Croissants: a new quest
I've made croissants before now, twice: once during a King Arthur baking class, and, shortly after, at home, a bit more than two years ago. I was nominally satisfied with both attempts, but in that same time frame my focus was elsewhere: sourdough and baguettes. With due humility I've been satisfied with my consistent successes with both baguettes, and a handful of sourdough formulae that I've felt the urge to try a new challenge: croissants--high on my "enjoy eating" list.
While studying the subject, and formulating an approach, I frequently reminded myself that it took nearly three years to reach satisfaction with my sourdoughs, and more than two in regard to baguettes. And I'm still learning. Nonetheless, it's time to stretch.
Over that last two days I've begun a new goal: consistently produce satisfactory croissants. Satisfactory means good flavor, wonderfully flaky crumb, and eye appeal, in that order. Examining those criteria I decided flaky crumb, i.e., building properly laminated dough was, initially the most challenging. My thinking was flavor was determined by ingredients, and relatively passive techniques: fermentation; poolish or natural levain vs. straight dough; and quality of ingredients. Eye appeal is primarily manual techniques, which equates to practice, practice, practice. For my first "real" home attempt at croissants I decided to focus intensely on dough lamination.
I used a straight dough formula--the same formula used in the KA classroom, a straight dough, with two modifications. Guided by Michael Saus' Advanced Bread and Pastry: a professional approach, I lowered the baking temperature to 385°F. I found the KA and SFBI straight dough formulae differed only in 2% hydration and malt powder, and baking temperature. I opted for the lower, SFBI, temperature. Additonally, I added malt powder to the mix, ala SFBI. I also used osmotolerent yeast prescribed by SFBI, although neither the sugar nor fat content in the dough demand its use.
Results: I made four basic croissants and two pain au chocolat. One can see I need practice, practice, practice.
Crumb. I had intial difficulty with the lamination. During the first turn the dough tore, and exposed the butter layer in a small area. I attribute the mistake to too much aggression rolling the first turn. Despite the dough's wound, I contined doing two more turns as prescribed.
Needless to say, I'm satisfied with the crumb, although we did find a "doughy" spot in one croissant. I'm fairly sure it was caused by the dough rupture mentioned.
Flavorwise, I'm statisfied; more importantly, so is my wife. I used KA AP flour, and Vermont Creamery cultured butter: the primary flavor contributors.
Next effort, will include the same ingredients and techniques, but will incorporate a poolish ala SFBI's formula.