Croissants

Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness

Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness

I did it! I did it! I did itttttttttttt!!!!!!!! For years, it has been on my bucket list to tackle croissants. And I did ittttttttttttt. I have had failed attempts in the past, but this time, this time, it worked out! I think I am now going to rename the blog to “Bakin’ is the Way to Happiness,” or well, at least for today. Bacon has taken second, at least for today.

What is it about croissants? Is it the flakiness? The butteriness? The flaky butteriness? The buttery, flaky, butteriness? Yep, it’s most likely that. 

And, what is it about MAKING croissants that enables one to feel like… just… wow. It’s most likely the amount of time that goes into the process, coupled with the success that comes with the fruits (or breads) of your labor. After these beauties turned out, I felt like I could do anything. Like run for office. Or do a jig. Or even just eat them. And eat them I did.

And they were terrific. So terrific that I am unable to write about them in anything other than fragmented sentences.

I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to try making croissants at least once in your lifetime… and I really encourage you to make them several times, too!

On a scale of difficulty, I’d rate this around medium. I’d say some scratch baking experience is very helpful in this process, but the three trickiest steps in this process involve: proofing the yeast, having patience during the process, and having more patience during the process. You see, it takes several steps of rolling, folding, and re-rolling to create the various flaky layers. Proofing yeast is not all that difficult, but should your yeast be kaputz, well, that would ruin the whole process at the beginning.

Making croissants were, altogether, not terribly difficult, in my opinion. My failed past attempts were a result of a lack of patience, and I ended up with nothing other than buttery biscuits that, although delicious, were decidedly NOT flaky croissants.

In creating this recipe, I was hoping to find a middle ground between several recipes I had encountered over my past attempts- some were 12 hour recipes, some were 3 day recipes. I thought it had to be possible to find the middle ground: an afternoon of rolling and a night of resting. And the result was perfection!

Next challenge for this recipe: incorporating chocolate pieces before rolling up to bake! NOMMMMM.

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Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness Croissants via Bacon is the Way to Happiness

 

Croissants
Yields: 1 1/2 dozen (2 1/2″ sized)
Time: 24 hours
Ingredients:
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup whole milk, warm
1/4 cup heavy cream, warm
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for sprinkling work surface)
2 1/2 sticks sweet cream butter
1 egg (for egg wash)

Other items:
Plastic wrap
Parchment paper
Silpat (if you have one!)
Rolling pin

Directions: 

Day One:
1. Proofing your yeast: In a large bowl, combine yeast, salt, sugar, milk and heavy cream. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes to make sure that it begins to bubble.
2. Add flour, 1 cup at a time. Depending on the humidity outside, you’ll reach the desired tacky, but smooth consistency somewhere in between 3 1/2 and 4 cups (key: the more humid it is outside, the more flour it may require).
3. Lightly flour your work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes an elastic ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
4. While the dough is still in the refrigerator, Cut the butter in half lengthwise as well as width-wise (about 1/2″ wide). Form these butter pieces into a rectangle in between parchment paper. With a rolling pin, roll out the butter and flatten it until it becomes one consistent, cohesive piece, about 7 to 8″ square. (To get to this size, you may need to cut some off to create a square, which is good– just make sure you place it in the middle and roll it back into the square).
5. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 10″ x 16″.
6. In the center of the rolled dough, place the butter square, but with the pointed edges facing the flat edges of the dough, so that it looks like a diamond within a rectangle (see the photo above for reference).
7. Fold the longest ends of the dough over the butter, so that they meet in the middle. Then, stretch the shorter edges of the dough to also meet in the center of the dough, pressing out any air. The butter should be fully covered.
8. Roll out the dough, elongating it to almost 2 feet, but not widening it much more.
9. Fold the dough into a trifold (think of how business letters are folded, but also reference the photos above). Make sure to dust off any excess flour during the process.
10. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for 15 minutes.
11. Remove the dough from the freezer, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 10″ x 16″ again. Once again do the trifold, dusting off any excess flour. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for an additional 15 minutes.
12. One last time, remove the dough from the freezer, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 10″ x 16″ again. Once again do the trifold, dusting off any excess flour. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:
13. The next morning: remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Divide the dough in half. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 10″ x 24″. The dough should be no more than 1/4″ thick.
14. When it comes time to cut the dough, there are several ways in which to do it. I like to eyeball things, personally. If you don’t like to eyeball things, I would recommend finding a yardstick and make vertical cuts using a knife or pizza wheel at about 5″ apart along the length of the dough. You should have many smaller rectangles.
15. Make diagonal cuts on each of the smaller rectangles to create triangles.
16. To shape the croissants, roll the widest ends of the dough toward the pointed edge, stretching a little as you roll. Shape all the croissants. Placing onto a prepped baking sheet (or two, if needed) as you go.
17. Make your egg wash: In a small ramekin, beat one egg with about 1 tsp of water.
18. Brush the egg wash over top of each croissant. Let the dough rest for 1 hour.
19. Preheat the oven to 400*.
20. Bake the croissants for 8 to 12 minutes. Rotate and swap the baking sheets to ensure an even bake. Bake for an additional 8 to 12 minutes, until the croissants are lightly browning.
21. Cool on baking racks for 15 minutes.
22. ENJOYYYYY.

