Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Knead to Bake # 2 - Classic croissants

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Original version of the recipe on Fine Cooking

Aparna's post on her blog My Diverse Kitchen

Let's get one thing clear from the start - making croissants was not my first choice, nor even my hundredth choice. In fact, it didn't even figure as a fleeting choice on my "would like to try" list. But I made them. I made them because it was the recipe for February in the "We Knead to Bake" challenge. There is no way that I would have tried this otherwise, none. I cannot stress that enough. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the three-day process so much that I wanted to do it all over gain... I COULD say it, but it would be a big fat lie.

Do you think this might be a bit of a negativity overkill?

Ok, to be fair, I'm glad I tried the recipe. Glad that Aparna made me go way outside my comfort zone (it took me a week to make my way back - ha ha). Glad that I know how much hard work goes into making the flaky, buttery, delicious croissants that I love. Glad that there are bakeries and cafes where I can walk in and simply buy a croissant. And, most of all, glad that faced up to my croissant demon... and if I didn't quite vanquish it, at least I can say truthfully that I didn't just give up.

My croissants were reasonably good, more than edible (jeez, all that butter - why WOULDN'T they be tasty!), and the ones with chopped chocolate filling were actually extremely moreish. I only did a few of those, though, perhaps about 4. The rest were plain croissants. While Pete liked them, and so did I, I just felt that the end result was not good enough for the effort that went into making them. I guess I'm just being picky, and I guess that's because I do love a well-made, fresh, flaky croissant.

I think I need a tame croissant baker who would be at my beck and call for baked goods. Any takers?

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Recipe for: Classic croissants


For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, and a little more for dusting/ rolling out dough
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cold water
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cold milk (I used 2%)
1/8 cup granulated sugar
20gm soft unsalted butter (1.5 tbsp)
1/2 tbsp plus scant 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt

For the butter layer:
125 gm cold unsalted butter
Or 1 egg for egg wash
Finely chopped dark or plain chocolate for filling (optional)


Day 1 - Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand.
Mix everything on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate. And place the ball of dough on this.
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2 - Make the butter layer
The next day, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10” squares each. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough.

Laminate the dough
Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour. Take the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable. If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. This so that when you roll out the dough with the butter in ti, neither should it be soft enough to melt, or hard enough to break. Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the centre, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed. Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3 - Divide the dough
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
“Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour.
Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.
Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight. Cut the dough into equal sized triangles, marking them off first if you prefer, before cutting.

Shape the croissants
Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 6” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.
Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. This is the time to add your filling, if you're using any. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.

Proof the croissants
Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof. The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.

Bake the croissants
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven. Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.
Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks.
Serve warm. This recipe makes 10 mini croissants.


Panfusine -iyer-n-chef wannabe said...

The egg wash shine is unbeatable Shyamala!!.. gives it that gorgeous look!

Finla said...

I think it is the first time i come to your place. Croissants looks yumm and beautiful.

Shammi said...

Thanks, Niv :) I'm a big fan of eggwash, nothing else gives that colour. The only time I don't use eggwash is when my mom is around, because she doesn't eat eggs.

Hope it's not the last time you visit, Finla! :)

lata raja said...

I did not think of making minis. And I am not really in agreement that you did not fare well. I agree it was quite a task, but the second time I think I felt more comfortable.

Reshmi Mahesh said...

Croissants look beautiful...Lovely bake..

Kavitha | Foodomania said...

I think they look pretty darn good! the finish looks shiny! :D