Saturday, February 11, 2012

Easy Croissants

croissant recipe
These are too pretty for me to have actually made them. I must be lying.
I called these "easy croissants" not because the recipe is somehow different than any other croissant recipe, but because it turns out croissants are easy. I've wanted to try to make them for ages, but didn't because I thought that they might be beyond me. I finally had a weekend free and I thought, "I'm up for the challenge!" But it wasn't challenging and I spent most of the day playing Skyrim.
What they ARE is time consuming. There's a lot of waiting and chilling time. There's nothing really "hard", though. For me, hard is anything that involves hot sugar, or intricate slicing of fruits and rolling them into roses, or making fondant look just right, or baking with an oven that arbitrarily heats up 50 degrees hotter than you tell it to.

The whole process does take between 4 hours and two days, depending on how you want to do it. Therefore, it IS a good idea to read through the recipe and make note of the different resting steps and decide how you want to do it. I think it's nice to make the dough in the afternoon and then proof the croissants in the fridge overnight so that you can wake up and pop them in the oven for breakfast.

croissant recipe
Raspberry jam is delicious, but also makes me feel like a vampire.

I always think that I should take more process photographs, but then I get wrapped up in making things and I forget. Sorry. I'll work on that.

croissant recipe
Croissants from James Patterson's Baking

What you'll need:

3 1/2 cups (440 g) AP flour
1 cup (250 mL) warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast 
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup (3 1/2 sticks, 395 g) butter 

What you'll do:

Mix 1 cup of the flour with the water and the yeast and set aside for an hour. Your mixture should get kind of bubbly, unless your yeast is dead. Dead yeast is no good. I kneaded my dough later with my kitchenaid, so I made this initial step in the bowl of the mixer.

Add everything else, knead together for a minute, and set aside for another 20 minutes.

Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes, or by mixer on low speed for twice as long (aka, work off the calories ahead of time while building gorgeous arms, or play Skyrim for 20 minutes while your mixer does the job for you). I find that if I rub some oil on my dough hook before using it, the dough won't climb it too much during mixing. The dough should be silky smooth when you're done. Wrap your dough in plastic and put it in the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile, squish your butter into an 8-inch square. I seem to remember it being about half an inch thick. I think I took slices of the pound of butter and lined them up beside one another to squish into a sort of square, and then I rolled it a bit between two pieces of plastic wrap. Continue playing Skyrim for the other 25 minutes.

Retrieve your dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it's a rectangle of about 18 x 9 inches--basically so that you can fold your butter square into it.

Fold your butter square into it. Like it's a book. With a butter bookmark.

Gently whack the dough/butter book a few times to make sure the butter is soft enough, and then roll it all back into a 18 x 9ish rectangle. Now fold the dough in thirds like a letter. The way normal people fold letters, with one end folding in and then the other end folding on top. I tend to fold letters like accordions. I'm sure that would work here, but it would add some needless lifting effort. Turn your dough 90 degrees (if necessary--if your work space is cramped like mine) and roll it out into that 19 x 9ish rectangle again (the folded edges should become the long sides). Fold it like a letter again.Wrap your dough back in its plastic and put in the the fridge for an hour so that the butter layer can firm back up. (More video games.)

Complete the rolling and folding and turning process twice more so that you've completed a total of four folding steps. You multiply the layers by three every time, so you'll now have a total of 81 thin butter layers inside your dough. Oh, the power of multiplication! Oh, the deliciousness of flaky layers!

You can now feel free to wrap the dough back up and toss it in the fridge for a day or two if it turns out that you have to go do something else. Resting the dough for a day probably makes the croissants better, like resting cookie dough makes cookies better (honest!).

If you want to make the croissants now (I do), cut your block of dough in half and roll each half out to a 6 1/2 x 12" rectangle on a lightly floured surface. It's worth using a ruler at this point if you've got one. I suddenly remember that I halved the recipe when I did it and worked everything in slightly smaller dimensions until I got to this point and didn't bother cutting it in half--it turned out fine. The dough should roll out to about 1/4" thick. 

Toss your rectangles (okay, gently lift) onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and chill them again for 20 minutes.

Now you want to return your dough rectangles to your work surface and cut them into six isosceles triangles. A good way to do this is to measure and mark 5" increments along one of the long sides. On the other long side, start 3.5" in, and again measure and mark 5" increments. Use the marks to form the points of the triangles. You'll end up with six triangles and some waste dough which you can form into funny shapes. Then you can eat them yourself in the kitchen before presenting your beautiful croissants to anyone else.

croissant recipe
I made a crappy diagram in MSpaint. I hope it helps.

Roll your croissants from base to tip, fairly tightly. To get the traditional crescent shape, it helps to cut a little slit into the centre of the base and then roll outwards from there. I gave my croissants a gentle bend and they straightened out in the oven, so you probably shouldn't be afraid to give them a more distinct bend. Put them back onto your parchment-lined baking sheet.

I saw instructions on some blog a while after I'd baked these that suggested stretching out your triangle as you roll it so that you get more wraps--I'll probably try that next time.

Now you need to leave your croissants to proof. This can be done overnight in the fridge (probably best), three hours in a cool place, or 1 hour in a warm place. When they are done proofing, they'll look a bit puffier and they will be soft to touch. 

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Combine an egg with a splash of cream and brush the egg wash onto the tops of your proofed croissants. Bake your croissants for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

croissant recipe

croissant recipe
I don't know where our other napkins are, so you'll be seeing this one for a while. The apartment is only so big, but someone other than me put them someplace safe. Safe and mysterious.

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