Fusion food as a concept is kind of trying to quite consciously fuse things that are sometimes quite contradictory, sometimes quite far apart, to see if they'd work.
- Yotam Ottolenghi
Rare is the occasion that I come across something that perfectly embodies the two cultures I am straddling, that of my own, my American culture, and that of my French husband. Food has always been an important cultural learning tool in our home and we have always been comfortable in the habit of keeping the dishes, foods and baked goods we serve our sons traditional and unsullied by any concept of fusion. The better with which to teach them about their individual and separate heritages. And to tell the truth, I am sometimes put off by those amalgams, those often tiring mélanges of flavors and ideas that just should not be fused. Cronuts, for heavens sake! Duffins! And please, don't even get me started on Thanksgivukkah!
I grew up snacking on pretzels. Pretzels may have German origins, but oh what a fine all-American treat! Great hulking cans of Charles' Chips and Pretzels graced our kitchen counter, were lugged into the livingroom where we would sit in front of the television set eating chips and pretzels. Thin, and thick, twisted and sticks, pretzels in any and every form have always been my Achille's heel, my guilty pleasure, one thing I cannot give up no matter a diet, no matter crossing the ocean and settling in a non-pretzel country. Years of living in Philadelphia had me savoring huge, warm soft pretzels dribbled with sharp mustard, just this side of heaven. Pretzels are my traveling companions on long car trips and flights, smuggling packets of them into my hand luggage. I will confess to liking the occasional peanut-butter-stuffed pretzel bite, and chocolate-dipped pretzels from Grimaldi's are truly a thing of beauty, but a pretzel at its simplest, in its purest form is what I crave, what I give into most.
My husband, on the other hand, knew little of pretzels. He grew up eating croissants. Buttery, flakey, fresh from the bakery croissants. A delicacy, a habit I quickly grew into myself upon settling in France.
An intermarriage, The Frenchman and l'Américaine. And we lived happily ever after. But the marriage of pretzel and croissant? I would have never even considered it, such an affront to nature, cultural perversion. A corruption of two cultural icons.
We have such a mixture now, such a fusion of different genres.
- Ryszard Kapuscinski
Until Heather of girlichef declared Pretzel Croissants our Bread Baking Babes April challenge. Well, as I had missed last month's challenge, what with the IACP Conference in Chicago and all of the related upheaval and excitement, I knew that I had to bake. Carefully reading through the recipe (slow, steady and patient are not normally my strong points), I realized that taking this extraordinarily complex recipe one step at a time simplified it enormously and it was so much less complicated than one would expect. I gave myself three days to make these Pretzel Croissants, and each day (I outline these steps below) the task at hand was quite simple, very easy and rather quick, not time consuming at all. And as I just love making puff pastry, and as this was even simpler than my normal recipe for puff pastry, I knew it would be pure pleasure.
The resulting Pretzel Croissants were fabulous! Tender, light and flakey, they gave even the best French bakery croissant a run for its money. Add to that the slight hint of pretzel – very very slight, enough so that next time I make these I will skip the coarse salt and bake plain or, as son suggested, top with coarse sugar – and you have the best snack this side of the Atlantic.
The perfect Franco-American marriage!
Thanks so very much to Heather of girlichef for this marvelous recipe, maybe my favorite Bread Baking Babes recipe yet. Go ahead and visit all the Babes' blogs to see how they made their Pretzel Croissants:
Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding My Enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
Bread Experience - Cathy
Now it is your turn to bake! Bake along with us and be a Bread Baking Buddy. Simply bake the Pretzel Croissants, blog about it – don’t forget to mention being a Bread Baking Buddy and link back to Heather's blog post! Then send the link (please include your name and your blog’s name) by April 29 to Heather (see her blog post for details) with April Bread Baking Buddy in the subject line and you will be added to the Buddy roundup at the end of the month.
I would like to share these fantastic Pretzel Croissants with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly love affair with all things yeast Yeastspotting.
This recipe is from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker and slightly adapted by Heather of girlichef. I have written out the recipe below as Heather gave it to the Babes and my own comments, suggestions and slight changes I have added in parentheses.
Makes: 1 dozen pretzel croissants
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 (see notes).
(For a very successful batch of pretzel croissants, I divided the work over three days and found it easy and calm and a lot less time consuming than I had imagined. You must read the directions from top to bottom very carefully before starting.
- Day 1: I made the dough and stuck it in the fridge. Easy. I baked the baking soda and stored it in a clean jelly jar. Even easier. I softened the butter until pliable and beatable and beat in the flour, formed the butter block and stuck it in the fridge.
- Day 2: I made the puff pastry and did all three turns then left it in the fridge for the complete 24 hours as Heather suggested. The process seemed easier and to go much quicker than when I make a traditional puff pastry.
- Day 3: I rolled out the puff pastry, shaped the croissants, made the bath and dipped, brushed with egg wash, dusted half with coarse salt and half with sesame seeds. Baked.)
