Little kids have the oddest sense of justice — or maybe the purest. I noticed this with the little boy I babysat all last year, too, the knee-jerk reaction to any recognition of one kid’s performance over everyone else’s: That’s not FAIR!
I brought in worksheets for the “older kids” (read: kindergarteners) in my French class on Wednesday and promised a prize to the first one who filled them all in correctly. “But that’s not FAIR!” Well, of course it’s fair, said I, because you all have an equal shot. You just have to stop stealing your neighbor’s eraser, braiding your hair, and untying/retying your shoes. Really, the first one who catches on that “winning” simply means “finding all the answers in the word bank” has got it made.
Kindergarten, I suppose, still belongs to that fond time when you’re evaluated on effort, not merit, if you’re evaluated at all. The kiddies aren’t used to in-class worksheets being incentivized. Either that or all children are socialists before their tenth birthday.
But they’re all getting one of these for snack time today. No big deal. I just made a batch of HOME MADE CROISSANTS. Honestly, these may do even more damage to the kids than premature evaluations based on timed accomplishments. They’re liable to start thinking all croissants taste like this. Which they don’t, and surely not here, because not even all croissants in France taste like this. It’s a side effect I’m willing to live with, this astronomically-high bar, in the name of greater good of Francophilia. If just one of these five year olds one day chases the flaky flavor across the Atlantic, finds the best croissant in Paris and thinks, Finally! After twenty years! Better than Miss Natalie’s!, well, my work here is done.
But since twenty years is a rather long way away, for these kids or anyone, here’s how to make the ur-croissant at home. All it takes is three days, twelve tablespoons of butter, and your favorite rolling pin. A healthy sense of irony (this recipe is from the book French Women Don’t Get Fat) helps, too.
From “French Women Don’t Get Fat” (ha!)
DAY ONE, EVENING
- 1 cup milk, divided
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Warm 1/4 cup of milk. Add yeast and 2 tbsp of flour. Whisk to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until foamy, around twenty minutes.
Combine sugar, salt, and remaining 2 1/8 cup of flour. Warm remaining 3/4 cup of milk and add it to the bowl. Add the yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until sticky and soft. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
DAY TWO, MORNING
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 tbsp flour
Combine the softened butter and flour in a small bowl until smooth. Sprinkle your work surface with a lot of flour (more than you think necessary), plop the cold dough onto it, and roll it into an approximately 6 x 15 inch rectangle. Spread the butter on the top two thirds of the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, to create layers of butter and dough. Turn it clockwise so that the opening faces left. Roll it into a 6 x 15 inch rectangle and fold it into thirds again. Transfer to a baking dish, cover with foil or plastic wrap, and return it to the fridge for six hours.
DAY TWO, EVENING
Roll out and fold the dough just like this morning. Do it twice, then return to covered baking sheet and refrigerate overnight.
DAY THREE, MORNING
- 3 tbsp milk, divided
- 1 egg
Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Roll it into a 16 inch circle. Cut the dough into quarters, and cut each quarter into three triangles.To shape the croissant, roll the dough from the wide base toward the top corner. (Discovery: if you want a chocolate croissant, sneak a handful of chocolate chips onto the base before you roll it up.)
Transfer to a baking sheet, brush with two tablespoons of milk, and let stand for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine egg and remaining tablespoon of milk. Brush each croissant with the egg-milk mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before eating, if you can resist that long.
* Want some more details, including step-by-step photo instructions? Go here!