All my friends know that I am a pastry fanatic. I am always on the lookout for good pastries and when I was in Paris and London this summer, I sampled so many croissants in an attempt to find the best ones that I can safely say 90% of my caloric intake for a majority of my holiday was probably just butter and flour. (Side note: If anyone is interested in my findings on where to find the best croissants leave me a comment and I’ll write up a post).
So when it comes to pastries, just as I judge a good cafe by the quality of its black Americano, so I judge a patisserie by the quality of its croissant au beurre. If you can make a plain croissant taste good, you’re golden. If a patissiere is skilled enough to make a good croissant, I have complete faith in his skills to make almost anything else.
The croissant is regarded by many as plain and unassuming – mundane in its ubiquity (especially in Hong Kong where cheap, vegetable shortening knock-offs are commonplace in local eateries). However, the production of a good quality croissant is pure artistry and constitutes a valuable showcase of two of the most fundamental baking ingredients: flour and butter. The perfect croissant is golden, light, with many visible layers of pastry that shatter as soon as you take a bite, while maintaining a body that has the slightest chew and a full, buttery flavour. To achieve this, one has to create a yeasted, laminated dough (a fancy term for a yeasted bread dough that has been folded upon itself many times over with a big block of butter). The quality of the product is highly affected by the precision of measurements and the temperature of the kitchen. Neatness is crucial when laminating dough and a cooler climate is ideal for making sure that the butter in the dough does not melt when being handled which results in a stodgier dough.
Given the procedure’s complexity, I have always stayed away from making croissants, but secretly I have always wanted to be able to make my own. Finally, I’ve taken on the challenge. I’ll put a disclaimer here now, I am very proud of my first attempt but they were by no means perfect and there are many things that I have yet to improve. Also, this recipe is not my own, but a Bouchon Bakery one. In this post, I do not aim to provide you with an original recipe, but shall take you through the Bouchon one and in the process, I aim to show you which of my mistakes led to what shortcoming in the product.
Makes approx. 16 croissants
Step 1: Poolish (Day before)
- 100g All purpose flour
- A pinch Instant yeast
- 100g Slightly warmer than room temp. water
- Mix it all with a spoon and let it sit over night for 12-15 hours.
- Hong Kong is very hot so this poolish turned out great.
Step 2: Dough
- 500g All purpose flour
- 75g Granulated sugar
- 10g Instant yeast
- 200g Lukewarm water (same as with the poolish)
- 100g Butter
- 15g Salt
- Combine flour, sugar, yeast in a bowl with the dough hook of the standing Kitchenaid mixer and mix on lowest setting to distribute all ingredients.
- Pour half the water around the edges of the bowl of poolish to release it and add it to the dry ingredients in the Kitchenaid along with some more water (reserve 50g of this).
- Add the butter and mix on low speed for 2 minutes to moisten the dry ingredients.
- Scrape down the sides the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
- Sprinkle salt over the top of this mixture and mix for a further 2 minutes to dissolve the salt.
- Add water in small amounts as needed if the mixture feels at all dry.
- Continue to mix for 20 minutes.
- Put the dough on the countertop, fold it and then put it in a greased bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Start this process the day after.
- The Bouchon cookbook also adds 3g diastatic malt powder. I didn’t have this so I omitted it, but next time, I’ll make an effort to find it and add it because it’s supposed to help with browning and rise.
Step 3: Butter block
- I drew boxes onto parchment paper and then hit the butter with a rolling pin until my butter block was the right measurements.
- Fold parchment paper into a pocket of the correct size so when you bash the butter block into the right sized rectangle, you can use it almost as a mould to just fill.
Step 4: Encasing the butter in the dough
- Shape the dough into a 10 x 7.5 inches rectangle.
- Cover with a plastic wrap.
- Freeze for 20 minutes.
- Take dough out of the freezer and roll it until you have a 16 x 17.5 inch rectangle that is 0.5 inches thick.
- Place the butter block across the centre of the dough.
- Fold the two ends of the dough together to the centre and pinch the ends together.
- Wrap this in plastic and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- When shaping the dough initially into the 10 x 7.5 inch rectangle, do this by patting the dough gently, disturbing the structure as little as possible. I think I used a rolling pin… Also, press any large gas bubbles to the edges and then out of the dough if any.
