What better to do on a lazy Sunday than spend all day on a baking project? I was inspired by Ariel’s gift of tubes of almond paste. I’ve made croissants before, and I like to vary them a bit by rolling some chocolate in the middle to make pain au chocolat. Adding a little roll of almond paste makes them a delectable vegan pastry that would satisfy anyone.
There’s lots of tricks to making decent croissants. The first step is to knead 3 sticks of earth balance with about 1/4 cup of flour. It’s important to get this mixture smooth, because any chunks of butter will later break through the layers of dough. Form the butter into a 6×6″ square on some foil and put it in the fridge to chill.
The next step is to create a simple yeast dough. Use 2 cups of warmed soymilk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons (or packets) yeast, and 4 cups flour. Mix well, knead (adding more flour as needed), put it back in the bowl, and refrigerate.
A few hours later after the butter has firmed up and the dough has risen in the fridge, you’re ready for the next step. The idea here is that the dough and the butter have about the same consistency. Knead and roll out the dough into a square about twice the size of the butter, and place the butter on top.
Fold in each corner like you’re wrapping a present. Keeping everything well floured, turn it upside down and start rolling out into a long rectangle, about three times as long as it is wide.
If the butter starts squeezing out, everything is too warm and return it to the fridge for a while. If the butter seems too hard and starts breaking through the dough, it’s too cold–let it warm up a bit. Fold in thirds, bringing each end in (like a letter). Again, keeping things well floured roll out again into a rectangle. This time fold into fourths–fold each end to the middle then close the whole thing like a book. Things will really be warming up by now, so wrap tightly in plastic wrap and return to the fridge for a good hour.
Unwrap and roll out again into a rectangle. Fold in thirds. Wrap and return in to the fridge for 3-5 hours, or longer (overnight would be fine).
You’re now ready for the final roll. It’s really important to keep things cold at this point. I let a bunch of ice cubes melt on my counter for a while–if you have a marble slab by all means use it. Unwrap, and roll out into a large square/rectangle until things are about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into triangles with a sharp knife, place them on cookie sheets, and return to the fridge.
At this point you can simply roll them up into croissants. I took about half and added a roll of almond paste (marzipan works fine too) and some chunks of bittersweet chocolate.
Place them on a cookie sheet, let rise an additional hour, and bake at about 400 for 15-20 minutes. They’re great right out of the oven, but they actually get more flaky as they cool.
They turned out pretty well this time. I had a few issues–my triangles were a bit more like right triangles than the isosceles ones that work best. I sort of rolled each one individually to make them more in the right shape. My first few ended up a bit ugly, but by the end they looked great. The other problem was my oven heats much more from the bottom than the top–even on a high rack in a well-preheated oven, the bottoms got brown too fast. I flipped them with about 5 minutes to go and they ended up looking fine.
I also have about a third of them in the freezer (unbaked) for a later occasion! I’ll let you know how they turn out.