Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cross Croissants off the List....Vegan Classic French Croissant Recipe

So I've had some extra free time on my hands the past few days......I think I pulled my quad muscle so I'm giving it a few days off from running. Now, when I get home from work everyday I feel like I have so much more free time since running really can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. What do I choose to do with this extra free time you ask? I've decided to try to whittle down "The List." What is the list you ask? Well let me just  tell you.....
What is "The List?": I have a long-standing goal of attempting to take on notoriously difficult recipes AND veganize them at the same time. However, being the laid-back, non-perfectionist that I am, I don't merely want to veganize them, I want to get as close to perfect as possible......that means testing, tweaking, and re-testing recipes numerous times until they come out just the way I would like. There are many things on the list such as puff pastry (which I just recently did.....wasn't that hard), baked alaska (is it weird that I'm just not interested in this one?), creme puffs, popovers, cannolis, tamales from scratch, quiche (not just any quiche, but a vegan quiche that people want and crave), gnocchi, mole sauce, bernaise sauce, vegan "goat cheese" (probably going to be cashew based from how my experiments have been going thus far), home-made faux meat, and many more. As you can see, I'm not really that ambitious.....
Conquered croissants......they are officially off the list!
What did I choose to conquer this time?: There are a lot of things on my list, but croissants have been calling my name for awhile so I've been experimenting with a few different croissant recipes. I did extensive research, talked to me chef friend, and then did some more research. Much of what I call "research" is just me armed with an excuse to find pre-made vegan croissants (did you know that Pillsbury Crescents are actually vegan?!?) and eating them.......I mean I need to know what I'm competing against......and I've been hoping to grow a double chin for awhile now. Anyhow, I have to say that after trying a few different recipes (all very highly rated), and making modifications to make them vegan, I have come up with what I believe to be a great vegan croissant recipe.
Nutrition & My Philosophy: Most of the things on my list are not known for being healthy, and that's because they're not. While I do firmly believe that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet free of processed oils and sugars is important, and should be practiced daily, I also believe it is equally important to indulge every once in awhile, and enjoy the finer things in life. I'm not going to eat cannolis and croissants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I think it's important to make all recipes and types of foods accessible to people on a plant-based diet. This is both because if people who are considering going vegan know that they can still have their favorite foods should they crave them, it will make it easier to make the switch to veganism AND because the plant-based versions of these dishes, although by no means qualify as health food, they are still healthier than their non-plant-based counterparts.
Format Note: I have made the executive decision to write the entire recipe out (ingredients and directions), and then follow that with a detailed step by step directions section with pictures. I may not do this for the simpler recipes, but for recipes that are more involved I think it will be really helpful. And it starts now.

