Before I knew better, my taste for croissants was solely based on the mass-produced butter crescents purchased from Costco snug in a cellophane twelve pack. I would microwave one and slather its piping insides with jam and butter or toast another until the edges were burnt and curled into the coils of the toaster. By the time I finally tried a crisp, soft, and delicate true croissant, my eyes widened in glee and my taste buds changed. The top layer flaked off into my mouth with a soft crunch. The thin dough sheets below the crunch dissolved quickly on my tongue and the smooth, buttery aftertaste flooded my senses -- this pastry is undeniable.
With a tiny kitchen that barely has room for a mixing bowl, let alone room to roll, I signed up for the Sur la Table croissant class to dive into the delicious layers that have mesmerized and intimidated me. Though I have taken many SLT classes over the years, the foods that scare me the most are croissants and macarons, due to their complicated, tender processes.
Once my group got the dough proofed and the butter flattened into a sheet, we grabbed a ruler and got to work making sure we had a close-to-perfect rectangle before we started “turning”. Turning is a term for rolling and folding the dough to create the many airy, butter-filled layers that add volume to the final shapes.
During the three-hour class, we experimented with different aspects beyond the classic croissant. We filled small rectangles with chunks of chocolate for a more decadent treat and crafted morning buns, rolled up dough filled with cinnamon and dipped in sugar warm from the oven.
I went home with an entire box of freshly-baked treats that wouldn’t last the weekend, and a newfound respect for the professional bakers who deal in dough all day, the buttery and/or sugary fingers that you can’t simply lick clean.
Sur la Table
Yield: 12 Buns
Note: As much as I enjoyed learning how to make croissant dough in class, it's a very long and complicated process and I wouldn't be able to add anything substantial, so I am linking to the SLT Classic Croissant dough recipe and inserting the morning buns recipe below.
Morning buns are an amped-up version of cinnamon rolls made with flaky croissant dough. The buns are baked in a muffin tin so the outside of each one gets deeply browned and caramelized. When they come out of the oven, they are immediately rolled in sugar, giving them a sparkling finish.
1/2 recipe (about 1 1/2 pounds) croissant dough
1 large egg, lightly whisked
2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
Roll and fill the dough: Roll dough into an 18 by 11 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Position the dough with a long side parallel to the edge of your work surface. Sweep off any flour on the surface and then brush the entire surface of the dough lightly with the egg.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over dough, leaving a 1 inch border along the edge furthest from you.
Shape the dough: Beginning with the side closest to you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Finish rolling the dough onto the border. Pinch all along the seam to seal it. Cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces. Place each in a generously buttered muffin tin, cut side up.
Proof the dough: Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the buns to rise in a cool, room temperature spot until they have doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes.
Bake the buns: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the center. Chill the buns in the freezer for 10 minutes or the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the buns are a deep golden brown.
Place granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Using tongs, gently remove buns from tin and roll in sugar making sure to coat all sides. Transfer to a silicone mat or parchment paper to cool.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Storing: The buns are at their best the same day they are made. They may be stored at room temperature for two days, then reheated in a 375 degree F oven for 7 to 8 minutes.