It’s my job to make croissants for family feasts. I’m not much of a baker, but I get the nod in my family because basically no one else wants to bake at all. This year we had no prospects for a big Thanksgiving dinner and no real plans for ourselves, and that was okay, because Dave has never particularly like turkey anyway. He always made the turkey, and the stuffing, and the potatoes, and the side dishes, and the gravy, and the peeled prawns with tarragon mustard sauce, and a selection of Horse Doovers, and he opened the can of cranberry sauce and shlorped it onto the plate, but he always groused about the turkey (little ground bird humor, there) and wondered why we couldn’t have prime rib instead.
Anyway, this year seemed like a good opportunity to not have turkey, and we didn’t have any other plans, and then it occurred to me how about I just make a batch of croissants and we eat them all? A jug of wine, a freaking mountain of butter-saturated bread and thou. As soon as it came to me I knew it had to happen. I don’t even eat wheat much anymore, but I’m willing to destroy my health for homemade croissants. Mine aren’t bakery-pretty, but they are spectacular. By the time you read this, I might almost be ready to sit up and take soup again.
This sort of thing is not unprecedented around here. Dave has always been a very good cook but one day I asked him what he was making and he said “All the bacon you ever really wanted.” And that’s what we had. It was a lot of bacon. We were not at all well afterwards.
This is the first year I’ve made croissants since I started watching the Great British Baking Show, though. So I’ve seen how puff pastry is supposed to be made, and it’s a somewhat delicate and painstaking process that rewards perfectionists and painstakers, none of whom live here. I planned to make them as I always do. I always check the recipe even though I’ve made them almost a hundred times and there are only four ingredients. (“Oh yeah,” I say, when I look them up.) The cookbook springs open to the right page, spang in the middle like the Psalms. It’s an old Joy Of Cooking with grease stains and a sprung spine, and it was given to my mother-in-law Murry (yes) in 1948 with the penciled inscription “Good luck, ole pal, love, Helen.” This cookbook is so old it has references to the “colored cook.”
I’m good at making the dough but I get lazy when it comes to dotting the butter on it and folding it over. You’re supposed to whip the butter so it’s easy to Dot but I’ve never bothered. I just put a couple sticks of butter in my bra for a while and it’s soft enough when I’m ready to go. Also, as someone who has never given milk, I think it’s impressive to pull butter from my bosom.
So while I had the recipe in front of me, I re-checked it, as I had the previous 99 times, and what the hell but I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. I’ve always read “dot 1/4 of the butter on l/3 of the rolled-out dough and fold into thirds,” and then swing it around east to south (I think north to east works just as well), and do it three more times. And that is what I have always done. It’s hard to fit all the butter on a third of the dough after you’ve folded and rolled it a few times but I do my best. But it doesn’t say that. It says to dot 1/4 of the butter on the whole dough layer and fold into thirds. Much easier. It says that plain as day and presumably always has. This is why it’s hard to edit your own copy. Once you’ve read it wrong, it just stays read wrong.
Anyway my way does result in more chunks of butter that want to bust through the layers of dough and leak out, so my croissants are not only packed with butter, they’re also swimming in it in the oven, resulting in sautéed butter rolls, which is even better than the professional version. The judges of the Great British Baking Show would demerit me into exile, but I don’t care. And if I have a soggy bottom, ’tain’t nobody’s business but my own.