I like the idea of homemade puff pastry, or croissant dough, or any of the other variations that require making endless layers of buttery pastry. The process of rolling, folding, chilling, waiting, rolling, folding... just writing out the steps makes for a lovely rhythmic chant, as soothing as homemade puff pastry should be. Soothing, of course, is only one way to took at it. It is also, to my mind, a monumental undertaking. I mean, all of that rolling, folding, chilling, waiting... And pastry is notoriously temperamental. Requiring the perfect chill so the butter doesn't begin to leach out from between your hard-won layers.
I love the idea. But so far, I have been disappointed by the reality. About a year ago, before I started this blog, my first attempt at a puff pastry was in the form of a flourless chocolate espresso tart. In the cookbook's photo, the crust was crumbly, moist looking, light and airy. In reality, it was gummy, chewy and, in my mind, inedible. Not all was lost, of course, because a flourless chocolate espresso tart filling can always be scooped out by the spoonful and made to stand on its own. No one actually complained.
But I love the idea too much to allow that tart to remain my only attempt. And in an act of brazen self-confidence, I decided to try kringles made out of (gasp!) a croissant dough. What's more, I decided to do it in preparation for company, for the arrival of an old college friend and her small entourage (as much of an entourage as my little apartment can accommodate). The weather has taken a sudden dive toward winter, and everyone here seems to be in need of a little cushioning as we begin to acclimate. What better way to soften our descent than that classic Scandinavian pastry. However, while kringles are usually shaped like a pretzel and made from a dough more bread-like than croissant-like, this version, from Leslie Mackie and her book The Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook produces something more like a danish.
If you're in Seattle, perhaps you've had the pleasure of an actual visit to Macrina. I never have, but I've never been to the Pacific North West, either, so I've been deprived on many fronts. Mackie says that the inspiration for this dough came from a 1983 article in Cuisine magazine by the famed Nick Malgieri. This is her tweaked version, and it's a good one to master. Other than kringles, it also serves as the basis for Hazelnut Orange Pinwheels, Morning Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls with Coconut, Raisins and Walnuts.
Start this recipe the night before you want to serve it, as the dough must rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Croissant dough requires an even balance between speed and care (if only that combination came more naturally!). But after quick rolling, there is always down-time while the dough is being re-chilled to allow for some rest and the necessary collection of thoughts. And that is the rhythm of it.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
Heat the milk until it's just warm to the touch, then transfer it to a large bowl and add the yeast, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until the ingredients are incorporated and allow to sit for 5 minutes or so, so that the yeast can bloom.
In a medium bowl, stir the salt and 3 cups of the flour together. Add this mixture to the bowl of milk and stir gently until everything is combined, taking care not to over mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight, at which time the dough will just about double in size.
Take the bowl out of the refrigerator the next day and set it aside on the counter.
In a standing mixer, cream the butter and 3 tablespoons of flour together (it will help to cut the butter into 12 pieces first). Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until smooth. Place the butter onto a floured surface and form into a 6" square block. Lightly flour the top of the blog then set it aside on a piece of plastic wrap. At this point, both the butter and the dough should be the same, cool temperature.
Remove the spongy dough from the bowl and put it onto a lightly floured surface. Form it into a square, then stretch the corners out 4 inches, leaving a 7 inch square in the middle. Place the butter block in the middle of the square and fold the corners over the butter so that it's completely covered. Pinch the dough together so that the butter is sealed inside. Lightly flour the dough, and roll it out into a 12x20" rectangle, pinch the dough together if it cracks open.
Next, you'll need to fold the dough into layers. The long side should be facing you. Fold the left side to the middle of the dough, then fold the right side so that they meet in the middle. Then fold the dough in half from the top edge down to the bottom. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Once cooled, let the dough sit on the counter for 15 minutes so that it can be re-rolled. Roll it back out and repeat the process two more times, rolling, folding and chilling.
After the final chill, you'll be ready to make your kringle.
1 cup whole almonds, toasted in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes and cooled
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water)
Coarse raw sugar
Powdered sugar for garnish (optional)
Oven preheated to 385
Blend the almonds in a food processor for until medium fine, then add the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and flour and continue blending for about 3 minutes.
Cut the croissant dough in half and set half aside. Roll out the other half into a 12x20" rectangle, then transfer it to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Spread half of the almond mixture down the middle of the rolled-out dough, about 4x16 inches. Fold the long sides of the dough down over the filling, leaving about 1" of the filling exposed. Fold about 1" of the ends under to create the crust. Repeat with second half of dough and almond butter.
Brush the dough with the egg wash (not the filling) and sprinkle the raw sugar over the dough. Let the pastries come to room temp for about 30 minutes, until they're puffed up and soft. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating half way through, until dough is golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheets before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Makes 2 pastry sheets.
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