Do excuse my absence but I've had a big week. I'll spare you the details, but it has involved a lot of late nights, early mornings and much busy-ness in between. Because I like making things hard for myself, I decided it was also a good time to conduct a little cronut experiment.
This isn't as mad as it sounds, you know. Have you read those studies that link poor sleep to the blue light emitted from iPads and other screens? Nigella Lawson once told a reporter she wore special glasses in bed while reading on her iPad (Charles got upset if she kept the light on to read a normal book - and history has shown the consequences of upsetting him). I think a little late-night kitchen activity is far more soothing - though I probably looked a bit deranged, making creme patissiere at midnight on a Monday night while listening to a documentary about Dr Zhivago.
Anyway - cronuts. Everyone knows about the croissant-doughnut hybrid by now, attributed to pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Here's a primer if you've been busy doing other things. My relentless, selfless quest to perfect Little & Friday's famous doughnuts has made me quite confident in the arts of deep-frying, so I figured cronuts couldn't be that much harder. And you know what? I was right.
Lucy's Five Tips For Making Cronuts At Home
Have faith. All you are doing is making some dough in the food processor, letting it rest, rolling it out and then cutting shapes that you will then deep-fry before squirting full of creme patissiere (thickened custard). I wouldn't advise doing the deep-frying bit with small children or pets underfoot, but the rest is not hard. Really.
1. Use Edd Kimber's 20-minute croissant dough recipe. It's really, really easy - the initial stage (making the dough in a food processor) takes about 10 minutes. The dough chills in the fridge for a few hours, then you roll it out and fold it a few times before resting it overnight. I actually rested it for 36 hours and there was no harm done.
2. The night before you want to serve the cronuts, make the creme patissiere. Beat three eggs yolks, 1/4 cup caster sugar and just under 1/4 cup cornflour until pale and thick. Bring 500ml of full cream milk, 1/4 cup caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla paste in a saucepan to the boil, then remove from the heat. Pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking frantically. Put the saucepan (with the rest of the milk in it) back on the heat, then when it starts to bubble, pour in the egg mixture. Keep stirring and removed it from the heat as soon as it starts to bubble and plop like a mud pool. Pour it into a clean bowl, press some clingfilm onto the surface. Let cool, then refrigerate.
3. In the morning, take the rested croissant dough out of the fridge. Let it adjust to room temperature for 10 minutes or so, then roll out to 1cm thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut shapes - I used a 5cm fluted cutter, but you can make them any size you like. The offcuts can be deepfried too and they are a handy pick-me-up for the cronut maker who has had five hours' sleep. Let the incipient cronuts prove for 20-30 minutes until they have doubled in thickness.
4. Deep frying 101: Use a deep saucepan, a neutral oil with a high smoke point, and be careful. If you don't have a thermometer, use the wooden spoon handle trick: dip the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil - if it bubbles up immediately, it's hot enough. Fry the cronuts in batches - about four a time is enough - for about two minutes a side. Remove them from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and let drain on some kitchen paper.
5. When you've finished frying and the cronuts are cool, take the pastry cream out of the fridge. Beat well, then squirt it into the cronuts (use the pointy nozzle attached to a disposable piping bag). Some cronuts are then rolled in caster sugar and glace icing, but I think a light dusting of icing sugar is more than enough. The light, lovely layers of the dough are the star here, why burden them with more sugar?
Have you made cronuts? Do you have any further tips?
Have a great weekend, everyone. I'm off to Dunedin for the Guild of Food Writers Conference. Hurrah!