For this first feature of the new year, reflections on the year past might include unfilled recipe requests, such as the spaghetti sauce served at Josie's. A favorite Italian restaurant at South Park and Regent streets, it was destroyed by fire a few years ago. Unfortunately, the recipe is not available and may never be, but the delicious memories linger.
Although a certain number of disappointments come with the territory, what I received last month from Mary Miron in Black Earth will make up for the unanswered and serve today as my gift to all of you, especially those who have written through the years for a few exceptional bakery recipes. Miron sent a copy she clipped from The Washington Post back in 1984 that described "The Flour Children of Brittany Ovens." Lo and behold, it included recipes for the Ovens' croissants, Morning Buns and Karen Buns.
For those who are new in town, allow me to touch lightly on a wonderful thing that happened when the Ovens of Brittany opened a charming European-style restaurant on the triangular-shaped corner of State and West Johnson streets and became a legend made possible by a "post-flower-child" group based in Chicago in the 1960s. Led by JoAnna Guthrie, the 40-ish "guru" of great intelligence and intuitiveness whose followers thirsted to learn more about improving American culture, Guthrie relocated to Madison in 1970. In tow were her students - young, unskilled and without funds to support their plan to bring a classical French flavor to town.
Although Downtown Madison at the time was considered by some to be dangerous, State Street offered everything Guthrie needed. The old dwelling on the corner was patched up before she opened Ovens of Brittany for lunch and dinner, with croissants as their specialty. When the restaurant added breakfast and offered Morning Buns, a cinnamon bun made with croissant dough, a culinary explosion took place. Not only were Morning Buns made available on Northwest and Frontier Airline flights, but at three other Ovens of Brittany restaurants that eventually popped up in Madison. In 1984, the tiniest of the four shops sold 3,500 buns on weekdays, and even more on weekends.
However, with everything in life, scenery changes. Today, chapters could be written about the rise and fall of the Ovens of Brittany. Lucky for us, Guthrie and her followers chose Madison to make a statement. Lucky for us, many Ovens' employees branched out on their own and achieved success as local restaurateurs and cookbook authors. Lucky for us, Morning Buns are still available in Madison at some of my favorite places, like Lazy Jane's on Willy Street, or as the sticky buns at Manna Cafe on North Sherman Avenue.
The most recent reader to request a recipe for the Ovens of Brittany croissant was Maureen Sundell. For those who have asked in the past for the Morning Buns recipe made from the croissant dough, here's the recipe I thought would be impossible to find and print. Thanks to Mary Miron, it's yours forever.
41/4 cups warm water
1 1/3 tablespoons dry active yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dry milk solids
1 1/3tablespoons salt
9 1/3 cups unbleached white flour plus 1/2 cup, divided
1 pound unsalted butter
Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a 5-quart mixer. Let yeast become activated and foam, then add the milk solids, salt and 9 1 / 3cups flour. Mix with dough hook until flour is just incorporated. Avoid overmixing as that causes rapid toughening of dough. Place dough mixture in airtight container with room for rising, and refrigerate at 38 to 40 degrees for 12 to 24 hours, punching down occasionally if dough rises too much.
Rolling butter into dough: Place 1 pound unsalted (or lightly salted) butter into 5-quart mixer. Mix with paddle dough hook, gradually adding remaining 1/2 cup flour. Mix until butter is moderately soft but not creamy in texture. Too soft butter will not layer properly in dough.
Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto well-floured surface. Spread dough with hands into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. Shape soft butter into 3-by-4 inch rectangle. Place butter in middle of dough. Envelope butter with dough, bringing dough from sides into middle without overlapping; then dough from top and bottom into middle, again without overlapping. Press envelope of dough down evenly with hands, preserving rectangular shape.
Set aside to rest 15 to 20 minutes. (You may want to refrigerate the dough during the first rest period if butter is very soft.) Turn envelope of dough and butter onto its "tummy" with seams down. Using a large rolling pin, roll rectangle of dough down to 3 / 8to 1/2 -inch thickness uniformly. Fold in thirds.
Turn the dough 90 degrees and place seam down on your rolling surface to rest 15 to 20 minutes more. Finally roll dough down again to 3 / 8to 1/2 -inch thickness. Fold in thirds. Place in a large plastic bag, carefully preserving its folded shape. Refrigerate 12 to 14 hours, again at 38 to 40 degrees.
At this point you can use the dough for croissants or Morning Buns.
Shaping and rolling croissants: Roll finished dough down to 1/4-inch thickness. Lift dough with hands from either side to relax it. Then cut with croissant cutter (standard measurement is 5-by-5 1/2-by 5 1/2-inches). Scraps of dough can be added into individual croissants during shaping or reserved for shaping into Morning Buns.
To shape croissants (C's) stretch triangle lengthwise. Place down on table surface. Roll the wide ends of dough toward the point. Draw sides of the "C" around to front to act as "feet" to hold the "C" up on a greased or lined tray. After rolling all the "C's" for your tray, spray with water, and cover with a plastic sheet. Set aside at room temperature (70 degrees) for 1 to 2 hours to let rise.
Croissants are best baked in a convection oven at 350 degrees. Baking time will vary depending on how many trays are in what size oven at any given time. Spray "C's" again with water just prior to baking. Overall baking time will be about 20 to 25 minutes, longer in a regular oven. Remove from oven when golden brown. Makes 30 croissants.
\ Morning Buns
7 to 8 pounds croissant dough (see recipe above)
1 teaspoon beaten egg mixed with 1/3cup water
1 pound brown sugar mixed with 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pound granulated sugar mixed with 2 1/4 tablespoons cinnamon
Butter for greasing muffin tins
Roll croissant dough into rectangle 12 inches wide and 1 / 8 -inch thick. Relax by lifting with hands and let it contract on table surface. Length of dough determines the number of morning buns ultimately cut.
Wet exposed surface lightly with mixture of egg and water (proportions are roughly 1 egg per 1 quart water).
Spread brown sugar and cinnamon mixture (in proportions of 2 1/2teaspoons cinnamon to 1 pound brown sugar) over entire surface of dough.
Note: Too much moisture from either water or melting brown sugar can overwhelm the dough during the baking process. Water mixture is only to help sugar and cinnamon adhere to dough. The butter in the dough will melt into the sugar.
Crimp long edge of dough closest to you as you begin to roll this dough up like a jelly roll into a tube. After having rolled your tube of dough, cut off slices 2 inches wide or to stand above your greased muffin pans by 1/4- 1/2 inch when placing them in cut side down.
Bake immediately or refrigerate overnight before baking. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 50 minutes or until puffed and dark brown. Check for doneness in center of buns. They should spring back. (It is possible to invert buns onto flat tray and finish the last few minutes of baking upside down.) Garnish buns by rolling them in white sugar and cinnamon in proportions of 1 pound granulated sugar to 2 1/4 tablespoons of cinnamon.
Serve warm, within 4 hours, or freeze immediately to serve warm later. Makes 24 Morning Buns.