It’s 8 am and I am on a mission. Create uncharred, unsoggy croissants. Time to pull out my notes from my crash course from Liz. But let me warn you before I bring you on this journey with me. Your whole house is about to smell like butter.
If you can’t read that, here is the basic blue print of croissants, which I’ll outline again with the recipe at the end of this process. First you make the preferment, let it rise, then mix the preferment in with the rest of the dough ingredients to create the dough. Let the dough relax, then roll out the dough into a big long rectangle. Coat two thirds of the dough rectangle with softened butter, and fold like an envelope, to wrap the butter up in dough. Then roll it out again, and again. Then once more. This fourth time cut the dough into triangles, and shape the croissants. From there, let the dough rise in a humid but cool place until they’re “noticeably puffy,” whatever that really means. Then you just brush with an egg and cream wash and bake.
Simple enough right? Wrong. The potential for disaster in this one recipe is huge. As I have mentioned before, it’s a five page long recipe. At least for the first parts, I have some pictures from my lesson with Liz that I can compare it to, every step of the way.
So it’s 9 am on Monday morning. I survey my absolute mess of a kitchen. Oh my goodness I don’t think there is a single clean cooking tool in my entire kitchen after the brunch this weekend, and Ayi isn’t meant to come clean up for another 8 hours. What’s a girl to do? She washes her own dishes, or at least enough of them to get through the dough prep.
I warm my milk to 80F, whisk in 4 tsp yeast, and once it is dissolved, add 1 1/4 cups of flour. This is what I end up with: (
Close enough to what Liz showed me, right? Well now to paint your nails or read a magazine, or watch a movie, because you have 2 hours until your preferment is finished doubling in volume. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
11 am on Monday morning and I take a sip of my tea while staring down my foe, the preferment. Time to do battle. This is what it looks like, and I’m in luck because it matches what Liz made in my little tutorial. She said that if my preferment didn’t look like hers, I might as well start over because there was no real fixing it. But no pressure.
Thank goodness, that’s a relief. Now onto the dough. Well uh-oh here’s another chance to mess it up. Both Liz and Tartine are very very specific that you should not over mix this dough. In fact, to avoid over mixing, both of my croissant experts have recommended to rest the dough between 15 and 20 minutes while you’re putting the dough together. Based on Liz’s instructions and not Tartine’s, I stopped mixing the dough together when it was still clumpy and not all the way mixed together. This is what it looked like. Feel free to go off of Liz’s picture in my last post as opposed to mine, but that’s what I was shooting for.
Go make yourself a sandwich and devour it. If you’re like me, over the kitchen sink while you nervously eye your croissant dough. After you’ve finished eating your lunch, begin to mix the dough for no more than 4 minutes. You want a smooth an elastic dough, but you don’t want the gluten to start forming at this point. Remember, in total, we’ll roll this dough out four times, so the gluten has plenty of chance to develop along the way. The tougher the dough, the tougher the croissant, and the faster it will go stale. Again. No pressure.
Less than four minutes later, even if the dough isn’t perfectly smooth, cover the whole thing with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a cool place until the volume increases by half, about an hour and a half. Pat the risen dough into a rectangle about two inches thick and slide into a plastic bag. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
Think ahead. About an hour before you’re ready to pull your dough out of the fridge, pull five sticks of unsalted butter out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Don’t try to microwave your butter. Just don’t. Not even if your house is so cold the butter’s “room temperature” is just like it was in the fridge. But just in case you did, stick it in the fridge, until it sets up a little more.
Now that your butter isn’t an absolute mess, pull out your dough, and on a floured surface with a lot of space, roll it out. I read somewhere once that you should always roll dough away from your body, but frankly, I can’t imagine being able to ready 28 inches away with all the force I’d need to roll this dough out into the necessary 12 inch by 28 inch rectangle. So what I do is stand sideways at my kitchen counter and try to exert as much force as possible from that position. I swear it’s a workout.
Liz says that her favorite type of dough is the type that practically rolls itself out, or at least only takes a few quick swipes with the rolling pin before achieving that perfect rectangle. Mine was so not ever destined to be perfect. It was pretty close, on the first turn. I rolled it out the first time and it looked just like it was supposed to look. No big pock marks, no tearing, but pretty. I slathered on the 5 sticks of creamed unsalted butter on two thirds of the dough, and then folded the unbuttered third over the middle third, and the other third back over top the middle. Just like Liz showed me she has starting doing, I pinched the sides of the dough so that the butter wouldn’t seep out when I rolled the dough again. Everything was going to plan.
Rolling it out the second time was much more laborious. I thought I remembered it getting easier, and it started to worry me a bit, but there’s nothing to do about it at this point. Having turned the dough a quarter turn, I rolled it out once again, and folded it into the same shape.
Back into the fridge to wait for 2 hours before making the final turn. Turn it so the open sides will be the short end, and then roll that thing out for one more 28 by 12 inch rectangle before folding it up again. Into the fridge for the night (or into the freezer for up to a week. Just remember to put it in the fridge the night before you want croissants so it thaws)
Wake up super early. Roll the dough out one last time, and using a chefs knife or pizza cutter, cut the big rectangle into smaller 4 inch by 12 inch rectangles, and then half them, from corner to corner so that they form triangles. Roll up your beautiful pastry into a croissant shape, tucking the point underneath the croissant so it won’t uncoil while it bakes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then let the croissants puff up in a humid yet cool place (try an oven, with a steaming bath of water placed underneath) for 2 hours. Brush an egg wash over the top, and let it dry for 10 minutes, before baking in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through if your oven bakes unevenly.
By now you’re beginning to understand what I meant when I said the whole house would smell like butter. I pulled these gorgeous croissants out of the oven at noon on Wednesday, broke one open and immedialely swooned. Two bites and I was so sold. This was better than any store bought croissant I had ever had.
I’d planned to have Walker come home during lunch to enjoy them but unfortunately he was really busy at work today. So I wrapped one of these beauties up, put it in my purse, leashed the dog and started walking the 2 km to Walker’s office so he could enjoy a warm croissant.
I met up with Walker at his favorite sandwich shop waiting with a friend for his order to come up. They split the croissant which steamed in the cold air when they opened it. I had made it in time for them to enjoy a croissant fresh out of the oven. Walker seemed to love it, and his friend who had once worked in a patisserie said that it was just as good as the croissants done there. I think they were a success!