These days, it has become fashionable to refer to one’s lack of a job as funemployment. The word pops up everywhere it seems – Facebook, blogs, backyard barbeques, and the like. Those who use it always emphasize the first syllable, drawing out the fun: it’s FUNemployment, and so certainly not UNemployment. I find it absolutely absurd, and have thus taken to extreme eye rolling every time the word pops up. It’s not fun to be unemployed. It’s boring. Afternoons are the biggest challenge – after filling up my mornings with a 5 mile run, another trip to the grocery store, and an early lunch, I’m left with way-too-short lists of job prospects and applications, and an infinite amount of time in which to complete them.
So, I’ve started trying to think of projects (long projects) to fill up my days. Like seeing how thin I can learn how to slice a zucchini for a salad:
Or practicing my artichoke trimming skills (I'm getting pretty good – watch out, Thomas Keller!):
My best idea so far, however, has been my 24-hour croissant-making extravaganza.
I’d never attempted such an involved baking task before. I tend towards simpler, more rustic desserts, embracing the homely ruggedness of a crooked cake, ugly cookies, or an almost-but-not-quite burnt piecrust. In fact, last weekend, Rosie and I experimented with less-than picture perfect mini pie baking when we hauled in almost 10 pounds of berries from Sauvie Island. They may have fallen apart upon contact with any serving device, but they were definitely delicious. And I’ve already spoken of my love for galettes – the most rustic pie of all – which always taste better when thrown together at the last minute.
Last minute these croissants were not. I found Nancy Silverton’s recipe for the dough online at Epicurious (the story was published in Gourmet in 2000), read through it a couple of times, and began work on Wednesday, at about 2 in the afternoon. It took the rest of my day to make the dough, let it rise, and perform the folds (folding in sticks of butter, that is!) necessary for a flaky pastry. The dough was left to slow-rise in the fridge overnight, and I started with the fun part the next morning.
My only variation from the recipe was to make a couple of my own fillings. First, in an attempt to both use up some of those berries and to recreate one of my favorite childhood treats, I pureed a pint of raspberries with a little honey. Delicious on its own, or as a sauce, I’ve been using the leftovers as a pick-me-up in the late afternoons following. I also threw some walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar in the food processor to make a cinnamon roll-type filling. These leftovers are also delicious.
The rolling step takes a bit of patience, since, just like any yeasted dough, the croissant dough has a spring to it that wants to prevent any attempts at uniform thinness. I had learned/taught myself in the past to let such types of dough come to room temperature before rolling to allow for maximum flexibility. However, the massive amount of butter in croissants makes it impossible to wait for the temperature to rise – you don’t want oozing butter all over your table (that is, until the pastries are cooked!). So I had to whack it around a bit, but eventually ended up with some pretty nice triangles that all rolled up into more or less croissant-like shapes.
Once shaped and rolled, the croissants have to sit for a final rise – about 2 ½ hours – covered. Nancy (I’d like to think we’re on a first name basis now) suggests setting up a tent for the pastries using clean garbage bags and upside down glasses. I did this for a couple batches; but, while strangely pretty:
it was actually an unnecessarily cumbersome step, and I ended up using toothpicked plastic wrap in the end.
After running an errand or two, twiddling my thumbs a bit, and staring into space for a while, it was time to set up the oven. And, just like the rest of the process, this step required attention and patience (especially since my temporary house has only one very small baking sheet, so I had to cook the croissants in four separate batches). The oven starts at 425; once it’s heated, you have to spritz it with water, close the door, pop in the croissants, spritz again, turn the heat down, wait ten minutes, turn the pan, turn the heat down, and wait ten more minutes. And then do it again, over and over, watching the clock like a hawk, awaiting perfection.
When they’re finally done – all I can say is awesome.
I mean, check these out:
I made those! And they're not just beautiful, they're butter-oozing, melt-in-your-mouth flaky, toasty rolls of greatness. Remember back when I called a certain galette the best thing I've ever made? Well, these are about a billion-gagillion (totally a number, ask a four-year old) times better. I urge you, the next time you have 24 hours of free time on your hands, make these. And if you're in a job situation like, they'll almost be enough to put a little fun- into your un-….
(yeah, sorry about that one)
*But, in all seriousness, if you are in the Portland area and need some type of employee to do anything, or even if you don’t need an employee, but want to make a certain expert croissant baker super happy, talk to me. I will most certainly bake you something.