I know many of you are enjoying the summer weather over in Northern Hemisphere; however for those in South maybe you can relate to what I am feeling right now. The winter chili has really made me appreciate to slow down. Not just in terms of food and cooking (pot roast anyone?) but in general with the way I approach daily task. A much as I hate generalised sayings and agonies, the ones about taking your time to do a task actually ring true. Let’s see what pops into my head. “ Good things take time”, “Good comes to those who wait”, “Rome was not built in a day” etc….
Naturally the winter chili has made me want to stay inside all day and sleep under my blanket hut while watching re runs on the Ipad. Unfortunately life and my other fidgety self does not allow for me to sloth off during winter, boo. My back ground in studying social science at University has actually come in handy these past few weeks.
As anyone who has done any kind of arty farty subject in University, one of the main things they tech you is observational skills. Not the creepy “I am a stalker” kind but the generalised questioning of people’s routines and why we follow unwritten rules of moral and social conduct. For example, we all know the feeling we get when someone goes against the grain; don’t you feel a bit annoyed or uncomfortable when someone walks in the opposite direction in a crowd of people on the side walk at peak hour?
Anyway this has now become automatic for me every time I catch the train, walk through Sydney’s Streets or stroll down to the shops; I cannot help notice the little things. Are the happiest people, most balanced people are the ones who take everything slowly? The slightly agitated couple who is rushing through dinner compared to content lone diner, almost taking twice as long to finish her pasta and drink. Now I might be wrong with this observation but if a winter has taught me anything having time to stop, slow down and savour life, good and bad.
Of course, no one does this better than the French. The final product of pastries and bread are treasured just as much as the process. There is air of mystery and horror about attempting such a complex pastry however be shocked people, it is not scary as it first seems. Yes there are a lot of steps but all of them are about taking your time, repeating the same action and measurements over and over again. I find making and blind baking a custard pie harder.
In croissant it is all about the ingredients you use. Get the best butter you can afford because you will taste it, but isn’t that the same thing for all simple ingredient recipes? I cannot wait to attempt this recipe again because you can see I did a mistake here. Normally croissant have 7 bumps but I accidently rolled it too tightly and got 9; oh well they are still delicious! The best part is I am so happy my layering technique is not as bad as I thought it would be.
I also have abundance of sour mandarins at my place due to my tree has gone gang busters this winter. So in the spirit of French, I made a compote/jam type thing for these croissants and served them with a bit of left over unsalted butter. The buttery, flaky goodness is best enjoyed on the day it is made, however they make a great bread and butter pudding if you have any left after people have seen our great results. I recommend this recipe from Nigella Lawson because it is delicious with notes of rum/caramel it pairs well with citrus fruits. Perfect winter food in my opinion!
Croissants with Sour mandarins compote
Recipe from Bourke Street Bakery; The ultimate baking companion by Paul Allam and David Mcguinness
Croissant ferment ( I got 6 big ones and 8 little mini ones)
50g Strong bread flour, chilled
27ml milk, chilled
2.5g soft brown sugar, chilled
1g salt, chilled
2.5g fresh yeast, chilled
10g unsalted butter, soften
Croissant ferment, all of it
470g strong bread flour, chilled
275ml milk, chilled
30g soft brown sugar, chilled
7g salt, chilled
17g fresh yeast, chilled
250g, unsalted butter, chilled
2 Days before
Place all the ingredients for croissant ferment into a large bowl. Rub the ingredients until it becomes a crumbly mix. Turn out on to a clean steel work surface, knead the dough until it come together and becomes an elastic and smooth ball. This should take about 10 mintues. Grease a clean bowl and place dough inside it, cover with cling film and leave to rest for 2 hours at room temperature. After the 2 hours, Transfer to fridge overnight.
1 day before
Place all the ingredients for bulk dough into a large bowl. Rub the ingredients until it becomes a crumbly mix. Turn out on to a clean steel work surface, knead the dough until it come together and becomes an elastic and smooth ball. This should take about 10 minutes. Grease a clean bowl and place dough inside it, cover with cling film and leave to rest for 2 hours at room temperature. After the 2 hours.
30 minutes before laminating remove the unsalted butter from the fridge. Using a box grater, grate the butter over a piece of cling film, Place another piece of cling film over the top and pat it into a 20cm square about 1cm thick. Transfer to fridge for 20 minutes.
On a clean work surface lightly dust it with plain flour. Dust a large rolling pin with flour. Remove croissant dough and butter from the fridge. Roll the dough to a rectangle to 20cm by 40cm. Place the butter in the middle of the dough; fold the two sides over and push the sides together to completely enclose the butter. Dust more flour on your pin if you need to.
Roll the dough gently until it reaches a rectangle of 20cm by 90cm. With the longest side facing you, divide you dough into thirds mentally. Now fold one of these sides over to make the rectangle 20cm by 60cm. Fold the other unfolded side over the previously folded side ( this will make the dough 20cm by 30cm). This is an envelope fold. Place the dough covered in plastic wrap, transfer to fridge for 20 minutes. Repeat this folding and resting technique; twice more, turn the dough 90 degrees each time so you are rolling and laminating in the opposite direction to the pervious turn.
Once dough has been roll out 3 times and had it final rest of 20 minutes it is ready to be used. You may make an egg wash here too (one egg with milk)
Take your dough from the fridge; roll it out into a rectangle, about 25cm by 90cm and about 4mm thick.
Rolling the dough may take a long time as it will spring back. It helps to transfer to the dough to the fridge to allow it to rest for 20 minutes before rolling it again. You may need to fold the dough over to get it to fit in the fridge too; just cover it well cling film so it doesn’t stick were you have folded it.
Cut the roll dough into triangles of 9cm at the base with sides of 21cm high. Transfer the triangles to a lined baking tray, covered in cling film to rest for 10 minutes.
Gentle stretch the base of the triangle to 10cm wide. While holding the tip of the triangle, carefully roll the croissant towards the tip, pressing it tightly to keep it in shape. Place it on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a damp tea towel and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. Until doubled in size and you can see the layers have puffed out. Spraying the towel with water will help to keep it moist.
Pre heat oven to 240C. Once doubled remove the tea towel and brush with egg wash. Place tray in the oven. Reduce temperature immediately to 180C and bake for about 15-20 minutes until a deep brown colour. Cool on trays for 10 minutes before serving
Sour mandarin compote (2 cups of compote)
10 medium mandarins, Save the zest from the fruit before
1 stick of vanilla bean, spilt
200g white sugar
1 sprig of thyme
Remove the zest from all the fruit before peeling. Segment, peel the mandarin
Heat vanilla, sugar, verjuice, thyme, and zest in a saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, turn it to simmer and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the mix then place it back into the sauce pan. Place fruit in the syrup and boil it down until is very thick. This may take 30-40 minutes. Transfer to glass jars to cool before chilling over night before use. Last about a week.