Prepare the laminated puff pastry, baked baking soda & butter block (I did this on Day 1):
Have a clean, dry, soft pastry brush handy for brushing flour off of the surface of the dough and in between folding…
For the dough:
1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm milk (~110° F)
¼ ounce (7 g / 2 ¼ tsps) active dry yeast
3 Tbs firmly packed brown sugar (golden or dark)
3 ¼ cups (410 g) unbleached all-purpose flour + more for work surface
2 tsps fine sea salt/table salt
2 Tbs (29 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temp
½ cup (120 ml) cold pilsner-style beer (can be replaced with water, one Babe used apple cider)
For the butter block:
24 Tbs (340 g) cold unsalted butter
2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 g) baked baking soda *(see notes)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbs milk
coarse salt, optional sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds, optional
Prepare the dough:
Stir the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar into the lukewarm milk and allow to sit until foamy, 10 minutes or so.
Whisk the flour, remaining brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, 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 (or very lightly floured) 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 the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours (24 will give you the best flavor).
Make the butter block (when you put the dough in the fridge to rest):
Beat the (slightly softened) 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 8 x 9 inches. 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 (preferably overnight with the dough).
Prepare the baked baking soda (once the dough and the butter blocks are in the fridge):
Spread ¼ cup (about 70 grams) of baking soda out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or foil (or in a foil-lined 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.
Prepare the puff pastry (I did this on Day 2):
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out into a 10 x 15 inch rectangle about ¼-inch 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 (make slight marks, if needed). Place the butter block over the right 2/3 of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the outer edges. Fold the empty (bare) left portion of the dough over the middle third (brush off excess flour from the dough). Now, lift and fold the right section of dough over that (you will be lifting up both dough and butter). You should have 3 layers of dough that encase 2 layers of butter (dough-butter-dough-butter). Pinch the outsides and the seams together and lightly press the layers together using a rolling pin. This completes the first turn. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the fridge and set it on your lightly floured work surface. Roll dough out into a 10 x 20-inch 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 -inch gap where they meet (think of a book jacket – so the two edges are brought towards the center). Brush off excess flour. 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.
3rd (and final) turn:
Lightly dust your work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll dough out into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Do another trifold, as done in the first turn (with the longer edge of the rectangle in front of you left to right, bring the left and right edges to meet in the center leaving about a ¼-inch gap, press the packet together). 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 (I left mine in the fridge for 24 hours; the dough had risen some which would not happen in a rest of only 2 hours or so).
* 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 (I did this on Day 3):
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Lightly dust your work surface and the top of your dough with flour. Roll out into a 15 x18-inch rectangle that is about ¼ inch 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, creating two 15 x 9-inch sheets of dough. Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut each piece of dough into three equal strips, the short way (you should now have small 9 x 5-inch rectangles). Then cut each strip in half diagonally, so that you left with 6 long triangles. Repeat with other half of dough.
(At this point, before rolling each long triangle, I gently lifted each triangle one by one and flipped it over, brushing off all excess flour then moved the brushed triangles to the parchment paper-lined baking sheets to roll up) Beginning at the base, roll the triangles up, tugging on the tip to elongate it slightly (I then dipped a finger in water and dampened the tip – about 1 inch), then gently pressing it into the dough. Place on the prepared baking sheets with the tips tucked under, and curve the ends to form crescent shapes. (Leave space between the croissants to rise and the puff up during baking)
Cover the croissants with damp, clean kitchen towels (I loosely covered each croissant-filled baking sheet with plastic wrap then loosely laid a clean kitchen towel on top of that) and allow to rise at cool room temperature until they have almost doubled in size and feel spongy, about 2 hours.
At this point, slide the croissants into the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you prepare the dipping solution (I did not do this; my fridge is not big enough and it worked perfectly). Preheat oven to 425° F (220°C), positioning one rack in the upper third of the oven, and one in the lower third (I baked one baking sheet of croissants at a time).
Prepare the dipping solution:
Add the baked baking soda to 8 cups of cold water in a pan or bowl (make sure the recipient is not too large, the croissants must be immersed totally in the water) and stir until completely dissolved. One by one, dip the croissant dough into the dipping solution (baking powder water bath), lift out and allow the excess to drip off, then set back on the lined trays. (I placed the croissants one at a time on a slotted spoon then placed in the bath, pushing the croissant quickly under water with my fingers then lifting it out immediately; I then gently lifted it off the slotted spoon with my fingers to let the water drip off then placed back on the baking sheet and repeated one by one with the others).
Finish them off (finally):
Brush the tops of the dipped croissants with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse salt and sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if using.
Slide into preheated oven immediately and bake for 15 - 20 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 (we found that in baking the croissants release buttery liquid; don't worry about this, simply carefully lift the croissants off of the buttery parchment with a spatula onto cooling racks as soon as they are baked).
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving. 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 (180°C) oven for about 5 minutes.
* notes: Baked baking soda is an alternative to working with lye that still lends pretzels their dark, burnished crust. If you see lots of pretzels in your future, make a large batch to store since it keeps indefinitely.