The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

croissants

DonD's picture
DonD

Does the taste of a favorite food evoke in you indelible memories of time and places where the pleasure it has given you has put a mark on you for life?

For me, a bite into a buttery and flaky croissant and my taste memory takes me back to my childhood in Saigon where every morning, I would look forward to the familiar sound of the horn announcing the arrival of the "Bread Man" riding on his scooter with twin canvas trunks full of goodies straddling the rear seat to deliver fresh baguettes and croissants to the neighborhood houses.

The sweet smell of baking croissants always reminds me of the time when I was a student in Geneva, walking by a bakery at 6:00 am, suddenly being overwhelmed by the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked croissants, summoning enough nerve to knock on the door to convince the owner to sell me a couple before the store was open and walking home in the snowy winter dawn, enjoying the best croissants I ever had in my life.

A croissant with cafe au lait for breakfast always transports me back to my first visit to Paris in the spring, sitting at a sidewalk table at the Cafe "La Rotonde" in the Montparnasse area, sipping a cafe creme and eating a croissant with confiture, watching the morning bustle and hustle of Parisian life just like Hemingway, Picasso, Nijinsky, Gershwin and other luminaries had done at the same spot so many years ago.

I have been baking Croissants and Pains au Chocolat on and off for over 20 years and until recently, my favorite recipe was from Jacques Pepin's "The Art of Cooking". It is a foolproof recipe where you can follow the instructions verbatim and end up with great results.

Last year I discovered the Esther McManus recipe from the PBS "Baking with Julia" TV Series. I have tried this recipe about half a dozen times, tweaking it along the way to suit my taste and baking techniques. It has become my favorite recipe as I find that it comes closest to the Croissants and Pains au Lait that you can only find in Europe.

This past weekend, I made a batch of Croissants and Pain au Chocolat and following are my notes and recommendations:

1- I basically followed the step by step instructions in the video which are excellent. The link is www.pbs.org/juliachild/meet/mcmanus.html

2- It is not mandatory to have the companion book " Baking with Julia" but it is nice to have as a back-up.

3- I use pretty much the same formulation except for the following variations:

    A- I use 1 1/4 cup of milk. I find the little extra milk makes the dough more pliable and easier to work with.

    B- I use 2 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast. I converted the amount into Instant Yeast because I prefer it over Cake or Dry Yeast.

    C- I use only 3-1/2 sticks of butter. More butter would only leak out during baking. I have tried different unsalted butters including imported "Le President", "Plugra"European Style and found that old "Land o' Lakes" works just as well.

    D- I use two 3 inch long "Valrhona" Chocolate Batons for each Pain of Chocolat. I splurge on a box of 350 pieces and they are disappearing fast as they are good to snack on as well.

4- I do not put a hot water pan in the turned off oven while proofing as recommended. I found out the hard way that it melts the butter in the dough.

5- I bake the Croissants in a preheated 425 degrees F oven with steam for 5 mins , then without steam at 400 degrees for 5 more mins and  finally at 375 degrees for 5 mins. I find it gives me better oven spring and a flakier crust than a longer bake with dry heat at 350 degrees.

6- The recipe should yield a dozen each Croissants and Pains au Chocolat.

Dough cut into triangles with a Croissant Cutter, not an essential tool but a nice gadget.

Shaped, proofed and egg washed Croissants ready for the oven.

Baked Croissants cooling on the rack.

The ultimate Continental Breakfast with Croissant and Pain au Chocolat

The mandatory crumb shot.

Happy Baking!

Don

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I completed a batch of Leader's Sourdough Croissants from Local Breads today. I used the metric weights and had no problem with the recipe; everything seemed to be correct as written. I baked one tray at the recommended 350º for 18 minutes but thought they weren't browning enough, so upped the temperature to 375º for the remainder.

They baked up fine--light, flakey and layered--, but have almost no flavor, being neither sour, nor sweet, nor buttery, nor anything else. I knew something was wrong when I couldn't smell anything when they were baking. What a disappointment! It's almost like the levain canceled out the flavor of the dough. I've tried at least 6 different croissant recipes over my lifetime and all have come out well except this one. I think they are destined for the trash.

If anyone has had experience with this recipe or has an idea as to their lack of flavor, please let me know.

Leader's Sourdough Croissants

 

Leader's Sourdough Croissants

--Pamela

Adelphos24's picture

Sourdough Croissants

January 22, 2009 - 3:30am -- Adelphos24

So I have been mucking about with my wild yeast sourdough starter a lot over the last few weeks. I made pain poilane, and a traditional american style sourdough, and was thinking..."what else can i do with this starter?"

The answer? Sourdough croissants!