Pumpkin & Sunflower Seed Loaf

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Many things are worth the wait: happiness… success… donuts.

And, from what I have heard: cronuts.

Things that are worthwhile usually take time. Take for instance, this loaf. There is no difficulty in making this bread in comparison to other bread-baking, but it does take a good amount of patience. It requires several rises (make that three, or so…). It requires a handful of kneading sessions (literally).

If you’ve ever been so fortunate as to have your teeth sink into a seeded loaf of bread, you’ll know that there is hardly any bread that feels as hearty and fulfilling (and hardy, and filling).

The only pumpkin you’ll find in this loaf are its seeds. Along with sunflower seeds. Seedy bread is good! Sometimes being seedy is okay. Okay, well, usually never, but in this singular time, we like seedy. Perhaps we’ll stick with the term “seeded” bread.

These here loaves I made to accompany a bratwurst hash I made for some pals on the occasion of the birth of their daughter! Babies are just the best. Best celebrated by eating. And also by squishing their little cheeks.

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Pumpkin & Sunflower Seed Loaf
Adapted from: David Norman at Food & Wine
Yields: 2 loaves

1 TBS active dry yeast
1 TBS kosher salt
1 TBS granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water, warm (110 degrees)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw, sunflower seeds
1 TBS pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

1. In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, toast your seeds for approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Whisk together the yeast, salt, and sugar. Stir in 1 cup of the water and 1 cup of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 3 hours.

3. Pour the remaining water in a bowl with the cornmeal and stir until well combined. Allow it to cool.

4. Add the cornmeal mixture to the risen dough, as well as the remaining flour and pumpkin pie spice to create a soft dough.

5. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, for more or less 15 minutes. Knead in the pumpkin and sunflower seeds until well combined. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour.

6. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, for about 1 minute. Place back into the bowl and recover with the plastic wrap until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour).

7.  Turn the dough out one last time on a lightly floured surface and split it in half.  Shape into round loaves. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the loaves on top for one final rise (I promise) until the loaves have doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

8. Place a pizza stone in the middle rack of your oven and preheat it to 500 degrees. Place a roasting pan underneath your baking stone  on the bottom rack for the duration of the preheating.

9. Using a serrated knife, slash the tops of the loaves three times. Transfer them to the baking stone. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the roasting pan and close the oven door!

10. Bake for 10 minutes.

11. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely browned.

12. Let the loaves cool completely (about 30 minutes) before slicing it down and enjoying!

See wasn’t that worth the wait?!

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Cook’s notes:

1. The original recipe calls for an overnight rise to create a starter. If you have the time, I encourage you to do this. It sounds like a lot of fun. I did not have the time, unfortunately! So I allowed for as much time as I could for the very first rise.

 

Pumpernickel Rolls

pumpernickel rolls | bacon is the way to happiness

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Pumpernickel. What a fabulous word. It just rolls off the tongue with such ease, doesn’t it? Pumpernickel!

