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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pretzel Croissants

Pretzel Croissants
Guess whose turn it is to be the Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month? Yes, mine! As the host, it's my responsibility to choose what we will be baking. Now, I like to choose a bread that is one (or more) of these things:

a) a challenge - something that takes a while to make or introduces a new technique
b) a favorite - something that I already love and think that everybody should know how to make
c) new to me - ummmmm, self-explanatory

The bread that I chose this month is sort of a combination of all three of my self-imposed requirements.

Pretzel Croissants
It's a challenge because it takes patience. You must read ahead. I'm serious, give yourself time to prepare. It's not difficult, but it isn't a "bang-it-out-quickly" type of challenge. It rewards patience and (if you let it) relaxes you.

It's actually not one, but TWO of my favorite things rolled into one package: soft pretzels and croissants. Two things that I find utterly irresistible. The great thing is that my family feels the same way, so I knew they'd disappear quickly. I make croissants on special occasions, and soft pretzels in some form with more frequency. I couldn't get past the thought of combining the two.

And new to me. Well, putting them together is new. So, I met this criteria with less authority than the other two, but I think it still qualifies.
Pretzel Croissants
So, what did I think of the combining my two favorites and turning them into Pretzel Croissants? Let's just say that I don't regret it. I love the process, and the resulting feeling of accomplishment, of making a laminated dough; multiple folds...extra care...nurturing. You just can't help but feel like a rockstar when you pull flaky, buttery croissants that you made from scratch from a hot oven. Just try be modest.

I will admit that my rolling technique could use some work, but once you taste them, you forget all about what they look like.

Now, the pretzel-half - do they really taste like pretzels? Sadly, not so much. Slightly, at best. But the beautiful burnished outside definitely resembles a pretzel. Plus, the beer in the dough (if you take your time and let them mature in the fridge for 24 hours the first time around, and then again for almost as long the second time around) does tickle your tastebuds and tease you with a whisper of the soft pretzel that lies beneath.

Are they worth making? Heck yeah, they are. At least once. I am always up for a new challenge, and you never know when you might want to pull them out of your (baking) magician's cap in the future.

Pretzel Croissants
Buttery, flaky croissants meet burnished soft pretzels to form one amazing pastry.
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Pretzel Croissants
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 31-48 hours (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 15-18 minutes
Keywords: bake bread breakfast vegetarian nut-free soy-free butter flour pastry French American

Ingredients (12 croissants)
    for the dough:
    • 1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm milk (~110° F)
    • 7 g (1/4 ounce / 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
    • 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar (golden or dark)
    • 410 g (3 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour + more for work surface
    • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
    • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temp
    • 1/2 cup (120 ml) cold pilsner-style beer
    for the butter block:
    • 340 g (12 ounces / 24 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
    to finish:
    • 60 grams (1/4 cup) baked baking soda (see notes) 
    • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
    • coarse salt
    • sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds, optional

    Note that the dough takes from 24-48 hours from start to the time you form them. The butter block should be formed sometime while the dough is rising. Baked baking soda is an alternative to using lye; it needs 1 hour in the oven (method follows recipe).

    making the dough:
    Stir the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar into the lukewarm milk and allow to sit until foamy, 5 minutes or so.

    Whisk the flour, remaining brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture, breaking it up into tiny flour-coated pieces the size of breadcrumbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and the beer using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to form a shaggy mass.

    Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead eight to ten times, until all of the flour is just incorporated. You don't want to over work it, because you don't want the butter to melt too much. The dough will not be a smooth mass; you will see some flecks of butter. It should be soft and tacky, but not sticky. Adjust as needed with flour or water.

    Lightly oil a large bowl and set the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours (24 will give you the best flavor).

    making the butter block:
    Beat the butter and flour together in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment until it forms a smooth mass (or by hand, using a lot of elbow grease). This should take about a minute. You want the butter to be pliable without beating air into it or melting it.

    Spread the butter between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap (or parchment or wax paper), and use a rolling pin to shape into a rectangle that is about 8"x9". Use a straight edge to form corners, but work quickly as you want the butter to stay cool. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until you're ready to roll out the dough.
    1st turn:
    Scatter a little bit of flour on your work surface, then turn the dough out onto it. Roll it out into a rectangle that is 10"x15" and about 1/4" thick. Using your hands, gently pull and stretch the dough to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush excess flour off of the dough. Set the dough with a long edge facing you.

