You may be aware of the existence of these Babes (The Bread Baking Babes aka BBBs) who’ve been exploring the world of breads for the past 3 years. I’ve joined them on some of their bread baking adventures, on and off (I must confess more off than on), and discovered some great breads along the way. I’ve baked their Sukkar bi Tahin (Beirut Tahini Swirls), Pane di Pasta Tenera Condita (Italian Knot Bread), Viennese Striesel, Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao (Chinese Flower Steamed Buns) and the first two are all time favourites in our home. In the last year, trying to cope with the sort of demands that life makes on all of us, I stopped baking with them because I couldn’t find much time. And the one month I did have the time they were baking Ensaimada which I’d already made before.
So when I found out they were celebrating their 3rd anniversary by re-visiting the breads they had baked, I knew I had to join the celebrations but with 2 breads instead of just one. My picks were Sûkerbôlle and Croissants and I had reasons for choosing these breads.
Sûkerbôlle/ Suikerbrood (Frisian Sugar Bread) – This is a sweet loaf from Friesland a region in the northern part of the Netherlands, made with slightly rich brioche-like dough. It contains sugar bits and cinnamon and is typically eaten for breakfast with butter. Apparently, it is the “parelsuiker” (or pearl sugar/ sugar bits) which make all the difference in this bread, since it is hard enough to give some crunch yet melts during baking in the bread to create moist sugary patches.
Suikerbrood is also very popular in Belgium, but I believe it is made without the cinnamon and ginger. I wasn’t really aware of this bread until I saw BBB pictures of loaves of bread with strange white bits sticking to the crust! It was then that I suddenly remembered that Finla (the friend who sent me loads of foodie goodies!) had sent me a packet of sugar bits (pearl sugar) and this was a good opportunity to put them to some use.
Finla who lives in Belgium where this bread is equally popular, tells me that in the good old days, this bread was given to as a gift to women who delivered baby girls. Something along the lines of “Sugar and spice, everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of”, it seems! The ladies who had boys got raisin bread!!
This bread does require a bit more yeast than usual, but I believe the sugar in the bread needs this. The result is a delightful bread, mildly flavoured with cinnamon, and nice small moist sugary patches and just a little bit of crunch making it a different experience. It’s just perfect with tea or coffee. I used Lien’s recipe.
If you cannot find pearl sugar/ sugar chips, you can crush sugar cubes and use them instead. If you live in India, another option might be to use the sugar candy (not the sesame seed laddoos; picture below) called “til gul” which is popular for Makar Sankranthi. I’ve not tried this, so if any of you do, I’d be happy to know how it turns out.
Croissants – I have always loved croissants and have eaten some awesome ones. As children we lived abroad and would visit India once every 2 years in summer. Our flights to India were always routed through some country in Europe where we had an overnight stop before we caught our connecting flight. These overnight stays over about a period of 15 years meant morning breakfasts which invariably included light, buttery and flaky croissants.
Our daughter shares this love of croissants with me. Unfortunately we don’t get very good croissants here, at least not what I call good. Sure, they’re golden brown with flaky layers and the bakeries/ patisseries empty half your wallet by the time you’ve paid for about 1/2 a dozen of them. Yet one bite is all it takes to feel let down that the croissants don’t live up to what they promise you visually.
So it has long been a dream of mine to make my own croissants, but they’ve always been my very own Waterloo. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck so far with anything that has to do with loads of chilled butter, flour and laminated dough. Maybe there’s a message in all this, but I prefer not to think so.
It has been a bit disappointing with every past attempt. Unlike my usual practice, I stick to the chosen recipes without even the slightest deviation, and while I get pretty decent and very eatable kind of croissants (or puff pastry as the case may be), “perfect” has always eluded me. And I always seem to have butter pooling in my baking trays, no matter what.
It seems like my “technique” is at fault, but I’m inclined to blame the warm and humid weather I live in throughout the year. It might be a case of “a bad workman blaming his tools” Thinking of all the expenditure doesn’t help much; in terms of the butter involved, the time and not to mention the sweat in working off all those buttery calories!
Sometimes I’m a glutton for self-inflicted punishment so after seeing all those glorious croissants on the various BBB blogs, I decided to try my hand at this one last (I think) time. I was smarter this time and decided to work with only half a recipe, which is given below).
I made my croissants and these were the best I’ve attempted so far, and no pooling butter! Please note, I didn’t say they were the best ever croissants. They puffed up pretty well but I still didb’t get the flakiness I was looking for. Maybe I need to get some professional lessons in croissant and laminated dough making. And perhaps a completely air-conditioned house while I’m about it. I think I’m just going to have to settle for dreaming about the
perfect croissant for now……….
