Friday, October 3, 2014

Three day guide to Croissants

It has been a sad couple of weeks for the baker in me.  I've recently run into a slew of dismally disappointing (yet nevertheless time-consuming) projects.  The worst part?  The dishes look amazing. . .until I actually take a bite, that is.

Example 1: Tomato Tart with Roasted Garlic and Chevre

Doesn't that look mouth-wateringly delicious?  Well, you're just going to have to take my work for it. . . it wasn't.  It had the flavor profile of day old bread.  Sad. . .

                                                                             Example 2: Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

No sadness with this one, just anger.  It doesn't seem right. . . it looks so gooey and cinnabun-y and.  . . and. . .gooey!! And it was. . . dry, and congealed, and, well. . . and, just not worth my time.  The only good thing about it was the time that I didn't have to spend at the gym after not eating it.

There's more, but I won't torture you with more dishes that look amazing and taste awful.

So, hence the hiatus in blog-posts.  I didn't really want to post an enormously long missive about how I did this, and then did that, and then voila! doesn't it look great?! and then, oh yeah, it was actually massively disappointing.  But it's ok, I pulled myself together. . . if at first you don't succeed and all. . . and last weekend I made a batch of (thankfully) beautiful, successful croissants.

This recipe is from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

(by the way, Bouchon Bakery Cookbook: I love you.
You never disappoint me. . . unlike some online recipes which shall remain nameless, see above )

Note: This recipe is very time consuming.  Count on doing something to contribute to this dish on at least 3 consecutive days.

Butter Croissants 
Day 1

Prepare butter block.  Place butter between two sheets of parchment paper and pound into 6 3/4 x 7 1/2 in block.  Work quickly with chilled butter; it will get harder to control as it melts. Wrap and refrigerate.

For the poolish: Mix instant yeast, water, and flour together. The mixture will be wet.  This is your poolish. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours. There should be bubbles and cracks within the mixture when it's ready.

Day 2

Combine flour, yeast, sugar and malt powder in mixer with dough hook.  Mix gently for a few seconds.  Pour  water around poolish to loosen and add to mixing bowl. Add butter and mix.  Sprinkle salt on top of dough and mix until fully combined. Add water sparingly to keep mixture moist.  (The recipe says to not use all the water, but use as needed. . . but I always end up using it all.) Mix for 20 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface (not floured.)  The dough should roughly be in a rounded mass. 

 Pull the dough inferiorly and fold over towards the middle, then do the same superiorly (like you would fold a letter.  Do the same with the right and left side.  Place in greased bowl, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for one hour at room temperature.

Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.  Remove dough ball from bowl and pat into a 10 x 7 1/2 in rectangle, making sure to work any gas bubbles to the edge and then out of the dough. Transfer to the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

Prepare a lightly floured work surface.  Also, prepare your rolling pin.  I cannot stress enough how helpful a heavy (marble) rolling pin is.  I used to use a simple wood pin, and my muscles would ache for days after working with laminated dough.  Seriously, the last time I made croissants, I had a fine tremor in my hands until mid-way through the next week -- I was convinced that I was developing early Parkinson's (not a fun few days.)
Now, with the marble pin, easy-peasy.  If you do use a marble rolling pin, refrigerate -- this has the added benefit of allowing you to roll for longer without heating the butter up within the dough.  

Lightly flour your hands and the rolling pin.  Roll out your dough to a 16 x 7 1/2 in rectangle.  


Lay the butter block on top of the dough so that the long side of the butter lies along the long side of the dough. 

                                                 Fold the short ends together and pinch shut.

 Now, time to use those muscles (at least if you're using a wooden pin.)  Roll across the dough parallel to the seam, to relax the dough.
 Flip so that a short end faces you and roll out perpendicular to the seam into a 22 x 9 in rectangle.  The dough stretches a little on its own because it's so heavy, so to assist in lengthening, it's good to "fluff," meaning to lift the ends in an short up and down fashion, like "fluffing" a cotton sheet, to slowly release the dough from the board, and then to "flip" from rolling the front side to rolling the back side.
Fold like a letter and place the dough back into the sheet pan, with the opening on the right, like a book Freeze for 20 minutes. Repeat the steps above two more times.

For Turn 4, the final turn, roll the dough to 24 x 9 in. Cut in half so you have (2) 12 x 9 in rectangles.

 Look at those layers!!!

Place in a greased sheet pan, with a piece of parchment paper between the dough. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Now (finally) the dough is ready to use.  But if you're anything like me, it's somewhere around 4 pm and you don't want croissants for dinner.  So,  place the dough in the refrigerator until the next morning. (Or you can keep in the freezer for longer and defrost in the refrigerator (tightly wrapped) the night before you want some buttery goodness.

Day 3   
Whenever you are ready to use the dough, remove one sheet from the fridge and roll out (on a lightly floured surface) to 19 x 9 in.  Trim the long edges to 18 in and the short edges only until straight.  Cut into 4 rectangles and then each rectangle into two long triangles. Pull the point of the triangle to make a really long triangle. Tuck the 2 points of the triangle from the short end of the triangle inward, and then roll towards the 3rd point.  (I confess, I roll the scraps too; this recipe is too time-consuming to waste anything.)  

Place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan, tucking the tail of the dough underneath and pushing down slightly on the rolls so they don't unroll in the oven, and brush with an egg wash.  
Repeat until you are out of dough.  

Preheat oven to convection 350 degrees
Proof under a cardboard box for 2 hours. (See why I don't do this all in one day?) 
Brush again with a layer of egg wash.  Lower oven temp to 325 degrees and immediately bake for 35 minutes.
The tops should be golden brown and the middles cooked completely, so you get that satisfying crunch initially, followed by pillowy softness.

And here you have it, the culmination of 3 days of hard work and anticipation. . .

And*** they tasted delectable***. . .

 Enjoy with a creamy cappucino for best results!

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