Croissants -- the key to a truly French breakfast

I recently read that a continental breakfast consisting of juice, beverage, and a croissant cost between $6 and $7 at a leading hotel in America's largest city.

It was then that it occurred to me that the person who could make, or learn to make this aristocrat of breads could become a culinary hero or heroine, whose invitations to breakfast or brunch would be much prized.

Perhaps you have in your area a bakery as excellent as the Old Port Bakehouse , a small shop with a booming business in the historic Old Port Exchange.

Among other wonderful natural grain breads which people stand in line for are croissants which the shop started to sell just a few months ago.

Shaped like the moon in its last quarter, croissants cannot really be compared to any other bread.

Rich and buttery, they are slightly troublesome to make but worth the effort, and no bread has a more interesting legend attached to it.

It is said that in 1686 when a Turkish army was besieging Vienna, a baker was making up the last of his flour into bread and wondering where he could get more.

His little son had been playing in the kitchen and had gone to bed, leaving his drum on the floor, with a marble on top. While the bread was baking the baker heard a strange jarring noise and the marble began to spin like a top.

He realized the enemy was trying to enter by undermining the city wall. He gave the alarm and the invaders were driven off.

The emperor thanked him and asked what he would like as a reward.

The baker's wish was only to be allowed to make bread for the palace, and to shape his rolls like a crescent, the emblem of the Turks, to perpetuate the memory of the events of that fateful night. Croissants 1/4 pound sweet butter 2 1/2 tablespoons flour 1 yeast, cake or dry 1/2 cup lukewarm water 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups lukewarm milk 2 1/2 cups flour 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Cream butter and 2 1/2 tablespoons flour. Wrap and refrigerate. Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes.

Add milk. Sift 2 cups flour with remaining sugar and salt. Blend in yeast. Dough should be soft.

Use remaining flour to knead dough hard for 10 minutes. Add flour if needed. Let rise in greased, covered bowl until doubled, about 11/2 hours.

Remove flour-butter mixture from refrigerator. Punch dough. Roll out to form 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Pat flour-butter mixture onto dough to within 1 inch of edge. Fold in half. Lightly roll to 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Chill 15 minutes in freezer.

Fold each end of dough to center and roll to 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Repeat process twice. Wrap loosely in foil and refrigerate overnight.

Cut dough in half. Put one half in refrigerator. Roll other half to 5 by 15 -inch rectangle, 1/8-inch thick. Cut into three 5-inch squares. Cut each square into 2 triangles.

Roll from long end of triangle into crescents. Repeat with second piece of dough. Put on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk and water. Cover. Let rise 1/2 hour. Bake at 375 degrees F. until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12 croissants. Poppy Seed Crescents 1 cup scalded milk 1 cake yeast 1/2 cup butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 4 eggs, well beaten 4 cups sifted flour Filling 2 cups water 1 cup sugar 1 cup ground poppy seed 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Grated rind 1 lemon Topping 1 egg yolk 1 tablespoon cold water Sugar Chopped nuts

Cool milk to lukewarm and soften yeast in 1/4 cup of the milk. To remaining milk add butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and stir until the butter has melted. Add beaten eggs and yeast.

Sift flour and add gradually, using only enough to make dough stiff enough to be kneaded until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Boil water with sugar until syrupy. Add poppy seed, cinnamon, and lemon rind. Mix well and cool. Roll out dough on a floured board until quite thin.

Cut into triangles. Spread with filling and shape into crescents by rolling them from the straight end toward the point. Brush with beaten egg yolk to which cold water has been added and sprinkle with sugar and chopped nuts.

Let rise until doubled in bulk, then bake in a 400 degree F. oven 20 minutes or until brown. Makes 36 crescents.

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