The French Croissant
One of the finest croissants I was ever served was aboard the transatlantic passenger liner the SS France. On a round-trip voyage of the ship, I spent several memorable days with her boulangers and pātissiers working and observing. Unlike today's one-class cruise ships, the France carried first-class and second-class passengers. In the ship's bakery, the croissants for the first-class dining room were made in the traditional crescent shape, while the same croissants destined for the other dining room were not given the quarter-moon shape but left straight. "When we are making hundreds, it just takes less time to shape and we can get more of them on a baking sheet," explained M. Gousse, the pātissier. This is the SS France recipe for its feather-light (1-ounce) croissant.
3 Tbsp flour
Sprinkle 3 Tbsp flour over butter and blend together on the work surface. On a length of foil, fashion a 6" square of soft butter; fold over the sides of the foil to enclose. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 2 to 3 hours.
While the butter is chilling, prepare the dough. To mix by hand, in a large mixing or mixer bowl, blend 2 cups of the flour with salt and sugar. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add it and the warmed milk and half-and-half to the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or the flat blade of an electric mixer to thoroughly blend the batterlike dough, about 2 minutes.
Stir in additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to make a soft but not sticky dough (it will stiffen when chilled.) Knead by hand or under a dough hook for 5 minutes to form a solid mass.
If using a food processor, attach the steel blade. Place 2 cups flour in the work bowl and add the dry ingredients. Pulse to mix. Pour the 1/4 cup water, milk, and half-and-half through the feed tube. Pulse once or twice to be certain that all dry ingredients are moistened. Add the balance of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, turning the machine on briefly after each addition. When the mixture forms a mass and begins to clean the sides of the bowl, knead for 30 seconds. Don't overknead!
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