Recipe: The Best Vegan French Croissants
Totaly Time from start to finish: 6 1/2 hours
Active Prep time: 1 1/2 hours
Ingredients for dough:
- 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
- 2 pcakages active dry yeast (about 1 tbsp & 1/2 tsp)
- 1 1/2 cups warm soy milk (about 100-110 degrees)
- 2 tbsp oil
- 3 3/4 cup all purpose flour + more for dusting
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted earth balance shortening
Ingredients for No-Egg wash:
- 1/2 cup warmed unsweetend soy milk
- 2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
- 1 tsp oil
Directions:
1. In a large mixing bowl that you can use with your electric mixer, add in the warm soy milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix them up and let them sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the mixture should be foamy, if it is not, throw it out and start again.
2. Using the paddle attachments on your electric mixer (or mixing by hand) add in the flour, salt and 2 tbsp oil. Mix until everything is even. This may take up to 3 minutes but should not take any more than that. Make sure to use the medium or low speed if you are using an electric mixer, as you do not want to overwork the dough, it will be too tough and making rolling out the dough very difficult.
3. Flour a work surface and knead the dough gently by hand, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Ad flour in small quantities because too much flour can be detrimental. As with the previous step, do not over-knead, you do not want a tough dough.
4. Shape the dough into a square, and place in on a large, floured plate or baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour.
5. Take the three sticks of shorting and cut them into thin, long pieces and lay them next to each other on a piece of parchment paper so that they make a square. The goal here is to crate one large, thin square of shortening out of all of the pieces. Using your hands press the pieces together, trying to eliminate the spaces between them. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the square use a rolling pin to roll out the square. Trim any edge that aren't straight until you have a square, and ad the trimming to the middle of the square and roll out again with the rolling pin. The square should be about 7-8 inches on each side.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface role out into square that is about 14-16 inches on each side. **Technique Tip: Anytime you work with the dough make sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, otherwise the dough will catch onto the work surface, tear, and leak shortening.**
7. Laminating the Dough: The next two steps are what make this type of dough a "laminated dough".....just thought I'd fill you in on this little fun fact. Anyways, Place the square of shortening in the middle of the square of dough, such that the corners of shortening square point at the middle of each side of the dough.
8. Fold the dough over the shortening like an envelop by folding each corner of the dough onto the top of the shortening such that all four dough corners meet on the center of the shortening square. Seal the shortening in the dough by pinching the four corners together as well as all of the touching sides of dough.
9. Making sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, roll out the "envelope" into a roughly 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use, smooth, gentle, but firm strokes of the roller to do so. **Technique Tip: Whenever rolling to dough, try to keep it from sliding along the counter with your roller, you want to avoid creating friction between the dough and the countertop as this can cause the dough to tear and leak butter.**
10. 1st Turn: Once the you have rolled out the dough to the appropriate size, fold the longer size into thirds, the way you would fold a letter you are going to place into an envelope. You will be repeating this step and the pervious step numerous times throughout this process in order to create those flakey thin layers of croissant dough. The name of this step of rolling out and folding the dough is called a "turn". There will be a total of 6 turns in this recipe.
11. Rotate the dough a quarter turn so that the open sides  of the folded dough (what used to be the longer side of the dough) is facing to you and away from you. With the length of the dough positioned perpendicular to your body, roll the dough out again into a 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use the shape of the dough as a guide, the longer side of the folded dough should be the side that you roll out to 24 inches, and the shorter side of the dough should be the side you roll out to 8 inches.
12. 2nd Turn: Fold the length of dough as you did in step 11 into thirds (much the way you would fold a letter you are putting into an envelope.
13. Loosely wrap the dough with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
14. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (it will probably have increased in size due to the yeast. When you roll it out you will probably end up pressing a lot of air bubbles out of the dough, this is totally fine) and with an adequately floured work surface and roller perform your 3rd and 4th turns (roll out dough, folding into thirds, rotate a quarter turn, roll out dough, fold into 3rds).
15. Loosely wrap in saran wrap and place back in refrigerator for another hour.
16. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and perform your 5th and 6th turns. Loosely wrap with saran wrap and place in refrigerator for another hour.
17. Flour a very large area of your work surface and begin to roll out the dough into about a 40-45 x8 inch rectangle. The dough needs to be rolled out pretty thin since this is the step where we are rolling the croissants. Make sure that the dough is not sliding too much on the work surface as it is very delicate at this time and will easily tear and leak shortening. This process may take a couple of minutes, don't get frustrated if it is hard at first, it gets easier as the dough gets thinner.
18. Starting at one end of the length of the dough, make a mark on both sides every five inches moving from one side of the 45 inches to the other.
19. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife as well as a ruller or some sort of straight edge for guidance, cut from one mark to its corresponding mark on the other side (perpendicular to the length). Do this with all pairs of marks.
20. You should now have mang smaller rectangles of dough. Using the same ruller or straight edge as you did in the previous step, cut from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner such that you now have 2 very long right triangles. Do this with all of the rectangles unless you also want to make a non-crescent shaped croissant, similar to the pan au chocolate shaped croissants that are more rectangular, in which case you would just cut the rectangles into smaller rectangles.
21. For the triangular pieces, tightly roll starting with the shortest side of the triangle such that you are rolling along the two longer sides. You should aim for having the pointed tip of the triangle end up right in the center of your roll. For the rectangular pieces, simple roll tightly from one end to the other. **Accessorize your croissant: If you want to put a filling in your croissants (chocolate, cheese, jam...etc) now is the time. You can place the filling along the edge at which you start rolling the croissant, leaving a half-inch at each side so that the filling doesn't leak out. Also make sure to seal the ends of the croissant post-rolling if you chose to use a filling. **
22. Proofing (Rising the dough in it's final shape): Place rolled croissants on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, making sure you leave enough room for each croissant to puff up without touching its neighbor. Combine all ingredients of No-Egg Wash by beating with a fork or whisk, and brush the croissants with No-Egg Wash. Make sure there is enough left for a second coat right before they go in the oven. Let the croissants sit on the sheets in a 70-80 degree room for an hour in order to proof (rise). They should be out of direct sunlight.
23. About 10-15 minutes before the hour is up, pre-heat your oven to 390 convection bake or 410 conventional.
24. After an hour, give the croissants a second coat of the No-Egg Wash and place in the ovens once they have reached the appropriate temperature. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
25. After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, and switch them to opposite racks (if you have one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack switch them as well as rotating them so that the back of each sheet is now in the front). Bake in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. If the croissant are browning too quickly turn the oven temp down 20 degrees.
26. Remove from oven and let cool. If you don't eat them fresh from the oven, I highly recommend heating them up in the microwave before eating, they are just so much more delicious when they are softer and warm.


