Who doesn't love a golden brown and delicious, flaky, buttery pastry? Maybe if you're in line for the next heart attack, it isn't the best, but this recipe from Le Cordon Bleu's Professional Baking book really did turn out pretty amazing. This was a first try at any of the recipes out of this book, after I've studied it for the past few months. Not so bad!
The daunting thing about croissants from scratch, is the fact that it is a laminated dough - meaning that the butter is rolled between layers of dough and then everything is rolled together over and over. The yeast helps with rise and flavour, but the bulk of the rise comes from the water evaporating from the butter, separating the layers of dough. This isn't so hard if you have the butter and dough at the right (and same) temperature (I think somewhere right around 60-65F where the butter isn't so cold it's stiff, but not so warm that it's going to ooze and melt).
Last time I attempted croissants, it was a big FAIL. My apt didn't allow air conditioning (miserable place, don't go there) and my work table was a folding table (wobbly and in danger of falling over if you blew on it). Not ideal work conditions. This time, however, working on my new butcher block and in lovely cool temperatures, it turned out wonderfully! Fwiw, even if you think it's going to be bad, press on and go for the goal. I thought these were going to be completely wrong, worried endlessly that the dough and butter had simply fused together into one layer and that there wouldn't be any flakes, but lo and behold, layers upon layers of flaky golden goodness!
Croissants (and Pain au Chocolat)
from Le Cordon Bleu's Professional Baking
8 oz milk (by weight)
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 oz sugar
1/4 oz salt
1 1/2 oz butter, softened, plus 8 oz butter, cold
14 oz bread flour
2 day process
2 baking sheets, ~15-20 items, depending on size
Scald the milk (heat until small bubbles form around the edges so that the heat can denature the enzymes) and let cool until lukewarm. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the 1 1/2 oz butter and start the mixer. With the motor running, pour in the milk and mix into a smooth dough, but do not try to develop the gluten. Rolling in the remaining 8 oz butter will develop plenty of gluten.
Move this into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature until doubled ~1-1.5 hours. While the dough is rising, go ahead and take out the butter so it can sit for about 30 mins at room temp before you start to try to shape it. Lightly degas (you don't actually have to punch it) and spread out onto a sheet pan and rest in refrigerator for 30 mins.
While the dough is resting, put the butter on a lightly floured surface and roll them together to form a smooth rectangle, about 8x10". I like to roll mine between sheets of plastic wrap so it is easy to move around.
When the dough has cooled down to about 60 degrees (about same temp as butter), roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 10x15". I use my rectangular board as a guideline (it's about 12x16") but use whatever is handy. Place the butter rectangle on the dough so that it covers the bottom two thirds of the dough (think vertically here) and there is a small edge of unbuttered dough all the way around. Fold the top (unbuttered) third down so that it covers the middle section, and then fold the bottom third over that so that you have a tri-fold letter shape. Press the edges together to seam the dough closed so the butter stays in.
Turn 1: turn the dough 90 degrees so that the short end faces you, ie line it up with your board again, long side to long side. Quickly roll the dough back out into a 10x15" rectangle and fold the top third down over the middle, then the bottom third up to tri-fold into a letter shape again. Press a finger into the bottom right corner of the dough to indicate 1 turn complete. Cover and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 mins to relax the gluten and cool the dough back down. (If you are doing this on a chilled marble slab, you might be able to get 2 turns in before having to rest.)
Do 2 more turns the same way, chilling the dough in between turns, and always turning the worse looking side up. You can continue to lightly flour the dough if needed, and if you accidentally rip the dough, patch it with flour so the butter doesn't continue to leak through.
After 3 turns, let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight.
Next day: Let the dough sit on the counter for about 1 hour to take the chill off before you begin to shape.
Croissants: Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10" wide and about 1/8 inch thick. Length will depend on how much dough you have. You may roll the dough out to the size of your board, then slice in half so you can work with one half at a time. When slicing, remember to pull towards your body in one clean motion so you don't press down all the layers you just worked so hard to make.
Cut the rectangle into triangles (you can cut into rectangles and then cut diagonally) and place a triangle on the space in front of you, point facing you. Stretch the top corners of the triangle slightly out (L and R) and begin rolling down the triangle towards the point. Finish rolling and curve the ends of the roll up towards where you first began (away from you). Place on parchment lined sheet pan.
Pains au Chocolat: In a small bowl, beat one egg with a tablespoon of water or milk for an egg wash. Roll dough into rectangle as for croisasnts, but cut into rectangles of desired size (mine were about 4x5" and plenty big). Put a tablespoon or so of semi-sweet chips, or a thin bar of baking chocolate, in the bottom third of the rectangle. Brush egg wash along the top edge of the rectangle. Roll the dough from the bottom edge up, completely enclosing the chocolate in dough and finishing with the egg-washed seam. Press down slightly to flatten and completely close the seam on the bottom. Place on parchment lined sheet pan.
Lightly spray the items with oil and cover with plastic wrap so they can proof for about 30 mins. Preheat your oven while they are rising. Right before putting into the oven, brush them with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired. Bake in 400F oven for approximately 15-20 mins.