I read this somewhere, "You will never know when you eat a croissant, the hard work to create it, but only when you make your own!"
I admit the fact, "making croissants is not very difficult", as Aparna had mentioned in her introductory part before opening her recipe choice of #2 We Knead to Bake at the start of the month! As she says, "it takes some time, a lot of attention to detail, tremendous patience, a lot of rolling out dough, ensuring everything is cold...".
Let me add my point here!
Classic Croissants are challenging to work with. Once you tame the creativity part, it's crazily addictive!
I don't really remember where I tasted croissants first, but I fell in love with the delicate flavour and taste whenever my teeth digged into them. My pure-vegetarian-children l.o.v.e and literally survived on croissants during most of our trips abroad as they could be tucked in their back packs comfortably, serving them a light or a heavy meal whenever needed!
I was aware of the fact that they would compare my final product with the best croissants they probably had in Paris, but nothing could stop me from trying them out!
Well, this exotic bread demands three days to work with. Please do not be apprehensive :) , it is not more than 15 minutes for Day 1, 15 minutes reserved for Day 2 ( the rest of time goes for chilling the dough in between) and shaping and baking on Day 3 which is pure fun that you wont realise the time flying working with it!
Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's Recipe at Fine Cooking.
Yields 15 standard sized Croissants
For the dough
1 lb. 2 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
5 oz. (1/2cup plus 2 Tbs.) cold water
5 oz. (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs.) cold whole milk
2 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) granulated sugar
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) soft unsalted butter
1 Tbs. plus scant 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2-1/4 tsp. table salt
For the butter layer
10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) cold unsalted butter
For the egg wash
1 large egg
Make the Dough
Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
(I used my hands to knead and didn't do it more than 2 minutes fearing the formation of gluten. My dough demanded a little extra liquid; a tbsp more of water and milk, the original recipe halved ). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate.( I used a square sandwich box which is 3 inches deep. I chose the shape square, hoping to roll out and extend the dough to a square, without much difficulty for Day-2, again as the recipe says. It helped too :)Also, 'flatter' the dough, lesser the gluten formation during resting time. More the gluten, more the disobedient dough while rolling in Day-2 & 3). Lightly flour the top of the dough and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.
Make the Butter Layer
The next day, cut the cold butter lengthwise (and may be not across, as you see in the picture) into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to form a 5- to 6-inch square, cutting the butter crosswise as necessary to fit.
Top with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to adhere, use more force. Pound the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square.
Trim the edges of the butter. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate while you roll out the dough.
Laminate the Dough
Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 10-1/2-inch square. Brush excess flour off the dough.
Remove the butter from the refrigerator—it should be pliable but cold. If not, refrigerate a bit longer. Unwrap and place the butter on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough. Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the center of the butter. Repeat with the other flaps . Then press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough. (A complete seal ensures butter won’t escape.)
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press the dough to elongate it slightly and then begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.Roll the dough until it’s 8 by 24 inches. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush any flour off the dough. Pick up one short end of the dough and fold it back over the dough, leaving one-third of the other end of dough exposed. Brush the flour off and then fold the exposed dough over the folded side. Put the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends until the dough is about 8 by 24 inches. Fold the dough in thirds again, as shown in the photo above, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover and freeze for another 20 minutes.
If you live in a humid/hotter country, it is quite natural for the butter square to melt at least at the edges and seep in the dough while rolling out
Immediately stick to the freezer ( not the fridge) and allow the butter to harden. Butter smudged dough is not the right one for croissants. Instead they need to be laminated beautifully between the layers of the dough with no seepage.
I also saw butter leaking out through the holes from dough while rolling out. I dusted flour well,wherever the butter peeped and completed the process. This prevented seepage of fat to an extend.
Remember, patch work with dough will not work!
Give the dough a third rolling and folding. Put the dough on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides. Refrigerate overnight.
Divide the Dough
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
( I didn't divide the dough into two at this point as I had halved the original recipe. I continued rolling and again used just half of the sheet to make 6 croissants and froze the rest of the half which you see further down to make chocolate croissants/pain au chocolat)
With the rolling pin, “wake the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length—you don’t want to widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. ( If your dough is too cold, start with gentle strokes with your fingers and palms )
Roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, 8 inches by about 22 inches. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour. Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling. Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides—this helps prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end to allow you to trim the ends so they’re straight and the strip of dough is 20 inches long. Trim the dough.
