Sunday, July 22, 2012


Wow!  Three weeks down, and it feels like minutes!


Yes, I know.  I'm posting all of these in one day.  I've been a little busy, but I promise you, this is the last one this week.  This post is the project for today.  Err, yesterday.  Well, okay it's both.  See, the thing about croissant dough... it has to rest overnight under refrigeration.  I waited until early evening yesterday (Saturday) to start, so that meant it was far too late by the time I got the dough in to chill.  But, that's putting the cart before the horse, I think.  Let's start at the beginning!

As always, we're using the Culinary Institute of America test book, and today's recipe is Croissant Dough.  Remembering previous failures and successes, I decided to cut this recipe in half before I even started, so I gathered my ingredients:
  • 2 lb 4 oz Bread Flour
  • 3.5 oz Sugar
  • 0.375 oz Instant Dry Yeast
  • 0.875 oz Salt
  • 24 fl oz Milk
  • 3.5 oz Butter, soft
  • 1 lb 4 oz Butter, cold (For the roll in)

So from here, I start things rolling.  In my mixing bowl, I combine all of the dry ingredients, then I add in the milk and butter.  When everything is just incorporated together, I take the dough from the bowl and put it onto a lightly floured surface where it sits for 2 hours under plastic wrap while it doubles in size.  This dough was incredibly sticky, and I was worried about it sticking to the plastic wrap, so I sprayed a little baking non-stick spray on the plastic wrap before putting it over the dough.

Once the two hours were up, I lined a sheet tray with parchment paper and spread the dough out to fit the shape of the tray.  Then I very tightly wrapped the entire tray in plastic wrap (at this rate, I should buy stock in Glad!) and put it into the refrigerator over night.

Fast forward several hours to today.  Before I do anything else, I need to make the roll-in butter block.  Why?  Okay, let's step away from the physical baking for a moment and explore a touch of the science.  (I think I have it right.)

The primary purpose for the butter block is to incorporate the butter in a way that will cause the dough to rise and be all flaky and layered and oh so tasty.  How does it work?  Well, the butter will be worked into the dough through rolling and folding.  Little pockets of butter here and there.  As they melt, they release steam which causes the dough to puff and rise.  The folding method is what creates the layers.  Combined these two things create yummy, flaky puffiness!  The addition of the yeast is what makes it chewy-flaky rather than crispy-flaky like puff pastry dough.  Clear as mud?

So, back to the baking.  I get out the butter I set aside for the butter block.  The book told me to pound it with a rolling pin until it became pliable enough to shape into a rectangle.  This... did not work for me.  *chuckles*  I tried.  I really did.  Eventually, though, I just squeezed the butter in my hands until I could shape it and slowly built the block into a rectangle.  Then I wrapped it up in, yep you guessed it, plastic wrap.  Into the fridge it went.
Wow... that's a lot of butter!
Not the prettiest butter block
 The time came to pull the two out of the fridge.  The counter was lightly floured, and I practiced my not so graceful skills at balancing awkward objects in order to get the dough out of the pan and onto the counter top without blowing flour everywhere.  Once the dough was placed, I rolled it out to a slightly thinner, larger rectangle.  This gave me space to place the butter block and still seal the dough around it.  That's an important factor.  You don't want the butter to squeeze out between the seams while you're rolling it out.

 I may have rolled out the dough a bit too much... or I may have made the butter block a little too thick.  It was a bit difficult to work with, but I can't be sure if that's because I've never done this before, or because I did something wrong.  A bit of both, I suspect.

So, I folded over the top, sealed the edges and then turned it 90 degrees.  With the long edge parallel to the edge of my work space, I rolled it out again.  The book said 16 x 24 inches, but that's for the full dough.  I was going for a roughly 8 x 12 in rectangle.  Sometimes I think I rolled it out more than that, sometimes less.  Once I reached that benchmark size, though, it was time to fold it.

For the first fold, the book had me do a four-fold.  What that means is I fold it over four times.  The first fold, I take the left side of the dough and fold it past the halfway mark to a point about one third from the right edge.  The next fold, I take the right edge and fold it toward the same place I just folded the left edge.  Now the edges meet!  Yay!  While they're talking and getting to know each other, I take the left side and fold the dough in half.  You will notice that it's not an exact fold to and down the middle.  When you do fold in the middle on the final fold, part of the first, left fold will be on the same side as the right fold.  It's okay; it's supposed to be that way.  All of the folds go in the same way, from left to right, and never from top to bottom.  There's a reason for this, and it has everything to do with the many many layers you create when you fold and roll the dough.

Next, I once again wrap the dough in plastic wrap (seriously, Glad, some stock or a sponsorship would be great!!!  *laughs*), and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  After the timer goes off, I take the dough out, unwrap it, and put it on the counter again--make sure you've lightly floured the surface before hand--placing it 90 degrees from the way it was when you finished the last roll and fold.  Keep the long edge of the dough parallel with the edge of the work station, and you should be fine.  Lightly dust the top of the dough and roll it into a rectangle.  Again, I was shooting for that 8 x 12 in mark.

