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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Food and Drink: The Croissant

My mom and dad have been married to each other for 60 years. What is the key to such a long and happy marriage? I can only tell you what I observe: They both really enjoy eating bakery. And my mother, at least, enjoys baking. Lest you get the wrong idea, I must add that they are both very slender; the baking life need not be an overweight one.

On the matter of baking and bakery, the apple has not fallen far from the tree. I love it, too. I could attribute this interest in part to being given an Easy Bake Oven one Christmas when I was a girl, but I also recall being given a pink, child-sized broom and matching pink dustpan one holiday and I have absolutely no passion for cleaning. It must be genetics.

Whatever the reason, nature or nurture, over the years I've baked cakes, pies, small desserts, breads, rolls, quiche and other delights both savory and sweet. My thoughts finally turned to the croissant one day as I was looking over the weekly grocery store advertisement. Croissants were shown; $3 a piece. "Outrageous," I grumbled into my morning java. "Three dollars for an over sized dinner roll, and a lousy roll at that." This alleged croissant, I knew, had no flaky buttery layers, no delicate crunchy bits over tender bread, no goat cheese filling, no chocolate, no jambone et fromage. I vowed to make my own.

I began by consulting one of my essential texts: How to Bake by Nick Malgieri. Milk, yeast, flour, sugar, salt; the ingredients were simple enough and all on hand.

After reading Nick's instructions on technique a few time, I turned next to the Internet. On the web I read more recipes and ultimately decided to print just one, which I found at about. com. I intended to follow Nick Malgieri's recipe for the croissant dough, with the addition of some of the techniques I'd gleaned from the web. Finally, watching a few You Tube videos clarified the process of rolling and turning the dough that is required to get all those beautiful, buttery layers.

Friday night I mixed the dough and put it into the refrigerator. Saturday, I made the butter layer and incorporated it into the dough. This was the rolling and folding part. It was fun, and surprisingly easy. The activity caused anticipation to sky rocket in our household. After the final turn of the layered dough, it went back into the refrigerator to chill again until Sunday morning.

Early Sunday, I cut out little triangles of dough. A few were simply rolled into the classic shape, but to some I added a goat cheese and tomato mixture and to others . . . chocolate. Into the oven they went.

The house smelled glorious while the croissants baked. And the results? Heaven! Warm from the oven, the little pastries were flaky and tender, buttery and delicious. Why had I waited so long to try this? And importantly, wait until Mom and Dad eat these!

The finished product.