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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Croissants - Take Two

Please note that I have posted a much better croissant recipe since this one. For best results, I strongly recommend you use this recipe instead of the one on this page.

We are getting closer! If you compare this photo to the one in the last post, you can see that quite a few improvements have occurred. This photo actually looks like a croissant to me. While there are still a few tweaks I think I'll try, these are pretty darn tasty. And a lot easier than I had ever been led to believe that croissants could be. I spaced the work, again, over two days. One of these days I will make them in one day and see how that changes things, but that would be asking a lot this week!

So here's how it went this time. I made the dough, being extremely careful about adding my ingredients this time. I'm thinking I must've really screwed up last time because my dough was a very different beast this go around. It was still a nice dough, but it was much looser and stickier.... more like cinnamon roll dough rather than the stiffer, bread-like dough I had last time. I let the dough proof and then rolled it out fairly thinly into a large rectangle. It is very hard to see in this picture, but I smeared a thin layer of room temperature butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. In this case, I used salted butter and the croissants were border-line too salty. I would recommend using half salted and half unsalted butter to end up with the right saltiness.

I then folded the top third down over the dough and then the bottom third over the top. Basically, I made a brochure out of the dough. In this manner, you end up with three layers of dough and two layers of butter in one fell swoop.

Here's my folded brochure. I placed it on a parchment lined tray and chilled it for about half and hour.

You then repeat this roll, butter, fold, chill process two more times. If you are going to make the croissants all in one day, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, wrap the dough like I did here and stick it in the refrigerator. I would not let the dough sit for more than 12-18 hours or your yeast may get worn out. Pooped. Kaput.

When you are ready, roll the dough out into a nice big square. I rolled it so that it was about a quarter of an inch thick. In hind sight, because the croissants are still not as light and fluffy inside as I would like, I would roll the dough quite thin. As thin as you can work it and not run into dough integrity issues. Trim the edges so that you have a nice, even square.

Note to self: use a pizza cutter. That knife I used to trim the edges was just silly! Use the pizza cutter. It is so much easier. Cut the square into four equal squares and then cut those four squares on the diagonal. It looks like one of those pinwheel things kids like to play with, doesn't it?

Beat an egg and a little water together to make an egg wash. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Actually, if you are using normal sized pans, you will probably need two pans. I have recently come across 2/3 size sheet pans (the largest pan that can possibly fit into a home-sized oven) and they're the cat's meow. All eight croissants fit on one perfectly. Anyway. Take each triangle and brush the top with egg wash and then roll it up from the long side toward the peak of the triangle. Form the roll into a little crescent and place onto the sheet pan.

Here are the little gems ready to proof. Awwww... aren't they cute?

Here they are doubled in size. You can see that they aren't crazy puffy, but now I think maybe you should shoot for almost crazy puffy. Unlike normal yeast doughs which can have problems with collapsing if they are over-proofed, I think the layers of butter, providing lift and puff during baking would help keep this from happening. They turned out tasty like this, but I think next time I am going to try proofing them until they are really big.

I preheated my oven to 425 degrees F. They bake up quite quickly. These took about 15-20 minutes. I rotated the sheet pan once during baking to keep them from browning unevenly. Notice how little butter has oozed out of these guys compared to last time (of course, that means that all that butter we rolled into the dough is still in the dough). Aaaghh, we knew when we made 'em that we weren't making diet croissants, right?

Yield: 8 croissants

1 package active dry yeast OR 1 TBS instant yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm milk
1 2/3 cup bread flour OR 1 2/3 cup flour with 2 tsp of the flour exchanged for gluten
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp sugar
1 egg yolk

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 stick salted butter
1 egg yolk beaten with a little water

Soften the yeast in the milk and sugar. Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl of a mixer (this is a soft dough that should be fairly easy on a hand-mixer). Add the yeast/milk mixture to the flour and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and mix until the dough comes together and becomes elastic. It will never lose its stickiness, but if you have oil coated hands, it should be a nice, cohesive dough ball. Spray a smallish mixing bowl with oil and roll dough to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double. This is a good time to pull the stick of butter out to let it come to room temperature.

Roll the dough out on a generously floured board until it is a nice, thin rectangle. Spread one-third of the softened butter on the bottom two-thirds of the rectangle. Fold the top third down over the dough and then the bottom third up over the dough to make a nice dough brochure. Place on a parchment lined pan and refrigerate for half and hour.

Repeat the previous step two more times, refrigerating between each step. When finished, either proceed to the next step or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Roll the dough out into a nice, large square. Roll the dough as thin as you can without running into problems with the dough falling apart, somewhere between 1/8 and 3/8 is about right. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough easily. Then cut the large square into four even squares and diagonally divide each square.

Prepare the egg wash and brush the tops of each triangle and then roll up the croissants from the large end to the point. Shape the rolls into a crescent and place on parchment lined sheet pans. Brush with egg wash and let proof until at least doubled, perhaps even tripled.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the croissants, one pan at a time into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are nice and golden. Rotate the pan mid-way through baking if they appear to be browning unevenly. Let cool before enjoying!

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