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The pastry genius

My friends, I appear today to sing the praises of M. I have often said that the best thing about cooking — and I expand this to include every creative endeavour — is the ability to manifest your own ideas. You think “I feel like a quiche, but I’m not sure I want something with a heavy pastry and I’ve got all these beet greens to use up…” and you realise you can just whip up a sautéed beet green fritatta, enjoy your lunch, and go about your day. Or, if you’re M, you see photos from friends in New York that show they’ve finally broken to the head of the Cronut queue and had a taste of that elusive pastry and you cry “Challenge accepted!” and let slip the cutlery of war. (The Cronut, if you’ve just got out of rehab, is a pastry that has been taking New York — and through it, the world — by storm since last year. It’s essentially croissant dough, cut and fried as per a doughnut, then piped full of crème pâtissière and glazed. Yup.)

It was already dinnertime, so M was reluctant to go full cinnamon quill, if you know what I mean, and instead created his hastened croissant dough. It’s a technique he’s developed in defense against many late-evening urges for croissants, and involves shorter resting times between folds, in the freezer rather than the fridge. Given his druthers, he’d usually indulge the dough with longer rests, more chilling, etc., but needs must when the blogger drives and his swifter dough produces excellent results.

The croissant dough prepared, he cut it into doughnut circles. We had to audition several kitchen utensils to get just the right size: eventually settling on a combination of martini shaker lid for the external ring and my brewing measuring cylinder. We kept the holes and scraps for nibbling, becuase OF COURSE YOU WOULD. And so to oiling:

Blossoming in progress.

Blossoming in progress.

M was pleasantly surprised with how much the pastry blossomed in the oil. One of the risks of cooking with a laminated dough is cooking it too slowly and having the steam get out before the layers trapping it have set (I think I’ve understood that correctly): if you’re deep-frying, you probably already know there’s a delicate balance to be had in keeping the temperature right, which adds another layer of challenge. If the oil’s too cool, it will simply seep in and, in the case of a laminated dough, you’ll end up with a collapsed, oily mass. If the oil’s too hot, the outside will set almost immediately, limiting how much the interior layers can separate, and ultimately slowing the transfer of heat to the middle. So you’ll end up with a crunchy exterior over an undercooked mess the middle. Gross. Neither of those things happened.

Crispy layers holy cow.

Crispy layers holy cow.

M monitored the oil temperature like a dog watching you eat a bun, and kept it steady. The result: as you see, exquisitely separated layers. The original dough was only an inch or so thick, and the cronuts blossomed to nearly four inches high. Uh.May.Zing.

ohhh wow

ohhh wow

M elected not to fill or glaze: his preference for the simplicity of cinnamon/sugar dusting matches my own, so that’s what he rolled with. He’s a pastry renegade.

ohhhh my

ohhhh my

And a damn talented one. M takes an idea and runs with it, tweaks it to match his own preferences and timeframe, and voilà: brilliance.

Yes. Behold.

Yes. Behold.

Friends, I present M. The pastry genius.

PS – Final verdict: these are delicious and astonishingly crunchy. The oil separates the layers and gives each layer a crispy perimeter. But for the work involved, I think M would prefer a plain croissant (or maybe a wee pain au raisin), and I’m inclined to agree.

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