Here I am, two and a half hours before the challenge deadline starting my write up while my croissants are in their last few minutes of proofing as the oven preheats to it’s scorching temperature of 475 degrees F. I will admit right up front that I did get a bit frustrated with this experience toward the end. I have no idea what my croissants are going to look like in 7 minutes when they come out of the oven. There is definitely a smell of cooked egg wafting through the air right now as the countdown continues on.
I would consider myself an experienced bread and pastry maker, but I really bristle when a recipe tells me to roll an item out to a certain shape or size. Really, how many people can get it to the size the recipe calls for let alone the shape? I don’t know about you, but my dough seems to have a mind of its own when it is sitting on my counter resisting my methods of carefully shaping and measuring. That being said, a few of my croissants are less like croissants and more like little puff pastry footballs and crescent moons and dolphins jumping out of the water.
Can I get a drumroll, please, as these come out of the oven? The bottoms smell a bit toasty. Burned or is it just the egg wash around the edges and on the pan? They are a little dark but the burnt taste is not there so that’s a sigh of relief. And to the most important question: how do they taste? Great! They are light and flaky with just a hint of buttery flavor. I think I can count this challenge as a success, even though the dough rolling had me glaring at my rulers and uncooperative dough. Enjoy!
Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck
1¼ teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (less than 100°F)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup milk
1½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 3/4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons tasteless oil
½ cup chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
Mix the yeast, warm water, and one teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.
Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let it rest a minute. Knead the dough eight to ten times only by smacking the dough on the counter and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towl. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.
After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches. Fold the dough rectangle in thirds, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up). Place the dough letter back in the bowl, cover with the plastic wrap and towel. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.)
Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little until it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches. Remove the butter from the board and place it on the dough rectangle, spreading the butter across two-thirds of the rectangle but keeping it a ¼ inch from all the edges.
Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). Roll out the dough (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter. Tap the dough with the rolling pin to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes. Roll the dough out until it is 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three, as before. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).
Lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on a lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out to a 20 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into half which will yield two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches ). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge to keep the butter cold.
Roll the rectangle to a 15 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches). Place two of the squares in the fridge. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime so roll it out again until it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in all. Leave the tray of croissants on the counter, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops are browned nicely. Take the croissants out of the oven and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.