It was another baking day with Jen and Kevin. This time, our friend Ingrid joined us. The mission was to each make a different croissant recipe, then bake, taste and compare the differences. I know, I know — it was a chore, but we had to compare each for flavor and texture.
Kevin, Mr. Overachiever, actually took on two recipes from Le Cordon Bleu (LCB). To quote Kevin’s email, “So, I am reading my recettes from LCB. Glad I am reading today! Recette says to mix flour, milk, water, sugar, salt, yeast, stir, not mix too much. Sit on counter for ~ 1 hr then cover and overnight in fridge! So tomorrow will be the pounding and turns!”
40 g salt
1.2 kg butter
“Interesting, the recette from the La Boulangerie traditionnelle recette includes milk. The pate a croissants recette from the month long class has no milk.”
25 g salt
30 g yeast
580 ml water
600 g butter
“Are you guys using recettes with or without milk?” Jen and I also used milk in our recipes. According to several recipes, milk assists in the browning of the crescents.
Jen tested Shirley Corriher’s recipe from Bakewise and I tasted Jacques Torres’ recipe from Dessert Circus. Here’s what we learned.
Kevin found out that fresh compressed yeast does not equal by weigh dry yeast. Therefore, he used 3 times as much yeast as was stated in the recipe. For anyone who is interested, 1 ounce of fresh compressed yeast equals 1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 teaspoons of dry yeast (such as Red Star).
Jen realized that if you follow Ms. Corriher’s recipe to the letter, one ends up adding too much oil and water as the dough is being rolled out. Therefore, Jen gave up on that idea after the first fold. Also, for the amount of flour that she used in her recipe, the butter was increased by 4 ounces as compared to my recipe.
I discovered that one does not have to add any flour to the butter before spreading it on the dough for which some recipes call. Also, there is a fine line between the dough and butter being too soft and just right for rolling and making the first fold without refrigerating beforehand. For the first batch I was able to roll out and fold, then refrigerate. The second batch got a little dicey, for when I started rolling it out the butter began oozing out the ends. Instead of fighting with it, I just stopped and put in the fridge to continue the next morning.
Also, when making Pain au Chocolat, be sure and use 2 if not 3 chocolate batons. The more chocolate the better, in my book!
Now comes the best part. As expected, Kevin’s recipe rose the highest, but surprisingly, were not very yeasty tasting. He would cut back probably 1/3 of the yeast the next time. Jen’s recipe called for the most butter and most number of turns — 6 single turns (letter folds) with resting in between each fold. Consequently, hers were the most flaky and buttery. Mine were a little less flaky and buttery, due to using less butter and did 1 single turn and 3 double turns (book folds).
All in all, it was a successful day. Making croissants is not as difficult as recipes profess. They just take patience and knowing when to take a break before proceeding, for example; 1) if the butter starts seeping out, refrigerate. or 2) if the dough springs back when attempting to roll out, stop and let the dough rest.
To serve croissants for breakfast (okay, brunch), start the day prior. Then give yourself four hours before you want to serve them.
Croissants and Pain au Chocolat
Recipe adapted from one by Jacques Torres
Use a stand mixer for this recipe. Most hand-held mixers will not hold up to the strength of this dough.
For the dough:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Scant ¼ cup loosely packed fresh compressed yeast (I used 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast)
Generous ½ cup cold water
3 1/3 cups (500 grams) bread flour, plus extra if needed (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Generous ½ cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
For the pain au chocolat:
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
For the egg wash:
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
Scant ¼ cup whole milk
1. Prepare the dough: Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature. It should be warm to the touch.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the cold water. Place the flour, salt, sugar, milk, and melted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set the mixer on medium speed and mix just until the ingredients are dispersed, about 5 seconds.
3. Add the dissolved yeast and beat on medium-high speed until the dough is well combined and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. If the dough is too soft, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is firmer. (The dough is too soft when it cannot hold its shape.) If the dough is too hard, add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until it has softened. (The dough is too hard when it is difficult to mix in the mixer.)
4. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. If the dough is slightly sticky and ropy, knead it with your hands for about 30 seconds, until it is smooth. Pat it into a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
5. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to an 8 by 15-inch rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Wrap the rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. The cold retards the rising process, allowing a slow fermentation to help develop the flavor of the dough.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap the rectangle, and place it with a long side facing you on a lightly floured work surface. Spread the softened butter evenly over the right two thirds of the dough. Incorporate the butter by folding the (butterless) left third of the dough over the center, Then fold the right third of the dough to the left, to resemble a folded letter. Roll this out into another 10 by 30-inch rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Using a dry pastry brush, remove any flour that may be on the dough from rolling out. Fold each short end of the dough to the middle so they meet but do not overlap. Then fold one half over the other half and, if necessary, rotate the dough so that the seam is on your right (this is a book fold). Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a 10 by 30-inch rectangle and turn it so a long side faces you. Give the dough a single fold by folding the left third of the dough over the center, then fold the right third of the dough to the left. Now the dough should resemble a folded letter. (I did a book fold here, then repeated the process for a total of 3 book folds.) Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a 10 by 36-inch rectangle about ¼ inches thick. Keep the thickness even and the edges straight. This will make it easier to cut the croissants or pain au chocolat.
9. For croissants: Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut out triangles with a 2 ½ inch base and 10-inch sides. Lay each triangle on a lightly floured work surface with the tip facing you. Gently pull the tip toward you; this light stretch adds layers to the finished croissant without adding density. Use the palms of your hands to roll each triangle up from the base to the tip. (At this stage, they can be frozen for up to 1 week if well wrapped in plastic wrap. Thaw on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
10. Place the rolled croissants on a parchment covered baking sheet; spaced about 2 inches apart. Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap. Allow the croissants to proof at room temperature until they have doubled in size and appear light and full of air; about 1 ½ to 3 hours depending on the temperature of the room and of the dough.
11. For pain au chocolat: With a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 3 ½ by 4 ½ -inch rectangles. Lay each rectangle on a lightly floured work surface, with a long side facing you, and place about ½ tablespoon of the chopped chocolate in the upper third of each one. (I used 2 chocolate batons.) Fold that third of the dough over the chocolate. Place about another ½ tablespoon of the chocolate along one seam of the folded dough. Fold the bottom third of the dough over the chocolate. (At this stage, they can be frozen for up to 1 week if well wrapped in plastic wrap. Thaw on a parchment covered baking sheet overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
12. Turn over the pain au chocolat so the seams face down. This will keep them from opening as they bake. Place them on a parchment covered baking sheet; spaced about 2 inches apart. Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow the pain au chocolat to proof at room temperature until they have doubled in size and appear light and full of air, about 1 ½ to 3 hours.
13. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
14. Make an egg wash by whisking together the egg yolks, whole egg, and milk in a small bowl until well combined. With a pastry brush, very gently coat the pastries completely with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
15. Leftovers can be stored in the freezer if well wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 weeks. Thaw at room temperature and warm in the oven before serving.