Laminated dough, like that used to make such delightful pastries as croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese danishes, or delightful little asparagus and cheese tarts, is one of those things that seems to make some people flee the kitchen in terror. The rest roll their eyes and tell me I have too much time on my hands.
I admit, I wouldn’t make this dough on a workday. I wouldn’t make it on a particularly lazy week-end, either. But if I’m up and about and antsy for some reason, I’ll make this dough. Then I’ll freeze it, and be able to thaw it out and make croissants whenever I want them.
That, my friends, is power. These are not the strangely flavorless, apparently butter-free (but very flaky) croissants found at your local supermarket. This dough makes pastry that is light, flaky, buttery, even more buttery, and billowy as a cloud thanks to the added yeast that allows it to soar above even puff pastry.
Ingredients (makes just shy of 3 pounds of dough)
For the sponge:
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
1 T vanilla
1 t dry yeast
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cream
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 24 T) butter
Add the yeast and 1 cup of flour in a mixing bowl.
Stir to combine.
Add vanilla. I know, it’s against the law according to the French but I will have vanilla in my sweet pastries.
Add water. Now, we want the yeast to start happily breeding and producing carbon dioxide bubbles so don’t cook them, and don’t keep them inactive in the cold. Use water just a bit warmer than your skin.
Stir it up a bit, and you have a yeasty slurry.
Cover the bowl with a towel and amuse yourself elsewhere for an hour or so. Or stand in the kitchen staring at it, if you like, but that sounds boring.
After an hour the slurry will have risen and be full of bubbles.
Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt to the yeast mixture.
Then add the cream.
Stir the dough with a spoon just until it forms a shaggy ball.
At that point, put the shaggy dough on a well-floured counter top.
Knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes.
Wrap up the dough and toss it in the fridge while you prepare the butter for laminating.
Lay down a double layer of plastic wrap. Cut the sticks of butter in half laterally and dust them with about 3 tablespoons of flour.
Lay another double layer of plastic wrap over the butter.
Get out your beat stick. Incidentally, if your rolling pin has moving parts, or you don’t want to frighten everyone in your building with the rather loud, violent noises you’re about to start making . . . well, you came this far; you may as well get out some aggression.
Beat the butter and flour together until it forms a smooth, putty-like slab. It should be pliable but not shiny.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a rectangle about 11×18 inches.
Center the butter on the dough.
Fold the sides over the butter and pinch them together at the top and bottom.
We’re not done with the mindless aggression yet. Smash the butter into the corners of the pastry with the rolling pin.
Roll the dough back out into an 11×18 rectangle.
If the edges of your rectangle are uneven, just shove them back in place with the side of your rolling pin. Fold the dough in thirds again and roll it back out to 11×18. At this point the dough will need to be refrigerated for a while to chill the butter and keep it from erupting, Alien-like, from the layers of dough.
After about half an hour, pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out and fold it in thirds another three times.
Cut the finished dough into three equal pieces and wrap them in plastic wrap.
I set aside and froze two thirds of the dough for later, and made an enormous pain au chocolat out of the remaining third. I’ll post about what to do with this lovely dough in a couple of days.