I know this could fall in the pastry category, but decided that the wild yeast starter aspect kinda throws it into the realm of the sourdough junkie. I've gotta say, they turned out great. I even made some with chocolate in the middle. I wrote more about them here:

pmccool's picture
pmccool

We had invited friends for brunch the weekend after New Year's day and I had already decided to make zolablue's cinnamon rolls.  It seemed, though, that something else would be good to have with the quiches that my wife was making; something not quite so sweet as the cinnamon rolls (which were fabulous, by the way).  It occurred to me that a croissant's buttery, flaky lightness would be a perfect accompaniment for the richness of the quiche.  There was one minor problem: I'd never made a croissant in my life.

The first step: search TFL for threads dealing with croissants.  I found two things that proved to be very helpful.  The first was a formula for Bertinet's croissants, posted by dolfs.  The second was a link to SteveB's Breadcetera site, which included some very helpful videos and other instructions for croissants.  Armed with this information, I decided to forge ahead.  If the croissants turned out well, I would serve them to my guests; if they turned out badly, my guests would never hear about them but my wife and I would have some very tasty french toast.

The next step was to assemble all of the ingredients and start building the dough.  I'll spare you all of the process steps; Dolf and Steve have done an excellent job of documenting those, which you can read by clicking on the links, above.  My laminated dough skills, being essentially non-existent, caused a couple of butter breakouts during the turning and rolling steps.  Happily (for me, anyway), the end product didn't seem to have suffered as a result; although M. Bertinet may not have wanted his name attached to them.

I was grateful to have a largish island on which to roll out the final dough before cutting the croissants.  A 3-foot long strip of dough is much longer in reality than it would seem to be in concept.  While I suspect that I may not have rolled the dough as thinly as a professional baker would have, I did get 14 croissants out of it, plus a couple of smaller scraps from the ends (which served well for QA testing).  

Here's a picture of the shaped croissants during their final rise, after shaping:

Shaped croissants

By this point, I could already tell that they would taste wonderful.  All I needed to do was bake them successfully.  Here's how they looked after coming out of the oven:

Baked croissants

I could probably have left them in the oven another couple of minutes for additional browning, but I was very skittish about burning them after having gotten them this far.  (By the way, Dolf, thanks for including the tip on applying the egg wash.)  Turns out they were fully baked and absolutely delicious, as confirmed by our QA samples.  Lots of tender, buttery, flaky goodness.  

So, our guests did get croissants to go with the quiche, although the cinnamon rolls were probably the bigger hit of the party.  

As good as they are, these will probably remain on my "special occasion" baking list.  For one thing, there's almost a tablespoon of butter in every single one of them.  For another, they require significantly more effort for the yield than a similar quantity of dinner rolls.  Still, after a bite of one warm from the oven with a dab of marmalade, I know I'll be making them again.

Paul

dolfs's picture
dolfs

I haven't produced much published baking material in the last few months, so here is something new for me.

Bertinet's Croissants & Pain au Chocolat
Bertinet's Croissants & Pain au Chocolat

Since my last post I have been baking plenty, but essentially nothing new. I was baking well rehearsed products (baquette, Tom Leonard's Country French, pizza, sandwich loaf, Challah) for the family and a few parties. Virtually no baking in January: my family and I were in Tanzania on Safari (anybody should be willing to forego baking for a few weeks to see that), and now we're in Montana for our annual winter vacation. Out here I have virtually no tools (no stand mixer, dough scraper or bench knife, no thermometer, limited flour selection), but I needed to bake. I made some bread from Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. I made some 50/50 white and white whole wheat dough and produced some rolls one day, and a sandwich loaf yesterday. I'd say both were OK, but not as good as other breads I've made in the past using more traditional approaches. So, it was time for a little more of a challenge.

I had Amazon deliver several bread books to Montana so I had something to read. One of them was Bertinet's "Crust" and I liked the croissant recipe in it. It also comes with lots of description and pictures. So far I had resisted making croissants, despite the fact that my family loves them, because it seemed to involved, and perhaps difficult. Since I am on vacation, and was not skiing yesterday and today (avoiding the President's Day crowds) I decided it was time for croissants. Here is the recipe from the book, scaled and converted through my Dough Calculator. I also converted from fresh yeast to instant dry yeast.

Bertinet's Croissant Recipe
Bertinet's Croissant Recipe

I didn't have whole milk so I substituted 1/3 cream (which is probably too much) and the rest skim milk. I also used 4T of Splenda rather than sugar (Splenda converts on a 1:1 volume basis). I used one large egg for the 50.8 g of egg. The butter listed on the bottom is not part of the dough, but is rolled in later. The egg below it is for an egg wash. Since I had no stand mixer I mixed and kneaded by hand, which is easier for this recipe because no full gluten development is needed.

