Thanks to Weekend Bakery's extremely helpful Croissant Making Log, I finally made a batch of croissants that I'm happy with (see link for formula and tips). I made a couple of changes to the Hamelman formula used in the Weekend Bakery log: I used 4 grams of SAF gold osmotolerant yeast instead of 11 g of regular instant yeast (11 g is a huge amount of yeast, which I don't think is necessary if you use a yeast that can stand up to the sugar content in the dough), and I added a teaspoon of barley malt syrup for flavor. Last time I made croissants was about a year ago, and the attempt was not so successful. I feel like I learned a lot from comparing that bake to this one:
1. Last time: the dough was mixed for too long and got too developed. This made it impossible to roll out the layers. It was like wrestling with a rubber band. Not only did this make the process hard on the arms, it also resulted in thicker, doughier layers because the dough could not relax enough to be rolled out thinly.
This time: I mixed the dough until uniform and gluten formation had barely begun. As Ciril Hitz says in Baking Artisan Bread, gluten development should happen in the course of being rolled out (stretched) during the lamination steps. There is no need to fully develop the gluten in the beginning.
2. Last time: The butter layer shattered into several small pieces instead of spreading out uniformly, due to being too cold. A number of authors advise you to freeze the dough between lamination steps for about 20-30 minutes, arguing that this will make the butter and dough the right consistency to roll out.
This time: I just used the fridge instead of the freezer. I used Kerrygold butter, which has fat content equivalent to typical European butters, so at 38 degrees, it is stiff yet pliable. I guess this depends on how cold your freezer is. Mine is kept at a frosty -2 Fahrenheit.
3. Last time: Croissants were underproofed, so the butter leaked out very badly during baking.
This time: I proofed until the croissants were "jiggly" and very puffy. While there was still a tiny bit of butter meltage, it was not nearly as bad as last time.
Here were the results from today:
The crust was so light and the crumb was so tender that they started shattering under the slight pressure of my fingers while being transferred to the cooling rack. The croissants are shatteringly crisp on the outside and moist and light on the inside. The crumb shreds into transparent sheets. I highly recommend the Weekend Bakery tutorial.
I've frozen half the batch, so it'll be interesting to see whether this affects the taste and texture. Happy Sunday, everyone!