Ahhhhh croissants - old favorites and a chocolate trial

I held a croissant class recently, and, in preparation for that event, I baked a couple of croissants and pains au chocolat for class tasting purposes.

Just imagine that flaky, crisp exterior and lovely airy, not-quite-bready interior.  So good.

And for a special treat I had to do croissant aux amandes, bien sûr.  A big hit with the group.

In addition to the classics, I'm periodically on a path of discovering different things to do with croissant dough.  On one of my morning walks I started thinking chocolate, and, since I had recently finished a batch of chocolate pâte feuilletée, it seemed only natural to try croissant dough with a chocolate twist.

I made a half batch of my usual recipe, adding in some Dutch process cocoa powder (10% by weight of my flour amount) with the dry ingredients.  I increased the milk just a bit, since I find that cocoa powder tends to have a drying effect on dough.

the détrempe

In addition I worked some hazelnut flour into my butter block hoping to give it a nutty flair.  Yup!  Definitely wingin' it!!

hazelnut butter block

Ready for the beurrage . . . .

Finished dough after the three turns . . . .

Not long ago I added a new flexi-mold to my Silikomart collection and was itching to use it.  I had visions of dough spirals dancing in my head.  Even though these silicone molds are non-stick, I brushed them with soft butter so I could coat them with vanilla sugar before placing the spirals in to rise.

I rolled the finished dough out to allow for shaping a couple of typical croissants . . . .

plus a block of dough topped with vanilla sugar and mini chocolate chips . . . .

that I cut into 3/4" strips, rolled up into spirals and popped into my buttered/sugared molds.

I gave them a 1.5 hour rise . . .

after the rise

after the rise

and then on to the bake!  One thing's for sure - the chocolate makes it much more difficult to assess whether they've baked long enough, but I could appreciate some browning and the croissants had the "feel" of being fully baked (once you've felt it, you just know).

rather interesting, eh?

 I wanted to give the spirals a bit longer in the oven to make sure the interior layers were done.  I took them out of the molds, drizzled them with caramel, baked 'em another 5-10 minutes and called it a day.

Taste test time!!

Cutting into the croissant resulted in the hoped for shower of crispy exterior shards.  The inner laminations looked OK and the texture was good, but the taste wasn't much different from a regular butter croissant (although Steve thought it on the dry side).  And this is the key for me - minimal (if any!) chocolate flavor and no hint of hazelnut.  So much for that.

The spirals, however, offered a pleasant, crispy caramelized texture and flavor, and the mini chips added just the right touch of chocolate.


In the end, this attempt at chocolate croissant dough was not worth the effort.

Perhaps an increase in the amount of cocoa powder, or adding the chocolate to the butter block rather than the détrempe might make a difference, but at this point I'll stick with the classic dough from here on out.

Chocolate bread pudding here I come!

Some small treats for a Friday morning meeting

I trust everyone is enjoying their holiday season and not getting too harried.  Just remember to slow down and take some deep breaths every now and then!

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way . . . .

Early this past week I received a request to provide an assortment of small goodies for the annual board meeting of Urban Ventures, a state funded, non-profit organization that exists to assist micro businesses get started in Rhode Island.

I had worked with UV back in 2010-2011 as I was developing my small pastry business, so when the call came in, I was happy to oblige.

I turned to some of my tried and true favorites - financier, pain au chocolat, profiterole, and bouchon.

petite pain au chocolat

I also wanted to offer something else made using croissant dough (in addition to the pain au chocolat).  It just so happened that I had a small amount of crème d'amandes in my fridge just begging to be used, so I proceeded to make a small batch of crème pâtissière and blended equal parts of the two crèmes to make frangipane.  I had been envisioning an apricot-almond combo and finally settled on cutting the rolled out croissant dough into small rectangles, proofing, then topping with frangipane and apricot slices before baking.  And here they are!

apricot almond pastry - the hit of the meeting!

I've made a number of different financier over the years, including pear-ginger, chocolate-hazelnut, orange-cranberry, apple-cheddar, pumpkin, herbed goat cheese, lemon-berry, just to name a few.  It's such a delicious and versatile base - definitely one of my faves!

This time I went with matcha-raspberry, a regular (and very popular) offering in the past during my Saturday winter farmers market days in Pawtucket.  I love to bake them in different shapes too and find that the vast array of silicone flexi-molds currently available makes for all sorts of tempting choices.  Squares!  Thanks Joe!

matcha-raspberry financier, just out of the oven

My bouchon are based on a recipe entitled "French Puffs" that I found in Portland, Maine's Standard Baking Company's book .  Once I had made them I wasn't sure why the word "puff" was used, since they aren't at all puffy.  In fact they are a dense, moist cake, full of flavor.  I adapted the recipe, adding coriander and ginger to the nutmeg in the batter and then rolling the warm, butter-dipped nuggets in coriander sugar.

My sister Joyce once described these as "the best donut hole I've ever had".  I bake them in small, round flexi-molds, the result prompting Steve to name them bouchon 'cuz they kinda look like champagne corks.

coriander buttermilk bouchon

I happened to have some choux puffs in the freezer (a great item to have on hand for those unexpected requests!), so profiteroles here we come.  A truly delicious combo is to pair fresh fruit with whipped caramel mascarpone cream - what a marriage of fresh, sometimes tart with creamy, smooth goodness.

For the cream I combine equal weights heavy cream and mascarpone, add in some vanilla and, in this case, my homemade caramel sauce to provide a hint of sweetness, then whip it all to soft peaks.  I cut the tops off the puffs, pipe a swirl of cream into the bottom and top with fresh fruit.  In this case I used kiwi, orange and pomegranate seeds, primarily for the lovely seasonal color combination.  And don't forget - it tastes good too!

fresh fruit profiterole

The table . . .

The pain au chocolat and apricot almond pastries . . .

I anticipated the possibility of leftovers and had small, to-go bags on hand.  Many of the attendees took advantage of the "doggy-bag" option and left with an assortment to share with office mates, co-workers, friends or family.

A good morning indeed.