A dream of owning the perfect Guest House and the croissants I would serve to my guests for breakfast
I love croissants. I love them when they're made out of puff pastry or when they're more like brioche, I love them plain, with butter, chocolate, jams, I just love croissants. There's something quite european about them, I think, despite the fact that they can be found eveywhere around the globe, these days. It's only natural that one associates croissants with France, of course, and obviously, I do, but at the same time I find them reminiscent of all that stands for Europe, it's hard to explain, it's just that, besides being french, croissants are an european staple in my mind,
There's also a duality in them that makes them at the same time quite urban, sophisticated even, and yet there's a rusticity to them that sets me back to the countryside. I can quite picture someone sitting down on a cafe in Copenhagen, with some sort of latte in front and a croissant on the side; as much as I can picture a family on holidays at the french or italian countryside, surrounded by glorious meadows and woods, maybe a creek as well, sitting down for breakfast in the morning, being presented with a basket full of fragrant croissants and fresh butter. They're the kind of food that sparks my imagination, story wise. I can go and make up different stories, in different scenarios, just at the sight of a croissant. Because I am actually making up stories in my head the whole time.
They're also the kind of food one is prone to find in hotels and inns and that sort of thing. A part of me would love to have some sort of an inn, a small place, with just a few rooms, somewhere gorgeous, on the coast, like a boutique hotel, but less like an hotel, you know? Where the decor was warm and cozy and yet sophisticated and inviting, where there would be good food, and lavish breakfasts, good wines for dinner, tea in the afternoon, seasonal ingredients at hand's reach to cook with, where the guests would be treated more like friends and family than guests, as if they have come to visit and were staying for a week of two, leaving us with a sense of hapiness and fulfilment and wanting to return and tell their friends how nice it all was. Because nice is good, trust me.
You see, on the way to my son's school there's this 1920's construction house, a "palacete" of sorts - excuse me but I have no idea what this is called in english, as it is something so typically portuguese! - that has been room to many things. I remember being about eighteen and one day going over with my sister to take some pictures there. I was dressed up as if I was some sort of flapper, with my bobbed hair, a proper Louise Brooks, and I very much wanted to take pictures outside that house, on those marble stairs, it was all so art nouveaux it made my heart tingle! The pictures were taken, and at that time the building belonged to the town council and it housed some of its services. I could only imagine the sort of parties those gardens must have seen in those days, after the first world war, before the second one took place. My imagination always runs rampant at the sight of it.
Years later, the house was turned into an office building of sorts, and the galleries beneath those amazing stairs were enclosed. Every room was divided and turned into office space, and the whole of the gardens were a parking lot. It was heart breaking to see, and I would walk by it and dream myself filthy rich, so I could buy it and transform it into some sort of a boutique hotel, a guest house, something that was to be quite magnificent but very lowdown at the same time. See, it's quite close to the beach, this house, and the grounds can support a swimming pool, they're quite big, also, the property next door must have been part of it at the beggining, because the outside fence, made of bricks and cast iron, is the same on both properties, and seeing this one has been for sale for quite some time now, my head would make up scenarios that were verging on the idyllic life, as that second property comes with a swimming pool already. Oh, I could see it all in my head, you betcha, I just couldn't afford it. And then the offices closed down and the property was once more abandoned.
Recently, it has been under reconstruction. Teams of workers are busy around the whole of the grounds everyday, installing solar pannels, reconstructing the marvelous stained glass windows, painting the rooms and the exterior, trimming the lawns, putting down dead or diseased trees, it's been a heck of a building site in there, lately. Sometimes I saw kids playing on the lawns, three boys, not much older than my own. Other times I saw their parents, directing the workers, checking out everything. All the time I keep wondering what might it be that they are plannig to have in there, could it be office spaces again? Or could it be that pretty little guest house I dream of, where they would serve the guests small wicker baskets of lovely, warm, fresh out of the oven, fragrant croissants for breakfast?
Since were are not guests at the pretense boutique hotel of my dreams, and seeing that we do not have a private chef to cook us a continental breakfast every morning, how do you feel about making up your own croissants? These are rye croissants, very rustic, yet very tasty, quite filling and satisfying, and to cook up a batch of these you'll need:
- 400 gr flour
- 100 gr rye
- 3 gr yeast
- 150 ml milk
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 1/ egg, beaten
- zest of one small lemon
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 50 gr butter
Pour the lukewarm milk into a tall glass, add a tablespoon flour, half a tablespoon sugar and the yeast, stirring well. Let rest for 45 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients inside a bowl, except the butter, which you need to reserve. Making a hole in the middle, pour in the milk and yeast mix, combine well and gently knead until you get a smooth dough. If you find it's far too sticky, add a little flour and leave it to proof for two and a half hours. On a surface covered with flour flatten your dough with the rolling pin, untill you get a rectangle that's about 25x50 cm, and brush it with the softened butter. Now you need to cut this dough halfway lenghtwise, then dividing each section into four smaller rectangles, of aproximately the same size. Cut each rectangle diagonally in the shape of a triangle and roll each one from the base to the vertex, making a crescent. Place each one on a baking trey that's lined with parchment paper, brush with egg yolk mixed with water and bake for about sixteen minutes on a pre heated oven at 180º. Once they're done, let cool on a rack and serve with your favourite spread - it goes down a treat with home made jams and compotes, but plain ole butter is good enough!