August 30, 2010
I won't bore you with the details, but to make up for it, I'm giving you a long-awaited, quintessentially Argentinean recipe–medialunas. The medialuna is the Croissant's cousin from the south–a little smaller and a little sweeter, and the tastiest to wake up to.
Puff pastry is not as complicated to make as its reputation, it just takes a long while, just like any true love, to get to the good stuff. But, also like love, it's totally worth the wait.
The name, medialuna, has a celestial sort of romance all its own–literally, it means 'half moon', bringing to mind the 'moony,' sweet days of a new love. The stars have aligned, and everything you eat–when you remember to–is just a little more delicious than usual.
Which is just how I feel when I'm in Argentina, and have an excited flip-flop in my stomach–I'm about to start my day with medialunas! Early morning, before we even have a cup of steaming cafe con leche, we walk the two blocks of dusty dirt road to Al Pan Pan for a dozen fresh-baked, hot from the oven medialunas. Eaten right out of the paper bag, a couple of them are gone before we even make it home. And then, we lazily sit, nursing cups of strong black coffee mixed with creamy whole milk and sugar, and chow on a few more. I dip and munch and sip, and get sweet, buttery flakes of pastry all over the table.
The few that are left get rewrapped until late afternoon, a post-siesta snack. We brew a bitter yerba mate, groggily, and eat the last few, their sweet topping offsetting the sharp tea. This intoxicated crush lasts the whole time we're in Argentina. Like a ritual, it's practiced every morning, our fervent devotion to that toothsome pastry waning only when we leave and can't have any more.
Medialunas, in my mind, have reached an almost heavenly status of foodstuffs. Like the long hours waiting for the medialunas to come from the oven, I think you'll forget all about my truancy from writing with one taste of these sweet crescent shaped treats, and find that it has been worth the wait.
As the saying goes, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder'. When you're in love, missing something makes you makes you love it all the more, and the reunion is twice as sweet. Hopefully, this holds true not just for medialunas, but for the new readers of this long neglected blog, and to those who keep coming back for more!
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Find step by step photos on flickr–From Argentina With Love
You may also enjoy medialunas recipes from Seashells and Sunflowers.
Argentinean 'Half Moon' Pastries (Croissants)
Inspired by Katie Alley and Martha Stewart's recipes.
Though many recipes for croissant-style pastry call for fresh, or cake yeast, using active dry yeast is just fine. If you use cake yeast in this recipe, substitute 1 1/2 ounces cake yeast for the 3 teaspoons dry yeast. Also with cake yeast, it's not necessary to heat the milk.
The dough for medialunas can be frozen, wrapped in plastic for up to three months, after the third turn. I made a dozen medialunas and froze the rest of the dough to enjoy again soon without all the work.
makes about 2 dozen medialunas
2 cups milk, heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit
1 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 cups flour
5 sticks cold butter
1 egg yolk plus one tablespoon milk (for egg wash)
almibar (sugar glaze, see below)
Warm milk and put in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the teaspoon of sugar and the 3 teaspoons of yeast, and stir to dissolve. Let sit five minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. With a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, set the mixer on low speed and mix in the teaspoon of salt, the 1/2 cup sugar, the egg, and the 5 cups flour. Mix until the dough comes together, about three minutes, and then continue kneading until a sticky but smooth dough is formed, about 10 minutes.
Remove to an oiled bowl and cover. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cold sticks of butter between two pieces of plastic wrap side by side, and pound with a rolling pin. (This is called preparing the butter package.) Pound until the butter package is about a quarter inch thick, and is a more or less uniform square. Place the butter package, still in plastic, in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough, making a 16 by 10 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Put the short side facing you, and then take the butter package from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap and place the butter package on the bottom half of the dough. Fold the top half over and pinch all around the edges to seal.
Roll the dough again, this time making a rectangle about 20 by 10 inches. Try to not let large areas of butter escape through the dough; if this happens, fold some dough over it to reseal it in again. Place the rectangle with the short side facing you, remove any excess flour with a pastry brush (the excess flour keeps the pastry from being light and flaky). Fold the top third of pastry down, then again, so that the pastry is in thirds like a business letter. This is the first of three turns. Wrap the dough in plastic and set on a cutting board (or other hard surface) and refrigerate for one hour.
To keep track of the number of turns you have done, either make a mark on the outside of the plastic, or mark (as I did) on a kitchen dry-erase board.
Repeat the rolling and folding two more times. The dough needs three turns in total, with one hour each between turns. After the third turn, re-wrap the dough and refrigerate overnight (at least 6-8 hours).
Turn out the chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and roll out to a 30-by-16-inch rectangle. If necessary (ie. the dough is too elastic), re-chill the dough for 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the dough in half. Fold, wrap in plastic and freeze one half (if you are doing this, otherwise, skip this and proceed). Cut the dough in half lengthwise to make two long rectangles. Stack one rectangle of dough on top of the other, lining up the edges. Cut off the edges to square up.
Cut the dough into triangles, with a three to four-inch base, and cut a small slit in the base of each triangle. Place in a single layer over the work surface. Fold the corners of the slit inward toward the end of the triangle and press down. Continue rolling from the base to the tip, stretching the dough slightly as you go, until the tip is under the roll. Pull the two ends of the roll together to form a crescent shape. Place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. The medialunas can be touching. Continue with all the dough, and place in a warm place and let rise 30 minutes. They should not quite double in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Make the egg wash by combining 1 egg, beaten, with a tablespoon of milk. Brush the eggwash over the medialunas. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the almibar (sugar glaze, basically simple syrup). The ratio is 2:1 water to sugar, so adjust quantity accordingly. Heat one cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to heat, bringing to a boil, and simmer without stirring for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened slightly.
When the medialunas have cooled, brush the tops with the almibar using a pastry brush.
Then serve with hot coffee and enjoy.