. If my only hope of salvation were to run a mile, I would plop myself down on a plate and sprinkle some salt and pepper on my head. I hate running.

As it was, I did get chased, so to speak, by my rabid elementary P.E. teacher. She was fit as a fiddle and always barked encouragement at us from the sidelines as we dragged ourselves around the track. I remember talking to myself out loud (more nerd points?) as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. My monologue went something like this: "If I just keep pushing myself, I'll pass out and probably die. But then at least I'll never have to do the mile run again. In fact, they'll probably ban the mile run from schools everywhere. If I can just run hard enough to pass out, that can be my legacy: eliminating the mile run for the children of the future." If that seems twisted, you ought to have heard me at home the night before the mile run. I would literally plead with my parents to somehow break my toe. Stomp on it, perhaps? Run over it with the car, maybe? Does that sound drastic? I figured a broken toe wouldn't be that inconvenient, and it would heal before too long. In the meantime, though, my quality of life would increase a thousandfold as a result of missing the mile run. I lay in the floor and whined when my parents refused. Didn't they realize they were consigning me to pass out in the middle of a gigantic dirt field? Didn't they want to spare me all of my anguish? Didn't they LOVE me?

I may be 27 years old now, and I may have started to appreciate the outdoors, but I still maintain that my fragile constitution was built for reading, writing, and recipes -- not for running. In fact, I'd still prefer an injury to an athletic event. This coming Friday, at the end of Woodlawn's spirit week, there's a faculty vs. students soccer game, and you can imagine my utter terror when I was asked to participate. All of these years thinking I was finally free from that school field . . . Thankfully, though (I'm so weird), the other day I was stretching and I felt something twist in my knee. My first thought was, "Ow!" followed immediately by, "Ooh, now I don't have to play in the soccer game!" Some things never change. I'll settle for being a clumsy nerd. Some of my students are geniuses on the soccer field, some are geniuses on horseback, some are geniuses in ballet shoes, some are geniuses on stage. I'll settle for being at home with a book, at home with words, and at home in the kitchen. We all have our talents, right?

In that spirit, I offer you not my soccer savvy (hahahahaha, for which you should be thankful) but my breakfast braid. I couldn't wait to tell you about this recipe! I dreamed about posting this braid the entire time I was baking it, photographing it, transporting it to Raleigh, and eating it with Mike while watching past episodes of Parks and Recreation and drinking lots of milk. What I most want to emphasize about this recipe is that it's EASY! The first time I made a breakfast braid with this dough, I fell in love. It's the perfect beginning pastry, since it doesn't involve any yeast or rise time, or even much kneading. It's not sticky or stubborn. If you've ever used canned crescent rolls, this dough is a textured a lot like that. Naturally, in addition to being easy (SO EASY. DID I MENTION HOW EASY?), it was delectable. I call it a breakfast braid, but it's an eat-anytime-you-can-possibly-shove-it-in-your-face braid. It's a mind-blowing combination of flaky pastry, autumn pumpkin, cinnamon and spice, buttery streusel, toasted pecans, and a rich maple brown sugar glaze. I may not be able to kick a soccer ball, but I can make a mean pumpkin braid. That's good enough for me. Are you nerdy?
Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Breakfast Braid with Maple Brown Sugar Glaze
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking. Inspired by The Luna Cafe, with glaze from Caitlin Cooks Yield: About 4-5 servings of 2 slices each
In this breakfast braid, tender, flaky, almond-scented pastry envelops a delicious pumpkin pie custard topped with buttery cinnamon pecan streusel. An addictive maple brown sugar glaze and toasted pecans top the whole shebang, creating a perfect autumn breakfast (or dessert, or lunch, or dinner...!) This braid looks fancy, but don't be fooled. It's one of the easiest things I make. The dough is lovely to work with -- it doesn't need to rise, barely needs any kneading, and isn't sticky or finicky. I'm always amazed that such gorgeous results can be achieved with such little effort.
Easy Dough Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes 3 ounces cream cheese, cold and cut into cubes 1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients: (this makes a little more filling than you need) 6 ounces cream cheese, softened 3/8 cup sugar 3/4 cup pumpkin puree 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 egg 1 1/8 teaspoons cinnamon* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg* 1/4 teaspoon ginger* 1/8 teaspoon allspice* *You could probably substitute a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spices for these.
Pecan Streusel Ingredients: 1/8 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 1/8 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 tablespoon cold butter 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Maple Brown Sugar Glaze Ingredients: 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons milk 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tablespoon real maple syrup pinch salt 3/4 - 1 cup powdered sugar cinnamon for sprinkling
Directions: NOTE: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the creamy pumpkin pie filling. In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy and smooth. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice and mix until combined. Set in fridge while you make your braid.
Toast your pecans. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes or until fragrant, stirring about halfway through the cook time. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool. Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees F.
Make your pastry dough. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.
Turn the dough onto a sheet of lightly-floured parchment paper and knead very lightly for just 4-5 strokes (be careful not to overwork the dough or it'll be tough! Don't worry about getting it smooth -- just knead for these few strokes and let it stay a little rough.)
Very lightly flour the top of the dough and place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough to an 10- by 12-inch rectangle (I lift the paper off every now and then and flip the dough and repeat on the other side, to ensure the dough isn't sticking). Remove the top sheet of parchment and discard. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Glop your creamy pumpkin pie filling down the middle third of the dough -- try to keep your filling about 1/4 inch from the mark on both sides. I piled it up a bit (not so much that it was overflowing, but plenty!)
Make the streusel topping. Combine the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until you have crumbly streusel. Mix in 1/4 cup of toasted pecans (save the rest for decorating the finished braid). Sprinkle streusel over top of pumpkin mixture in center of dough. Really pile it on!
Continue assembling the braid (see photos at the bottom of this recipe, which show the process of marking and assembling a raspberry almond braid, for guidance). Make diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center pumpkin-filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Don't worry if it doesn't completely hide your filling -- it's actually nice when the filling is peeking out. Use the sheet of parchment to carefully transfer your braid to a baking sheet (at this point, you can brush the pastry with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and a teaspoon of water if you want it darker than mine. I didn't bother). Bake in the 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through, the pumpkin filling is set, and the top is lightly browned. Let the braid cool slightly while you make your glaze.
Make the Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts, whisk in the brown sugar, syrup, and salt, stirring until the brown sugar melts. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar, starting with 3/4 cup and adding more to thicken per your preference (taste as you go to ensure you don't oversweeten). Drizzle the glaze over the top of your braid. Sprinkle the braid with toasted pecans and a dusting of cinnamon. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container and microwave for about 20 seconds to serve.



Example of how to cut and assemble braid.

Other breakfast braids you'll love: Raspberry Almond Breakfast Braid Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Breakfast Braid

If you liked this post, please: -Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook -Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid

So much dust. Shuffling papers, flying markers, scuffling footsteps. The crush of boxes being broken down, the shrill hum of students' voices. As chairs were stacked and debris was cleared, the classroom started to look foreign. There was an alien quality to the space (cleanness, maybe? emptiness?) that made us all feel like we didn't quite belong there anymore. And we didn't, really. It was the last, abbreviated week of school. The kids had one foot out the door, and the other was probably kicking someone under the table.

The teachers out there will give me an amen when I say that during those last few days, you fight a losing battle for your students' attention. My middle schoolers and I work until the last minute -- reflecting on how their writing has grown over the course of the year, finishing up our last novel -- but there's always a current of near-hysteria that runs through the classroom at the end of the year. I start to feel like I'm trying to hold back a tidal wave with a beach towel. At any given moment, they're about to lose their little minds entirely and start surfing on the tables.

When I realize we've reached this point, the turning of the tide of sanity, I start pining for summer myself. Up until then, everything is a flurry of urgent business: grading projects, writing emails, blogging, creating curriculum. There's barely a second to let the idea of vacation sink in. But finally, staring into a dozen sets of half-crazed student eyeballs, I see the bright summer sunshine at the end of the tunnel.

This year, I had the presence of mind to make a summer to-do list. It includes all of the mundane tasks I neglected while being a teacher 24/7 during the school year: clean under the bed, clean out the closet, reorganize the bookshelf. It contains resolutions reminiscent of New Year's: join the Y, start exercising regularly, figure out summer meal plan. It contains techy bloggy things: move to self-hosting, spruce up Willow Bird Baking. But something's missing.

Know how I know? I recently re-read my Raspberry Almond Braid post from over a year ago as I was preparing to create this Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid. When I wrote that post of yesteryear, I was on spring break and gushy about how much I loved the freedom. I listed 20 things I was enjoying, including things like running through the grass, playing fetch with Byrd, and reading. Oh, yeah. Things that are totally absent from what I've come to realize is my summer chore list.

Don't worry, I'm going to fix it. In fact, it's only been summer vacation for one day now, but I've already read a book: the first of the Hunger Games series my students have been recommending to me. I've already done a mini craft project (a card for a friend that turned out wonky but hopefully lovable). I've already baked something. I've already taken a nap. So far, so good!

Apart from helping me realize the error of my summer ways, this Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid was also the perfect restful recipe: though the process is as simple as can be, the result looks and tastes phenomenal. The flaky, tender almond pastry surrounds a cream cheese filling in addition to the blueberry preserves, making this one of my new favorite things to eat. It'll definitely get a heart on the WBB Recipe Index. You have to make it as soon as you can -- and then hopefully you can find the time for a summer nap in a lawn chair somewhere. What are your family's summertime plans?
Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Braid
Recipe by: Adapted from Luna Cafe Yields: 10-12 1-in. slivers of braid, or about 4 servings
Dough and Filling Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup unsalted butter 3 ounces best quality cream cheese 1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 cup blueberry preserves (or your favorite preserves)
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients: 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature 1/4 cup granulated white sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Icing Ingrdients: 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon milk 1/8 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon almond extract 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Directions: NOTE: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual.
Make the cream cheese filling. In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make your braid.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. (NOTE: This is the step at which you can ruin the braid. If you overwork the dough, the pastry will be tough. Just gather the dough together and don’t worry about making it smooth. It will still look a little rough. That’s perfect.)
Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Turn dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Spread preserves down the middle third of the dough and spread a thick line of the cream cheese mixture on either side of the preserves (still remaining in the middle third of the dough -- try to keep your filling about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.)
Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides (see photos below). Do not cut into the center jam-filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned.
In a small glass measuring cup with a pouring spout, combine the sugar, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Drizzle over the top of the braid. If desired, sprinkle on the toasted sliced almonds while the icing is still wet. Serve warm.

If you liked this post, please: -Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook -Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

Secret Garden Recipe: Homemade Buttery Croissants and Pains au Chocolat

I just sat down to write a beautiful post about rain on nighttime windows, the birdcry of feathery sentinels on the dark, and the gentle crunch of a buttery croissant. Moments of transcendence . . .

. . . and then I found a glob of meringue stuck in my hair. Not related to gorgeous French pastries, but I knew you'd want to know. Back to pastry. Certain achievements in the kitchen really ice the culinary cake for me. These croissants are without a doubt my proudest moment in the kitchen thus far.

I understand the sentiment I've heard so often, expressed by so many people: "Why make it, when you can get it from the store or bakery and it's just as good?" That's fine. Sometimes you want a sheet of puff pastry as a means to an end. Sometimes you just want a croissant without two days of work. I get it. I'm not a food snob. Even though I think you'd sacrifice some taste in the croissant department, if you want a pre-made croissant every now and then, go for it. But . . .


Beautiful layers.

But I have a goal. My goal is to inspire you, at least once, to make these croissants. When I say "you," I don't mean Martha Stewart. I doubt she's in my readership just yet. I mean you. You who have only made box cakes. Or you who bakes up a storm but feels intimidated by this whole "laminated dough" thing. Or you who thinks you could never accomplish this. I want to make you take a chance. If you've never made croissants before, I'm talking to you. You.

