Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to make Croissants...Roll in Basics

One of my friends once asked me if it was even remotely possible to get a decent croissant out of a regular oven at home. Gasping for breath, I answered a resonate, "YES!" It takes a bit of practice to get it right, but I think once it's been tried a few times it can easily be achieved. However, that being said, it is a skill that will require a little experience with bread. If you haven't ever made bread before, starting with croissants would be silly. If however you feel you've got a basic grip on bread making and pie crust, then you are in the right place. Croissant dough is somewhere in-between as far as pastries go. It is light and flaky with about 300 layers of butter rolled into the dough. Don't let that number of layers daunt you. It can be done. I will show you the process. You will have to start with good quality butter. Don't skimp on that. It will effect the flavor, consistency and "mouth feel" of the croissants. May I suggest you never use "butter flavor" shortening. It just won't be the same. I swear it. (Now feel free to envision me getting very dramatic with wide eyes as I show you something very unconventional that I do with my butter for savory croissants)...I add ground herbs and spices to the butter.

Fat has a unique ability to absorb and maximize flavors. On savory croissants I add 2 tsp of my Chef Tess All Purpose seasoning to the butter before I make the croissants. The same can be done with micro grated lemon or orange zest or even sweet flavorings for sweet croissants (like adding vanilla and ground lavender to the butter).
You will end up with deeply complex flavorful croissants. Add to that the ability to add stuffing to the croissant itself and you now have a totally superb pastry. My personal favorite... Fines herb infused butter croissants stuffed with blue cheese and cracked black pepper. Sweet croissant...orange and rose infused butter croissants with bittersweet chocolate and cream cheese. Yes. The flavor layers speak volumes. The possibilities are endless.
You really want them in your life. Not every day...but close.
Croissant Dough
2 cups cool water
2T active dry yeast
2T sugar
1T salt
6 cups pastry flour (all purpose works...whole wheat pastry flour works if you use very fine ground flour)
1 lb fresh butter at room temperature

Mixing dough: dissolve yeast in water with sugar. Add remaining ingredients except the butter. Mix into a smooth dough by hand, about 3 minutes. I always make croissants by hand. It helps to not overdevelop the gluten as you would for a pie crust. Gluten development will take place during the roll in procedure. From ball out of dough and place in a crock or bowl, covered. Allow to rise 1 hour. Deflate dough by punching it, and transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes after the first rise.

You will need a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper and a shelf in your fridge that is cleared of other items for the sheet pan. You will also need two other sheet pans lined with parchment paper for baking, plastic wrap, a spray bottle with pure water (to spray dough), one egg (for egg wash), a little extra flour for the counter top, and a rolling pin.

Now we will begin rolling out and folding the dough to increase the number of layers of butter in the dough. Roll out the dough on a floured table or counter top until it is 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (1-2 cm). It should be a rectangle that is about three times as long as it is wide.
Spread the butter over tow third of the length of the dough, leaving about a 1 inch margin around the edges. The butter should be about the same consistency as the dough so it will neither disintegrate into the dough (if it is too warm) or gob up in chunks (if it is too cold).
Fold the third without fat over the the center third.

Fold the remaining third on the top. Place the dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Cover with plastic and cool 20-30 minutes in the fridge. This will relax the gluten and allow you to repeat this rolling step.

After thirty minutes or so, take the dough out of the fridge. You will need to place the dough on the counter so that the overlapping fold is facing you. Lengthwise. Now roll it into a rectangle again, as you did for the first step where you first added the butter. It should be about the same size. Fold in thirds as you did before. Be very sure to brush off extra flour on the dough, or you croissants will be glue-like and funky. Place on parchment lined pan and cover with plastic. Return to the fridge. Chill another 20-30 minutes. This chilling step allows the butter to stay cool enough to not melt right into the dough or ooze all over you table. Repeat this roll in one more time (you should roll and then fold into thirds a total of 3 times.)

On the third roll in, place the dough in the fridge overnight (6-8 hours), covered with plastic.

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll out into a rectangle again, as you have before, about 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Now, with a sharp knife, cut off the outside edges of the rectangle so that all the layers of butter are exposed. This was a whole wheat dough so you see some bran speckles.

Cut into 12 rectangles as pictured:

With clean cool hands, remove one of the rectangles. Pull out the long angle tip of the rectangle and the short angle tips as so:
Gently roll the dough, starting with the shorter end, while gently pulling the longer end.

Continue to roll until the entire length of the rectangle has been coiled around the shorter ends of the rectangle.
You can either pull out the short ends and tuck them under the coil, or leave them straight out.
I like to tuck.
Place croissants 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place pan in a COOL oven and spray lightly with water. Allow to raise about 1 hour, spraying every 20 minutes or so. Remove pan from oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk one egg with a pinch of salt until very well blended. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the croissants with egg wash. Bake 25-30 minutes in hot oven.

You can see with the wheat croissants that the layers are a little harder to distinguish, but they still have exceptional flavor. The great gob of homemade strawberry rhubarb jam on there isn't a horrible touch either.

There you go.


Erica Miles said...

I'm gonna have to try this, Steph. I've always wanted to know how to make croissants but thought it would be too hard. I imagine the dough for flaky pastries would be pretty much the same procedure?

Gourmified said...

DANGER Danger! I cannot look at these pictures...ONCE did me in! AACK! I better go eat a salad before I give in to making these and then growing out of my jeans any further!

Goob said...

you are such a wonderful friend to bring these into my life. Tomorrow is JP's b-day. I'm a bad wife for not making these today. Oh well. I'll be an extra good wife one day when I make them for no reason at all...right?