When at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again
I’m a real glutton for punishment. I love to push and challenge myself, but with that attitude comes a tendency to fail when doing things for the first time….a lot. I’m not very good at accepting failure, so I try, and try, and try again until I succeed. This is certainly the attitude to have when attempting croissants. I am obsessed with French baked goods. Now that I am reasonably confident with making macarons, I decided that I needed to up the ante and attempt something a little more difficult. The two things that make croissants so bloody hard to make, is that you are using yeast and butter, two very temperamental ingredients. I did a fair bit of online research, and I even dropped into the local cookery school to gain some insight on how to make the perfect croissant. Armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous, I was keen to give croissants a crack. The dough for the first lot, was woeful. I chilled the dough and butter too long in between turns, and the butter solidified too much which caused it to break apart when I was rolling the dough out. What you want is for the butter to stretch with your dough and not break apart, so you have continuous layers of butter and dough.
With my second attempt, the butter was not chilled enough and began to leak out, so when they were baking, the signature shape of a croissant where you can see distinct layers of dough were missing. Finally, with some tinkering of the method, third time’s a charm. My croissants finally worked and they tasted amazing! *insert happy dance here* They certainly took me back to the days of eating pastries in Paris! Considering my Uni-bum budget won’t allow me to get back to Paris anytime soon, making croissants at home will just have to do for now. So, the moral of this story is don’t ever give up on something just because you didn’t do well on your first attempt. Keep trying, because success will come! This recipe makes about 12-15 croissants. I mixed it up a little and made croissants and pain au chocolats (chocolate croissants). Note: The method for this recipe goes over two days, so you’ll need to plan ahead in regards to when you want to bake the croissants.
500g strong plain flour, extra for dusting (I used Lighthouse Plain Flour Bread And Pizza)
140g cold water
140g cold full fat milk
55g caster sugar
40g soft unsalted butter
11g instant yeast
Callebaut dark chocolate batons, optional (for the pain au chocolat)
280g cold unsalted butter for laminating
1 egg + 1 tsp water, for the egg wash
Day 1 – Making the dough
Chuck all the ingredients (except the butter for laminating and egg/milk for egg wash) into the bowl of a mixer. Mix using a dough hook on medium low speed (setting 2 on the KitchenAid) until a dough just forms. Don’t mix the dough too much because it will end up being really difficult to work with. Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cover with cling wrap. Leave to rest for 40-45 minutes. Roll into a rectangle approximately 30 x 15cm, then fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. Wrap the dough in a couple of layers of cling wrap and chuck it into the fridge for 12-24 hours.
Day 2 – Laminating the dough and shaping the croissants
To make the butter slab, grab a couple of sheets of baking paper and fold the edges of the baking paper, so that you have a rectangle 20 x 16cm in the middle. Slice the block of butter (straight from the fridge, it doesn’t need to be softened) into 1cm thick slices, and lay them in the middle of baking paper. Lay the other piece of baking paper on top, making sure that the folded edges line up. Fold the edges of the baking paper to enclose the butter, and use a rolling pin to roll the butter to the folded edges – this will allow you to shape the butter to the desired dimensions without too much hassle. Chuck the butter in the fridge until ready to use.
Lightly flour your working surface. Grab your dough from the fridge. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is the same height as the butter, but double the width. Take the butter slab from the fridge. Check that it’s still pliable, if it’s too hard, leave the butter out for about 30 minutes to soften slightly. Place the butter slab in the middle of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough over the butter to enclose. Press the edges of the dough to seal the seams. Now the dough is ready for the ‘turns’. Each turn consists of rolling out and folding the dough.
Roll the dough out until it is about 1cm thick. Focus on lengthening the dough without making it wider when rolling, and try to keep the edges as straight as possible. The first fold is the 4-fold, also known as the book fold. Turn the dough 90 degrees, so you have the long edge of the dough facing you. Fold one of the short edges of the dough so that it is a ¼ of the length, then fold the other side so the edges meet. If the corners don’t quite touch, you can stretch the corners a little until they do. Then fold the dough over again in half. Brush off any excess flour. Wrap the dough in cling wrap, and chuck it in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes.
