croissain't what you think they are
It's that time at last! Here come the holiday recipes, people.
I get so excited every year when November hits the calendar because that means tasty times are coming - tasty times and tasty traditions. Our culinary liturgy gets super specific around the holidays and we always pull out the same tried and true favorites. Partly it's because they're just plain delicious, but a lot of it is because they themselves have become part of the changing seasons. We all have our assigned dishes we make every year, packed up and driven a couple hundred miles to a new kitchen where they finish rising or marinating or being assembled from the various jars and tupperwares and bags. It's never quite fully the holiday in question until we're all assembled - humans and their accompanying foods alike.
These croissants have always been a non-negotiable for Thanksgiving. Well, we call them croissants, but crescent dinner rolls would probably be a more accurate description. There's no laminating or flaky crispiness - they're just delicious yeast dough rolled up into crescents, baked until golden, and served with fresh, melty butter on top. And then consumed by the dozen if you don't catch yourself in time. Because guys, these things are addicting. Also (pro-tip) these make killer mini sandwiches with the leftover turkey for later snack-meals.
For many years these were my sister Amy's assigned recipe, but about 10 years ago or so they passed to me. And now that I'm alternating between Aaron's family and mine, they've passed down to my niece on the off-years. Still, I bring them everywhere with me - Friendsgiving, In-laws-giving, Works-giving... basically any possible -giving.
There are few things that make me happier than the smell of a good yeast dough in process. The yeast dough recipes in our family traditionally only came out around holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter), so there's a warmth of communal baking and celebration all tied up in the scent of that rising dough. I remember when I was little, before I'd taken over the croissanting, there was a yearly ritual of testing the water temperature over and over to be sure the yeast did not meet a premature demise - test on the fingers, test on the wrist, test again on the other wrist, turn it down a hair, test on the forearm, test on someone else's wrist, call it good and toss it in the bowl with a whisk and a prayer. Of course this was all because the yeast had been killed in the past. I remember the occasion was marked by my sister and my mom singing out a faux tragic opera from the kitchen bemoaning that "I have killlllled the yeaaaaast! Killed it, killlllled it, killllllled the yeast!" We're a rather odd group of people.
Honestly, I think I've just lucked out because I've never run into that particular tragedy while baking these. Of course that probably means I've now doomed myself to a yeast execution next time I summon these up for a holiday. But for the most part, they are a quite simple recipe. As breads go, they don't require a ton of complexity and only a minute or two of kneading. The most stringent requirement is being sure you have enough time for them to chill and then rise, so we typically make the dough the night before and leave it to chill overnight, then roll it out first thing in the morning, form the croissants, and let them puff along on their merry way throughout the morning.
So without further ado, let's get baking!
croissant dinner rolls
yield: 32 rolls
1 package active dry yeast 1 cup lukewarm water ¾ cup evaporated milk 1½ tsp salt ⅓ cup sugar 1 egg 5 cups flour ¼ cup melted butter (cooled) 1 cup butter
Place the yeast and water in a medium bowl and whisk slightly to combine. Allow it to rest for approximate 10 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear.
Add milk, salt, sugar, egg, and 1 cup of flour to the yeast and water. Beat these to make a smooth batter, then blend in the melted butter and set aside.
In a separate large bowl, cut the firm butter into the remaining flour with a pastry cutter until it forms crumbles the size of kidney beans.
Pour the yeast mixture over the flour and bugger and turn with a spatula to blend until all flour is just moistened.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Form the dough into a ball on a floured surface and knead about 6 turns, then divide it into 4 equal parts.
Roll one part into a 17” circle, then cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges.
Roll each wedge to its point and curve into a crescent.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, allowing at least 1½” around each. Cover lightly with a towel or cheesecloth and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk (approximately 2 hrs). I recommend placing near a warm oven to ensure the rise begins.
Bake at 325° for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve warm with soft butter.