The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Croissants....well...not quite

  • Pin It
wally's picture
wally

Croissants....well...not quite

This weekend I decided to have a second go at croissants and pains au chocolat.  I used a recipe that Julia Child had featured with a guest on her show, and which DonD helpfully included in his blog here (it appears as a two-part video).  The written recipe sans video can be found here.


I also benefited from a nice explanation and accompanying video of the lamination process that ananda posted here .


I found that the process of laminating the dough seemed to go smoother this time - less hesitation which causes the dough and butter to warm.  I used what I have come to understand from ananda as the British method (vs. the French method) to initially incorporate butter into the dough (which had retarded for 24 hours), by rolling out the buttter to a rectangle 2/3'ds the length of the rectangle of dough. You then execute a letter fold by thirds, beginning with folding the dough not covered with butter over the butter.  Aside from it being an easier method, I like the fact that the it yields a dough that now has two layers of butter prior to your intial folds/turns.


I followed this with three folds with 2 hour intervals between each where the dough was wrapped tightly in plastic and placed in the refrigerator.  While some prefer to do a series of 4 letter folds, I followed Child's recipe which uses a letter fold for the first two folds, and then executes what's called a wallet or a book fold for the third and final 'turn.'


After completing the three folds, the dough was refrigerated overnight.  Next morning I cut it into 2 pieces, returned one to the refrigerator (it would become pains au chocolat), and began rolling out the other piece to create croissants.  Julia's recipe will produce about 14 croissants that are 4 1/2" wide and 7" in height.


Forming the croissants, as I'm discovering, is much like learning to shape baguettes: it takes a lot of repetition to get it right.  Crucial to achieving many layers is a stretching of the croissant triangle after it's cut.  The base is stretched out by about 1",  and the height is stretched considerably.  I've read that a well-formed croissant should have at least 6 visible layers.  I managed to achieve this on about 1/3 of the croissants I rolled - the others came out at 5 layers. 


After the croissants were shaped I eggwashed and proofed them for three hours, and began shaping the pains au chocolat.  I used two chocolat batons (I use the less expensive Callebaut, rather than the Valrhona DonD prefers - I figure I'm on training wheels here, so I'll work up to the really good chocolate) per pain, and also allowed them to proof for 3 hours after an eggwash.  At the end of the proof I proceeded to freeze both batches (see below).


the frozen stash


Today I pulled out a couple of each, preheated my oven to 350° F, and applied a second coat of eggwash.  Total bake time was 20 minutes.



Both looked nice immediately after the bake - good color and nice puffiness.


After letting them cool I cut them, and uh....well...the pictures speak for themselves. 



Obviously I have a BIG problem with the layers not rising.  Not sure what the potential causes were, so I'm looking for any and all feedback (jump in Don and Andy!).  I did pay particular attention during the lamination process to not letting the dough get warm, and placing it back in the refrigerator as needed to allow it to relax before rolling out further.  So I don't think that's the issue.  Could this be a yeast problem?


In any event, I have approximately 325 Callebaut chocolate batons stored in a cool place, so plenty of practice ammunition!  In the meantime, I need some pointers!


Larry

Comments

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Larry,


Immediately, I would say please don't be so hard on yourself, as there are some obviously good aspects shown in the picture on the left.


Your lamination technique is clearly very good, as you can see lots of layers, clearly formed in your croissant.   There are no problems here at all.


With regard to forming the croissant shape, I would say allow plenty of rest once you have cut out the triangles, before you try and tease them out ready to roll up.   I would shape the pains au chocolats at this stage, while your triangles get to relax, well-covered.


Anyway, that's a side issue.   I was wondering why your croissants are not baked, as they are distinctly raw at the base?


Re-reading your method, I see you have a long [very long] final proof, then you freeze the finished pieces raw.   Can I venture to suggest this is where your "BIG" problems lie?


I suspect I know why you have chosen this method; do you have a retarder in the bakery where you work and do you store raw finished products in it ready to bake off?   These retarders operate just below freezing, and are ideal for storing product ready to bake off.   I don't think you can expect the same from a domestic freezer.


