One of the professors on my doctoral committee at the University of Chicago was quite thoroughly a city boy. He was Jewish, grew up in Brooklyn, played the violin and had a Ph.D. in physics. (I could just see him, a skinny little kid in thick glasses and a yarmulke, trundling along the city streets with his violin case.) I can still see his face when I told him I was taking a job in Tennessee. He said “How can you move to Tennessee – you won’t even be able to get croissants there.” I told him only God could make a tree and I could certainly make my own croissants. After only three years, I was tired of the endless limestone, cement, and flatness of Chicago, even though we lived a few blocks from a park on Lake Michigan.
I had baked a good bit in West Virginia, including making my own tortillas and bagels, before I went to Chicago. Once in Tennessee, I found a recipe in Bon Appetit and made croissants, just to prove I could. They were a tremendous amount of trouble – all that folding, rolling out, chilling, etc. Once we moved to Austin, there were bakery croissants again, most recently at the Upper Crust, two blocks from our house. But we mostly lived without them.
But – pain au chocolate, chocolate croissants, that is a different story. The bakery in Chicago did not have them. Those were the days before filled croissants were fashionable, in any case. I had read about the French bread with chocolate; it seemed odd, but then… In any case, at some point chocolate croissants showed up at Texas French Bread, an Austin institution which was also the first place I ever had scones. Later, they became a standard treat on Sunday mornings, from Upper Crust. Here in Clarksburg, you can get them at Panera’s, which is conveniently on the way to the place we thought was the only place to get the Sunday New York Times. A while back, we realized we weren’t really reading much of the paper, and the croissants weren’t that good, so we have done without both lately.
Then I saw this post on How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day on Jellypress (which I highly recommend). I picked up a couple of bars of good bittersweet chocolate Tuesday (senior citizen’s day at Kroger’s ;-) and got with the plan. It was easy, not nearly as much work as I remembered, and the steps are spread out over four days, each taking half an hour or so. Yesterday I finished up and froze a dozen, leaving four out to bake for the two of us this morning (it was a Valentine’s treat, after all) .
They were indeed a treat; better than bakery, if I do say so myself. And there are enough in the freezer for another month of Sundays!
If you go over to Jellypress and try these, there are a couple of things I would do differently. First, these were so buttery we almost couldn’t taste the chocolate. Next time, I’ll try just two sticks of butter instead of three. Second, the recipe doesn’t specify unsalted butter. Use unsalted butter, or don’t add salt. Finally, I cut the dough in half for the final roll-out, because my bread board wasn’t big enough for a 15×20 rectangle. After rolling out 15×10, I realized I had cut the wrong dimension in half, so I just cut it in half the short way and quarters the other (for pieces 5×3 3/4). This also gave me 16 instead of 15, which worked out better with the 8 squares of chocolate in a bar. (And Robert and I won’t have to argue about the odd croissant.)