Objective today was to improve on some former efforts to achieve a more open crumb with croissants etc. Unfortunately as i began dough prep last night I was almost out of the flour I have been using and, have discovered works nicely for the lamination process (francine bio t55). This makes a really great dough that glutenizes beaitifully just not a great bread flour as its missing some af the additives (malts etc) - this is straight flour at about 9.4% protein. So only having about 250g left for a 500g batch I, added the other 250 as gold medal AP. Once time came to start the rolling process I was met with much more resistance than accustomed and ended up (as is fairly visible in the photos) with only two single folds. I am sure with more resting time resistence would diminish bit at the same time I had been curious to see how things migh develop with only 9 layers as opposed to 12 which is sort of standard (one book and one single fold). The results were indeed some very heavy layers but thats ok for this experiment. The objective was to work on crumb structure and after careful thought and observation of yeast activity I decided that in order to avoid overproofing, I would allow about twice the time on final that I would with a regular loaf - this based on observation of activity etc. It appears to me that this particular recipe (despite having 7-8 times the yeast) develops about half as fast as straight bread. I am also fairly confident that the crumb development is similar to that of bread whereby layers expand because gas trapped in the dough is creating bubbles that push the layers apart and, in some areas together. Despite popular opinion that suggests the butter is vaporizing and blowing the layers apart this makes no sense to me. This seems impossible as even if the butter vaporized the gas would immediately evacuate to the atmosphere by way of the dough edges. So it must be that croissants form an open crumb exactly as bread does - via co2 bubbles expanding. And, since I have long been able to get bread to pop, i decided to follow suit with laminates. About all I know is that if I develop decent gluten, perform a long cold retard, control keep yeast activity to a minimum for a long period and then blast the final shapes after a short proof, then usually an open crumb develops. It definitely seems the case here. Despite some dense middle sections these are showing signs of opening decently. Yes they are very heavy croissants with few layers but overall I am pleased to see improvement. The other thing to note is that anytime trying to master a product, it helps to use the same ingredients each time. So far I really like president unsalted butter - this seems a good plasticity. For dough I avoid milk and go with all h20, no eggs and instead extra butter. Other egg and milk-based doughs as too gummy for my liking. So as of now it looks like more flour needs to go on order but in case any other croissant enthusiasts are struggling with structure, I thought I would post this as an interesting experiment and hopefully it can help with understanding how this particular product works :)
Three mini croissants made with some extra dough from the weekend that I had sitting frozen in the freezer. Some positive signs of open crumb ! Too bad the picture is a bit blurry. Originally I was getting ready to toss the dough as i got off to a false start over the weekend and mixed some ADY with chilled water finding only after mixing that the yeast had not dissolved (dough ball spotted with freckles of undissolved yeast). Instead I started another batch and let the first warm to RT and then hand kneaded until the freckles disappeared, split into halves and froze the tosser.
Well turned out to be a great mid-week quickie. So in the morning i defrosted and let the dough retard all day and then did a super quick lamination (as in 5 minutes all layers and folds), shape and proof in the evening. Results - best croissants so far but to be honest I decided to treat this stuff like bread. I know I am going against advice and should think of this as pastry but the more I think about it, this is just bread with layers and fat. As a result, yeast acts slower but in the end the goal is to get oven spring - I think I am onto something (fingers crossed)
Well dangit, pretty bad weekend for baking. Not sure if it was a symptom of being really busy and trying to fit a morning ritual into evenings but I thought I would post this failure as a good illistration of overproofing and, what's so interesting about this disaster is that we get to see overproffing in progress and also drive home the point that it happens lightning fast.
Since i often bake three loaves at a time and usually at a predictable temperature in the morning, I began this bake in the evening at a point when tempabwere a bit lower. I didnt however take too much notice of my dough rise during bulk which in retrospect was a bit higher than normal. So in reality i was adjusting for temp (adding time) but not considering a slightly more active dough. I added about 5 minutes to the normal final (40 becomes 45 minutes and actually i usually jump in at the 35 minute mark to avoid wasted time in case i forgot to prep the countertop). So as I casually prepare this time to bake, I am now another 5 minutes behind thanks to poor preparation. Now as I observe the loaves doing their usual thing in the oven its becoming apparent within a few minutes that they jist dont have the oomph expected (or hoped). The first loaf I take out which was the last to be shaped is sagging in spots. The second is mostly sagged and the third, well total wasted potential - the entire loaf is flat with tell-tale 'unbursts'. The above photo, which i should have snapped as all three loaves in full view but didn't due to deconstruction efforts, shows left-to-right, oldest to youngest. The right-most the middle score mostly open but still not maximum potential. The middle is very sagged (the other unseen end had some burst) and the left-most looked like this across the entire length. The scores open only because the loaf gets wider and have a distinct sunken stretched appearance with no vibrance what-so-ever.
This seemed like a good post to show a. what overproofing looks like especially since is juxtaposes scores where there was still some potential to those that have completely lost their energy and b. To shoe that it happens before you know it and the fact thst we can see partially overproofed loaves is a testament to the speed at which it happens - a good educational bake but terrible practical one !
