When you want your comeback to be remembered, you have to come back with a bang! Here it is! Last week I promised to go back to bread baking after an addiction to pastries. Well these are viennoiseries, still a hybrid between pastries and bread but there's yeast in it so I consider it closer to breads. I made croissants and pains au chocolat for this week; it's an ambitious bake for an ambitious baker.
Last Sunday (May 8) was Mother's day and today (May 11) is my mom's birthday and we celebrated both occasions today so this is the best time to make something for her and I can't think of a better thing to present her to show my love than croissants and pains au chocolat of course for more decadence. This is not a joke, it's a labour of love even more when you face my situation which I will outline later. And since this is a French thing, I will try to unleash the French man inside me (actually more of some learnings from a month of studying French). I made up the French title based on my little knowledge of French, I do not even know if it's correct or makes sense in French. I just want to say "No Oven Homemade Viennoiseries" if there are any native speakers here, please correct me if I am wrong.
We've been experiencing unusally high temperatures for now. For more than a month the average temperature during the day is 91F and at night it just drops to 85F and an unairconditioned kitchen won't help too (our house is more than a century old built in the old style emphasizing natural ventilation so no possibility to mount an AC). You know the main enemy of croissant making is heat, force it to cope with the heat and you will surely lose. This is not the best time to laminate dough but I do not want to miss this opportunity anymore.I also do not have a work surface and a rolling pin; I only have a small chopping board and a steel pipe. Exact ratios of ingredients are important also. Though I face these adversaries, I still pushed through because this is something exciting and I really want to try this for the longest time.
It seems daunting at first but I found out that like most complex dishes I make, with proper planning, you will conquer laminated doughs. One blogger here really inspired me to try croissants, txfarmer. If you don't know her, she is the lamination queen in this forum; check out her blog with great breads and recipes and stunning photography. She outlined the secrets of croissant making in one of her posts and she is my biggest guide in making this. If you want to make croissants with surgical precision, visit her guide here.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS:
1. Temperatures above 95F are not uncommon- Working with lightning speed is not a request or optional, IT'S AN ORDER AND REQUIREMENT! For a first time laminator, I don't know if I could accomplish that but a few factors can help me. More time in the fridge for a cooler and more relaxed dough for quick operations. Our fridge is also far from the kitchen, about 10 meters so I need to run fast too!
2. No "proper" rolling pin- I used a steel pipe with a good weight. A heavy pipe and the fact that I have large hands means power to roll the dough effortlessly.
3. No work surface- Roll a smaller quantity of dough that will fit the chopping board.
4. No oven- My clay pot has baked so much delicious goodies! Why can't it bake croissants?
So here is my valiant (or rather foolish) quest including my adaptations in croissant making:
The dough is my own recipe, adapted from many sources. Just reading hundreds of croissant recipes is mind boggling because some have contradicting principles. I followed txfarmer's guide, a dry and strong dough so I used bread flour contrary to most that use AP flour. Most recipes use 500g of flour, I know it is a big amount for a first try so I halved the amount. From my 500g bag of flour I poured half of it for an approximate 250g of flour, I then mix in some sugar and salt and a little yeast. I used a very small amount of yeast because I plan to split the croissant making in 3 days.
I added water into flour just until all flour is moistened, it's the driest dough I made; probably close to 50-55% hydration. I didn't add eggs or milk into the dough because I read with a stern warning CROISSANT DOUGH IS NOT A BRIOCHE DOUGH, it should be fairly lean for lightness in the final product. I also used oil instead of butter for the fat component in the dough to save on butter because more will be added later. I don't know if it will affect dough strength, I guess it won't. It undergoes a short bulk fermentation at room temperature for 30 minutes. It's not really a bulk ferment, just a short rest to relax the gluten so it can be shaped into a square before it goes into an overnight chill.
The butter block is simple, just butter flattened into a slab of precise dimensions. Most of the time I read to use a good European style butter for optimum results but I didn't follow it. This is the best butter I could find (in reality, afford), I don't know its textural properties well but we love the flavor. Are you familiar with Anchor butter? It costs around 2$, same as some European brands like Elle & Vire; the tangy Lurpak butter is at 1.8x the price; I want to taste Plugra and Kerrygold but I can't find them in our town, they have good reputations for laminated doughs so I want to try them but maybe they will cost even more if I have the chance to find them!
