Things we do for love… It is mostly irrational and often borderline. Priorities are shuffled, illogical is the new logical. It is generally love for someone, an often times love for something. What else can explain my seven trials back to back to achieve perfect croissants? Not to mention each trial takes about 12 hours. Obsessive-compulsive disorder? May be… But I’d like to call it love. My ever growing love for baking and kitchen!
Croissants, lovely flaky, buttery French croissants. These took 84 hours from my life, but who is complaining? I did my happy dance after I cut open one of them and see soft, distinct layers, tearing apart like a cotton candy. The crust was thin and crispy, as if it was fried, with a slight crackle when you bite into.
As a cherry on top, I got a French approval as well! Our friends from France were with us the day I made my last batch. So they got to taste it. I was watching their every bite anxiously. Then the moment came. Ta-da!! He asked where I bought them, he said they were really good!! Voila!! Do I need anymore validation?? When I said I made them, he couldn’t believe it! Happy, happy, happy!
My first few trials (or failures I must say) were mostly about getting used to laminated dough, trying to keep the butter between layers and last few about improving my technique and experimenting with the flour type. Before the recipe here are few tips from my humble trials, Txfarmer’s Fresh Loaf’s page and Audax’s inputs on DB forum.
- Contrary to conventional belief, croissants need a strong dough to rise well and create layer in the end. Bread flour has more gluten, so the dough will be stronger. However, a stronger dough would be harder to roll out, but the finished product would have more volume and more distinct layers and honeycomb crumb structure. I tried all-purpose only, bread only and then par AP par bread flour. I’ll go with par bread par AP from now on, it yields an strong dough but easily rollable at the same time.
- It doesn’t mean that the more folds, the more layers, the flakier it will be. With too many folds, butter layers would be thinner and thinner, and it will be more likely for the butter to melt and leak. Even with perfect rolling, too may layers would mean smaller honeycomb “holes” in the crumb. Again the stronger the dough, the more distict layers in the end. I did only 3 folds.
- Use a “French” rolling pin if possible (French rolling pins have no handles and are the same width over the length of the pin they look like a large dowel length) or a very long traditionally shaped rolling pin. I used Turkish “oklava”, it is very thin and long, makes it easier to achieve thin and even dough.
- When rolling try to use as little as flour possible so that dough doesn’t get to tough. Rest the dough often. Rest when there’s any indication of butter getting too warm, or the dough getting too elastic. There’s no harm in resting too much. The key is to keep the butter between layers, try not to break the dough.
- Trim the edges to keep corns straight and clean. This is also to make sure butter layers reach everywhere. In another word, if there are edges where there’s no butter between two dough layers, trim it off. Keep in mind that, those butterless spot would be folded many times and affect the crumb greatly.
- To achieve an even shiny brown use a double egg wash- first after shaping the croissants and second just before you put them in oven. Try to cover all the dough without leaving any white space.
- Proof fully, for a long time. At the end you want shaped croissants to almost triple in size and feel light and spring when touched. If it doesn’t rise and feel light, the baked croissants will be heavy anf hard., rather than tender, light and puffy (don’t proof hotter than 80F, butter would melt and leak). I left them for about 3 hours.
- The original recipe says this amount can make 12 croissants. It makes tiny ones but I think croissants must be big fat fellas. Besides the smaller each croissants are, the thinner you have to roll the dough out, otherwise you won’t have enough layers. The thinner you have to roll the dough out, the more easily the butter would melt. For “standard” size croissants, the triangle need to be 4 to 5 inches at the bottom, 9 to 10 inches tall, 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick. (Are you still there?! bare with me ) For this recipe, I had 6 inches at the bottom, 8 inches tall, and I got 8 fat croissants.
(The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!)
(adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. Julia Child and Simone Beck)
“…There are other formulas for croissants, including some which are really puff pastry or brioche dough rolled into crescent shapes. And in some methods the yeast dough has only a short single rise, resulting in semi pastry. None of these, to our mind, produces the tenderly layered, puffy, deliciously buttery croissant one dreams of. The old classic method does just this- and why go all the TROUBLE of making croissants at home otherwise?” Julia Child
Summary of preparation time: In total, 12 hours.
Making dough, 10 mins
First rise, 3 hours
Kneading and folding, 5 mins
Second rise, 1.5 hours (or overnight in the fridge)
Rolling in the butter (turns one), 15 mins
First rest, 2 hours
Turns two and three, 10 mins
Second rest, 2 hours (or overnight in the fridge)
Forming croissants, 30 mins
Final rise, 1-3 hour (or longer in the fridge)
Baking, 15 mins
1/4 oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1 1/4 teaspoon (6 1/4 ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about 1/2 sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4 1/2 gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/ 1/2 lb) of flour (I used 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup bread flour)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4 1/2 gm) salt
1/2 cup (120 ml/1/4 pint) milk
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/1/4 lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
2. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
3. Place the flour in a large bowl.
4. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour.
5. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated.
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl. The short rest allows flour to absorb liquid; dough will be quite soft and sticky.
7. Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below). It essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper.
8. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.
9. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
10. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and roll it into a rectangle about 6 by 15 inches.
11. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up)
12. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag.
13. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.
14. Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise. Place the halves in plastic wrap about three inches apart. Use a rolling pin to tap the butter until it’s soft enough to roll, roll between the plastic wrap until it’s a 5×5 inch square. Put in fridge on a flat surface.
15. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge for 20 minutes.
16. Remove the dough and butter sheet from the fridge and place the dough on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two to relax the gluten.
17. Using your fingers gently spread the dough into a rectangle about 6×15 inches.
18. Remove the butter sheet from the plastic wrap and place it on the top two-thirds of the dough, keeping it 1/2 inch away from all the edges. When the butter and the dough are the same consistency, fold the bottom third of the dough and then the top third of the dough. Turn the package 90-degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 6×15 rectangle. Again fold the bottom third and the top third up. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
19. Take out the dough, sprinkle lightly with flour, deflate lightly by taping several times with rolling pin. Wait for 8-10 minutes to relax the gluten. Being sure that the bottom and top of the dough is lightly floured; repeat the rolling and folding 2 more times, which gives 3 folds in total. Cover and put in the refrigerator for another 2 hours or overnight.
20. Lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready.
21. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter.
22. Roll the dough out into a 16×8 inch rectangle.
23. Cut the dough into four rectangles (each 4×8 inches).
24. Place 3 of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
25. Roll the rectangle out until it is 6X8 inches.
26. Cut the rectangle diagonally into two triangles.
27. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. (If you want a curved shape like mine, you will need to cut a slit in the base before rolling, and roll to the outside as you start from the base.)
28. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet.
29. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 8 croissants in total.
30. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water.
31. Spread the egg-wash across the tops of the croissants. (first egg-wash)
32. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 3-3.5 hours; they need to triple in size.
33. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
34. Egg-wash again.
35. Bake at 475 for 12-15 minutes.
36. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Julia Child’s video for making croissants.