Holy crap. I just made croissants. I can’t believe they worked out. I’ve made pastry dough before, but never anything laminated and yeasted. This is such a thrill, I can barely even put together the words, can barely even remember how I got to this point…
It all started on Friday night with my “Baking With Julia” book, which I decided to use instead of my CIA “Baking & Pastry” book because it wouldn’t be a recipe that yields 600 croissants. The recipe was a bit like pastry dough, with the whole “make a floury dough and then make a butter slab and put the two together” concept, but in this case the floury dough was, well, yeasty. And had whole milk in it, just to up the “richness” factor. It was an intense workout for my stand mixer, following the recipe’s instructions to beat everything on high speed (the head of the mixer kept springing up in protest) for several minutes, because this was a pretty hard-core piece of dough. After letting it relax a while, it spent the night in the fridge, waiting to meet up with its eventual butter-slab companion.
On Saturday morning I took my 4 1/2 sticks of butter and mixed it with a few tablespoons of flour until it was the same consistency as the dough, and we were ready to roll. Literally. I love doing the laminated dough thing; there’s something incredibly texturally satisfying about the smooth, long sheets of dough, as you brush the flour off of them and lift them for the folding. In my croissants’ case, everything went together without a glitch. I flattened out the dough to make a rectangle, then shaped the butter to half the rectangle’s size, and then folded the dough around the butter, enveloping it completely, then carefully set to rolling it thin and even, without the butter escaping out the edges, to a piece about 26″ x 14″
This is what I had in mind when I first started thinking about the new kitchen, and I can’t even begin to express how delighted I was to have that expanse of countertop to work on. Anyway, once the dough is rolled, you fold. This whole process is just the coolest thing, as far as I’m concerned; I mean, it just blows my mind that you get flakes in pastries because you literally have layers of butter between layers of dough. The deal is that you fold the dough, chill it for a few hours, then roll it out to a large rectangle again, then fold it and repeat. I was kind of spazzing during this process, because the pastry dough I’ve made is folded four times, but this recipe called for only three folds. I even woke up in the middle of Saturday night flipping out that I’d missed a fold, but I guess croissants aren’t really as flaky as puff pastry, are they? The first two folds were just three-folds, where the dough is folded along the long axis like a brochure. The last fold was a four-fold, which the recipe described as being like a wallet, but frankly, the only multi-fold wallets I’ve ever seen are three-folded. But whatever. I’m well versed in the four-fold (thanks, CIA Pastry Boot Camp!), so it was a cinch.
After chilling for a few hours following the final fold, the dough is ready to be worked, so I woke up on Sunday with croissant shaping first up on my docket. Thank heavens the book had an illustrated guide, because written down, the affair made no sense. There was rolling a huge, flat surface, then folding it the long way, then cutting triangles, then stretching the triangles, then using a little bit of extra dough as a hidden plumper inside the shaped crescent, then rolling the triangles up just like the Pillsbury crescent rolls (seriously, who needs CIA Pastry Boot Camp when you’ve had practice with Pillsbury crescent rolls?). Once I made a few, though, I got the hang of it.
After a coating of egg wash, these things had to rise for hours. I had been hoping for a nice brunch of really fresh croissants, but didn’t factor in the fact that they’d be in a cold oven, with a few pans of steaming water, for the entire afternoon while they tripled in size. And I say “tripled” very loosely — I finally got impatient and just egg washed them again and baked the little buggers.
And holy crap. I made croissants:
After they had a chance to cool enough so the layers were set (with the house smelling absolutely insane, might I add), we ripped into one. I am stunned to admit that not only did I bake objects that look on the outside like croissants, but I baked objects that look on the inside like croissants, too:
And on top of looking like croissants, they taste like them. Like the freshest, richest, flakiest, most delicious croissants I’ve ever had. Pookie decided they are every bit as good as the ones we got in our favorite little cafe in Paris. And since we didn’t get them for brunch, I guess we’ll have to have them for dessert tonight. Maybe that means we need to try a chocolate panini.