Most recipes use 250g butter for 500g of flour but you can see it's not exactly 250g so I just used a bit more than half to come up with hopefully the right ratio of the roll-in butter.
I flattened it into a slab by bashing it with my steel pipe while wrapped in a plastic bag. I love this part, the pipe effortlessly flattened it into a slab. I will use parchment next time for a better control of the dimensions and to be more eco-friendly. I prefer this method rather than putting some soft butter on top of the dough and folding the dough on top of it. It's easier but riskier especially in these temperatures. At this point too, I observed the behavior of the butter. It was 96F when I made the butter block and in less than a minute the very cold butter is melting at the edges, I have to re-chill it several times while adjusting the shape.
Into the fridge it goes with the dough for an overnight rest. We want them to have the same consistency before lamination starts. The next morning, they are both cold and the dough is well relaxed to be rolled out easily. It didn't expand very much in the fridge too.
The dough is rolled twice the size of the butter block and the butter is enclosed in it. I put the chopping board on top of a wet cloth so it does not move so I can roll the dough smoothly. Luckily my cutting board is also a good guide for dough dimensions; I don't have enough patience to roll doughs to proper dimensions! It's too much work for me! This is where the square shape comes in handy, you won't have to do many adjustments for the shape, you just roll it into a rectangle.
There are also many ways to enclose the butter, some says fold each corner of the dough on top of the butter to meet at the top to form an X like what txfarmer does; I've chosen the simplest way, roll the dough twice the size of the butter, put the butter block on one half of the dough and fold to enclose the butter.
I put it in the fridge for 3 hours so it can relax well before I do the turns. It is the secret to win the battle in this hot weather. I over compensate for rest time so I won't be frustrated in rolling. This is something that cannot be rushed. "If you want instant gratification, do not make these! Go and buy some at the (far far away) bakery" I told myself. I spread the turns for the whole busy day giving turns when I remember it. It's a much more enjoyable process than impatiently waiting for an hour rest time for a day dedicated to just making croissants.
I divided the paton into 2 so each will fit the cutting board when rolled. Smaller quantities means faster roll times thus less melting of the butter. While I roll one, the other stays in the fridge, after giving a turn I will quickly run to chill it and then get the other one, give it a turn then run again. I really experienced a heavy workout while making these!
Recipes often recommend a different series of turns. Most common is 3 single turns, some 1 double turn and 1 single turn, others 2 single turns and 1 double turn while others push the limit and asks for 4 double turns! Yes, at first I thought more turns=more flaky but txfarmer enlightened me that there is a limit for absolute flakiness; as the saying goes, "everything in excess is opposed to nature".
Since I have 2 patons, I decided to experiment. For one, I will do a double turn followed by single turn and for the other one, 3 single turns. I just want to know if it can affect the crumb.
You can clearly see the first turns. One with a double (tour double ou portefeuille) turn and one with a single (tour simple) turn. The way of enclosing the butter in the dough where the butter is exposed at the sides is a great help too, I could see when the butter is starting to melt. You can see the butter melting in both of these. I really can't comprehend how I even had the courage to photograph this rather than rushing them to the fridge!
The final turn! Both of them just have a single turn. I mark the dough how many turns it underwent so I won't lose count.
An overnight rest again and tomorrow is the BIG day! Here is my set-up in the fridge. I refrigerate all the equipment to keep everything cold. I put them in the freezer too as needed. The tupper box is also a big help because it protects the dough so I won't need plastic wrap, again to be more eco-friendly. I just put some rice flour at the bottom to avoid sticking like how many here use it to flour bannetons.
Good morning! Are you still here? Good! This is the moment of truth! Today I will form and bake my first croissants and pains au chocolat! The one on the left is the one with 3 single turns and the one on the right is the one with a double and single turn.
I divided each into 2 pieces so 2 croissants and pains au chocolat will come from each. I rolled each half and cut it into 2 diagonally to form triangles. The problem with "more but smaller" dough pieces is you'll end up with more imperfect edges than cutting triangles from a large piece of dough because I can't roll a perfect rectangle with neat straight edges so all croissants are not shaped as shraply but it's okay, we're not in a bakery. I also do not like to trim the edges because I don't want to waste them. It didn't have 7 little steps too as txfarmer describes. They were eggwashed before proofing; I don't have a brush too to apply eggwash, I just use my fingers.
