Monday, June 3, 2013

Buttery, Flaky Croissants

Time to expand my baking horizon, and by expanding I am referring to pushing my baking ability to uncharted territory, i.e. making flaky butter pastry. Case in point, making croissants at home. Sure, you have made over a hundred loaves of breads of all kind, bake tons of cookies by now, a mountain of cakes of all sizes, medley of pies, but croissants?

Sure, if you google for croissants recipe, and I mean the type that you make from scratch and not open up a can of dough and roll up, it seems easy enough. The biggest hurdle will probably be patience. Yes, time and patience, you will need lots of those.

I have given making croissants at home some thoughts before, a lot of thoughts, really. In the beginning, I wasn't quite sure if I will be able to do it. Well, I was new to baking. Just yesterday, a family friend asked if it was possible for me to make Danish pastry for her. Yeah, I know, you might be saying by now that they are two different doughs, but are they really?

I remember some time ago, having had a taste of the best flaky danish pastry I have ever had in my life at some part in Europe. And yes, the pastry reminded me of a really good croissants, only it was adorned with half a peach and pastry cream on it. A good pastry is still a good pastry and I betcha, if I use the croissant dough to make a danish pastry, it will be one of the better version from what you can find out here in MA.

After reading countless recipes on a variety of croissant dough, I have decided to stick with America's Test Kitchen version. Well, they tested the recipe many times after all, and if they published one, that ought to be foolproof, right? Fingers crossed. In this case, I'd be crossing my prehensile toes too.

Note: This is a 2 day process. If you are planning to serve the croissants for a gathering, party, or office meeting, please plan for at least 48 hours ahead. Yeah, did I mention that a lot of patience is required? True, you can expedite the process by letting your dough rest for 2 hours instead of overnight after the two folding process, but really, you have come this far. Why not put in a lot more patience for this croissants to elevate from good to great!

Note: Cold! The dough and butter have to remain cold to give your final product that nice, flaky texture. If you are unsure, place dough in the freezer for 30 minutes before working with it. If the butter in the dough melts, you will not get the light flaky croissants you were hoping for.

Ingredients (Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

For Dough
3 Tbsp butter
1 3/4 cup of whole milk
4 tsp of rapid rise yeast
4 1/2 cup of flour (I used King Arthur's all purpose. It has higher protein content)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp Kosher salt

For Butter Block 
12 oz European-style butter, very cold (I took mine out from the freezer)

Egg Wash
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp cold water
A pinch of salt


For the Dough:
1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium low heat.
2. Once butter has melted, remove it from the stove. Immediately add in cold milk.
3. Add the butter-milk mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add in all the yeast.
4. Next, you will add in all the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer. Attach dough hook to your mixer and put it on low for 2-3 minutes till a cohesive dough is formed.
5. Once dough has come together, turn speed up to medium low (Speed 4, if you are using KitchenAid Professional 600 model) and knead for 1 minute.

Note: If kneading by hand, add all ingredients to a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula till a cohesive dough has formed. Knead with hand on a lightly floured work surface till you get a smooth satiny dough, about 10-15 minutes)

6. Remove bowl from stand mixer and dough hook. Wrap with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 30 minutes.
7. Once dough has rested, remove dough onto parchment paper on work table.
8. Using your finger tips, shape dough into a 10" x 7" rectangle. Wrap dough tightly with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
9. Transfer dough into freezer for 30 minutes prior to combining the dough with the butter block.

Note: Reserve the parchment paper to help work with the butter block in the next step.

For the Butter Block
1. Fold a 24" parchment paper to half. Then fold in the three open side to get a 8" parchment square.
2. Place 12oz of very cold butter onto the used parchment paper, reserved earlier from the dough making process above.
3. Using a rolling pin, beat the butter into a rough square, smaller than 8". (Seriously, beat the daylight out of the cold butter till they are pliable but still cold.)
4. Transfer butter onto the 8" parchment square and wrap tightly.
5. Using your rolling pin, roll the butter through the parchment square till it is even. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or longer.

Building the Layers
1. Once dough and butter have chilled for the requisite time, we can begin to build the layers of our final product.
2. Sprinkle flour lightly on a clean work surface.
3. Remove dough from the fridge, unwrap dough onto the flour surface.
4. Using your rolling pin, roll dough lengthwise to form a 17" x 8" rectangle. Measure to ensure you get the correct length and width. Use a bench scraper to help you tighten the dough up to the measurements.
5. Once that is achieved, remove the butter block from the refrigerator. Unwrap the parchment and placed the butter block at the center of the dough.
6. Fold both sides of dough till they meet at the center. Pinch to seal with your fingers.
7. Using your rolling pin, press the two sides at the edges firmly to seal.
8. Roll out lengthwise to 24" x 8" rectangle.
9. Fold in thirds, like a business letter.
10. Place dough onto parchment paper and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
11. Place dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Second Folding
1. After the 30 minutes freezer time, unwrap dough onto a lightly floured work surface.
2. Roll dough out lengthwise into a 24" x 8" rectangle.
3. Fold dough in thirds again. Place on parchment paper and wrap tightly with plastic.
4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours, preferably overnight.

You must be thinking, finally, I get to shape my croissants. Not so fast! After the refrigerator time, you have to now transfer the dough from the refrigerator to the freezer and let it freeze for 30 minutes. Remember, the dough has to be really cold when you are working with it. If the butter melts into the dough at anytime during the folding and shaping process, you can kiss the flaky layers goodbye.

1. After the 30 minutes freezer time, you can now play with the dough.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, unwrap your dough and roll it into a 18" x 16" rectangle, with the long side parallel to the edge of the counter. Fold dough into half, from upper edge to lower edge.
3. Using your bench scraper, mark dough at 3-inch intervals along bottom edge with bench scraper.
4. Moving to the top edge, mark dough at 1 1/2-inch intervals from left. Using this at your reference point, measure out 3-inch intervals and mark it with your bench scraper.
5. Using a pizza cutter, start from the lower left corner and cut dough from point-to-point.
6. You will get 12 triangles, and 5 diamonds. Don't throw away the scraps, something good is going to come out of it, I promise. Place the scrap dough aside, wrap in plastic individually and place it back in the refrigerator.
7. Using your pizza cutter, slice the diamond shape dough into half. That will give you 10 more triangles. All in all, you will end up with 22 triangular dough ready to be shaped into croissants.
8. Working with one triangle shaped dough at a time, pick the dough up with both hands, one at the short length of the dough and another at the tip. Stretch the dough out gently.
9. Using your pizza cutter, make a 1-inch slit at the base of the triangle (the short length). Holding the two edges you have just created by slicing the base of the triangle, roll it towards the tips.
10. The croissant roll is taking shape now. Gently, tucked the tip of the dough underneath the rolled croissant dough.
11. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat process with the remaining dough.
12. You should place about 10 croissants on a full sheet baking pan, allowing room between croissants to rise.
13. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Yeah, more waiting. I know your patience is running out at this point, but really, you should wait.

1. Preheat oven to 425F. If you are baking two sheets of croissants at once, adjust one rack to the upper third of oven and one to lower third of oven. If baking one pan at a time, just leave rack in the middle of oven.
2. Once oven has come to temperature, combine beaten egg with salt, and cold water. Lightly brush dough with egg wash.
3. Place dough in oven and reduce temperature to 400F immediately. Bake croissants for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway.
4. Cool on wire rack before serving, haha, or just bring out a stick of butter and enjoy!

Yup, more butter. Hey, I worked really hard into making these.

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