I was nervous, too. There are pages dedicated to croissant comparisons, discussions about how to get the best layering, and hundreds of thousands of mixed recipe reviews to wade through. I saw pictures of failed attempts and read overly detailed and confusing instructions.

In a laminated dough like this, you pound sticks of butter into a thin block and fold them into the dough like a letter in an envelope. The "laminating" process involves rolling out this dough package containing the cold butter layer, folding it, and rolling it out again. Lots of chilling occurs between these folds to ensure the butter stays cold.


Cross-section of a pain au chocolat.

Each fold produces layers of dough-butter-dough-butter, allowing for those gorgeous puffy layers you get when you finally shape and bake the croissants. Having made puff pastry before, I knew that if I could get past the first fold of the dough, I could complete the recipe. The dough becomes so much more manageable at that point, and it's really just repetition from there until the end. But would I get there with this notoriously sticky dough? And why did the first fold seem so far away when I was standing in my kitchen with gloppy fingers? I was scared. But you don't have to be scared. If I did it, you can do it.


Another gratuitous cross-section of a croissant.

You may shudder at two days of kitchen labor, but you get in the swing of the turns after the first one and feel pretty amazing every time you nestle your beautiful rectangle of croissant dough into the fridge again. Even though the recipe looks long, it's actually extremely straightforward, detailed, and simple to follow. But the real reason you should bake these croissants, though, is to have these croissants. To say the results are worth it is an understatement.

Apart from an incredible self-esteem boost, this recipe yields truly beautiful French pastry. The deep golden brown crust is slightly crisp, and every layer is full of intense buttery flavor. I had envisioned topping these croissants with honey and jam and all sorts of goodness, but couldn't bring myself to put a thing on them except a bit of butter. They were too perfect all by themselves. Also making your effort worthwhile is the fact that these are easily frozen after shaping and before proofing -- so you can thaw overnight, proof, and bake a few anytime you desire. Baking up French pastry that melts in your mouth with every bite? Having a stash of homemade croissants waiting in your freezer? Knowing that you made those flaky, heavenly layers your family is relishing? It's worth it, y'all.

Now. Rubber, meet Road. Here's my challenge to you. I want you to commit in the comments section to make these croissants. If just one person who previously thought, I could never do that, ends up pulling their homemade croissants from the oven because of this post, I will be one happy food blogger. I've included several resources within the recipe to help you with some of the parts you may not be familiar with just yet. I'm also available to answer any question you'll post in the comments section as best as I can. I want you to feel the same joy I felt at accomplishing this feat, and I want you to taste these delicacies. What do you say?

         Committed to Croissant         

  1. Maranda MARANDA MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  2. Amy AMY MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  3. LizzieBee of A City Girl Gone Country
  4. Blogless Sarah
  5. Blogless Sara
  6. Emily EMILY MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  7. Courtney
  8. Blogless Hannah HANNAH MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  9. Maia
  10. Blogless Eric
  11. Blogless Ellen
  12. Blogless Bryn
  13. Kat KAT MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  14. Blogless Eris
  15. Peggy of My Fiance Likes It, So It Must Be Good
  16. Blogless Kirsten KIRSTEN MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  17. Blogless Nathan
  18. Blogless Amanda AMANDA MASTERED CROISSANTS!
  19. Your Name Here!

If you've committed to croissant and don't see your name on the list, please leave a comment and let me know I've missed you! After you make your croissants, please let me know how it went and send pictures (if you can) of you with your masterpiece. I'll be posting them on Willow Bird Baking to show you off!
Homemade Butter Croissants or Pains au Chocolat
Recipe by: Adapted slightly from Gourmet Yields: Around 24 small croissants or 36 small pains au chocolat
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F) (use a candy thermometer to determine) 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages) 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon kosher salt 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter (I used Plugra European butter) 1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash 1 teaspoon cream or milk for egg wash chocolate batons or bittersweet chips for pain au chocolat, if desired
Equipment to have on hand: Stand mixer with dough hook candy thermometer kitchen towels Ruler Pastry scraper Pastry brush Parchment paper or silpat Spray bottle (although I improvised -- see below)
Directions:
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 3 3/4 cups 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: After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and put on a kitchen towel, then cover with other towel (I wrapped them in plastic wrap instead, but it did break at one point). Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough.
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." Make one impression in the dough with a finger to remind yourself that one fold is finished.) 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). NOTE: This is when you can let the dough hang out in the fridge overnight and get some rest, you croissant-makin' superstar!
Roll out and cut dough: Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.
Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles. If you're making pain au chocolat as well, cut some of the dough into smaller rectangles (see my example diagram, below).
For the more visual among you, here's a diagram I drew of how I ultimately rolled my two halves of dough (note that you need to work with a portion of the dough at a time to keep the rest chilled). This diagram shows you how I cut the dough to make 18 croissants and 9 pains au chocolat (the rectangles):

