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Pa Thong Ko: Thai-Style Chinese Crullers (ปาท่องโก๋)

I chuckled when reading up on the history of these Chinese crullers, you tiao (油条), which have been localized in Thailand into Pa Thong Ko (ปาท่องโก๋).

According to the widely-circulated Chinese folk etymology, these pairs of dough sticks apparently represent two evil people who deserve to suffer in hot oil. To the Thai people, the conjoined crullers represent something cuter and more romantic: a couple who are deeply attached to one another and seen together all the time. Symbols and figures of speech behave like that across the various cultures. The Zealous Water Buffalo, my alter ego, has written about these things.

Another funny thing about Pa Thong Ko: it is a misnomer resulted from confusion on the Thai’s part over the various goodies sold by Chinese immigrants from years ago; it’s not even a localized pronunciation of the original Chinese, but a wrong name altogether. We could have gone with something close to you char kway (油炸粿) or something similar to that as the Chinese words that have entered our vernacular often come from the Hokkien or Teochew dialects. But, apparently, a mistake was made a while back and it has stuck with us ever since. In other words, unless you speak to someone who knows Chinese, your inquiry about youtiao or you char kway in Thailand will be met with a,”Huh?Continue Reading →

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Chinese Green Onion Pancakes

It’s a well-known fact among food blog consumers that if you want to learn how to make simple Asian, primarily Chinese, dishes, Rasa Malaysia is a go-to place. Back in 2006 when there weren’t as many food blogs as there are now, Bee Yinn Low started her blog as a way of chronicling her attempts to replicate the dishes from her hometown of Penang, Malaysia. The site has grown in leaps and bounds for the past six years, gathering tons of fans, and resulting in Bee’s first cookbook, Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao released in late 2011. Continue Reading →

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Sourdough Croissant Recipe from Floriole, Chicago

floriole chicago

Plain croissants as served at Floriole

There was a time in my life when I woke up every weekday before sunrise just to bury myself in a dusty archive until it was dark out, analyzing the most impractical, the most irrelevant of things. My social life was nonexistent. And throughout that period, the only part of me that got any nourishment at all was my brain; the rest felt like it was dying an agonizing, slow, isolated death.

In the midst of that seemingly endless gloomy gray, there were thankfully a few bright spots. One of them was the presence of my favorite bakery, Floriole, at Green City Market in Chicago. No matter what happened during the week, I knew when Saturday rolled around, there would be this little table at the farmers’ market that cheered me up. There would be perfect little canelés de Bordeaux in a glass jar. There would be delicious salted caramel, bread puddings, pies, clafoutis, pecan sticky buns, fruit galettes, and so much more.

And there would be the kind of croissants like you’d get at some of the best shops in Paris.

These were some of the things that sustained me back in that gray era. I loved them so.

sandra holl floriole

Sandra Holl

We started selling at Green City Market in 2005,” says Sandra Holl, chef/owner of Floriole. “Just putting our toes into the water, so to speak.”

As it turned out, the water was fine; the water was more than fine. Their first year at the market was a big success; so were the subsequent years. In fact, less than a year ago, Floriole found a permanent home in Lincoln Park, a lively Chicago neighborhood. With that, Floriole, a farmers’ market vendor, became Floriole Café & Bakery, and Holl’s plan to live in France whence her husband comes was set aside indefinitely.

The bakery prides itself on making everything in-house and from scratch. Their pastries are made fresh daily with ingredients sourced from local farms. They don’t skimp on anything.

Holl gushes on her team of trained professionals who love and take seriously what they do. Also behind the scene, lending support, is Holl’s French husband, Matthieu. Unlike Holl, Matthieu is not a trained pastry chef. However, his discriminating taste, developed from years of growing up and eating widely in France, is behind the recipe development at the bakery.

He’s the ultimate critic,” says Holl. All the French pastries at Floriole are the results of testing and retesting until they met with Matthieu’s approval.

croissant recipe

My sourdough croissants, shaped. Amateurish. But, hey, this thing takes practice.

These croissants, for example, have gone through countless rounds of testing. The exterior of these beautiful pillows is deep golden in color and impossibly flaky; the interior boasts perfect honeycomb-like texture that’s not gummy or too open. The flavor is pronouncedly buttery with just the right level of saltiness which is often lacking in inferior croissants.

In addition to proper technique, the use of premium European butter with higher fat content is key. What also sets Floriole’s croissants apart from others is the presence of sourdough starter in the dough.

how to make croissants

My first attempt – The flavor is right on; the texture and the shaping of the dough could be better.
(I got too impatient with the freezing and chilling of the dough.)

It took Holl a few experiments to finally arrive at the perfect formula which features just the right combination of flours and the right amount of protein content, the right kind of butter with the perfect fat content, and the chilling and freezing of the dough at different junctures. Making croissants is not easy, but with enough practice and the right ingredients, it can be done.

Holl explains how their croissants are made in the video clip below.

Sourdough Croissants
Recipe courtesy of Sandra Holl
Floriole Café & Bakery, Chicago
Printable Version

sourdough croissant recipe
300 g whole milk
100 g sourdough starter
15 g active dry yeast
300 g all-purpose flour
200 g bread flour
60 g soft butter, room temperature
30 g sugar
15 g salt

300 g butter

  • Warm the milk to room temperature and pour it into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • Stir in the yeast, and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix on low until the dough just comes together.
  • Wrap the dough with a piece of plastic wrap; freeze for one hour and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • Let the butter come to room temperature; it should be soft and pliable.
  • Roll the dough into 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Spread the butter evenly on one half of dough and fold the other half over the butter to create a “butter Sandwich.”
  • Place the dough seam facing away from you and roll down to about 1/2 inch thickness. Fold the dough into thirds, flip, turn, and roll into a 1/2-inch thick sheet. This counts as one turn.
  • Repeat the folding, turning, and rolling a second time.
  • Cover and chill the dough for 15-20 minutes, and repeat the process for the third turn.
  • Cover and freeze the laminated dough for at least 3 hours. Thaw the frozen overnight in the refrigerator before shaping and filling.
  • How to fold and shape croissants can be found here.
  • Let the shaped croissants rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size. Brush the risen croissants thoroughly with egg wash. Bake them at 375 degree F until golden brown.
  • Disclosure: is not connected to or compensated for this article by Floriole Cafe & Bakery.

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