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Wholesome Baking with Soul: A Q&A with Jerrelle Guy

In her new cookbook Black Girl Baking, Jerrelle Guy explores sweet and savory baking with creative flavors and comforting basics.

By
Kara Rota
4-minute read
Episode #192

partial book cover of black girl baking

In Black Girl Baking, author Jerrelle Guy uses recipes as her storytelling medium, calling on the five senses to retell and reinvent food memories using wholesome ingredients. (Whole flours, less refined sugar, and vegan alternatives abound.) In this week's podcast, she shares her relationship with sweet and savory flavor profiles, talks about creating gluten-free and vegan recipes without worrying too much about it, and tells us how she satisfies her dad's sweet tooth with sweet potatoes. 

ALMOND COCONUT CROISSANTS

I love the sound of a flaky croissant, made up of sheets of rolled dough crisped by trapped sheets of butter, and full of pockets of air when I handle them and eat them. But my eyes almost fell out of their sockets after reading through the recipes for making them. Fold this, and roll that, and chill this, so much to get that sound and texture at home. I’m a simple to please girl with a bit of a heavy hand, so I changed tradition around a lot, breaking many rules, causing uproars perhaps, but I still got away with a simple recipe that brings me back to mornings strolling the cobblestones of Rome with my sketchbook in one hand and a butter pastry in the other. And that’s all I need.

Croissants (Vegan, makes about 14 croissants)

  • 1¼ cups (295 ml) warm water, heated to 120°F (49°C)
  • ½ cup (100 g) coconut sugar or granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 (2½-tsp [9-g]) packet active dry yeast
  • 3½ cups (420 g) white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup (120 ml) warm oat or nut milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 2⁄3 cups (385 g) coconut oil, at room temperature, divided

Filling

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) cold oat or nut milk
  • ½ cup (100 g) coconut sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (8 g) cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • ⅓ cup (75 g) coconut oil
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (240 g) almond meal flour
  • ⅓ cup (45 g) sliced, slivered or ground almonds, for topping
  • ⅓ cup (27 g) shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

To make the croissants, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine the warm water and ¼ cup (50 g) of the sugar. Sprinkle over the yeast, and let it bloom until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

black girl baking book cover

Add the flour, remaining ¼ cup (50 g) of sugar, milk and salt and beat on low speed until combined. As soon as all the flour is almost mixed in, mix in ⅓ cup (80 g) of the coconut oil. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a clean oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch down the risen dough to release the air. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to the size of a piece of printer paper, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove from the fridge, and smear the remaining 1⅓ cups (305 g) of coconut oil evenly over the middle third of the dough, then fold over the two edges to cover the oil. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours to chill the coconut oil.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out into an 8 x 24-inch (20 x 61-cm) rectangle, fold the rectangle in thirds, then roll it out again into an 8 x 24-inch (20 x 61-cm) rectangle. Do this 5 times, letting the dough rest on the counter so the glutens in the flour relax if it gets too difficult to roll out. It’s okay if the cold coconut oil pierces the dough in a few spots. Then wrap again in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.

To make the filling, whisk the milk, sugar and cornstarch together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to whisk until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the coconut oil, almond extract and vanilla extract, whisking until combined. Stir in the almond flour, transfer to a bowl and let cool in the fridge overnight along with the croissant dough.

Have 2 half sheet pans lined with parchment nearby.

Remove the dough and filling from the fridge. Unwrap the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface, into a long ¼-inch (6-mm)-thick rectangle, making sure the rectangle gets no wider than 9 inches (23 cm) across. If you need to cut the dough in half for it to fit on the work surface, that’s fine, just keep the other half wrapped in the fridge while you work. Cut long triangles up the width of the rectangle that are about 5 inches (12.7 cm) across at the base. Roll 2 tablespoons (30 g) of the filling into a coil, and place it at the base of the triangle. Pull on the ends of the triangle gently to stretch them, then using your palm, press down and roll the triangle up onto itself. Place it on the baking sheet with the tip tucked under the bottom of the pastry. Cover it with plastic wrap, and continue until all the pastries are rolled. You should get about 14 croissants. Let them rise again for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C or gas mark 7) and place a rack in the lower upper part of the oven and another in the upper lower part of the oven.

Uncover the croissants, sprinkle them with the sliced almonds and flaked coconut and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until puffed and browned on top and completely cooked though. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Black Girl Baking by Jerrelle Guy, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Jerrelle Guy.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.