Should you want to try making croissants for yourself, I have only one piece of advice. Just make sure you take off any finger rings with stones and stuff that you might be wearing. They can inadvertently tear your butter enclosed dough and believe me; you don’t want that on top every other disaster!! I adapted Mary’s recipe for the Croissants.
Sûkerbôlle/ Suikerbrood &Some Croissants With The BBBs; Also Announcing The Giveaway Winner…..
For the Sxfbkerbxf4lle/ Suikerbrood :
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsps active dry yeast
- 35 gm butter , melted and cooled
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsps ginger syrup
- 2/3 cup milk warm
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar chips (you can use lumps broken into small pieces)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon ground
For the Croissants :
- 1 1/4 tsps yeast dry active
- 1 1/4 cups milk warm
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsps sugar
- 130 gm butter , cold but not too hard
- 1 tbsp milk cream or for brushing croissants
- For the Sxfbkerbxf4lle/ Suikerbrood - For the ginger syrup, I used 1tbsp finely crushed ginger/ ginger paste + 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tbsp water. Mix everything together and bring to the boil in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Stir and when it thickens a bit becoming syrupy (about 2 minutes) take it off the heat and strain. Discard the sediment and use the golden coloured syrup in the recipe below.
- Place all the ingredients, except the sugar chips and cinnamon, in a food processor bowl (you can knead by hand if you choose). Run the processor till you have a dough that is soft but not sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about 1 to 2 hours till almost double in volume.
- Reserve a few of the sugar chips and mix the rest of them with the powdered cinnamon. Deflate the dough and and add the cinnamon sugar chips and knead this into the dough. Another way is how I did this. Stretch the dough into a rough rectangle and uniformly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar chips over it. Tightly roll up the dough starting from one of the shorter sides.
- Place the rolled dough, with the seam down and sides neatly tucked in, into a greased loaf tin. Cover and allow it to rise till almost double (another 1 to 2 hours). Brush the top with cream or milk and sprinkle reserved sugar bits on top. Lightly press them into the dough without deflating the dough.
- Bake the loaf at 200C (400F) for about 25 to 35 minutes till the bread is done and the sugar bits are just beginning to turn golden. Cool completely on a rack. Slice into thick pieces and serve buttered or plain, with tea or coffee. This recipe makes one small loaf. You may double the recipe for 2 loaves.
- For the Croissants, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Put flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of your mixer with dough hook, or food processor and mix on low. Gradually pour in the milk-yeast mixture. Knead until a sticky dough ball is formed and dough is pulling away from bowl.
- Let it rest for about 20 minutes and then remove the dough from the mixer/ processor. Do not handle the dough much. Place in a bowl, cover and allow to rise until double (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down, put it back in the bowl, cover and then allow to rest in fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours. In the meanwhile take the butter, place it between sheets of plastic film or parchment paper and flatten it out with a rolling pin into a rectangle (about 8u201d by 6u201d). Place in the fridge till required.
- Shape the dough into a ball and cut an approx. 3/4" cross in the centre. Roll out the 4 sides to make flaps leaving a centre section big enough to hold the butter block. Place butter block in centre, and fold the flaps over to completely enclose the butter. Lightly press down on the folded dough with your rolling pin and roll out to form a large rectangle, about 11" X 5". Ensure the butter doesnu2019t leak.
- First Turn: Fold dough in thirds, like you would fold a letter, by taking far right third over centre third and far left third over top of far right third. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Second Turn: Lightly flour your working surface. Give the chilled dough a quarter turn, roll out into the rectangle, fold same way as first turn, wrap and refrigerate as above, 30 minutes.
- Third Turn: Lightly flour your working surface. Roll the dough in the opposite direction as before, into the rectangle, fold wrap and refrigerate at least 30 but no more than 60 minutes.
- Now to shape the croissants - Lightly flour your working surface and roll out the dough into an approx. 12u201d by 7u201d rectangle. Lift it slightly off the surface to aerate it to keep it from shrinking. Using a pizza cutter, trim sides to make straight edges, cut the rectangle into 4 pieces along the breadth. Cut each piecediagonally into 2 triangles each.
- Make a small 3/4" long cut in the base of each triangle. Separate the pieces slightly along the cut and start rolling the piece tightly towards the points of the triangle. Place them, with space in between, on a baking tray. Let them rise till almost double (about an hour) and then lightly brush with cream or milk.
- Bake the croissants at 200C (400F) for about 12 to 15 minutes till golden. Serve immediately with butter and jam. This recipe should give you 8 croissants.