    Mentally divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Place the butter block over the right 2/3 of the dough, leaving a 1" border on the outer edges. Fold the empty left portion of the dough over the middle third. Now, lift and fold the right section of dough over that. You should have 3 layers of dough that encase 2 layers of butter. Pinch the outsides and the seams together and lightly press the layers together using a rolling pin. This completes the first turn. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
    Pretzel Croissants - dough 1st turn
    2nd turn:
    Remove the dough from the fridge and set it on your lightly floured work surface. Roll dough out into a 10"x20" rectangle, pulling and stretching to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush off any excess flour. Set the dough with a long edge facing you. Fold both of the short ends in to the center, leaving a 1/4" gap where they meet (think of a book jacket). Fold one side of the dough over the other. Lightly press the layers together using a rolling pin, and square and sharpen the edges and corners. This completes the second turn. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
    Pretzel Croissants - dough 2nd turn
    3rd (and final) turn:
    Lightly dust your work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll dough out into a 10" by 15" rectangle. Do another trifold, as done in the first turn (mentally divide into thirds, then fold one third over the center, followed by the last third). Square the edges and sharpen the sides; wipe off excess flour. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but up to another 24 hours.
    Pretzel Croissants - dough 3rd turn
    (At this point, you can wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, slide it into a freezer baggie, and freeze for up to 1 week. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding to final shaping.)

    final shaping:
    Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

    Lightly dust your work surface and top of your dough with flour. Roll out into a 15"x18" rectangle that is ~1/4" thick. Pull and stretch to form straight edges and sharp corners. Patch any holes where butter may have popped through by dusting them with flour. Brush any excess flour off the dough.

    Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, creating two 15"x9" sheets of dough. Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut each piece of dough into three equal strips, the short way. Then cut each strip in half diagonally, so that you left with 6 triangles. Repeat with other piece of dough.

    If  you like, cut a 1/2" notch in the center of each triangle base, then beginning at that end, roll the triangles up, tugging on the tip to elongate it slightly, then gently pressing it into the dough. Place on the prepared baking sheets with the tip tucked under, and curve the ends to form crescent shapes (the notch helps with the curving process). If you prefer a "straight" croissant, the notch isn't necessary. Either way, it won't hurt anything.
    Pretzel Croissants - shaping dough
    Cover the croissants with damp, clean kitchen towels and allow to rise at cool room temperature until they have almost doubled in size and feel spongy, ~2 hours.

    At this point, slide the croissants into the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you prepare the dipping solution. Preheat oven to 425° F, positioning one rack in the upper third of the oven, and one in the lower third.

    prepare the dipping solution:
    Add the baked baking soda in 8 cups of cold water and stir until completely dissolved. One by one, dip the croissant dough into the dipping solution, allow the excess to drip off, then set back on the lined trays. Brush the tops with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse salt and sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if using.
    Pretzel Croissants - baking soda bath and finishing
    Slide into preheated oven immediately and bake for 15-18 minutes (rotating pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through), until they are deeply browned, crispy, and flaky. They should feel light and airy if you pick them up.

    Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving (or let them sit on the sheet tray for 5-10 minutes. I found that they soaked the butter on the pan back into them if I did this). They are best enjoyed the day they are made, ideally warm from the oven. Store any extras in a paper bag for a day. You can reheat them by placing them in a 350° F oven for ~5 minutes.

    to make Baked Baking Soda:
    Baked baking soda is an alternative to working with lye that still lends pretzels their dark, burnished crust. To make the baked baking soda, spread 1/4 cup (~70 grams) of baking soda out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or foil (or in a pie pan). It will decrease in weight, but shouldn't decrease in volume. Slide it into an oven that has been preheated to 250° F/120° C and bake for 1 hour. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. If you see lots of pretzels in your future, make a large batch to store since it keeps indefinitely.

    It is possible to do 2 or even all 3 turns at a time IF your kitchen is cool enough and you work fast enough. You want the butter to stay cold; if it starts to get soft, you'll lose those beautiful flaky layers in the end. When in doubt, refrigerate between turns.

    -adapted from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker
    Pretzel Croissants
    See what the other BBBabes thought of my choice for this month, and find out how you can join in below...

    The Bread Baking Babes (current dozen) are:

    The Bread Baking Buddies are: YOU!

    So which Babe is the hosting kitchen this month?  That would be ME (Heather) right here at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, if you'd like to join in, simply make Pretzel Croissants (yes, you may adapt) - and then email me your link (or email your photo and a bit about your experience if you don't have a blog). My email address is heather (at) allroadsleadtothe (dot) kitchen.  Submissions are due by April 29th.  Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along, then watch for a roundup of all of the BBBuddies posts a few days after the close of submissions. I hope you'll join us this month!

    UPDATE 5/2/14: See the roundup of the BBBuddies Pretzel Croissants HERE!

    I am also sending these Pretzel Croissants over to Susan's Yeastspotting and linking them to Sophia's #BeerMonth (since they are made with beer)!