- The edges of the butter block and the dough should match. There shouldn’t be any dough peeking out from under or over the edge of the butter on the sides (I had about 0.3 inches of dough) on each side sticking out and it resulted in an uneven distribution of butter in my dough which I’m sure affected the final product…
Step 5: First fold
- Use a rolling pin and press down firmly on the dough down across the steam from one side to the other to expand the dough.
- Turn the dough so a short end faces you.
- Roll the dough to expand it, adding flour only as needed.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 22 x 9 inches and 0.5 inches thick.
- Fold the bottom third of the dough up as if folding a letter and then fold the otp third down to cover the bottom third.
- Freeze for 20 minutes.
Step 6: Folds 2 and 3
- Lightly dust the countertop with flour.
- Place the dough with the opening on the right.
- Roll out again into a 22 x 9 inches rectangle that is 0.5 inches thick.
- Repeat the folding process.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the opening is on the right. This is the second turn.
- Repeat all of the above for turn 3.
- Press on the dough with the rolling pin before rolling it to warm it up or it will shatter (and butter will leak through like mine which will again affect the finished product).
- Fluff the dough and flip more.
Step 7: Finishing the dough.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- It is especially critical at this stage that the dough remain cold.
- Roll out the dough to 24 x 9 inches.
- Cut the dough cross-wise making two 12 x 9 inch rectangles.
- Stack them on top of each other, separated by parchment paper and cover both with plastic wrap.
- Freeze for 20 minutes.
- I refrigerated my dough overnight and shaped them the next morning before baking instead of freezing it for 20 minutes and then shaping and baking because the croissants require a further 3 hours to proof before the final bake and unless I literally start the whole croissant process at 12am to finish for breakfast time, I’m going to compromise a bit on taste for practicality.
Step 8: Shaping (in hindsight, do this before refrigerating)
- Cut the dough into 4 rectangles.
- Divide the rectangle into 2 triangles.
- Pull out the triangle so that it’s 12 inches.
- Stretch it out a little longer than 12 inches.
- A wider triangle = bigger croissants, which might make it a bit lighter?
Step 9: Kickstart Proof and refrigerate overnight (in hindsight, do this)
- Line them up and proof at room temp (or around 25 degrees overnight) for an hour to kickstart the proofing process.
- Refrigerate overnight.
Step 10: Pre-bake proof and Egg Wash (Morning of baking)
- Take out the pre-shaped croissants from the fridge.
- Make sure tail is tucked under.
- Proof for minimum 2 hours under a cloth.
- Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius when there is about 10 minutes left of the proofing stage.
- Egg wash once they are a little warmed up.
- DO NOT SKIMP on the proofing time. Make sure they are really puffy before baking!! Under proofing will result in a stodgier croissant.
- Do NOT attempt to move the croissants after the proofing and egg washing stage..they are very hard to pick up and I messed up the structure of quite a few of them by trying to do this…
Step 11: Bake
- Place the croissants in the mid-lower rack of the oven.
- Reduce heat to Bake at 162 degrees celsius and bake for 30+ minutes.
- When they are in the oven, make sure they aren’t burning but it is very likely you will need the full 30 minutes. As in, really – all the layers should be golden brown. I’d even verge on the just about to get burnt stage to make sure that all the layers are cooked through.
Well, everyone who knows how much effort went into a batch of about 16 croissant (which between me, my family and boyfriend we finished them all in 3 days). About 7-8 hours of work for 3 breakfasts… Was it worth it…? My boyfriend seemed convinced that I wouldn’t make them again because of the effort but I’m inspired. It was an arduous process and a monstrous, undertaking and yet, I secretly really enjoyed the challenge. It’s like an art project right? But you get to eat the product. Even better. Though I was pretty chuffed with my first attempt, I titled this post trial 1 because I’m determined to keep making them until I produce one batch of croissants that I’m at least 90% pleased with. I want a thinner, flakier product. I want that shatter. If you look at the picture below of my finished product, the bottom of my croissant is too dense due to the lack of air pockets and the layers did not spread enough to create a thinner outer layer. I think it is because I under proofed it and they were a little underbaked as well.
I’m definitely going to make these again but maybe in a few months…IE. during winter when it’s not so hot and I’m on holiday again.