Directions with Pictures at all key steps: 
1. In large mixing bowl that you can use with your electric mixer, add in the warm soy milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix them up and let them sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the mixture should be foamy, if it is not, throw it out and start again.
2. Using the paddle attachments on your electric mixer (or mixing by hand) add in the flour, salt and 2 tbsp oil. Mix until everything is even. This may take up to 3 minutes but should not take any more than that. Make sure to use the medium or low speed if you are using an electric mixer, as you do not want to overwork the dough, it will be too tough and making rolling out the dough very difficult.
3. Flour a work surface and knead the dough gently by hand, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Ad flour in small quantities because too much flour can be detrimental. As with the previous step, do not over-knead, you do not want a tough dough.
4. Shape the dough into a square, and place in on a large, floured plate or baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour.
5. Take the three sticks of shorting and cut them into thin, long pieces and lay them next to each other on a piece of parchment paper so that they make a square. The goal here is to crate one large, thin square of shortening out of all of the pieces. Using your hands press the pieces together, trying to eliminate the spaces between them. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the square use a rolling pin to roll out the square. Trim any edge that aren't straight until you have a square, and ad the trimming to the middle of the square and roll out again with the rolling pin. The square should be about 7-8 inches on each side.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface role out into square that is about 14-16 inches on each side. **Technique Tip: Anytime you work with the dough make sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, otherwise the dough will catch onto the work surface, tear, and leak shortening.**
7. Laminating the Dough: The next two steps are what make this type of dough a "laminated dough".....just thought I'd fill you in on this little fun fact. Anyways, Place the square of shortening in the middle of the square of dough, such that the corners of shortening square point at the middle of each side of the dough.

8. Fold the dough over the shortening like an envelop by folding each corner of the dough onto the top of the shortening such that all four dough corners meet on the center of the shortening square. Seal the shortening in the dough by pinching the four corners together as well as all of the touching sides of dough.

After sealing the edges.

9. Making sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, roll out the "envelope" into a roughly 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use, smooth, gentle, but firm strokes of the roller to do so. **Technique Tip: Whenever rolling to dough, try to keep it from sliding along the counter with your roller, you want to avoid creating friction between the dough and the countertop as this can cause the dough to tear and leak butter.**
roughly 24 x 8 inches
10. 1st Turn: Once the you have rolled out the dough to the appropriate size, fold the longer size into thirds, the way you would fold a letter you are going to place into an envelope. You will be repeating this step and the pervious step numerous times throughout this process in order to create those flakey thin layers of croissant dough. The name of this step of rolling out and folding the dough is called a "turn". There will be a total of 6 turns in this recipe.