I am unsure why you gave proof, and very extended proof, to the finished raw products.   No debate for me here; they should be frozen immediately after assembly, no eggwash.   Final proof needs to be once they have been defrosted, and that is when you would eggwash them.   Allow to defrost, then bake.   The proviso here is that you want to freeze them as raw items; this is definitely not my preferred route.


I don't think the bake profile you have used has helped either.   Your oven is not hot enough, and your croissants and pains au chocolats are still frozen when you put them in the oven.   I bake unfrozen croissant at 235*C in a deck oven for c.15mins top heat 7 and bottom heat 5.   No steam needed, and the dasmper stays closed.


Maybe I can point you to thinking why you go to all the trouble of laminating the dough in the first place?   This is what plays the most significant role in aerating your pastries.   But they are yeasted pastries, and your method is not making use of the yeast at all.   A 3 hour final proof, means your yeast will be pretty much exhausted at the point when you freeze your products.   Then you put them straight into a too-moderate oven, still frozen, for the bake-off.


There are lots of schools of thought about how croissants are best enjoyed.   For my money, made and baked totally fresh, with a great cafetiere of coffee is my own preference, for sure.   Andrew Whitley has always said he likes a re-heated frozen croissant best of all.   We'll have to agree to differ on that, although given he has described my croissant as "heretical", because I join up the feet, maybe you'll get the idea of range of differentials here.   That said, re-heating frozen product that has already been proved, in a home environment and using an oven set so moderate will not work, honestly, and with the best will in the world.


I hope you don't mind me being so forward, but this is where your problems lie.


One other point.   Scotch Rough Puff Pastry is a whole different technique for laminating.   The method of incorporating butter you used is definitely known as English, not British.


Larry, if you want any more advice, please give me a shout back, but I hope at least some of this is helpful.


All good wishes


Andy

wally's picture
wally

for the very detailed and thoughtful reply.  I've seen a number of recipes that call for proofing croissants (with eggwash) and then freezing, so I thought I'd give this a try.  But you may be exactly right in that I've exhausted the yeast in the process.  I note that the first time I baked them I only proofed for an hour before freezing and the laminations got a better rise).


What you mentioned about my oven heat really strikes a chord however!  I'm using an insulated cookie sheet to bake them on.  It's designed, obviously, to keep cookies from over-browning on the bottom.  But as you point out, my tops were done nicely, but the raw dough is all at the bottom.  So I think that may be huge.  I will swap that out for a regular cookie sheet the next time I do this bake.


The rationale for freezing has nothing to do with the bakery (we don't have a sheeter and aren't doing croissants).  For me it's strictly a convenience matter - if I can make up a batch of croissants and pains au chocolat and then bake as needed, it makes a lot more sense (I'm a household of one, so unless I restrict my croissant baking to times when I'm having a breakfast party (?), it doesn't make sense to be baking a couple dozen at a time.


I want to try doing this again -- freezing the raw dough.  That being the case, I take it you would freeze immediately after shaping without any proofing at all?  Or would you partially proof?  Would you allow the thawed croissants to come to full room temp, or something less?


(BTW - I like the idea of shaping the pains au chocolat first while the croissant triangles have an opportunity to relax and chill out).


Thanks again and stay tuned! for a reprise.


Best wishes-
Larry

ananda's picture
ananda

Larry, yes I quite understand you wanting to freeze individual raw items.


And it can work; though I'd go with freezing baked items myself, but that's your choice and preference.   So, let's make it work.


Yes, freeze immediately. Yes, allow to thoroughly defrost before any heat treatment.


I know there is a debate about oven temperature for croissants.   I've never really understood why that is.   Bottom heat to give you the all-important lift; top heat for colouration.   I haven't seen your formula, but mine doesn't involve sugar, but does have milk powder plus the egg glaze.   So, over browning is something to avoid.


Maybe run through my blog post one more time, but don't go for extended proof time once you have assembled your croissants/pain au chocolats.   Ideally, the yeasts are already kicking in on account of the very long, multi-staged, cold fermentation.   If you have retarded your dough 24 hours, then we are now 2 days down the line at freezing point.   Three hours at final proof stage is way over the top!


