Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Knead to Bake - February - Classic Croissants

To say that the first month's bread was a whooping success, would be an understatement. It attracted so many people that now the group has grown to 90 members. That's not all, there have been others who have read our posts and baked the pull aparts. I have bookmarked the many fillings and want to use them sometime.
Meanwhile, come February and we were ready to try another bread. We were all hoping for something easy enough and Aparna bowled us a googly :) she set us the task of baking classic croissants!



On the good side of it, she sends us a picture tutorial with the recipe and she is quite meticulous with the small details and tips. I read, reread, again and reread. Then decided unless I have a handbook that would guide, I will not be able to manage. So I printed out her mail - eight pages in all! Then when my husband handed me the print out, he offered to help. He has more patience than I, is meticulous and can work his way around. As you will see  he did a wonderful job with the butter (and that is all he did). We set a week end for the baking expedition. But I need not have feared so much. The recipe was very detailed and it was easy walking the tight rope.



 Aparna had adapted the recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman at Fine Cooking. I have added the links to the original and a audio slide show too, below.
http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/classic-croissants.aspx

http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to-make-croissants.aspx

These will help you through the baking if you choose to.
Croissants are not at all difficult, but requires time, patience and attention. We baked them over three days, setting aside an hour to ninety minutes on each day. And once you do the first two days through, you can freeze the dough and use at another time too. The third day requires you to set aside more hours though no constant attention is needed.
That said, I will reproduce the recipe that Aparna mailed us. I have tried to take pictures of the procedure, but they are randomly done.

Recipe: Source Aparna (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Ingredients:
Makes 15 croissants


For the dough:
4 cups/520 grams all purpose flour and little more for dusting/ rolling the dough
1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 grams/ 150 millilitres cold water
1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 gram/ 150 millilitres cold milk (I used low fat milk)
1/4 cup/ 60 grams granulated sugar
3 tablespoons/ 40 grams soft unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus a scant 1 teaspoon/ 30 grams instant yeast
2 teaspoons / 10 grams salt

For the Butter layer:
250 grams cold unsalted butter.

For brushing:
1/8 cup cold milk + 1/8 cup cream



Method:
Day 1 - Making the dough (and refrigerate overnight)

Combine all the ingredients listed for the dough in a bowl and mix. You may choose to knead by hand to a soft pliable dough. Or you may use a hand mixer with dough hooks. Mix initially at low speed for three minutes and increase the speed to medium for another three minutes. Do not over do this. You only need a soft and pliable dough, not one that will develop.
I did this procedure with the plastic kneading blade in my food processor and run it at lowest speed for three minutes and then at medium speed for another three minutes.
Lightly dust a pie pan or a  dinner plate of 10" diameter with flour. Place the dough on the plate.


Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down. Dust some more flour on top of the dough.
Wrap the dough and the plate well and place it in the refrigerator.
Pressing the dough thus makes the rolling out the next day easier.
A tightly rolled ball of dough will strengthen the gluten, which we do not want in this recipe.
The wrapping shall have to cover well that the dough does not dry out.
Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2 Making the butter layer and Lamination process:



Cut two 10"squares of parchment / wax paper. Cut the cold butter in smaller slabs and arrange them on top of one parchment paper. The butter thus arranged must form a roughly 5&1/2 to 6 inches sided square.
Cover the butter slab with the other parchment. Gently with light strokes tap the butter with a rolling pin. The butter will start to stick together.
Now use a bit more force and pound the butter until it flattens to a 7&1/2 inch sided square.
Trim the edges now and then so the sides are sharp edged. Top the trimmings and pound to incorporate them into the slab.
Ensure that the butter is cold during the process. if it melts and becomes soft, put it in the fridge and take out after a few minutes before continuing.
Once you have a neat square slab, place the butter covered with the wax paper, in the fridge. Let it rest in the fridge as you work on the dough.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap ans lay it out on a lightly flour dusted surface.
Roll the dough out to a roughly 10 &1/2 inch square.
Take the butter out, remove the wax paper and place it on the rolled dough. Place it so that it forms a diamond shape in the centre of the dough.
Envelope the butter with the dough by bringing each side on top of the butter slab. First fold the side of the dough that is at the far end from you. Next fold the side nearer to you, overlapping the corner already on top of the butter. Then do the same with the left and right side flaps.
Seal the edges well. Now the butter is well wrapped in the dough like a square envelope.
Take care that at any point the butter does not escape from the sides while rolling.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Firmly press along the dough with a rolling pin. Press firmly applying uniform pressure and lengthen the dough. Then start rolling, focusing on lengthening the dough rather than widening. Ensure the edges are maintained straight.
Roll the dough in a 24" X 8" rectangle. If the corners are not sharp, shape them with your fingers lightly.
At any point, if you feel that the butter within is becoming too soft to handle, quickly transfer the dough on to a wax paper and cover and leave in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.
Once you have rolled to the rectangular shape, make a mental division of thirds of the length of the rectangle. Fold the upper 1/3rd over the middle of the thirds. Then fold the lower third part over the already folded flap, forming the shape of a three fold paper.
Place the folded dough on a baking sheet dusted with flour, cover with wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, take the dough out and roll again. This time roll the dough along the length of the folded rectangle. Roll to a length of 24", retaining the 8" width of the earlier fold.
Fold again as done earlier in a three fold.
Brush off excess flour and place on the wax paper, cover and leave in the freezer for the next twenty minutes.
Take the dough out for the third lamination (and last of the second day's) process.
Repeat the rolling along the length, covering the two folded sides, to achieve a 24" X8" rectangle.
If the dough sticks to the surface during the rolling, smear some flour very lightly before continuing.
Fold the dough as done twice already.
Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap with cling film/ plastic and tuck the plastic sheet in on all sides.
Refrigerate and leave it in overnight.