To avoid butter pooling at the bottom, croissants need to be fully proofed to slightly overproofed before baking. I think I've taken this too seriously and really overproofed this. What's more difficult is I only have 3 llaneras (oval flan molds that I use as baking tins) and my claypot can only accommodate 3 at a time when baking so I have to proof the other 5 somewhere else then transfer them to the llaneras when the first batch is done baking. Each one was proofed to different levels and it's so much pain transferring fully proofed laminated doughs into llaneras, up to now I do not know how I did it without tearing or compromising the quality! Proofing higher than 80F is risky because the butter might leak and it's 95F while these were proofing so I let it proof at room temperature for 10 minutes then put them in the freezer for 5 minutes to shock them and bring the temperature down quickly.
Next time, I think I will bake them as soon I see the layers clearly. It's easy to overproof them in the blink of an eye in this weather.
They were eggwashed again before being baked in the clay pot over a wood fire at a very high heat for the first 10 minutes so the butter immediately boils and puffs. They are then flipped one by one on the llaneras to brown the top and cooked on low fire for the next 5 minutes and then on embers for the remaining 5 minutes, a total of 20 minutes cooking time.
The clay pot shown here is called a Palayok in our language and it is where the "PAL" in my user name comes from. I thought it's pretty cool because of its meaning in English. You'll see here the wood fire in the first and last stages of baking.
I saw some flowers blooming in the garden and I gave them to mom along with the viennoiseries. We call the flower Bandera Española. She is the one holding them here. She really liked them and smiled as she said thank you. Though she always smiles this one of the rare occasions she smiled because I did something special for her.
Voici le resultat! Here are the results!
The crust is very crispy even though not evenly browned. You could also see the layers.
Here is the crumb. (I haven't had the chance to check all for their crumb to see the difference of the their lamination process or tourage because my parents ate their share immediately. I might stick to 3 single turns next time.) It looks like a honeycomb! Wooh! It's more than enough to make me happy! It is not as open and round as the marvelous croissants txfarmer presents here but for an overproofed dough baked without an oven flipped over halfway through, laminated in a humid almost 100F weather, and made with almost all makeshift equipment; it's as good as it gets!
Crumb on the left when sliced using a knife and on the right crumb when pulled apart by hands.
Summary of the crumb in one photo.
Pains au chocolat:
With crispy, buttery, flaky dough and lots of chocolate, how can you go wrong?!! They're so beautiful! I can't believe I made these and even more that they came out of my clay pot! My mouth watered again when I saw the picture as I'm writing this post! I learnt not to overfill them with chocolate (it will pool on the bottom and burn badly) from a previous cheater's pain au chocolat attempt last year. It was made by cutting lots of butter into flour and folding a number of times, it's like a yeasted rough puff or pie dough. Though quicker and easier to make, the quality never comes close to a real proper laminated viennoiserie!
The pain au chocolat shape fits my situation better because there is a larger surface area of dough that makes a direct contact with the tin for a more even browning and crispness. I will stick to this shape next time though I can't call them "Croissants" anymore because they are not "Crescents" anymore. I like the name "croissant" more because it's shorter and you already know the character of the bread. For those living in France what do you call a laminated dough shaped like a pain au chocolat / chocolatine but plain and unfilled with chocolate? I will fill these next time both with sweet and savory things and launch a pain au quelque chose series if that makes sense again!
It could be a torture to some of you and even me but this is the result of my effort! Shatteringly flaky and crispy!
Feels like having breakfast in Paris!
I really enjoyed how this one turned out! It's a long but worthwhile post. This really expanded my baking world and with the success of my first foray into laminated dough, I just created a desire within me that will need to be curbed from time to time. I have so many ideas running in my mind now (I would love to create txfarmer's many croissant of course to be
twisted by yours truly, I hope the empress won't be mad) but I need to save money for buying lots of butter.
In the hotel where I had my practicum, I have croissants and pains au chocolat daily. The leftover from the breakfast buffet were sent into the employee cafeteria. And I can say with my head held high that the quality of what I made is not far from those made in the hotel!Someone became a mother this mother's day!
To all moms, a late greeting of Happy Mother's Day!
Happy Birthday Mama! Thank you and I love you!Maligayang Kaarawan Nay! Salamat po at mahal na mahal ko po kayo!
Thank you very much! Job