Fantastic Butter Croissants, and bonus Chipotle Aioli recipe

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People talk about classical French pastry like it’s so difficult to make. Now, I’m not going to argue that it’s not fiddly or time-consuming, but the actual difficulty level of it is pretty minor. If you can mix stuff up in a bowl and you can roll and fold a few times, you can make your own croissants. And the great part of that is, once you’ve got that dough, that’s the same dough that you’d use for a pain au chocolat. Danishes are done using the same technique, though some people add egg to their danish dough. I don’t–I do all three the same way, as do many commercial bakeries. The big difference is how you fold them up, and whether you fill them.

What I did tonight was to slice the croissants in half and make them into sandwiches with deli sliced roast beef, Muenster cheese, and my own chipotle aioli. Now, an aioli is another thing that seems a lot harder and more complex than it is. It’s basically a homemade mayonnaise with a good bit of garlic. I added chipotle peppers to mine because, well, I add chipotle peppers to just about everything. They’re enough of a pantry staple that Dale and I were looking online today for a source of canned chipotles by the case. The aioli recipe below is basic enough that if you subtract out the chipotles in adobo and the garlic, you’ve got a mayonnaise that’s suitable for just about any sandwich, and once you’ve made your own, you’ll never put the globby jarred stuff on your bread again. Being who we are, though, Dale and I both prefer it with the garlic and peppers.

Croissants

1 1/2 c. warm milk (not hot)
2 pkg. active dry yeast (not instant)
2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. white sugar
3 3/4 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks or 3/4 lb.) cold butter

1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

Combine your milk, yeast, and sugars in a mixing bowl, and let them stand until the mixture foams. It should start making tiny bubbles almost immediately and be foamy within 5 minutes. If it doesn’t, your yeast is dead, and you need to start this step over with fresher yeast.

Then add your flour and salt, and mix it (I use a hand mixer on low, but if you’ve got a stand mixer with a dough hook, go for it) until it comes together into a soft dough. Roll that out to about an inch and a half thick, wrap it in plastic, and chill it for about an hour.

Unwrap the butter and put the three sticks up against each other like a block, and sandwich it between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment. Now, a lot of recipes are going to tell you to roll this straight out into a rectangle, but if your butter’s cold enough to work with properly, it’s not going to roll. So you’re going to need to break the surface tension on it a bit to make it workable. That means you’re going to take that rolling pin and smack the living crap out of the butter, repeatedly, until it’s soft enough to roll out. Then roll it out into a rectangle, about 5×8 inches, as even as you can make it. At that point it goes back in the fridge to chill some more.

Now for the time-consuming bit. Once your butter and your dough have chilled properly, flour your work surface well and roll the dough out to about 16×10 inches, and center the butter across the dough so that the long direction of the butter rectangle is the short side of the dough. If any butter comes through the surface of the dough, sprinkle it with flour to keep it from sticking. Fold the dough in thirds around the butter and roll it lengthwise to about 1/2 inch thick. Then fold it in thirds again from the other direction, so that what was the long side when you folded it in before is now the short side–that’s your first turn done.  Put it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so, so that the gluten will relax.

When you take it out, you’re going to do another turn. Roll it out in the same direction as the folds, fold it in from the other direction, roll it out in the direction of the new folds, and fold again. Back in the fridge. You’re going to repeat this a total of 4 times, chilling in between, roughly an hour (but if it’s closer to 45 minutes, you’ll be fine).

After the final turn, chill your dough again (most recipes call for overnight, but I never wait that long), then roll it out to roughly 1/2 inch thick all the way across. You’re going to cut rectangles in the dough, then cut those rectangles in half, corner to corner. Start at the short end of the resulting triangle and roll up the dough, tucking the point under when you’re done.

Combine the egg and the water in a bowl, stirring well, and brush the mixture over the top of your croissants with a pastry brush. Let the croissants rise for an hour or so. I like to go back over the croissants with the egg wash before I put them into the oven. Bake them at 400F until golden brown–start checking them at 7 minutes, but depending on how big a croissant you’ve made, it may take more than that.

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Chipotle Aioli

2 eggs
4-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (just under 1/2 can)
4 medium cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine eggs, chipotles, garlic, and mustard in a blender or food processor and pulse until blended. With the blades running, slowly add the oils in a thin stream, blending until it thickens and starts to bind together–should be a couple of minutes or so. Stop the motor and add the lemon juice, plus some salt to taste. Pulse it until smooth. Let it stand for a few minutes before you serve it, so that it will thicken up a little more.

Because of the raw eggs in it, you’re going to want to be careful that the container you store the leftovers in is airtight, and it won’t have much of a shelf life. Hurry up and use it over the next couple of days if you used regular eggs; you’ve got a few more if you used pasteurized. It’s great on a sandwich, like I did here, but it’s also a wonderful dipping sauce for fries, if you’re so inclined–I’ve seen this done in several restaurants I’ve been to. I’d be willing to bet this would be fantastic with some tuna, too.

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