Today's bake feels like forbidden knowledge.
No really. It's the sort of thing I feel like I shouldn't know how to make. Because if I can make croissants any time I want - with a TEENSY bit of pre-planning (12 to 17 hours of it) - then I'm fucked.
Kidding. Mostly. But it is still dangerous to know that if I want croissants, I can have croissants.
They didn't turn out looking pretty or especially croissant-like, but the texture was correct and they were fucking delicious. I also made pain au chocolat. Which is effectively a croissant with chocolate in it. Yeah. It was incredible.
Andrew said one of his coworkers made the comment that "Even a mediocre homemade croissant is still sublime." I have to agree.
The croissant is one of those things that seems really difficult because it takes time and it's fiddly. I've always felt like homemade croissants were out of my reach rather than actually doable. But here we are. Homemade croissants are a thing I can 100% do and get to a point of perfection if I make them frequently enough.
I made 14 total items. 10 croissants and 4 pain au chocolat. I had every intention of some of those going to friends. They did not make it out of my house. Whoops.
The only episode on Netflix that croissants have featured in is episode 10 of the very first season on Netflix, aka Series 5 in the UK. Croissants themselves were not the feature. The signature bake for the episode was "viennoiseries". This includes a range of items baked goods that croissants are included among. They are technically a form of pâtisserie - a very specific form.
Viennoiseries (literal translation: "things of Vienna") are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough. Unlike bread or puff pastry, however, viennoiseries are enriched with extra ingredients to give them a richer, sweeter flavor (things like milk, sugar, eggs, cream). Viennoiseries often have a laminated dough - but not always. Brioche is a viennoiserie, for example.
If you have ever watched GBBO and wondered what the ever living fuck laminated dough is, allow me to explain. Laminated dough is created by forming very thing layers of butter between layers of dough. When you put all of these very thin layer of dough and butter into the oven and bake them, the water content in the butter evaporates - creating beautiful flaky layers and effectively "frying" the dough in butter even though you're baking it.
It's creates a heavenly baked good and frankly if you disagree with me then I don't know how to look at you the same anymore.
Finding a good croissant recipe was surprising difficult. I am trying to stick with recipes created by the contests or by the judges for this project. There are a few sites with Paul Hollywood's croissant recipe, but I was trying to find one that had some of his tips for getting a really proper croissant.
Fortunately, The Telegraph had an article written by Hollywood himself with everything I was looking for. As a head's up, you may get hit with a paywall depending on the browser and device you use to access the article. I don't get the paywall on my computer, but I do on my phone.
Now. On to the real fun. Recipe and Method.
1) Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the water and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes. The dough should be fairly stiff.
2) Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball. Dust with flour, put into a clean plastic bag and chill in the fridge for an hour.
3) On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to a rectangle, about 60 x 20cm; it should be about 1cm thick. Flatten the butter to a rectangle, about 40 x 19cm, by bashing it with a rolling pin. Put the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of the dough. Make sure it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.
4) Fold the exposed dough at the top down over one third of the butter. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on top of the dough you have just folded down.
5) Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back into the plastic bag and chill in the fridge for an hour to harden the butter.
6) Take the dough out of the bag and put it on the lightly floured work surface with the short end towards you. Roll into a rectangle, about 60 x 20cm, as before. This time fold up one-third of the dough and then fold the top third down on top to make a neat square.
7) This is called a single turn. Put the dough back into the plastic bag and chill for another hour. Repeat this stage twice more, putting the dough back into the fridge for an hour between turns.
8) Your dough now needs to be left in the fridge for eight hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly.
9) When you are ready to shape the croissants, line two or three baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.
10) Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a rectangle, a little more than 42cm long and 30cm wide; it should be about 7mm thick. Trim the edges to neaten them.
11) Cut the rectangle lengthways into two strips, then cut triangles along the length of each strip; these should be 12cm wide at the base and about 15cm high (from the middle of the base to the tip). Once you have cut the first triangle, you can use it as a template for the rest. You should get six triangles from each strip.
12) Before rolling, hold down the wide base of the triangle and gently tug the opposite thin end to cause a slight tension in the dough. Now starting at the thick end of each triangle, roll it up into a croissant. You will have 12 medium-sized croissants. For a traditional crescent shape, turn the ends in towards each other slightly.
Making croissants proved not to be overly difficult for me. It's fiddly work. It's time consuming. You are actively working the dough once every hour or so. And you get to do that 3 or 4 times! But the reality is that it's not especially taxing - especially if you're planning to be hanging out at home for a couple of days. ;)
Some things I know I can improve the next time I do it:
Knead the dough a bit longer. I think it could be smoother and more elastic. I got nervous about over-kneading it and also generally just happened to be impatient.
Keep the house colder. I found that my butter kept softening up way too fast. This led to less defined lamination in my dough and some butter leaking out of the croissants (not a lot). Next time I'll probably crank the AC and do a better job of keeping my hands cold and the butter cold.
Get a better rolling pin and use my dining table as a work space to get the dough rolled out as thin as it truly needs to be.
I think if I do these things I'll probably wind up with croissants that look more like croissants rather than semi-laminated bread blobs.
Overall, it was great. My croissants were light and fluffy and delicious. And we definitely ate too many of them, enjoying the greasy buttery feeling on our fingers.
But look at this fluffy interior: