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chocolate croissants

May 9, 2012

So, this happened.

I’d been meaning to try making croissants for a while, but was always a little intimidated by the process and figured it could only be done properly with a full-on chef’s hat and French accent.

But recently, I realized that I’d basically already made croissants in the form of that ill-advised finals-period Danish. And then I realized I could stuff said croissants with chocolate instead of vaguely-healthy apples. And it was so on.

So, yes, the process does take a while, and I was lucky enough to have the croissant-obsession hit full force in the middle of spring break, when I had a full day to set aside for the glorious butter square. However, it is possible to pre-make the croissants the day before, let them rise a bit when you roll out of bed the next morning, and have a delicious, unhealthy breakfast ready by the time your stomach tells you it must feed.

And oh, was it delicious. As soon as I opened the oven to see my lovely golden croissants swimming in pools of excess butter, I knew they would be pretty legitimate. (You’d think such a swim would leave them soggy, but I moved them to a wire rack right away and they didn’t seem to suffer too badly.) They melted gloriously in your mouth, and though they didn’t quite have the million layers of authentic croissants, I didn’t exactly mourn the loss as I shoved melty chocolate and buttery dough into my mouth. Can’t lose with these ones. Nope.

Chocolate Croissants
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk, cold
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
24 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used plain old Tollhouse chips), chopped fine
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. For the dough, whisk 2 3/4 cups of flour together with yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Place milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook; add the flour mixture and knead on low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add butter pieces to dough and continue to knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough becomes smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears the sides of the bowl, 5 to 6 more minutes. The dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl than to itself, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. For the butter square, using a bench scraper, toss together butter pieces and flour on a clean work surface. Smear butter and flour back and forth against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth, homogenous mixture. Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and use the edges of the wrap to form an even 7-inch square. Refrigerate until ready to use, or at least 30 minutes.
3. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll the dough into an 11-inch square. Place the chilled butter square diagonally onto the dough and fold the corners of the dough up over the butter square so that they meet in the middle. Pinch edges of dough together to seal them.
4. Using a rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from the center of the dough and moving outwards, until the square becomes larger and the butter begins to soften. At this point, start gently rolling the dough into a 14-inch square, checking often to make sure the dough is not sticking and  dusting with additional flour as necessary. Fold the square into thirds to form a long rectangle. Starting from the narrow ends, fold the rectangle into thirds again to form a square. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
5. Repeat step 4 and chill again for at least 2 hours.
6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chilled dough on a floured work surface and gently roll the dough into a 20-inch square. Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into four equal 10-inch squares. Cut each square into thirds to make a total of 12 rectangles. Place 1/2 oz. (about 1 tablespoon) of chocolate in the middle of each rectangle. Fold each rectangle into thirds and place it seam-side down on the baking sheet; cover loosely with plastic wrap. At this point, you can refrigerate the assembled croissants overnight; let them rise at room temperature for an additional 45 minutes or so (i.e. for a total of 90 to 105 minutes) in the next step to make sure they’re back at room temp.
7. Let the croissants rise at room  temperature until puffy (they will not double in size), 45 to 60 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush croissants with the beaten egg. Bake until croissants are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool croissants on a wire rack until warm (you may have to go on a rescue mission right away to retrieve them from the errant butter and prevent sogginess), about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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