Day 3 Shaping and Baking the croissants:
Keep the counter top clean and prepared.
Mix the milk and cream and leave it in the refrigerator until required.
Have a small bowl of flour handy on the counter next to you.
Keep baking trays ready, lined with parchment or wax paper.
You may need an inch tape and a ruler, if you are not sure with eye-ball measurements.

 

Remove the dough from the fridge.
Unwrap and place it on the counter. Cut the dough in two halves and refrigerate one half while you work on the other.
If you are not planning to work with the other half of the dough, wrap well with plastic wraps and place the dough in a container in the freezer. That can be taken out and worked on when you choose to.
"Wake the dough up" by pressing firmly along its length (the rectangle is now 12"X 8") with the rolling pin.
Do not widen the dough, but with the first strokes lengthen it. Slowly, roll the dough into a narrow long strip 22" in length and 8" in width. Sprinkle flour now and then when the dough gets sticky.
Once the dough has been rolled half to two thirds of the final length, it may resist to rolling, and even shrink back. If this happens, fold it in thirds and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
After ten minutes in refrigeration, bring it out and roll to the full length.
Holding the dough at the mid point of the rectangular strip, lift it about an inch above the surface and allow the sides to shrink from both the sides.
Check the length to see if you have enough of excess dough that when you trim the edges to a neat line, you have a strip that is 20" long.
Trim excess dough and uneven edges off.
Using a tape measure, mark every 5" from one edge.
On the opposite side of the rectangle along it's length, make the first mark at 2&1/2" from one edge.
Then proceed to mark at 5" intervals.
Using a pizza cutter cut out triangular strips with the markings done on both sides.
You will have seven triangular pieces in all with a dough rolled 20" long.
Leave out the tiny scrap of dough from the edges.

Shaping the croissants:
Work with one triangular strip at a time. Stretch the triangle very lightly, while not making it thin, but slightly long, say about 10". This will give your croissants height and more layers.
Using  a sharp knife, make a 1/2" to 3/4" long notch at the centre of the base of the triangle.
This helps the croissant to curl up in a crescent shape.
Place the triangular dough on the work surface with the notched side close to you. Place one hand on each side, begin to roll the dough away from you, flaring your palms outwards.
Roll tight enough, but not very tight to compress. Roll towards the pointed edge until it is well tucked underneath the shaped croissant. Pull the flared legs and pinch them together. they will release once the proofing is through.
Place this on the baking sheet in the tray. Proceed with shaping the other triangles into crescent shaped croissants.
Place them well apart from each other. Brush with the chilled milk- cream mix. Refrigerate the remaining for use a second time later.
Cover and place them in a cool draft free place. The butter shall not melt. This results in greasy flopped croissants. I placed the trays in large plastic bags that would cover well but not touch the croissants. Left the trays on the counter and kept the air conditioner on.
Proofing takes as long as two to three hours. Allow them the time to proof. They will be distinctly larger, but not as double  their size.
The proofing is through and they are ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side. Also, if you shake the sheet lightly, they will wriggle.
Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre heat the oven to 200 Degrees Centigrade/ 400 Degrees Fahrenheit if you are using a convection oven (like I do). If you are using a regular oven, then the temperature needs to be higher to 220 deg C/ 425 deg F.
Give the croissants a second milk- cream brushing.
Bake one tray at a time in the convection oven. In the regular oven place the tray in the top and lower thirds of the oven.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the croissants are golden brown and the sides are just beginning to brown.
Remove the trays from the oven and allow them to cool.
These are best had warm. However, you can reheat for a few seconds and have them warm when you want to.


