I received the book pictured below for my birthday this year. (P.S. It’s on sale right now!) I have checked this book out many, many times from my local library, so it was a great gift for my husband to have bought me. I’m a huge fan of the cooking shows on PBS, but especially the series called, Baking with Julia, to which this book is a companion. Julia welcomes guest bakers/chefs in this series, like Esther McManus, who was the contributing baker for this recipe. I have always wanted to know how to make croissants, so this was my chance to try it!
For my first time making croissants, I chose the recipe in this book. I loved that it used fresh yeast, something I’d never used before. I’m a little shy when it comes to yeast, but I can assure you that it was very, very easy–much easier than the dried yeast in packets. It requires no proofing for this recipe and is mixed right in with the flour.
I also used the dough hook attachment of my Kitchenaid for the very first time. I own a Bosch mixer that I have used exclusively for 4 1/2 years to mix and knead homemade bread dough. I was curious how the Kitchenaid would compare. And it did not disappoint. I truly, truly adore my Kitchenaid, and recommend buying one or another stand-type mixer if you don’t already own one.
The fresh yeast came in a 2 oz. foil-wrapped cake. The texture was interesting to me. It cut sort of like cold butter, only it was a little more brittle and easy to flake.
I flaked off bits of the yeast because I thought it would incorporate better into the flour and liquid ingredients.
1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
2. With mixer on lowest speed, mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until a soft dough forms on the hook. If the dough is too dry, you may need to add a few more tablespoons of milk–but only add a little at a time, it won’t need much more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. You will want to check to make sure all the flour is picked up off the bottom of the boil and that all the flour is moistened.
3. Set the mixer to the highest speed and work the dough until it is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. (The book says it will be close to soft butter, but mine was a little stiffer than that.) This should take about 4 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the mixer and wrap tightly in plastic. (I would spray it with non-stick cooking spray–I didn’t, but I was wishing I had the next day!)
5. Place the wrapped dough in a plastic bag, leave a bit of space for expansion. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate the dough for 8 hours or overnight.
2. Add the 4 1/2 sticks of cold butter and 2 Tbsp. flour to the bowl. (My butter was not too soft, not too cold.)
3. Beat the butter and flour on high for 2 minutes.
**The recipe notes that at this point both the butter and the dough can be frozen; defrost in the fridge overnight before proceeding to the next step.
The next morning, the dough looked like this after I took it out of the fridge.
1. Place the croissant dough on a large, well-floured surface. (The recipe recommends marble–and if you have a slab of marble that big, you are SO lucky. Can I come see it?)
2. Roll dough into an oval (or if you are me–ovalish) approximately 10 inches wide and 17 inches long. Brush the excess flour off the dough with a pastry brush.
6. Using a large rolling pin–such as a French rolling pin without handles, seen below–Hold one side of the dough steady with your hand and strike the other side of the dough firmly, but gently. Some of the butter may start to creep out of the crevices. Strike the other side in the same fashion. After the pounding, the dough should be a rectangle 14 inches long by 6 inches wide and be about 1 inch thick.
**If the butter is too soft, or this is the first time you’ve done this (like me!) then you may want to chill the dough at this point. Put the dough on a baking sheet lined with floured parchment paper. Cover it with plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
If you feel confident and/or your dough is chilled…..
You are ready for the first turn.
8. Roll the dough into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long by 14 inches wide, with a long side facing you. It will sort of feel like you are rolling the dough sideways. Brush off the excess flour again with the pastry brush.
9. Starting on the left-hand side, fold the dough into thirds, as you would fold a letter or brochure. The dough will measure about 8 inches wide by 14 inches long. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Mark the parchment “1st Turn” so you will know which turn you are on. Wrap well with plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
**You can also freeze the dough at this point; defrost overnight in the fridge before proceeding.
For the second turn, place the dough so that the 14 inch side runs from left to right. You will have made a quarter turn. Make sure the work surface is well floured at all time. Once again, you will roll the dough into a 24 to 26 inch by 14 inch rectangle.
Fold the dough in thirds as before, wrap with plastic and chill for another 2 hours.
This is the dough after the second turn.
11. Start with the 14 inch side facing you and running from left to right. Roll the dough into another rectangle 24 to 26 inches by 14 inches.
12. The folding at this point is called “The Wallet” and is slightly different than the previous turns. It is a double turn.
You will fold the left and right sides of the dough into the center, leaving a little space in the center, and then fold one side over the other as though you were closing a book.
Rolling and Shaping the Dough:
14. Flour the work surface. Place the dough on the work surface and position it so it resembles a book with the spine on your left and opening to the right.
For easy handling, cut the dough in half horizontally. Each piece will be about 7 inches long by 6 1/2 inches wide.
15. Flour the work surface again and roll out the dough into a rectangle that is 20 to 24 inches long and 15 to 18 inches wide. This take much patience! You may need to the dough so the long side runs from left to right along the counter.
Basically you cut triangles with a 3 or 4 inch base, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, then unfold and cut along the seam. You will have anywhere between 10 to 14 triangles. Keep any scraps you have–you may want to square off the ends and you will need the scraps for later.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
17. (This is scary…..)
Stretch the triangles to twice their length. Be careful, but not too careful.
(See how some of mine were a little smaller than the others? They turned out fine, but I’ll be more careful next time to make them more even.)
20. Brush the rolls with an egg wash. (1 egg beaten with a little water will be enough for all the croissants.) Cover with plastic wrap and let the croissants rise until triple in size. The recipe says that if you squeeze the corner of the roll and it feels hollow, then it’s time to bake the croissants. Brush with the egg wash again before baking.
21. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back and bake for another 4 to 6 minutes. The croissants will be deeply bronzed. Cool on racks. (The recipe recommends waiting until the croissants have had time to set before eating them. And I second that, but for different reasons….like a burnt tongue and mouth. Ouch.)
To Make Pain au Chocolat:
With the second half of the dough, I made pains au chocolat. So, at the point after the dough has been rolled into the 20 to 24 inch by 15 to 18 inch rectangle and is folded over on itself, I cut 6 strips of dough. I then unfolded them and cut along the seam to make 12 smaller rectangles.
I pressed them down after I placed them on the silicone baking mat–I like to use that sometimes instead of parchment. They also get a good brush with an egg wash. They need to rise for the same amount of time as the croissants, another coat of egg wash, and bake for the same amount of time.
The plain and almond croissants and pain au chocolat pictured here were what I wanted mine to look like. Gulp. Would they? Would all my hard work pay off?
These are the innards of the croissants. Aren’t those layers luscious?
And I couldn’t help myself. I used the last few scraps I squished together to make a single, impromptu kouing aman. I rerolled it and sprinkled it with sugar, folded it over a few more times. Sprinkled some more sugar…..I had no idea what I was doing. But, it tasted really, really good. About at good as the one I bought at SoNo Baking Company, but not as good as my favorite kind in SLC at Les Madeleines. (Okay, I’ll shut up about now. But if you are ever in Salt Lake…..)
I think I will do this again. I hear that each time you do it, it gets easier. Like most things I suppose. I will make a few changes perhaps and alter my technique. A new kitchen would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. But for the meantime, I have the other batch of dough in my freezer. I HAD to make a double batch, you see. I think I’ll try making the almond and pâté versions for my man.