Warning: Detailed and long post!
How many of you have seen the movie ‘It’s Complicated’?
If you are a Meryl Streep fan like I am, then you would have, I’m sure. This is my favourite scene from the movie, because as I watched this scene unfold, I was entranced by how much fun Meryl had making chocolate croissants! It was only natural that I too, wanted to make them, seeing how easy it was for her to do it. WRONG!
It most definitely is as easy if you are using store bought croissant dough. Like the one starring the Pillsbury dough boy.
But if you want to make croissants from scratch, be prepared to wait atleast a day before it’s done. It’s best to prepare the dough the day before you want it baked, so that you have enough time to chill and roll properly.
Croissant Pastry isn’t exactly the same as puff pastry. You need yeast as well as butter (good, good butter) for the dough to puff up and rise like a graceful ballet dancer finishing a plie. Did you know that in France, it is illegal to call a croissant a ‘croissant’ if it doesn’t have full natural butter in it? And that the fabled French Croissant, actually comes from Vienna!
Anyway, for those of you who are still interested in making your own croissants, here is something that will give you the strength: You have not lived life, until you’ve sunken your teeth into a hot croissant straight out of the oven.
To be honest, making a croissant isn’t all that hard work. It’s the wait times that will eat at you. Basically you make the dough, let it rise, let it cool, laminate it with butter, roll and fold and chill 4 times, and let it refrigerate overnight before baking it in the morning after letting it rise one last time.
See! Not difficult. Other than rolling and folding, you aren’t doing that much work.
This is my 4th time making croissants at home, and while this is a fool-proof recipe, I seem to notice a steady climb in the quality of my croissants directly in proportion to my growing skills as a baker. I can’t get the shape right, but man does it taste good! So if your first attempt doesn’t have a boulangerie quality to it, fret not. It’s just your first step to getting there. Hell, I’m still getting there! And we will. I promise!
Here are a few things to remember while baking your own croissants!
1. Stay cool – Always work with cool pastry, on a cool work surface and in a cool environment. Crank up that a/c. While marble works best to keep pastry cool, you can always use any other surface provided you cool it first. Simply place a large bowl of ice cubes (a bag of frozen peas also work) over your work area for a few minutes and wipe away any condensation.Voila! You got yourself a cool surface area to work the pastry.
2. Be light handed – While rolling out the pastry, work with a light hand, and work fast. Pressing down on the dough too much can merge the butter layers and won’t give you that beautifully risen croissants.
3. Relax – When you chill the dough, be sure to chill it for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. The longer the pastry ‘relaxes’ in the refrigerator, the better the layers are set before you roll it out again.
Step 1: Proof the yeast
You start by proofing the yeast – Remember to use lukewarm water while proofing yeast. Yeast are living organisms and too much heat will kill them. Think baby’s milk temperature. Nice, warm and cozy. If using instant yeast, skip this step and add the yeast directly to the flour and knead with warm water.
Step 2: Knead the dough
Add the proofed yeast to the flour along with milk, salt, sugar and water. Knead with a firm yet steady hand, until you end up with a smooth, soft dough. No bumps. Form into a round ball.
Step 3: Let it rise
Let the dough rise in a nice warm spot in the house. I usually place it in the oven with the oven light turned on. Make sure to dampen the towel that covers the bowl, humidity helps the dough rise.
Punch the dough to release trapped air and refrigerate. Cold dough is easier to roll and laminate.
Step 4: Lamination
Laminating the dough is simply creating the butter-dough layers that is characteristic of the croissant pastry.
On a cool, clean surface, lightly dusted with flour, roll the cold dough into a round disk approximately 12″ wide. Spread the softened butter down the center into roughly a 10″disk.
Fold the sides over the butter, enveloping the butter completely. Make sure to overlap the folds, so that the butter stays trapped inside. Seal any open edges. Make sure that the folded pastry packet is 5 inches wide. Don’t worry about the length. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for about an hour until firm.
Take out and let it sit uncovered till slightly pliable. Roll into a rectangle roughly about 15″x5″.
Fold in thirds like a book. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Repeat the fold and chill 3 more times.
Step 5: Shape the croissants
Roll the laminated dough into a 20″x5″ rectangle. Cut in half. Refrigerate one half.
Roll out the other half to a rectangle 1/4″ thick. Cut into thirds. Roll each piece into a rough square, and cut diagonally to get two triangles.
Roll each triangle into a ‘croissant’, starting from the base of the triangle and working up to the tip. Stretch and tuck the tip under the croissant and bend the ends towards you.
Repeat the same process with the refrigerated half. If you notice the pastry thawing or sweating while you work with it, refrigerate until cold.
Step 6: Final rise before baking
Place the croissants on a baking tray at least 2 inches apart with the tucked end at the bottom. You need to give room for the croissants to rise.
Let it sit covered in a warm area to rise for about an hour or more. They should be all puffed up and plump.
Brush lightly with milk or egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1tbsp water).
Step 7: Bake!
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