The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!
Well! Croissants! I have to say that, while I enjoyed the challenge (during the parts when I wasn’t stressed out of my mind, of course), and I’m really glad to have made them successfully, I will almost certainly never make croissants again. At least, not until I’m independently wealthy and live in a lovely cottage with a farmhouse kitchen and have nothing to do all day every day except bake and do crosswords. Until then, I just don’t have enough time to devote to making something so time consuming.
The recipe we had to follow was beautifully, reassuringly clear and basically held my hand all the way along to make sure I got it right. It was, though, a long haul for me. There were two points where you could let the dough rest in the fridge overnight, and I used the first but not the second. I think this was a bit of a mistake – using both would have made the process seem less lengthy, perhaps. I’ve massively simplified the process here, to give you an idea of how it goes:
- form dough
- let rise for three hours
- roll out and fold dough
- let rise for an hour and a half, or overnight in the fridge
- roll out, add butter and fold dough
- let sit for two hours
- roll and fold again
- let sit for two hours (or overnight in the fridge)
- roll and shape into croissants (a deceptively simple instruction…)
- let rise for an hour
That’s a lot of rolling, folding and rising or resting, I think you’ll agree. I didn’t have any real trouble with the recipe, though, until it came to shaping the croissants. I’d used a very strong flour, which meant that the dough was very elastic (because of all the gluten). This also meant that getting it to stretch into a triangle shape and *stay* in a triangle shape was extremely tricky and stress inducing. I did finally manage to get them rolled up but, as you can see in the slideshow above, the results were varied. Some looked really good and others were somewhat lumpen and unlovely. I later saw from some other Daring Bakers’ photos that they had rolled the dough into a long rectangle and then cut it into triangles, kind of like a pennant, so that the triangle shapes were really perfect and easier to roll. Great idea, guys!
The other change I made to the recipe as stated was to flatten out the butter into a block, using the wrapper as a template. This meant that I could just turn it over and, in theory, peel off the wrapper again, rather than flattening it out on the work surface and then scraping the butter off again. It worked pretty well on the whole, and I was pleased with myself. I know in the States butter isn’t sold in the same packaging as it is here in the UK, so it’s not a practcal tip for everyone, but maybe greaseproof paper would work?
The total bake time for the croissants was 12 – 15 minutes. I decided to bake them for 6, then rotate the sheets and swap them around, top to bottom, so that they’d bake evenly. When I went into the kitchen after six minutes, instead of the lovely buttery smell I’d been led to expect, I could smell what can only be described as burning. Hm. I opened the oven. The bottom tray of croissants, which had been lined with greaseproof paper, was kindling its way to bursting into flames. In order to avoid this, I tried to remove the top shelf in order to swap them over. In my haste, I tipped the top sheet up, simultaneously dipping the greaseproof paper and, in fact, dropping a whole croissant into the flame at the back of the oven. Nice. Then there were flames, real flames, and smoke, and those tiny bits of black ash that get up in your face like fruit flies and exacerbate the whole affair. And me shouting a bad word. And the G man coming through quite casually to ask if I’d shouted on him, and on seeing my predicament fetching me a rack to put one tray down on and fishing out the croissant from the back of the over with a set of tongs while I did it. So a few of the croissants were write-offs, right there. This did not improve my stress levels, I can tell you.
Once we’d overcome this setback, I left the croissants in for a further six minutes, and when I took them out they had a lovely pale golden colour. Unfortunately they weren’t really baked through and were very doughy and chewy in the centre. Here are a couple of pic to illustrate the results:
I then put the croissants *back* into the oven at a slightly lower temperature for an extra ten minutes. This resulted in some much darker croissants with extremely flaky and dry exteriors but nicely sot and bready insides, as follows:
In summary, I don’t think I turned out completely perfect croissants but they did look reasonable and they tasted pretty reasonable, too. Croissants have never been my favourite thing, I remembered shortly after embarking on day two of the epic baking process, so I would have been surprised if I’d been really blown away by them. They were enjoyable, and made a nice (if small) sandwich with some fancy cheese and ham. I wouldn’t rush to make them again, like I said, but I’m glad to have made them. The fire wasn’t *so* bad, in hindsight… Here’s to the next DB challenge!
UPDATE: Here is a link to a PDF file that will give you all the ingredients, instructions and some excellent step by step photos, should you want to get a bit daring yourelf!