The croissant was invented in 1686 in honor of the Budapest bakers who sounded a midnight alarm warning their people of the arrival of Turkish armies in their city. The pastry, its shape the insignia of the Ottoman flag, became popular throughout Europe. The pastry probably journeyed to its source of wartime inspiration in the course of French-Ottoman diplomatic exchanges, to become more substantial and bread-like. The style of preparation is classically European; the aromatics and garnishes quintessentially Ottoman.
Total time: 3-¾hours
Dough preparation: 3-½ hours
Baking time: 15 minutes
1-½ cups milk
2 tsp. dry baking yeast
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
4-½ cups all purpose flour
1-½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. cinnamon, or 2 tsp. rosewater
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter
3 beaten eggs
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. poppy seeds, sesame seeds, ground almonds or pistachios
Warm the milk to skin temperature, sprinkle the yeast over it, and set aside until the yeast begins to bubble. Combine the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon (if desired). Cut 4 tbsp. of cold butter into small pieces and rub them into the dry ingredients until the whole mixture becomes crumbly. Pour in the yeast mixture and rosewater (if desired), stir well, and knead briefly to make a soft ball of dough. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and refrigerate for an hour or more.
Cut the remaining butter sticks in halves or thirds lengthwise, lay flat on a piece of wax paper, cover with another piece of wax paper, and roll out into a 6x8" rectangle. Refrigerate the butter until you are ready to work with the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then roll out onto a lightly floured surface into a 12x16" rectangle. Remove a layer of wax paper from the butter, lay the butter face down in the center of the dough, and remove the other layer of paper. Fold over the sides of the dough to completely enclose the butter. Roll this out into a long strip, then fold into three, as if folding a letter. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lay it out lengthwise on the lightly floured surface and roll it out into another long strip. Turn the dough over several times during rolling so that each side gets equal treatment. Fold the dough in three again, cover with plastic and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Repeat this rolling, folding and refrigerating process two more times, the last time refrigerating the dough for a full hour.
Cut the dough into eight pieces, then roll out each piece into an 8x8" square. Cut each square diagonally to form triangles. Roll up the triangle tightly, from the wide side up to the tip, and pinch the ends together lightly. Remove to a baking sheet, central tip down to prevent unrolling. Beat together 2 eggs and 2 tsp. milk, then brush some over the crescents.
Store the filled trays of crescents in the refrigerator for 1 hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Treat the crescents to another brushing of the egg-milk glaze, then sprinkle with the chosen topping. Gently pull apart the ends of the crescents, but do not straighten them out.
from Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook