Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Whenever I hear the word croissant pronounced in it's true French fashion (kwɑːˈsɑːn) I always think of that song in The Little Mermaid: Les Poisson. Now I know that le poisson is French for "the fish" but it is the way that it is said, kind of like croissant, with that rolling R sound. The thing I always think of is the way the French chef laughs, "Hehehe, hawhawhaw". So whenever you see the word "Croissant" in this post you can think of me laughing "Hehehe, hawhawhaw"!
My dad lived in France for two years while on his mission. He talks about two things from that time: Sneaking into the Cannes Film Festival (that is a whole other story), and the French patisseries. He goes on and on about the flaky, buttery croissants. So I thought I would try my hand at making these little yummies.
Bread products in general are not my strong point. To be honest, anything with yeast scares me a little. So this was a good bread for me to take on. I had to face my yeasty fear straight on. It was not as hard as I thought, just very time consuming. So if you decide to try this out, I suggest doing it over two days, or taking one entire day. There is lots of waiting involved. The whole process was really quite fun and the croissants turned out flaky and buttery, crisp on the outside, airy and soft in the middle. Dad said they tasted like he remembers, so I will call this experiment a success!
recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and The Professional Pastry Chef
2 cups cold milk
2 Tablespoons honey
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup unbleached pastry flour
*NOTE: I used all purpose flour in place of both flours
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 Pounds (5 sticks) butter, cold
milk for washing prepared croissants
In a small saucepan, heat milk to 110 degrees. Remove from heat, then stir in yeast to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Then add honey and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
Make the dough package: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 4 1/4 bread flour, pastry flour, sugar, and salt. Add milk mixture and mix on low speed until dough just comes together, about 1-3 minutes.
Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently knead to form a smooth ball, about 1 minute. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
Make the butter package: Lay butter sticks side by side on a clean work space. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup bread flour, and several drops of lemon juice. Work flour and lemon juice into butter by kneading it against the work space with your hands. Do not use a mixer. My butter was chilled but slightly softened, about the consistency of the dough. Shape butter into an 8-inch square (I got my ruler out and measure). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
Remove dough package from the refrigerator; place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to be a 16x10 inch rectangle- again I measured, about 1/2 inch thick, with the short side facing you. Remove butter package from the fridge; place on the bottom half of the dough. Fold the dough over butter packet, and pinch around the edges to seal butter in. By the way I am sorry you all have to look at my ugly counter top all of the time. Some day we will do something about that. . .
Roll out the dough to a 20x10 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, keeping corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a dry pastry brush.
Starting at a short end, fold the rectangle into thirds: fold 1/3 of the dough over the middle section, then fold the remaining third over both sections, brushing away excess flour as you go.
This completes the first of three turns. Wrap in plastic wrap and let dough rest for 1 hour.
After and hour, take dough out of fridge and unwrap. Position the dough so that the long side runs horizontally, roll the dough to the same size rectangle as before, fold, and make the second single turn. Chill the dough for 1 hour.
Repeat the steps above, making the last of the three turns. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Chill 6-8 hours, or overnight. I let the dough chill overnight then got up very early (think big yawns during church) to form and raise.
Turn out chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough to a 30x16 inch rectangle. If the dough is elastic, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in fridge for 10 minutes. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in half lengthwise into two 30x8 inch rectangles. On top of each rectangle, mark every 4 inches. On the bottom of each rectangle mark in between the the upper marks (two inches) to form triangles. Cut dough into triangles. You can use a ruler to guide you.
Cut a 1-inch slit in the center of the base of each triangle. Now take a moment to feel bad for me. At this point it is 4AM and I am whimpering for my bed and half asleep.
To shape croissants, slightly stretch the two lower points of each triangle to enlarge the slit. Fold the inner corner formed by the slit toward the outside of the triangle. Roll the base of the triangle up and away from you, stretching the dough slightly outward as you roll; the tip should be tucked under the croissant. Pull the ends towards you to form a crescent.
Transfer each crescent to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Do not overcrowd on the pan. If crowded they will get overdone in the ends before they are fully baked in the middle.
Let croissant rise until they are slight less than double in size. Brush the croissants with milk,
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I baked both pans at once, moving the lower pan to the upper rack and visa versa halfway through baking time. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Croissants are best if eaten within 6 hours of baking.
Croissants definitely take some time, but are so worth it if you are after a taste of the real thing. Hope you enjoy!