Okay, Janelle. Focus. No screaming kid or preschooler scrum will keep me from my appointed task. No, scratch that. My destiny. No preschooler will keep me from my destiny. I have been waiting for this culinary moment all my bake-long life. I asked for this blog and now it is mine. I am going to BAKE croissants.
You will find in my kitchen two pounds of unsalted butter, a pound of compressed fresh yeast and my bible for the next few days, “Baking with Julia” – a compendium of all things yeasty and terrific between Julia Child and some of the world’s best bakers. Here is the PBS episode if you like to watch while you bake. I almost got to the library to sign out the original 1960′s Julia Child cooking show for research, but it never happened. So, now I am flying by the seat of my pants. The fresh yeast was a bit of a hunt, but I lucked out at the first bakery I stopped at and they told me I could buy it across the street and the Real Canadian Wholesale Store. For $1.13, I now have a pound of fresh yeast in my fridge. I might have to find more recipes from my Baking with Julia cookbook if I am not traumatized by the whole croissant experience.
And now, although this blog is only presented to you on one day, I start the mini journal of my adventure.
I made the dough and decided to go with Julia’s method and proof overnight. The one website I am also following religiously for great pictures and advice did not include a proof overnight. I think I will like the results of Julia’s recipe better. (For my love of retarded fermentation and all). I made the “butter block” which is a big slab of butter that is sandwiched between the dough and eventually folded so many times you have many, many thin layers of butter and dough. If this sort of talk gets you all excited, you can read up on the world of laminated doughs here. I hope, dear reader, you do not find this discussion of croissants too brief, but my line of thought today is: “Why would I bother to rewrite the world of croissants when there are so many knowledgeable people/blogs out there? I have baking to do!”
So, the Cole’s Notes version of making a laminated dough is this: Put the butter block on the rolled out dough and fold into a tidy package. Roll this out quickly and refold like a letter going into an envelope. Chill. Turn the dough and roll it out again. Refold. Chill. You see where I’m going with this? Today I am going to do three turns. 3 x 3 x 4 = 36 lovely layers of butter and yeasty dough. (The last number in the multiplication – a four – is because I folded the dough like a wallet or like a book, so there was one extra layer). I actually do not find this difficult. But it is something you need to be around for. I see the appeal in running out to the nearest bakery and laying down $10 for a half dozen well made croissants. I could not believe how hard it was to roll out the dough after chilling for the next “turn”. It took a LONG time. And I only wanted to roll it out to about 24″ by 12″. I can see why people get scared over the butter warming up.
I have to admit, there is something extremely luxurious, heavy and silky about that big layered rectangle in my fridge. I actually kissed it hello the last time I took it out. I have never worked with such dense dough before. I think I have a crush on my croissant dough?!?!
Once the kids are in bed I will actually roll out and form the croissants. I certainly don’t need any help for this stage of the game. Then they can rest overnight and I have croissants for breakfast! I had a brief moment of panic early this afternoon when I realized I did not have any cheese such as brie in the house. I like to eat croissants with raspberry jam and brie, but then I just tell myself that if this actually works out I won’t care if there isn’t any brie in the house. . .
Okay. Last night I did the final rolling and cut out my croissant triangles. I put half the dough in the freezer for some other time. I do not need to learn how to roll croissants two dozen at a time. This was the only time I ran into difficulty. I guess I rolled the dough too thin which was quite amazing because it took A LOT of rolling and all the books said this would be the tough part. So, there I am, on my tip toes putting all of my 6’3″ frame onto this poor laminated dough and it got a little thin. Oh well. Now, instead of 12 croissants in this half batch I have eighteen teeny croissants, which means I can eat more for breakfast! I thought it was cute how the Julia Child recipe has you use scraps of dough to make little “footballs” to add at the beginnning of rolling the triangles into croissants. They look like they have cute little preggo bellies!
This morning is the easy part. Take them out of the fridge and let them rest on the counter for about an hour. Heat up the oven and bake!
WAIT A MINUTE!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Woke up to find my little lovelies were very naughty. They didn’t rise in the fridge overnight like they were supposed to! Did I roll them too tight? The dough rose beautifully the first night. Did I get too cocky? So, I am going to let them rise on the counter for a few hours. I did bake up a couple of them to see how much they would rise in the oven – they didn’t. If for some crazy miracle they rise and bake up towards the end of the morning, I’ll send a picture along later. . . .I thought I would feel more let down this morning, but I don’t. This was a fun couple of days. What I just remember is the other half of the recipe in the freezer. I can fiddle with the last rise another weekend.
Wish me luck for next time! Thanks for reading!
PS – I’ve read that the story about a Parisian baker creating the croissant to commemorate the defeat of the Turks (the baker sounded the alarm of the imminent Ottoman attack) in 1886 is completely false.