Anything I've left out just give me a shout back


All good wishes


Andy

wally's picture
wally

Andy- Thanks for calling attention to the fact that the dough ALREADY has had a 24 hour proof.  I lost sight of that and shouldn't have.  I'll go with your advice and freeze immediately after shaping next time, and then defrost thoroughly.  I think because I'm used to fully proofing bagels (and sometimes baguettes) before retarding overnight that it seemed natural to do this with freezing vs. retarding.


I see the error of my ways!


Best-


Larry


PS- Actually, the 'lightbulb' that went on in my head is because when we freeze bagels, we do let them proof fully.  However, what I hadn't considered is that they are going into boiling water before into the oven and that is probably critical to the results we're able to obtain.

Chausiubao's picture
Chausiubao

It looks to me like you have issues with having too much flour on the triangles before you roll the croissant shapes. You have distinct layering, yet there are air spaces inside your finished product that are not uniform. I had a similar problem, and it was rectified when I started brushing the excess flour from the triangles before I began rolling them.


Another odd thing about your procedure was the proof before the freeze. I don't think this is a good idea. Not only is your proof long, but you want them proofed right before you get them into the oven, not right before you get them in the freezer. Like Andy was saying, your yeast will be exhausted and won't be able to kick in the oven.


--Chausiubao

wally's picture
wally

Interesting observation Chausiubao.  In fact, when I was rolling the croissants I noticed this and cursed myself for not having turned the dough over and brushed off excess flour from rolling out the dough.  Could be a contributing factor along with the issues Andy raises above.


Thanks for your imput!


Larry

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Larry, thanks to you for posting your croissants that I think also have some great aspects....I've always wondered about freezing the whole pastry...you ventured where some fear to go : )..namely me...learned a lot from your post and Andy's input...thanks to you both for sharing!


Sylvia

wally's picture
wally

The successes are certainly nicer, Sylvia, but sometimes a bust is a great teacher!


Larry

DonD's picture
DonD

Larry, your croissants and pains au chocolat look very good from the exterior but from the look of the cross section, I can see that you have nice and well defined outer layers while the middle layers are shriveled and compacted. I think the culprit is the freezing method that you used. Because the proofed dough was frozen, the heat puffed up and browned the outer layers but did not have time to reach the middle so the center did not rise and collapsed.


A couple years ago, my sister gave me a box of frozen uncooked butter croissants from Williams-Sonoma which were surprisingly good. They were shaped but not proofed and frozen. You have to defrost them first in the refrigerator then proof at room temperature and finally egg wash and bake. I think that if you use this method of freezing, you will end up with puffier and even layering inside.


Don

wally's picture
wally

Don-


I surrender!  Next time around I'll follow the train of advice I've gotten here.  Same question to you as to Andy, however: would you partially proof them before freezing, or freeze immediately after shaping?


Thanks for weighing in!


Larry

DonD's picture
DonD

I would just freeze them right away after shaping.


Don

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Larry


Just interested in your train of thought here:


Why do you think any final proof prior to freezing might be a good idea?


I see you are just after feedback, but intrigued what is taking you down this line of thought.


Best wishes


Andy

wally's picture
wally

See my PS above.  It does work with them, but I suspect there are extenuating circumstances, i.e., boiling before baking and defrosting overnight in the walk-in before boiling.


Best  - Larry

ananda's picture
ananda

Yes; Hi Larry that makes sense.


Absolutely, bagels and croissants don't work the same way.


The lamination process is the key to great croissants.   But you need the yeast to be lively when they go in the oven.   Generally, I'd say croissans are very "forgiving" and they look great when baked.   There are 2 exceptions to this that I can think of: one is excessive final proof, and the other is a slack oven.


You did all the really hard work so well.   I'm sure you can move to producing the fantastic finished item now.


Best of luck


Andy

wally's picture
wally

Andy - I've just taken one croissant and pain au chocolat out of the freezer and transferred to the fridge.  After work I'll preheat my oven and let them come to room temp before baking.  We'll see if all's not lost.  Will post up tomorrow afternoon.  Ah science.....


