The origin of this flaky, buttery-rich yeast dough dates back to 1686 when Austria was at war with Turkey. In the dead of the night a group of bakers, hearing the Turks tunneling under their kitchens, sounded the alarm that subsequently led to the Turkish defeat. In turn, the vigilant bakers were awarded the privilege of creating a commemorative pastry in the shape of the crescent on the Turkish flag. Croissant is the French word for “crescent”. Originally, the croissant was made from a rich bread dough. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that a creative French baker had the inspiration to add fat, similar to Puff Pastry. And so a classic was born. Today, a bakers’ croissant is made with yeast while a pastry chefs’ croissant is made from Puff Pastry.

Croissants are often stuffed (with a savory or sweet filling) before being rolled into a crescent shape and baked. Although generally thought of as a breakfast pastry, the Croissant can be used for sandwiches and meal accompaniments.

CROISSANT DOUGH

16 ounces milk
1 ounce fresh yeast
1 ounce sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 ounces butter
28 ounces bread flour
1 pound butter for roll-in

VARIATION: WHOLE WHEAT CROISSANT DOUGH: Substitute 7 ounces bread flour with whole wheat flour.

PROCEDURE:

1. Scale ingredients.

2. Scald 8 ounces milk with butter. Off the heat, add 8 ounces cold milk to warm milk-buttermixture. When mixture has cooled to 80 degrees F., add yeast and sugar. In large mixing bowl mix salt and bread flour. Make a well in the center. Add liquids to dry ingredients and combine. Knead dough until smooth, and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic.

3. Ferment detrempe at 80 degrees F. until double in size. Punch down and retard 45-60 minutes or until approximately 40 degrees F.

4. Mix 1 pound butter on machine with paddle until soft. Shape into beurrage and cover with plastic wrap. Retard 30 minutes.

5. Roll beurrage into detrempe using either English-style or French Style.

6. Give paton 3 single turns, retarding 30 minutes in between each turn.

7. Retard Croissant dough for 8 hours.

8. Roll 1/3 of the dough on lightly floured table to a 1/8″ thick rectangle. With a sharp knife, cut into triangles. Roll croissants up starting with the widest end being rolled tightly towards the tip. (NOTE: If fillings are used, they are centered towards the top of the triangle.) The Croissant is now a straight roll; pull the ends towards each other to make a crescent shape. Place Croissants on parchment-lined sheet pan.

9. Proof at 80 degrees F. until slightly under double in size. Lightly egg wash.

10. Bake at 400 degrees F. conventional, 350 degrees F. convection until golden brown.

11. Cool and Enjoy!

CROISSANT FILLINGS:

CREAM CHEESE SALMON FILLING

12 ounces cream cheese
1 3/4 ounces smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put all ingredients in bowl of mixer with paddle running on medium. Mix until well blended.

APPLE BACON BLUE CHEESE FILLING

4 ounces bacon, fried crisp and chopped
1 pound peeled, cored and chopped granny smith apples
2 tablespoons bacon grease
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Combine apples, sugar and pepper in saute pan with reserved grease. Saute until apples are softened. Off the heat, add the cheese and chopped bacon.

ALMOND CREAM FILLING

7 ounces almond paste
1 ounce sugar
4 ounces butter
1 ounce cake flour
4 ounces eggs
1 ounce toasted, chopped almonds

Cream almond paste with sugar. Add butter and cream until smooth. Add eggs, then cake flour. Fold in chopped almonds. (NOTE: If paste becomes lumpy, add some egg mixture.)

ROASTED PEPPER FILLING

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 each red and green pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
6 whole mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup Swiss cheese

Roast peppers directly on stove. Cool and peel and remove seeds. Chop into small pieces. Mix peppers with onion and mushrooms. Toss with cilantro and lime juice. Add cheese and toss.

CHOCOLATE: Take a good quality chocolate and chop. Place in middle of dough.

JAM: Strawberry, raspberry preserves.

Rick Spiros graduated from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago at the top of his class. After graduating from John Hershey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois in 1990, he went on to Southern Illinois University. Rick received a degree in Marketing in 1995, and worked in sales after graduation. But Rick had always dreamed of a career in the food service industry, and so in 1996 he decided to pursue his ambition by attending CHIC. Rick is currently the sous chef at Savannah’s in Chicago.

Rick likes his food to be creative. He wants his menus to present options that people want to try – so many options that it takes many visits to sample them all. Rick has a passion for food, the energy to strive for perfection and an ability to manage the stress inherent in the food industry.

That Rick Spiros is thorough and driven towards perfection is evident from the recipes he sent for this article. Epicurus asked him for a few recipes that demonstrated his skill. Instead, he sent us a short course in pastry-making! We thank him wholeheartedly for his efforts!

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