The majority of bread eaten in Europe takes place mornings to mid-day in the form of various shaped buns, flat and pocket breads, hot and cold toast and a range of pastry breads that have disputed origins.
We know some of these as croissant au beurre, pain au chocolat, croissant aux amandes, pain au chocolat aux amandes, pain aux raisins au beurre, chausson aux pommes, chouquettes …
… and the plain old croissant.
This enigmatic crescent-shaped pastry bread is more than mere food, it is the stuff of legend. Popularly associated with royalty and resistance, the origins of the croissant go back to ancient pastry traditions.
Whether they are Jewish, Italian, Austrian or Hungarian no longer matters.
Viennoiserie has been a success since it was introduced at the World Fair in 1867. Gradually it seduced every pastry chef from Paris to Copenhagen, where the Danes claimed it as their own.
The real irony is that a pastry bread originally made as a communal activity only to be adopted by the aristocracy is now within reach of everyone, albeit as a machine-made factory product.
The real danger is that the original waxing moon-shaped delicacy will be lost as the world decides there is only one crescent – the croissant!
This is the original crescent-shaped breakfast bread – the kipfel!
500 g soft white / pastry flour 280 g milk 50 g sugar 50 g butter, softened 30 g yeast 1 egg yolk (optional)5-10 g salt
Bring milk gently to lukewarm in a saucepan. Dissolve yeast in milk.
Sieve flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar. For a salty flavour double the amount of salt.
Add yeast mixture, and work into a loose smooth dough.
Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
On a floured surface roll out the dough, dot with pieces of butter. Spread butter on the dough and fold over three times.
Place dough in a plastic bag, leave in a cool place to rest for three hours or leave overnight.
Cut the dough into 80g pieces, roll into oblong sheets 12x18cm. Starting at one edge roll tightly and form into a crescent shape.
Place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper, the seam underneath.
Spray with cold water, cover and leave to rise for an hour.
Preheat oven to 190°C.
Spray again with water or wash with egg yolk.
Then there is the vanilla version.
250 g soft white/pastry flour 210 g butter, softened 125 g almonds, ground/grated 75 g vanilla sugar 2 vanilla pods, deseeded (optional) 2 egg yolks (optional) Salt, pinch Icing sugar, for dressing Vanilla sugar, for dressing
Made in the 19th and 20th centuries with ground almonds, butter, flour, vanilla-flavoured sugar and salt, modern trends are moving back to the older method of using grated almonds, egg yolks and vanilla seeds.
Some recipes call for the almonds to be toasted ground or whole in a dry frying pan.
Butter also plays a huge part in the success of these crescents. Soft rather than hard butters help relax the dough.
Crumble the butter into the floor, add the egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla seeds and finally the almonds, working quickly to make a smooth dough.
Rest dough in the fridge for two hours.
Roll out dough to a thickness of no more than one centimetre, cut into four centimetre square pieces, about 15g each, roll and shape into crescents.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Place crescents on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper.
Bake for 12 minutes.
While still hot roll crescents in the icing and then the vanilla sugar.
A 1900 recipe: 390g flour, 300g butter, 150g sugar, 150g almonds, rolled in 30g vanilla sugar while still warm.
A 2000 recipe: 175g pastry flour, 75g chick pea flour, 150g butter, 80g icing sugar, 150g almonds, 2 egg yolks, 1 vanilla pod, a pinch of salt, rolled in sugar while still warm.
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