And you still have the second half of the dough waiting to be worked upon. You may choose to do it right away or leave it for another day. All you have to do is thaw it a bit and repeat the third day's process.



 My husband wanted to watch me bake them from start to end and offered to help. so last weekend we both baked these together and I am sharing some pictures.





Some important points to bear in mind are
The butter shall always be cold. It shall neither be soft to melt nor hard that it breaks in bits within. It is important that it is pliable along with the dough. Return the dough to the fridge for a few minutes if the butter softens.
They dough needs to be kneaded only to soft and pliable. Do not tend to over do it and allow the dough to develop. we want a soft dough, not an elastic one.
Seal the butter slab with the dough during the initial process for lamination. Improper sealing will allow the butter to ooze out.
During the lamination the twenty minutes of resting the dough is important and the resting has to be inside the freezer. But the overnight process are in the refrigerator on both nights.
Keep the surface lightly floured and brush off excess flour after each process.
You need to patiently and diligently work with the rolling, allowing the butter to spread evenly. If there are pockets where butter has not been incorporated you will not have desired results.
While we all baked croissants on different days of the month, we discussed the process in our group's page. We now understand that adding a little lesser butter works well too, though it may not be as great as these.
Also that you can shorten the duration to two days. That is, make the dough in the morning, rest until later in the evening (12 hours). Laminate late in the evening and refrigerate overnight. Shape, proof and bake the next day.
This post may seem very intimidating, but the procedure is not. If you can set aside time and set your mind on it, it is quite simple. I will not say easy because it needs a lot of attention, care and your patience. But when the buttery, flaky and thin multiple-layered croissants come to your table, the appreciation of the labour will make it worth the try.

Check Aparna's post and you will find links to other bakers' posts.

20 comments:

  1. Lata ma you were like a glowing lamp which shed light and hope to all the bakers around in the group! I love your attitude and your perfectly baked croissants :)

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  2. I completely agree with bharathy!!!! After cing your snaps of baking with your hubby, I got the courage to try it! !! Oh man I enjoyed it thoroughly n truly the comments n the raising eyebrows makes the effort worthy!!!!

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  3. SO well made and beautiful presentation.

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  4. Agree with Bharathy.Love your enthusiasm:) and yes,perfectly baked Croissants!

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  5. Lovely and inspiring croissants

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  6. Lovely and lively post. Inspiring.

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  7. perfectly baked with an awesome presentation.

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  8. These look absolutely perfect akka.. Kudos to you and uncle for pulling this off. I would've been daunted by the work involved. I think it must've been a fun and tasty project for you two.
    Though I am tempted (similar to how I was when I saw the pull apart bread), I don't think I'll be attempting this in the near future... maybe when i get more patience and time :)

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  9. What an effort. Checking out the others who made it too. What enthusiasm! Great looking croissants.

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  10. Perfect beautiful looking croissants...

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  11. U both did a great job, Perfectly baked croissants... lovely pics too!

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  12. The croissants are just fabulously perfect, have seen a whole lot of them today, just killing me:)

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  13. The croissants look really great Lataji! :) And kudos to your husband for all the patience! Even my mother doesn't stand by me as I pound the butter careful not to melt it but just flatten it enough! :)

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  14. Lata I loved the croissants. You have taken so much effort to explain the process and the pictures speak for themselves!

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  15. Great effort..croissants looks perfect and gorgeous...
    Nice presentation...
    lovely clicks...
    first time visiting your blog...lovely collection of recipes with detailed explanation...
    new follower to your blog...
    I'm new to this blogging, also if you get a chance, visit my blog...
    http://foody-buddy.blogspot.com/

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  16. Lovely croissants! I love your step-by-step photos. I seem to have no time to do that! This was fun, although I admit I nearly opted out of this one, but happy I didn't. Looking forward to next month's challenge.

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  17. These croissants are picture-perfect.
    I love the variety of your recipes - I see many that I'd love to try. Definitely coming back

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  18. They look so Lovely....You both did a gr8 job...Baking togther is so much FUN !!

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  19. Awesome Akka, baking alone is already a stress relief, baking together is definitely something i have give a try, beautiful flaky crossiants akka. Prefectly baked.

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Hello,
Welcome and thank you for taking time to drop by.
I appreciate your valuable comments and tips.
I sincerely hope to improve with them.
Hope we shall interact often.
Thanks once again,
Lata Raja.