As a child, I was absolutely intrigued by this word. This inquisitiveness expanded  beyond  the word, to this edible substance called “pumpernickel.” Until I tasted a caraway seed. Ick. Gross. Nevermind. After wiping off my tongue, I decided that it was too grown up tasting for me.  I was back to only caring for potato bread, despite its lack of exoticism.

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Pumpernickel. Just fascinating sounding. Like Nicholas Nickelby…. Nebuchadnezzar.... Rachmaninoff…. Nevertheless…. or Rasputin. Loved saying his name and musing over Rasputin in my youth. Bizarre, I know.

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I like sifting. It makes me feel as if I know what I am doing.

When I come up with recipes, I often write them out on the back of an important letter or another paper of note. So it is quite often that my recipes become misplaced. With this recipe, it was such an occasion. After much searching, it was recovered in the piano bench.

Not really sure why it was in there. Perhaps it was Rasputin.

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Pumpernickel Rolls
Yields: 12 rolls
Time: 10 minute prep, 1 hour + 10 minute rise, 25 minute bake

2 TBS yeast
1 cup of brewed coffee, warm (about 110 degrees)
2 TBS water
5 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
1 TBS molasses
1 TBS cocoa powder
Caraway seeds

 

Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, coffee, water, and molasses. Set aside for a few minutes, until the mixture is bubbly!

2. Add the butter and egg to the  yeast mixture.

3. Sift together the all-purpose flour, rye flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk in the brown sugar.

4. Add the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.

5. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, until the dough becomes together. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour.

6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

7. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and form into round balls. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a Silpat!).

8. Brush the tops of the dough balls with water. Slash the tops once with a serrated knife. Sprinkle on some caraway seeds. Let them stand for 10 minutes.

9. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

10. Cool on a baking rack for 10-15 minutes before digging in!

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Quick Dinner Rolls

quick and easy dinner rolls | Bacon is the Way to Happiness

I am in love with baking.  The feeling of flour on my finger tips. Smoke clouds of flour dust rising into the air. Flaky, crusty, and warm bread fresh out of the oven.

It is positively romantic.

That is, until I inevitably forget my hands are covered in goopy dough and touch my hair. Gross.

Now that the summer heat has passed, I try as often as I can to get my baking fix. One simple way to do this is by making dinner rolls.

These dinner rolls are fast and easy to make. The only thing faster is to go out and buy already made rolls. But, depending upon where you live in relation to a store, these still may be faster.

…and, not to mention, are more delicious.          Whoops. I mentioned it.

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Quick Dinner Rolls
Yields 6 very large rolls or 12 small rolls
3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 TBS active dry yeast
2 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 large egg

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease your baking vessel very well. You want this to be incredibly greasy. Think 7th grade school picture greasy.  My container of choice was a cast iron skillet, but feel free to use a baking dish of any kind.**

2. Proof your yeast** by combining water, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

3. Equipped with a dough hook, begin combining your ingredients. First add butter, egg, and 1 cup of flour.

4. Slowly add the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes together to form a ball.**

5. Separate and shape the dough into either 6 or 12 balls and place into your greased baking dish. It is okay for the rolls to touch. In fact, it’s encouraged

6. Bake for 10 minutes for small rolls and 15 minutes for 6 large rolls, or until golden brown. I always check in 5 minute increments.

7. Allow rolls to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing, if you can stand it.

rolls

**Notes:

1. Baking times can vary, as a result of the dish you are using. If it is a glass dish, it will be a longer baking time than when using a metal container.

2. Proof your yeast. I am never quite sure whether the yeast I have will work, so I always always proof it. It’s super easy and only adds a few minutes to your baking, and will guarantee your dough will rise. (There’s nothing worse than making the effort to bake and not having yeast activate.)

3. Depending upon the day’s humidity, it may require more or less flour. The more humid the day is, the more flour it will require. This is a sticky, wet dough (think opposite of pizza dough, but not quite as soupy as pancake batter). But if it is too runny, add more flour (by the tablespoon). If it is too dry, add water (also, by the tablespoon)