Whole wheat croissants

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As I experiment more and more with whole grain flours, I just had to do a trial of croissant dough with a couple of variations on using whole wheat flour. Just can’t get enough of the laminated dough thing, or so it seems. Oh well, there are worse things to be fixated on, don’t you think?

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The first version adjusts my base recipe from 450 g all purpose flour and 50 g bread flour (recipe coming at the end, I promise!) to a mixture of 300 g spelt flour and 200 g whole wheat pastry flour, both from Bob’s Red Mill. The spelt I used is a coarse grind and gave my dough a speckled look. I was hoping that my choice of those two flours would sort of balance each other out in terms of gluten content, giving me something closer to all purpose but with the nutritional benefits of using whole grain flours. Kinda winging it here.

The second version uses a mixture of 300 g white whole wheat flour from King Arthur (a finer grind than the spelt and a softer flour from soft white wheat) and 200 g whole wheat pastry flour from Bob’s Red Mill (another softer flour), yielding a smoother appearance with less speckling. Again - wingin’ it.

I normally use whole milk for my liquid but this time I replaced about a third of the milk with water, thinking that the final, slightly less enriched, nutty-wheaty croissants would lend themselves to more savory uses like ham/cheese or chicken salad sandwiches. I know, I know - this isn’t a very scientific study since I’m changing a number of variables, but why not play around? It’s what I love.

My two dough versions and butter blocks ready to go

My two dough versions and butter blocks ready to go

I put both versions through the usual steps of beurrage followed by three business letter folds (or 3-folds) and a final rest in the fridge before rolling out. I divided each batch into halves so I could create two different pastries with each version.

The spelt dough rolled nicely but when it came time to cut and shape the croissants, the dough felt drier and was not quite as sturdy, tending to tear when being stretched a bit.

Shaping the spelt croissants

Shaping the spelt croissants

With the second half of the spelt dough I did a savory spiral - rolled it out into a 10”x12” rectangle, brushed it with egg wash and sprinkled on mixed Italian herbs and grated gruyère cheese . . . .

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rolled it up into a log and sliced ~1 inch slices.

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The slices went into buttered 80 mm rings to proof.

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The white whole wheat version also rolled out easily and was less inclined to tear when being stretched and shaped.

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The second half of this dough became cherry-almond spirals - same idea as the cheese/herb spirals above - spread on a mixture of almond flour, egg white and brown sugar and topped it with cherry preserves and sliced almonds.

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Rolled up and sliced, these went into buttered muffin tins to proof.

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I gave the croissants a good 2-2.5 hours to proof and the spirals a bit less. Then on to the bake!

Proofed spelt version

Proofed spelt version

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

I gave the proofed cheese spirals a sprinkling of more cheese . . . .

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and here they are all baked up!

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I gave half of the egg washed white whole wheat croissants a sprinkling of KAF’s Artisan bread topping, a delicious mixture of sesame, flax, sunflower, black caraway, poppy and anise seeds.

Proofed

Proofed

all baked up

all baked up

Cherry almond here we come! A sprinkling of raw sugar and into the oven.

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Once baked I rolled them in some vanilla sugar for the pièce de résistance.

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Steve and I did a thorough sampling of all four versions. We thought the flavor was deelish and the texture pretty decent. Personally I love the nuttiness and whole grain sense of these doughs and would definitely make whole wheat croissant dough again.

I froze a good portion of the baked and cooled end results, and we were able to enjoy the croissants and cheesy spirals thawed and oven warmed with a delicious chili Steve made for a family supper out at cousin Jen’s. Everyone enjoyed them immensely. Who says you can’t have a croissant for supper eh?

So what did I learn from all of this? Truth be told, I had done some reading before the project but had neglected to consider the need for some increased hydration when using all whole wheat flour. Duh. Hence I did a thorough read through of very helpful tips and suggestions from the Whole Grain Council/KAF - so much information out there kids!

Going forward I now know to add an additional 2 teaspoons of liquid per cup of whole wheat flour used. It’s also important to work the dough more gently and shape more loosely since the germ and bran in the whole wheat flour can actually shred the gluten strands in the dough, weakening it (it was very clear to me with the spelt version that it was drier and much more prone to tearing).

Whole wheat doughs generally ferment a bit faster (more nutritive stuff in them for the yeast to munch on) but don’t achieve quite as much volume. I did give my dough the same amount of rising time that I normally give my regular croissants but did note that the rise didn’t appear quite as full. Yet I was very happy with how they baked and tasted in the end. YES indeed.

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Here’s my standard base croissant recipe with adjustments for whole wheat:

450 g all purpose flour + 50 g bread flour (option 300 g white whole wheat flour/200 g whole wheat pastry flour)
44 g sugar
18 g salt
50 g soft unsalted butter
16 g instant yeast
317 g whole milk, can be cold or room temp (add 35 g additional liquid if using whole wheat flour - may be a mix of water and milk)
283 g unsalted butter for the butter block

  1. Blend flours, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.

  2. Stir in milk (milk/water if using) with a rubber spatula or dough whisk to roughly combine. If using whole wheat flour let the mixture sit for 20 minutes to hydrate before proceeding.