Lay a yardstick or tape measure lengthwise along the top of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 7 marks in all). Position the yardstick along the bottom of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 8 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top. Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. With a knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough along this line. Move the yardstick to the next set of marks and cut. Repeat until you have cut the dough diagonally at the same angle along its entire length—you’ll have made 8 cuts. Now change the angle of the yardstick to connect the other top corner and bottom mark and cut the dough along this line to make triangles. Repeat along the entire length of dough. You’ll end up with 15 triangles and a small scrap of dough at each end.
Shape the Croissants
Using a paring knife or a bench knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the center of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent. Hold a dough triangle so that the short notched side is on top and gently elongate to about 10 inches without squeezing or compressing the dough—this step results in more layers and loft. Lay the croissant on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. (I recommend you to refrigerate the rest of the triangles while working with one, esp if you are a beginner)
With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end. Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the “legs” become longer. Press down on the dough with enough force to make the layers stick together, but avoid excess compression, which could smear the layers. Roll the dough all the way down its length until the pointed end of the triangle is directly underneath the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape
and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
Shape the remaining croissants in the same manner, arranging them on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets . Keep as much space as possible between them, as they will rise during the final proofing and again when baked.
Proof the Croissants
Make the egg wash by whisking the egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush it on each croissant.
Refrigerate the remaining egg wash (you’ll need it again). Put the croissants in a draft-free spot at 75° to 80°F. Wherever you proof them, be sure the temperature is not so warm that the butter melts out of the dough. They will take 1-1/2 to 2 hours to fully proof. You’ll know they’re ready if you can see the layers of dough when the croissants are viewed from the side, and if you shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle. Finally, the croissants will be distinctly larger (though not doubled) than they were when first shaped.
Bake the Croissants
Shortly before the croissants are fully proofed, position racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven and heat it to 400°F convection, or 425°F conventional. Brush the croissants with egg wash a second time. Put the sheets in the oven. After 10 minutes, rotate the sheets and swap their positions. Continue baking until the bottoms are an even brown, the tops richly browned, and the edges show signs of coloring, another 8 to 10 minutes. If they appear to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10°F. Let cool on baking sheets on racks.
I have halved the original recipe. This yielded 6 medium sized Classic Croissants and 6 Pains au Chocolat (will be posted soon)
The ingredients were halved. During rolling out on Day-2, the butter square was kept to 5 inches, the dough was rolled out to a rectangle of 6/12 (width/length), folded and repeated two times more as per the recipe, maintaining the same dimension. The correct halved dimension would have been 4/12, but I was advised to make it 8/12 (keeping the original width to 8) I found it a little tough, as a first timer to extend 5 inch wide butter square to get laminated/extended to 8 inches. The butter was cold, still I had leakages while rolling and hence restricted to 6 inches for safer side. The leaked holes were dusted with extra flour and worked with, as patching with dough will not help for this recipe. We, the bakers were warned to stay away from patching the dough, as we might end up with butter pooling at the bottom during final baking!
On Day- 3, the rectangle was spread further lengthwise to the dimension of 22 inches. I found it still difficult to increase the breadth to the full 8 inches as the butter leakage through holes was getting bad. 8 inches is the full dimension as the original recipe calls, to work with half of the dough. I had to work with the full dough, since I halved the recipe without, dividing as into two parts. Also, since I have a basic round oven, I was forced to bring down the sizes of the croissants. Hence the triangles were marked at the interval along the length of the dough at 4 inches, with the width 6 inches(full width of the dough rolled as such). Further spreading of the cut triangles, made the dough thinner before shaping and the medium sized Croissants turned out perfect!
After cutting out 6 triangles (for 6 croissants), I froze the remaining dough for pain au chocolat.
We had fun and tons of discussions in the group baking these challenging cuties, throughout the month! Each baker had the same emotion before the start; a roller coaster ride of anxiety combined with fear before handling the dough :). Each one of us shared the picture of freshly baked croissants, with the experiences of flaws and success.
This helped the rest of the bakers much, who ventured later.
If we can bake them, you too can!