Project Croissant: la farine graham et noix de coco

We leave for Paris tomorrow and we have croissants on the brain! Paris is so many things, but anticipation of the city’s beautiful boulangeries, coupled with our love of Viennoiserie, has our tummies growling. Friends are hosting us in Paris and plan to introduce us to new and wonderful things. We hope to introduce them to some of our Paris favorites as well.

This will be our second visit to both Paris and the Champagne region. On our first visit, we rented an apartment in Paris for ten days, using it as a jumping off point for visits to Versaille and Reims. We discovered, usually by accident, some fantastic little spots including one of our favorites, the cheeky Legay Choc. Thanks to a crazy Icelandic volcano, our April visit to Paris was unusually quiet with near-empty museums and barely crowded churches.

This trip comes courtesy of a gala auction indulgence, entitling us to a week in a country home in Orbais L’Abbaye, a short drive from Chateau-Thierry. We’ve decided to visit in the fall so that we can take part in the local grape harvest or vendange. Champagne’s wine growers are in the midst of picking which should mean that the area will be bustling when we arrive. Here’s hoping our effort to learn a little French with Duolingo will be enough to get by with the people we meet!

Our plan is to take a photographic journey through the countryside trying our darnedest to document the specifics of our experiences so that we can share them with you. And as if Paris and Champagne weren’t enough, we’re heading to Belgium afterward for a few days of tasting and touring.  We thought that since Belgium is a short train ride away, we should  visit the country famous for its excellence in all four of the major food groups – beer, chocolate, fries and mayo. We expect we’ll witness things like sunrises and sunsets that are so spectacular that a photograph will never be able to capture the magic of the moment. Food and drink will be the focus. Still, we’re going to give it our best shot.

Instead of simply teasing you with thoughts of late mornings in lovely little Parisian cafes, noshing on buttery, flaky pain au chocolat and sipping cafe au lait, we’re sharing this David Leibowitz-inspired croissant, made from graham flour and a mix of butter and coconut oil. Hardly traditional, their rich, satisfyingly crunchy exterior and soft, yeasty center makes them irresistible nonetheless.

Using coconut oil is a challenge. This recipe only works in cool weathered areas or in a well air-conditioned kitchen. If your kitchen is more than 75 degrees and you’re refrigerator is space-challenged, this could be an issue. Aside from that, working with laminated doughs is relatively easy if you follow a few basic rules.

Graham flour is a somewhat unusual substitute for the flour typically  used to create croissants. It has a rich, nutty taste. Think graham crackers. The flour is also extremely nutritious; high in both fiber and protein, magnesium and B6. The challenge in using graham flour in a croissant application is the large pieces of wheat germ it contains. Graham flour is a course flour which is generally not used when making laminated doughs because the germ’s sharp edges may cause little tears in the layers. But it is a healthy four and if you can live with smaller flakes and crunchy shards, you’ll love the flavors of the nutty flour and butter. While you’re at it, use some of the dough to make your own pain au chocolat or almond croissant. Your options for gilding the lilly are endless.

There will be future croissant installments as we share what we learn from our experimenting. In the meantime, don’t be shy and give these a try. If you can mix a yeasted bread dough, you can make a laminated dough.

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Graham and Coconut Croissants
Makes 6 pastries

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup graham flour
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup cold coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Butter Square
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (highest European Quality) room temperature
4 tablespoons coconut oil (softened solid form around 75 degrees)

Optional Chocolate and/or Chocolate coconut
a few small squares of favorite dark chocolate
1-2 tablespoons small crumbles or chips of chocolate
1-2 tablespoons coconut butter (not oil)

Mixing the dough/Day 1
In a small bowl, mix the all-purpose and graham flours together. Mix the yeast with the milk and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, or stir it together in a large bowl. Stir in about one-third of the flour mixture and let the mixture stand until it starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix in the rest of the flour and the salt, and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop a few times, just enough to bring it together into a cohesive ball. There’s no need to overknead.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Making laminated dough/Day 2
Put the cold butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until there are no lumps in the oil. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, mix the two together with a wooden spoon.) If the coconut oil is too soft put the mixture in the fridge. If too cold, zap for a few seconds in the microwave. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter or in a square bowl and place the butter mixture in the middle. Enclose it and shape into a 4- by 4-inch square. Chill the butter for 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough on a lightly floured countertop, so it forms a diamond shape with four flaps – two on top, two on the bottom, leaving the dough raised a bit in the center. (See the photo in the post.)

Unwrap the chilled square of butter and place it in the center. Fold the flaps over the butter, sealing the dough around the butter completely, and whack the dough with a rolling pin to flatten it out. Roll the dough into a 12- by 9-inch (30 by 22cm) rectangle.

Lift up one-third of the left side of the dough and fold it over the center. Then lift the right side of the dough over the center, to create a rectangle. Take the rolling pin and press down on the dough two times, making an X across it. Mark the dough with one dimple with your finger to remind you that you’ve made one “turn”, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for 45 to 60 minutes.

Do the next turn of the dough the same way, rolling and folding the dough again, making 2 dimples with your finger in the dough, then chill it for another 45 to 60 minutes.

Do the last turn and folding of the dough and let it chill for an hour.

If there are any large pieces of butter or coconut oil, remove from the dough.