  3. Mix with the dough hook on “stir”, adding the 50 g soft butter to incorporate.

  4. Increase to speed 2 and knead for 3-4 minutes (2-3 minutes if using whole wheat flour).

  5. Place on a lightly floured work surface, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30-40 minutes.

  6. Shape into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

  7. Shape the 283 g butter into a 4-5 inch square (I do this between two layers of plastic wrap). The butter should be cool and malleable for the beurrage.

  8. Perform the beurrage followed by three business letter folds, resting the dough 30 minutes between each fold. Let the finished dough rest at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours before final shaping.

It’s not my intention here to review all the steps and nuances of making laminated dough, proofing and baking croissants but primarily to share the dough recipe. Now it’s time for you to experiment on your own. Go for it! You can do it.

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Homemade graham crackers and a coconut cream tart for Christmas

It's hard to believe that Christmas Day has come and gone.  Especially with the no-snow-on-the-ground, warm weather we've been having here in west Michigan.  The weeks leading up to Christmas always seem to fill up with various projects, activities and baking (of course!).  And then it's over and time for a new year.


our holiday table

chocolate pot de crème for Christmas Eve supper

spiced, candied nuts as an accompaniment

The other day when Steve and I were checking out Kingma's butcher counter looking for flank steak, we were also perusing the many aisles of food products.  There before my eyes was one of the largest selections of Bob's Red Mill flours that I have ever seen.  The one that caught my eye was graham flour and got me in the mood to make my own graham crackers in preparation for a graham cracker crusted coconut cream tart for Christmas Day.

This graham flour is ground from "hearty dark northern, hard red spring wheat" and "contains all of the wheat berry's healthy and natural elements - the germ, endosperm and bran".  It's good for you!

I first made my own graham crackers some years ago after paying closer attention to the ingredients on the boxes of "store bought" grahams.  I like to keep my baked goods as preservative free as possible and making these crackers at home is really an easy proposition.  So why not go for it?!

I think this recipe may have come from Elizabeth Falkner when she visited Johnson and Wales University in Providence a few years ago as a distinguished visiting chef.  It's a keeper.  I often write up recipes with gram weights and note things I might do differently the next time.  I keep them in plastic page sleeves that I then stash in my many recipe notebooks.




les ingredients

Heat the oven to 350º F.  Line two 1/2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a separate bowl whisk 180 grams graham flour with 98 grams all purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

In a mixing bowl cream 56 g (2 oz) soft butter with 85 g sugar; add 1 large egg and mix until blended.

Stir in 4 tablespoons honey, followed by 1/2 teaspoon baking soda that's been dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water.

Blend in the dry ingredients.

The dough should hold together and be manageable.  If it's too sticky, add a bit more graham flour.


the finished dough

On a graham flour dusted surface roll the dough out to a thickness of about 2 mm. I work with about half the dough at a time.  It is a tad sticky, but just keep lightly dusting and lifting the dough with a bench scraper to keep it from sticking.




Since my plan for these grahams was to crush them for a graham cracker crust, I wasn't too fussy about how I cut and baked them.  You can certainly cut nice looking squares and even score them with a fork to give the quintessential graham cracker look if you're serving them as a traditional cracker.




ready for the oven

Bake for about 15 minutes and always remember to watch what's going on in your oven!

crisp and golden brown

My graham cracker crust calls for 140 grams (5 oz) of graham crackers so I weighed out what I needed and coarsely broke up the remaining crackers to put in my freezer for the next time.

I crushed the crackers for the crust with the old zip-top bag/rolling pin technique which eliminates having to get out the food processor (or cleaning it afterwards).  Love it!

This coconut cream tart recipe comes from the Baking Illustrated book by the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine and calls for toasting unsweetened, shredded coconut for both the crust, the filling and the top garnish.  I did that a bit ahead.


crust ingredients

The above ingredients include the 140 grams crushed graham crackers, 2 tablespoons sugar, 70 grams (5 tablespoons) melted unsalted butter and 4 tablespoons of toasted coconut.  Simply mix it all with a fork and press it firmly into a tart pan.

Bake the crust at 325º F for about 20 minutes until fragrant and browned.


waiting for the filling

While the crust cools go ahead and make the coconut cream filling.


filling ingredients

The filling is prepared using a basic pastry cream method.  Place the contents of one 14 oz can of coconut milk in a sauce pan, along with 240 ml (one cup) of whole milk, 35 grams of toasted coconut, 75 grams sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Heat this to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile place 5 egg yolks in a separate bowl, whisk in 75 grams sugar and 28 grams cornstarch.

Gradually pour half of the hot milk mixture over the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, then return all to the sauce pan and cook, still whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles.

Take it off the heat and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 28 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter.

Pour the cream directly into the baked crust, cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours until chilled.


chilled tart ready for garnish

Whip up a cup of heavy cream with a splash of vanilla extract and a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar and spread it over the coconut cream filling.  I love to use my offset spatula to create a simple design.


nothing too fancy here folks!

Then sprinkle some toasted coconut on the top . . . .




and voila, you're ready to go!

Now it's time to take a breath, relax a bit and look ahead to a new year.