11. Rotate the dough a quarter turn so that the open sides  of the folded dough (what used to be the longer side of the dough) is facing to you and away from you. With the length of the dough positioned perpendicular to your body, roll the dough out again into a 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use the shape of the dough as a guide, the longer side of the folded dough should be the side that you roll out to 24 inches, and the shorter side of the dough should be the side you roll out to 8 inches.

12. 2nd Turn: Fold the length of dough as you did in step 11 into thirds (much the way you would fold a letter you are putting into an envelope.
13. Loosely wrap the dough with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
14. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (it will probably have increased in size due to the yeast. When you roll it out you will probably end up pressing a lot of air bubbles out of the dough, this is totally fine) and with an adequately floured work surface and roller perform your 3rd and 4th turns (roll out dough, folding into thirds, rotate a quarter turn, roll out dough, fold into 3rds).
15. Loosely wrap in saran wrap and place back in refrigerator for another hour.
16. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and perform your 5th and 6th turns. Loosely wrap with saran wrap and place in refrigerator for another hour.
17. Flour a very large area of your work surface and begin to roll out the dough into about a 40-45 x8 inch rectangle. The dough needs to be rolled out pretty thin since this is the step where we are rolling the croissants. Make sure that the dough is not sliding too much on the work surface as it is very delicate at this time and will easily tear and leak shortening. This process may take a couple of minutes, don't get frustrated if it is hard at first, it gets easier as the dough gets thinner.
Clearly I have difficulties with straight lines. I had to cut off the edges and re-work them into the dough until
I got a rectangle, but in retrospect this was not necessary. You can cut out dough from this misshapen mess as easily as you can from a rectangle, the most important things is that the dough is thin.

18. Starting at one end of the length of the dough, make a mark on both sides every five inches moving from one side of the 45 inches to the other.
19. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife as well as a ruller or some sort of straight edge for guidance, cut from one mark to its corresponding mark on the other side (perpendicular to the length). Do this with all pairs of marks.
20. You should now have mang smaller rectangles of dough. Using the same ruller or straight edge as you did in the previous step, cut from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner such that you now have 2 very long right triangles. Do this with all of the rectangles unless you also want to make a non-crescent shaped croissant, similar to the pan au chocolate shaped croissants that are more rectangular, in which case you would just cut the rectangles into smaller rectangles.
21. For the triangular pieces, tightly roll starting with the shortest side of the triangle such that you are rolling along the two longer sides. You should aim for having the pointed tip of the triangle end up right in the center of your roll. For the rectangular pieces, simple roll tightly from one end to the other. **Accessorize your croissant: If you want to put a filling in your croissants (chocolate, cheese, jam...etc) now is the time. You can place the filling along the edge at which you start rolling the croissant, leaving a half-inch at each side so that the filling doesn't leak out. Also make sure to seal the ends of the croissant post-rolling if you chose to use a filling. **
 
22.  Proofing (Rising the dough in it's final shape): Place rolled croissants on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, making sure you leave enough room for each croissant to puff up without touching its neighbor. Combine all ingredients of No-Egg Wash by beating with a fork or whisk, and brush the croissants with No-Egg Wash. Make sure there is enough left for a second coat right before they go in the oven. Let the croissants sit on the sheets in a 70-80 degree room for an hour in order to proof (rise). They should be out of direct sunlight.
23. About 10-15 minutes before the hour is up, pre-heat your oven to 390 convection bake or 410 conventional.
24. After an hour, give the croissants a second coat of the No-Egg Wash and place in the ovens once they have reached the appropriate temperature. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
25. After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, and switch them to opposite racks (if you have one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack switch them as well as rotating them so that the back of each sheet is now in the front). Bake in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. If the croissant are browning too quickly turn the oven temp down 20 degrees.
26. Remove from oven and let cool. If you don't eat them fresh from the oven, I highly recommend heating them up in the microwave before eating, they are just so much more delicious when they are softer and warm.

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