a baker's dozen ~ croissants

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This challenge scared the crap out of me.

Could you tell that I'm doing it over a month late?

I was so frightened that it would a colossal failure.

I have no idea why.

It's just a dough, mixed with butter, turned and rolled out a whole bunch of times.

The worst thing that could happen was it wouldn't work, then I would try again.

It was a mind over matter type of thing, because with a lot of time and patience, it worked out fine.

My sister-in-law said something last week on her blog, that really stuck with me.

"I'm in no way a baker.  At all.  But, Jen's blog has inspired me to have fun baking in my kitchen and to not take it so seriously.  It's because of her that I now make my own pizza dough, can make pie crust, and tackle things like cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread.  She's a baking inspiration - that's for sure!"

She's right. I started over thinking it and keeping my expectations too high. At the end of the day, baking is my hobby. I'm not doing it to impress anyone, I'm doing it for me. 

Sometimes I bake macarons, sometimes I bake chocolate chip cookies, sometimes I don't bake at all.

Whatever I do, I need to remember, they're just ingredients. It's just flour, butter, and sugar, not scary monsters.

Enough insight, back to the goods. Croissants. Buttery, flaky, chewy, doughy, croissants. Longest wait time ever, but so worth it. I had a nap between turns. 

If you plan on making this, word to the wise. I started Friday evening, the croissants did not come out of the oven until 5 pm on Saturday evening. Granted there was an overnight rise, but all of Saturday was active time. It's well worth the 2 day project.

[from Fine Cooking & The Kitchn ]

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1 tablespoon plus scant 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 1/4 teaspoon salt

butter layer:
1 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter

egg wash:
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon whole milk

To make the dough, combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Turn mixer up to medium speed and mix for 3 more minutes. You'll hear a slapping sound as the dough slaps the sides of the mixer bowl. Transfer dough to a lightly floured pie plate or dinner plate, dust top of dough with flour and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rest in the fridge overnight.

The next day, start the butter layer. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch slabs. Arrange butter into a 5-6 inch square between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, start lightly pounding and rolling the butter. As the butter slabs start to adhere, use more force. Pound the butter until it's a big, solid, mass. It should be a 7 1/2-inch square. Place in refrigerator until you are ready to use. 

Unwrap the dough and on a lightly floured surface, roll out to about double the size of your butter block. Take the butter out of the fridge, it should be pliable yet cold, if it's not cold enough, put it back into the fridge until it's colder. Unwrap and place butter on one side of the dough and cover with other side of the dough, pressing the seam firmly to seal.

To begin laminating the dough, turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out so it's the same width as your rolling pin and a few inches longer. Fold the top and bottom of the dough into the centre, like a letter. Wrap in plastic or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You have just completed one turn. Repeat this for 5 more times for a total of 6 turns. Remember to rotate the dough 90 degrees each turn, and refrigerate after every 2 turns for at least 30 minutes. After the final turn, refrigerate dough for at least an hour before roll and cutting. Otherwise known as nap time. 

After the hour of chilling, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, slice the dough lengthwise down the middle. Cut each half into 6 - 8 equal triangles, roll each up each triangle, starting at the fat end. Transfer rolls to baking sheets and space them at least 2 inches apart.

Let the croissant rise, uncovered, in a draft free area until they are at least 50% larger in size. This took about 2 hours for me. When they are ready for baking you should be able to see the layers in the cut edges and they will look puffy. 
You could also put the croissants in the fridge at this point overnight and proof them in the morning, but I was so close I didn't want to wait.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the egg yolks and milk and brush each croissant with a thin coating. 
Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway, until the croissant are very brown, flaky, and very light to pick up. My browned very quickly, so don't go far after about 15 minutes. 

Cool croissants mildy and then eat them right away! They are still doughy and delicious straight out of the oven, but can be cooled completely on a wire rack and stored for a day or two. Leftover can be reheated in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes or in the toaster oven.