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
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
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):
- Mix dry ingredients well
- Add liquids and mix until well incorporated.
- Knead for 3-4 minutes. Full gluten development is not needed, nor desired. It will happen during the rolling process.
- Form dough into a ball and cut cross on top. Chill in refrigerator for 2-12 hours. The dough will ferment and swell.
- Take 2 sticks of butter (which is slight more than needed) out of the fridge about 1 hour before you take the dough out.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fold over rest of dough and seal, completely enclosing the butter. Repeat following step three times.
- 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.
- Just before the next step, prepare an egg wash by beating one egg with a pinch of salt.
- 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".
- 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").
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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!