My son’s birthday party (over a week ago) took a while to recover from. The clean up. The post-party sick boy. The doctor appointment. The prep for his birthday celebration at school, which he missed and will be rescheduled for a date in the future (I think).
For his Birthday Walk (that’s Montessori jargon), Vm requested croissants and jam to be served to his class. I was super late getting the dough made because I was still working on cleaning up from the party. I should have started Monday for Tuesday afternoon croissants but instead, I started very early Tuesday morning.
And realized that I had just a smidge of yeast in the fridge. A smidge wasn’t going to do it. Not that late in the game. There would be no time to run to the store. I was making four recipes of dough so there would be enough for the 20 something kids in my boy’s class.
So I just went ahead with the smidge, warmed up my oven to 200 for some serious dough proofing and crossed my fingers. All of them. After kneading out the dough, I offed the oven, covered the bowl of dough with a towel and put it in the warm oven, hoping the micro-organisms would be spurred to life and get all hungry, eating their way to a sizable carbon dioxide output.
About an hour later I checked in on my dough and would have given those yeast cells a pat on the back if such a thing was possible. The dough had risen. Not obscenely, by any means, but I could tell that the yeast were active and I would not have to pardon my French over dead dough.
And then my son woke up and it was clear he would not be going to school that day for his Birthday Walk. The dough was wrapped in the fridge for a slow rise and I got on with my day of tending to my little coughing patient.
Usually after 20 minutes of dough rising, I roll the butter into the dough and refrigerate a few hours, laminate, refrigerate, repeat. But this time, it was an hour rising outside the fridge, in the warm oven and then many hours in the fridge before I even made the introduction between dough and butter.
And what great results. It seems that all bread dough does better with as little yeast as possible and ample resting time. Without lots of yeast and a fast rise, the flavor of the bread develops depth and subtleness that is absent from the wham, bam, thank you ma’am taste of a big spoonful of yeast. In this case, size does matter. Smaller amounts of yeast compensate for their slower rise by allowing a romance of flavors to develop.
I ended up making a small, lazy batch of croissants for my family, at my son’s request. He really loves them. I only rolled the dough out two times, so, needless to say, the croissants could have been flakier with more laminating (and butter!).
Despite lots of clean up and sick boy and family croissants, the people in this family cannot live on pastry alone. Since we were going away for Thanksgiving, I wanted to use whatever was in the house, without any desire for pre-planning or special shopping. Pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, some cheese and pignolis (a present from my sweet neighbor friend) made a quick and delicious enough meal for us.
I roasted the eggplant in the oven on 500 for about 20 minutes with nothing but salt mixed in with them. When they came out of the oven, I drizzled some olive oil on top, threw a sprinkle of thyme and mozzarella on top, added sliced tomatoes and put the dish in the cooling oven to melt. Simple, light and delicious.