In an attempt to better understand laminated pastry spring I am today left even more confused. If you take note of the two (really sad looking) pain aux chocolates the one on the left proofed for about 2.5 hours whereas the one on right proofed for 3.5-4 hours - both from the same dough under the same conditions (about 72f). In an attemot to figure out timing and oven temps to achieve maximum rise I intentionally tried baking several, actually 4 bakes from the same dough and expected the longer the proof, the greater the rise. Instead i found that as the dough rose and became more 'jiggly' as often stated by croissant experts, the opposite happened to the baked product. Generally most credible guides say to proof 3-4 hours and it appears at least in my case the shorter the better. I also have the same cross section of two croiisants where the earlier bake shows obvious rise and the second ... Pancake. What is going on here ? Very hard to understand what is going on inside this kind of dough. I thoroughly read a guide by txfamer who warns how underproofed croissants inhibit layer separation. Getting these things to pop is beginning to make bread look like cake !
As we all know, progress is not made without setbacks. A few weeks ago I did croissants and saw more separation of layers and got really excited. On top of the visual improvement, the eating experience was also significantly improved. So, trying to recall what I did on thay bake and trying to replicate, layers barely separated - real bummer. Tried using the same butter and other ingredients but for some reason it just wasnt the same or better. The frustrating part about a new project like this is not havong enough experience to both know and guage progress during each phase. In particular final proofing. I know timing to the minute on bread but on final proof I found myself wondering - should I wait, should I bake. I do understand that with laminates is beat to proof cool and doba considerably long final (2+ hours) just dont know exactly whats best .. Other than keep trying (disappointing crumb l on the way)
So the plan was to do a sourdough bake this week but realized the starter hadnt been fed in a while thanks to a lot of travelling. Dropping this as usual bake today - emphasis on shaping and finding it easier and easier to get straighter loaves as can be seen here 2 of 3 came out really nice and runt of course is the crumb model. Just crazy how a little deformity in cylinder shapes is increased in thr final and goes to show how tricky it is to get nice appealing long full size baguettes (each of these btw are always 350g wet and about 270g baked and 54-55cm in length)
To an extent I'm now pretty content with basic loaf baking and find myself craving pastires more. Its funny how this obsession arose after finally giving up trying to find a baguette in usa that tastes like the real deal and finally figure well why not just learn how bake the darn things myself (this is typical behavior for me btw as ive countless other replications of foods that can only be found wherever it was they were invented - take the famous lebanese kanafe for example - wow ! what a treat). I find that if i havent baked bread for a few weeks I am always surprised what I was missing - the point being that your taste buds seem to take flavors for granted after a while and such is the case with good bread. Although the last few months have been concerned with shaping i do think flavor-wise I very closely nailed the authentic flavor months ago and much of that has to do with the flour I sourced from lepicerie.com. I will say it again, it is in incredible - there is no substitute - french baguettes made with T65 flour grown and milled in france taste a thousand times better, and, if the crumb nice and developed with a long cold ferment its very difficult to distinguish from the real thing. So that brings my taste buds to the next challenge - viennoise pastries - looks like a long haul ahead but lets see how it goes ...
Recently there's been a few posts mentioning the 10,000 loaf benchmark and since I have been keeping rough track of how many baguettes Ive baked in the 1.5 years its seems about time to officially call it 1,000. So this is about what one can expect thisbfar in and hopefully some of the things I have learned can help reduce the number of times other baguette enthusiasts have to weather through to get a decent loaf. Hardest part so far has been getting that nice cylinder shape and in this case the middle loaf really came together well this time. It takes a long time and many failures but nothing's more satifying than see it all come together - happy baking amigos !
Just in case anyone has relied in lepicerie.com for the flour needs you may have recently discovered their website has mysteriously gone offline with little explanation of why what and when. For me this was a massive disappointment as they have have been about the only source of quality T55 and T65 flours in USA and so having depleted my own supply a few weeks ago panicked and found some alternative sources for T55. The only other brand that appears to be available is francine which is more a supermarket brand. So today I completed a bake and thought I would share the results. First off this flour is only available in 1kg portions which is not so convenient especially if you bake a lot and prefer lager quantities (I go through about 15kg a month). The second immediate,observation is this flour is really light which is sort of expected for a t55 and additionally fairly bland aroma. In terms of kneading it was great - came together quickly and resulted in an incredibly smooth ball of dough. There are absolutely no improvers in this flour so to augment I added a smidge of ascorbic acid and about 0.02% diastatic malt. From here did 1.5hour bulk followed by a 6th cold retard - it rose a tad slower that usual bit overall did pretty well - actually it just seemed to take an extra 20 minutes to start showing activity so in reality I did almost 2hr bulk before setting it away in the refrigerator. The shaping and scoring was very easy with no wrestling the dough (which is how I feel about dealing with American flour - even the weakest AP resists shaping out long loaves) the most obvious difference here was the flavor - as can be seen in the photo the crumb is really white and tastes rather plain. Not sutebhoebibfeelnavout this flour just yet but plan to try upping the malt content as well as longer retard as 6 hours is really the minimum time I would never ferment for overnight. Interesting experience and will try to coax more character from this flour next time :)