Turns 2 and 3
Dust your work surface with a little more flour. Position the chilled dough so that the short (open) edges are positioned north-south. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 20 x 60 cm. It should be about 1cm thick. Fold the dough into thirds (like a letter), starting with the bottom third, then pull the top third over the bottom third. Brush off any excess flour. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chuck it back into the fridge again to rest for 20-30 minutes. Position the dough so that the open ends are north-south, and repeat the process of rolling and resting the dough one more time for the 3rd turn.
Shaping the croissants
Gently roll the dough into a long, narrow rectangle about 20 x 110cm and approximately 0.5cm thick. If you find the dough resisting, fold it into thirds, wrap it in cling wrap and chuck it back in the fridge to rest for about 15-20 minutes before rolling out again. When the dough has been rolled out to the desired dimensions, carefully lift the dough up a little so that it relaxes. Straighten the ends by trimming with a knife. You should still have about 100cm of dough left.
Starting from one end, use a ruler (or tape measure) to mark the dough at 10cm intervals along the top of the dough until you reach the other end. Then lay the ruler on the bottom edge of the dough, make a mark at 5cm, and continue to make marks at 10cm intervals. Use the marks you’ve made to make diagonal cuts in the dough to create elongated triangles. I used my ruler and a pizza wheel (you could also use a knife) for this part to ensure that I was cutting the dough in straight lines. If you want to make pain au chocolats as well, stop making the alternating marks half way down the dough and use the chocolate batons to mark out how wide to cut the dough into rectangles.
Getting back to the croissants, use your pizza wheel or knife to make a small cut in the centre of the base of the triangles. Gently elongate each triangle by stretching the dough with your hands, being careful not to crush the layers in the dough. Position the triangle so the base is closest to you. Using both hands, on either side of the small cut in the base, roll the dough a short way moving your hands away from the middle to create ‘wings’, then roll the dough so that the point of the triangle ends up in the centre of the croissant. If making pain au chocolats, place a chocolate baton at the edge of one end of the dough. Roll the dough to enclose the chocolate baton until half of the dough is rolled, then add another chocolate baton and roll the rest of the dough.
Arrange the shaped croissants on baking sheets lined with baking paper. Make sure there is enough space between them, so they won’t touch each other when proofing and baking them. I find that positioning the croissants on a diagonal assists with this. Lightly cover the croissants with cling wrap and proof the croissants somewhere that is draft-free and a little warm, but not warm enough that the butter will leak out. I’ve read that the ideal temperature is between 24ºC to 27ºC. If it’s really cold (like it is in Adelaide at the moment), I used a method that Adriano Zumbo suggested and filled a sink with a couple of centimetres of hot water and put the covered tray of croissants over the top above the water. The heat from the water will be enough to help the dough rise. Leave the croissants to proof for 1.5-2 hours. The croissants are ready to bake if they wiggle slightly when you gently shake the baking tray. Make the egg wash by lightly whisking the extra egg and water, and use a pastry brush to brush the croissants.
Preheat oven to 200ºC (fan-forced). Shove the trays in the oven and bake for 8 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180ºC and bake for a further 8-10 minutes until the croissants are a deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the baking tray before moving them to a wire rack – this part is optional, I ended up eating them whilst they’re still warm and skipped this step.
Note: I’ve used a recipe from WeekendBakery.com, but have changed the method slightly. If you would like to see the original recipe and method, click here. The chocolate batons can be difficult to find, but can be found at good gourmet shops. If you’re not sure what they look like, click here. You can also chop up some cooking chocolate and use that instead.
Edit: I’ve submitted this post to be part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event is aimed to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. If you’ve attempted something new recently, share it with the blogosphere! This month is hosted by Marnelli from Sweets and Brains.