Shaping croissants
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Unwrap the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it’s a 15 x 9-inch rectangle. Trim the edges with a sharp chef’s knife and cut the dough into 4 rectangles, then cut each into 3 rectangles diagonally, making 6 triangles, or to make chocolate croissants, cut in half (see photo for process).

For plain croissants
Take one triangle and roll to lengthen it to 11 inches (28cm) long. Starting at the wide end, roll the croissant up toward the point, not too-tightly. Set it point-side-up on the baking sheet and roll the rest of the croissants the same way.

For chocolate and chocolate/coconut
There are two methods you can use. For chocolate croissants, cut rectangles in half and place a square of chocolate in the center. Fold over the sides and place the seam on the bottom of the croissants.

Small chocolate chips or crumbles and/or coconut butter (or really, a lot of things) can be added to the triangles and then rolled as described above. (See pictures for better description.)

Proof or Freeze
To proof the croissants, cover the baking sheet with a large plastic bag (such as a clean trash bag), close it, and let the croissants proof in a warm place until the croissants are nearly doubled and puffed up, which will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To freeze the croissants before baking. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap before proofing and place the sheet pan in the freezer. Once the croissants are frozen, you can take them off the sheet pan and store in a large freezer bag.

To bake the frozen croissants. Take them out of the freezer the night before and place on a baking sheet, cover the croissants with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. The next morning if the croissants have not yet doubled in volume, keep covered with plastic and place the croissants in a warm place until doubled.

Bake
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC.) Mix the egg with a pinch of salt and brush each croissant with the glaze. Bake the croissants for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat of the oven to 350ºF, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned. Some butter may seep out during baking, which is normal.

Oven Fried Chicken & Waffles

Ah, fried chicken and waffles! Folks have been serving them together for ages, but the combo has enjoyed a lengthy renaissance of sorts in recent years. Mostly likely Southern soul food-inspired, interest in this decidedly decadent dish grew to a near frenzy back in the ’00s. Today it’s standard chow, found on menus just about everywhere.

With a chicken in the fridge, and too many jars of bacon fat, we felt tempted to fry it up with as much bacon fat as possible. Inspired by Ina Garten’s Oven-Fried Chicken and Julia Moskin’s Best Fried Chicken, we incorporated elements of the two recipes to come up with this version. We served the chicken with a batch of  Black Pepper and Parmesan Belgian waffles, a tweeked version of King Arthur’s Classic Buttermilk Waffles, and plenty of hot maple syrup, crunchy salt flakes and Tabasco. Stick-to-your-ribs dinner fare!

Our eyes were bigger than our bellies on this one. A whole frying chicken will easily feed four adults when combined with crispy Belgian waffles. So this one is for a family or party of four or more. Of course, if you’re like us, you’ll make it a little party anyway and serve it with Sazeracs. Next time we whip up a batch we’ll make sure to invite a few friends over.

If you happen to have leftover waffles, freeze them. They last for weeks and toast up quickly. Any leftover chicken can easily be turned into a quick fried chicken sandwich or salad.

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Best Oven Fried Chicken

1 chicken cut in eight pieces
1 cup kefir
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 – 1 cup bacon fat (strained of all pieces)
vegetable oil for frying

Place the cut up chicken in a gallon sized plastic bag, add the kefir and zip shut. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. In a gallon sized plastic bag, or bowl, add the flour, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Whisk together and set aside.

After marinating, remove the chicken from the kefir. Add a piece or two to the bag of flour, or bowl, and coat each piece. Set aside on a plate or tray. Continue with the rest of the chicken pieces.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add a baking tray and rack to the oven.

In a large fry pan on medium heat add the vegetable oil and allow to reach 350 – 360 degree. Slowly add the bacon fat and bring back up to heat. When oil is hot enough, gently, but quickly, add one piece at a time, about three to four piece. The size of the pan will determine the number of pieces that can be cooked at one time.

Fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from the oil and place on the rack in the oven to continue to bake, another 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink at the bone.

Black Pepper and Parmesan Waffles

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
2 teaspoons (or more) freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups kefir
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flours, Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl beat together the eggs, kefir, and melted butter.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until almost smooth. A few small clumps may be present.

Heat the waffle iron. Once ready gently spray with non-stick spray. Add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the batter to the waffle maker, or however much your waffle iron can hold. Cook until golden brown. Place in the oven to keep warm.

Serve the waffles and fried chicken with warm maple syrup or gravy.

Sazerac

2 ounces Bulleit Rye
1/2 tsp sugar
Several dashes of angostura bitters
A dash of Absinthe or enough to coat the bottom and sides of the cocktail glass without dripping out
Lemon twist

Note: This is a labor intensive cocktail that requires a little planning. It’s worth every second it takes to prepare!

Set serving class in freezer to chill. In a rocks glass, add sugar and bitters and stir until sugar begins to dissolve. Add bourbon or rye and muddle them until the sugar is completely dissolved (this takes time).

Remove cocktail glass from freezer and add absinthe, turning glass on its side to coat the bottom and inside of the glass. To the bourbon sugar bitters mixture, add 2 or 3 ice cubes and stir until chilled. Strain into frozen cocktail glasses.

Garnish with a piece of lemon zest (use a veggie peeler). Be sure to twist the lemon peel over the surface of the cocktail so that the oils “spritz” over the surface. Cheers!