This time, instead of a four-fold the book had me do a three-fold.  The concept is the same, but slightly different.  Take the left edge and fold it over to about 1/3 the way from the right edge of the dough.  Then take the right edge and fold it over the dough.  You're going to have it meed with the fold on the left side.  Basically, fold it like you would fold a letter going into a business size envelope.  Can you guess the next step?

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (I bet you got it right!) and put it into the fridge for 30 minutes.  Take it out and repeat the process just as you did the last time.  Lightly floured surface, long edge parallel to the counter edge, roll it into 8 x 12 in rectangle, and do a three-fold.  By this point, you'll have folded the dough 4 time, then 3 times, and again 3 times.  Lots of layered goodness!  Wrap it up again, and chill it for at least 30 minutes.  At this point, the dough can be stored up to 2 days in the fridge, or up to 2 months in the freezer.

 I had some issues with my dough.  Technique or instruction can probably fix them, but I was having issues with my butter and dough sticking to the counter as I was rolling it out.  It made for a very messy fold in the end.  I'm hoping that I salvaged it well, but I won't know until they bake.

As you can see, not the neatest of doughs.  I let mine chill for a while, at least one hour, but it might have been a little longer.  Then I pulled it out, cut off a portion and weighed it.  The recipe for 12 croissant rolls calls for 2 lb 4 oz of dough.  So I took my scale, put a plate on it, and zeroed it out.  Then I took a very sharp knife and cut off a little more than 1/3 of the dough I had there.  When I lifted that section away, I was in awe of what I saw.  For just a moment, I was totally stoked with myself.

One way you can tell if you've done anything even remotely right with a dough like this is seeing the cross section.  If you can see the layers, you know you've done well.  When I looked at the cross section of my dough, the layered sections looked just like the picture in my book.  I didn't squeal like I did last weekend, but I did cheer a little and smile pretty wide.  I was home alone, and sadly the cats just don't appreciate my success.  Hopefully you guys will!  Here's what it looked like.

All of those layers, even if they aren't perfectly executed, mean that I did partially get it right.  With time and practice, I bet I could get better at it.

From here, I re-wrapped the portion I wasn't going to use right away, and put it back in the fridge.  Then, again on a lightly floured surface, I rolled out the dough I weighed for this recipe into a rectangle that was roughly 9 x 24 in.  Then I cut a line straight down the middle, parallel to the edge of my counter.  Going from top to bottom, I made two more cuts, dividing the dough into three sections.

Now I have 6 small squares (okay, they were really more like rectangles, but whatever).  Those I cut from corner to corner, making 12 triangles.
I took each triangle and gently stretched them, taking care not to tear them.  With my knife, I cut a small notch, about 3/4in, in the base of the triangle.  Then I rolled them from the base to the tip of the triangles using gentle but steady pressure with my fingertips.  I placed them on a parchment lined sheet tray and curved the ends in toward each other.  Last, I brushed them with egg wash and let them sit for an hour to rise.

After 1 hour, or once they've doubled in size, I brushed them with egg wash again, and put them into an oven preheated to 375 degrees.  The book says bake for 15 minutes or until nicely browned.  My oven is weird.  After 25 minutes, I finally took them out. 

They looked pretty good, and they were definitely puffier than when they went in.  I know I should have waited for it too cool a little before I ripped into it, but I couldn't wait.  As you can see, lots of fluffy layers.  What I didn't capture was the steam rising from it.  And the smell.  I really wish you guys could smell how wonderful the aroma is.  The taste...

Well, if I'm honest, I didn't taste anything at first.  Not really.  Then there was a hint of butter.  Then I put it down for a minute or two and pulled the layers apart, just to see how easy it would be.  They almost melted apart.  When I put one in my mouth, it nearly melted and tasted so good.  So the lesson I learned for myself is that croissants are like Starbucks: you have to let them cool a few minutes before you can actually taste them.

The real test will come in a few hours when my fiance gets home and has one.  I'll let you know what he has to say.


He came home, and he tried them.  And by tried I mean he had 3 in the hour between him coming home and my walking out the door for work.  His verdict?  He said they had good flavor, but were a little dense.  We discussed a few things, and I've come to the conclusion that I think it's because I didn't proof them properly.  Meaning that the hour they're supposed to sit between the first and second egg wash, just before baking, I wasn't able to control the temperature, and they hadn't risen anywhere near enough by the time I put them in the oven.  So in addition to all of the wonderful and yummy treats I'm going to make, we're looking at getting or making our own proofing cabinet.

May I just say that this is one of the millions of infinite (don't judge my inability to do or use math terms properly) reasons I love this man?  No?  Oh, well tough, I just did.  Seriously, he supports this blog so that I can work toward my dream.  And on top of that, it was his idea to make a proofing cabinet so that I can learn properly!

I have plenty of croissant dough left.  If I feel up to it tomorrow (Tuesday, since this Update is happening on Monday, the day after the post was originally made), I might try the chocolate filled ones, but use spreadable Nutella rather than chocolate batons.  MMmmmmmm.... Also, his idea.  Seriously love that man!

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