Directions (very abbreviated - the book has 18 pictures illustrating the steps):

  1. Mix dry ingredients well
  2. Add liquids and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Knead for 3-4 minutes. Full gluten development is not needed, nor desired. It will happen during the rolling process.
  4. Form dough into a ball and cut cross on top.  Chill in refrigerator for 2-12 hours. The dough will ferment and swell.
  5. Take 2 sticks of butter (which is slight more than needed) out of the fridge about 1 hour before you take the dough out.
  6. Take dough out and roll out in 4 directions (use the cross as a guide) into a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Rotate so it looks like a diamond.
  7. Put butter between two sheets of plastic and pound gently with a rolling pin or other heavy object until a rectangle about 1/3" thick is created. Remove top plastic and pick up bottom plastic and butter to turn over on top of middle of square dough (you should have the side triangles of the diamond still uncovered). Try to not touch (and warm up) the butter. Remove final sheet of plastic.
  8. Fold over rest of dough and seal, completely enclosing the butter. Repeat following step three times.
  9. Place dough with short side facing you. Roll out, gently and evenly, in the long direction only, until about 3 times as long. Fold in thirds and press to seal. Place in plastic bag and chill in fridge for 30 minutes (place on flat surface!). Mark with indentations in dough, or a note, so you don't forget whether you are on cycle 1, 2 or 3. Roll gently and evenly to prevent cracks and rips and butter leaking out. If it does, cover with flower and continue. The open spot will be on the inside once folded.
  10. Just before the next step, prepare an egg wash by beating one egg with a pinch of salt. 
  11. After the final chill, after the third cycle, have short side facing you and roll out into a rectangle approximately 3-4 mm (1/5" - 1/8") thick. Keep the rectangle about 12" wide (you may mav to toll sideways as well now) and put the rest in the other dimension. You should end up with approximately 12"x36".
  12. Using a knife, trim edges to make a nice rectangle. Cut rectangle into two strips approximately 6" wide. Cut each strip into triangles with a base  of about 9 cm (3 1/2").
  13. Make a small cut (1.5 cm or 1/2") into the middle of the base of each triangle and then, holding the outside corners of the triangle, stretch a little and roll up towards the top of the triangle. Roll tight, but not excessively so.
  14. Bend the corners of the rolled croissant to create the traditional crescent shape and place on greased cookie sheet, or parchment paper, with the tip of the rolled triangle on the bottom (to avoid unrolling). Leave ample space for expansion during proof and baking.
  15. Brush each croissant with egg wash, from the middle to the outsides to prevent egg wash pooling in the creases. Cover with some non-stick cover, or put in a draft free place, to proof for approximately 2 hours. Do not do this in too warm a place, as the butter may start oozing out. Apply egg wash a second time just before baking.
  16. Preheat at 425F and bake for 17-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly on racks and eat warm!

The recipe made about 14 croissants for me (I rolled them a little tick, so your mileage may be better). I actually started this at night and left the third chill in the refrigerator overnight. Also, please note that all this was done at 6,800 feet altitude so things may be slightly different at sea level. I proofed and baked one half (see photo above) and froze the rest after one egg wash. I placed them in the freezer on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. We'll be baking these tomorrow after a 20 minute thaw (or so), and at a slightly lower temperature. Unless this doesn't work, I will not post about that.

I remembered to take two pictures in the middle of the family eating most of these croissants. Here is a picture of the inside:

Bertinet's Croissants & Crumb
Bertinet's Croissant Crumb

We eat these the way I was taught in Europe. Put some butter and jam on your plate and then, before each bite, apply some of the butter to the end you're going to bite, slather some jam on top, bite, savour, repeat! 

For my first time making croissants I was extremely pleased (and so was the family!). They were extremely light and fluffy, nice color, crisp but thin outside crust, flakey and not greasy on the inside. My son loves chocolate croissants, or pain au chocolat, so I used some of the dough to make three of those (that was all the good chocolate I had in the house as this was an afterthought, and the store is a 30 minute ride into town). That's what you see as the more rectangular shapes in the front of the picture. I took a strip of three chocolate squares and laid them on top of a rolled out rectangle approximately 4"x6". This left about 3/4" on each side. Roll the dough over the chocolate in the long direction and completely roll up and seal the sides. Rest of the treatment is the same as for the croissants.

Conclusion: This was nowhere near as difficult as I had anticipated and the results were fabulous (better than I've had from most stores). Well worth the try and, if my freezing experiment works out, you can make a bunch the day before and freeze them. Everytime you want them it should only take about 1 hour (thaw + bake) before you can have fresh croissants for breakfast! 

 




--dolf


See my My Bread Adventures in pictures 

Nancy's picture

Croissants from Bon Appetit--long-lost recipe

March 8, 2007 - 7:44am -- Nancy
Forums: 

Since the early '80s I've carried around with me a recipe from Bon Appetit for a short-cut croissant.  The technique involved bypassing the folding and layering of dough and butter, and instead gently incorporating large chunks of cold butter into the dough (I seem to remember a food processor was involved).  It wasn't 100% the real deal, but it made a pretty passable croissant and saved a lot of time.  I want to make them again--anyone here happen to still have this recipe?

 Thanks!

Nancy 

 

 

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