Best - Larry

ananda's picture
ananda

It's a holiday with us Larry!


Although I'm deeply ensconced in an essay discussing the supply chain for UK milling wheat used in our breadmaking industry.


Submission date, a week tomorrow: Year One of the Masters Degree thus complete...yes!!!!


I need a walk out in our lovely countryside too!


All good wishes


andy

wally's picture
wally

on finishing year 1!  Is it a 2 year program?

wally's picture
wally

OK, so, I defrosted a couple of the croissants and a pain au chocolat in my refrigerator for 24 hours, and then alllowed to sit for about an hour at room temp.


I also used an uninsulated cookie sheet and the bottoms of both browned nicely.


As you can see, the interior of the croissant is markedly improved.  The pain au chocolat, however, looked exactly as yesterday's - a sure sign that the yeast was spent I figure.



This weekend another attempt - this time I'll freeze both after shaping and with no eggwash and share the results.


Larry

DonD's picture
DonD

What a difference, Larry!


I am sure freezing right away after shaping on your next batch, they will turn out perfect. If you want to do the double egg wash, you can apply the first coat after the 24 hour defrost in the fridge and the second coat after room temperature proofing just before baking.


Don

wally's picture
wally

Ah ha!  Thanks Don.  I was wondering when I ought to do the first coat, and your suggestion makes perfect sense.


Larry

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Larry,


Yes, another year to do: this means 2 more modules then a dissertation.


Ground-breaking course, but a slog when you work full time as well.


UK plc in dire straits, meaning education is "in the mire".   General Election on Thursday will make absolutely no difference whatsoever!!!


So where on earth I get the funding for next year, I have no idea.   Begging and grovelling with the College, and hoping it all comes through last minute...just like last year.


How stressful does it get?


I still say the lamination technique in your croissants is very impressive.


I'm not sure eggwash is that significant but immediate freezing is.   I'm struggling to get my head round texts that suggested proving before freezing; it's such bad advice, frankly, and is not worthy of publication.   But, it's great to note you have a positive on learning.


Take care; they'll be perfect next weekend, you see!?


Andy

wally's picture
wally

I know the drill and the funding issues all too well!  Good luck with the B&G you must do.


Larry

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne

I am just starting to try something simular, Bear Claws.


 


I got the idea when we tried  some Chocolate Croissants from Trader Joe's, they  said "Just proof (let rise) overnight & Bake".  We set then out before going to bed on parchement paper (sprayed with pam) and let rise for about 9 hours.  We then brushed them with egg and baked at 350 for 25 minutes.  They were very good.


 


What I am trying is to make a great Bear Claw that are as easy to pull from the freezer and bake as the Trader Joe's.  I'm using the Croissant Recipe from Peter Reinhart's "Atrisan Bread Every Day".  We had them Sunday and they turned out pretty well, there are lot of things I'll try differently next time, this thread has given me some additional ideas.


 


Thanks,


Dwayne

wally's picture
wally

Look forward to seeing some posts of your Bear Claws!


Larry

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne

This is my first attempt at posting pictures and I am finding the editor a bit awkward.


 


Here is my laminated dough all rolled out with a log of Almond paste.  I tried to make the squares 4" x 4", next time I will go with 5x5 or 6x6.


Rolled Out with Almond paste Log


 


Bear Claws all Shaped


Bear Claw all shaped


 


In Zip locked bags ready for the freezer



 


Bake Day.  I took 4 Bear Claws out of the freezer Saturday night and placed on a sheet of parchment paper that I had sprayed with pam.  I then covered them with a dry cleaning bag to proof over night.



 


Baked and Cooling



 


Not the prettiest but the taste was pretty close to what we were after.  I used a whole can of Almond Paste (8 oz) and maybe that was too much.  I'll try 4 oz next time.  While testing for Peter's Book (ABED) one of the testers (Pamala) made her own paste.


 


Well I've got to run. - Dwayne

wally's picture
wally

I think we use the same measuring tape Dwayne :)


Larry