Shape croissants: Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.
Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)
Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired, joining their cute little arms. They won't stay joined during proofing, but this will help ensure that they do maintain their shape. I used a minute drop of water to seal their arms closed if the dough seemed dry.)
Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough. Note: To make pain au chocolat, simply place a chocolate baton or bittersweet chips on one side of the rectangle (about 1/4-inch from the edge) and roll it up -- very simple!)
Freeze croissants, if desired: This is the point at which you may place shaped, unproofed croissants on a baking sheet lined with wax paper in the freezer for an hour or two, until frozen. Then place them in a ziplock bag and freeze. They're absolutely best when baked within a week. When ready to bake (from frozen), thaw overnight in the refrigerator and proceed to the proofing step as normal. If not freezing, skip this step entirely and proceed to proofing.
Proof your croissants: First, brush croissants with a lightly beaten egg mixed with a teaspoon of milk or cream. Then proof. I use the Pastries from La Brea Bakery method here. Turn the oven on to 100 degrees. After a few minutes, turn the oven off and open the door. When the temperature drops to just slightly warm, place the croissants in the oven and close the door. Let the croissants rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until they are about 1 1/2 times their size, feel marshmallow-y, and leave a slight indent when touched. Make sure to remove the croissants before heating the oven for baking.
Bake croissants: For best results, bake one pan of croissants at a time (or two pans on the same rack, if they'll fit). Preheat to 425°F. Place an oven-safe dish full of water on the rack below where the croissants will be baking to produce steam.
Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door (I used my hands for this -- just sprinkled water around). Put croissants in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400°F and bake 8 minutes without opening door.
Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180°, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 8-10 minutes more. Do not take them out at light golden brown, or they'll be doughy in the middle. They need to get good and golden on the outside.
Croissants are best eaten slightly warm, slathered with butter, and with a lot of "Mmmms" and "Ahhhhs." Enjoy!
Additional tips and resources: -To see butter pounding, view this video of Julia Child and Michel Richards making puff pastry. The cold butter is pounded around 3:20 into the video, though I would do it with a sheet of plastic wrap on top as well. -See below for photos that will clarify the folding instructions. -The dough needs to be kept cool throughout the entire rolling process. I crank the air down a degree or two in my apartment, chill my rolling pin in the freezer for a few minutes before rolling, and sometimes use frozen veggies I have on hand to ice down my counter (just be sure to dry it) before flouring and rolling. If at any time the butter seems oozy, fold your dough up and chill it well before continuing. -Don't overflour the counter, but don't be afraid of flour. I was so timid about flouring the counter early in my baking life that I usually had a sticky mess on my hands. Once I finally decided to flour however much I needed (albeit lightly each time), things got a lot simpler for me. Check periodically while rolling and if the dough is sticking, flour lightly beneath it. One thing that helped me get the hang of how much to flour the counter and dough was watching youtube videos of people making puff pastry and croissants -- and watching how much they floured. -This video gave an excellent tutorial about how to shape the croissants and pains au chocolat. Turn off the recipe annotation in the bottom right corner of the video.


Clockwise: the second, third, and fourth fold and cutting the croissants.


Clockwise: the cute little shaped croissant, my first bake, and my first croissant and pain au chocolat cooling.

If you liked this post, please: -Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter -Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook -Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!