Friday, January 25, 2008
Croissants, Take Two
Of the pastries on this blog, one of the most challenging yet enjoyable to make was croissants. These involved a long and arduous process, but I was pleased with the results.
I wasn't however planning to make them very often. Yes they're good, but really, so much work. But when I asked my husband what he most wanted me to bake, his answer was immediate: croissants. He is a real Frenchman after all, and we live in a country whose Gipfeli, a pale cousin of the buttery croissant, only make us homesick for the boulangeries of Paris.
So I decided to try making them again, this time using -- can you stand another mention of his name? -- a Pierre Hermé recipe. Does the food blogging world need another Hermé recipe? Actually, yes. These came out really, really, well. Crunchy, flaky, tender, buttery, stretchy ropy insides that unravel when you give them a gentle tug... Results matter more to me than originality, and therefore, without further apology, I give you my latest source of baking satisfaction, Hermé's recipe for croissants.
Source: Pierre Hermé, Secrets Gourmands
For 24 croissants
[I think I only managed to make 18]
- 600g flour (type 45, which is fairly low in gluten)
- 35g very soft butter
- 325g cold butter
- 12g fresh yeast
[You can certainly substitute instant dry yeast, I believe that would make 4g instant dry yeast? Check other sources for conversions to make sure]
- 15g whole milk powder
[I only found low fat milk powder]
- 280-300g cold water (20°C ie room temperature)
[Update March 28: Hermé specifies 200g, and recommends starting with two thirds the amount of water, adding the rest later only if you need it. For the croissants photographed here, I increased the water until the dough looked "right," which turned out well. The next time though I thought I should follow the recipe more closely and I tried 240g water: the dough was too dry, provoking a disaster. Photos of the duds posted here. I then tried 320g and had better results. This may have been a little too much water though, see comments in that post. So somewhere between 280g and 300g?]
- 75g sugar
[I plan to try with a little less next time]
- 12g salt
[Hermé specifies "fleur de sel," but I used regular salt]
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- a pinch of salt
[Now I'm not about to sacrifice 3 eggs for egg wash: I used one egg and poured out some of the egg white to increase the yolk-to-egg-whites ratio]
Sift the flour in a bowl: add the salt, the sugar, the milk powder, the soft butter and the yeast diluted in two thirds of the water. Work the dough only until all the ingredients are combined, no more [to avoid developing the gluten in the flour]. Add the remaining water if the dough seems too firm.
[I ended up adding quite a bit more water I believe, which made me worried as I ended up having to work the dough a lot more to absorb all the water. But all turned out OK. Still, I think it's normal if this dough seems a little dry and rough, so next time I'll try to take it easy on the water]
Cover the recipient with film wrap and let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room (Ideally room should be at 22°C). The dough should double in size.
[Mine didn't, but I didn't have time to wait so went on with the next step, already feeling gloomy that with the water issue and the lack of rise my croissants were off to a dismal start.]
Punch down the dough by removing it from the bowl, pushing down on it with your fist to give it its initial size and put it back in the bowl. Cover with film wrap and store in refrigerator (4°C) for one hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Punch it down once more.
At this point you can either continue with the recipe or store the dough in the refrigerator for the next day. In either case, first chill the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
[Allow me digress on a pet peeve: how I wish French cookbooks provided more explanations on why they make us perform certain operations. Why do I have to chill my dough in the freezer before chilling it in the fridge? It drives me crazy not to understand why I do things. End of rant]
When you're ready to continue with the recipe, work the cold butter with a spoon or stand mixer to make it more supple.
[I actually banged the butter between two sheets of plastic film and then rolled it roughly to the size of the dough it's supposed to cover]
Roll the dough into a long rectangle, then spread half the butter on the lower two thirds of the rectangle and give it a simple turn with the butter then another simple turn without adding butter.
[About the turns: he's not specific here, so I looked at other recipes by Hermé and found he specified folding the bottom third (covered with butter) over the middle third (also covered with butter), then the top third (which has no butter on it) over the other two thirds. This, again, doesn't make sense to me. My instinct would be to fold the top over the middle so you immediately get two layers of butter. Or else why bother spread the butter over two thirds, why not over a single, bottom third? I'm sure I've lost my readers at this point, sorry. I followed his instructions without understanding why, and this still rankles. But again, results, results, are what matter...]
[So we have one simple (3-fold) turn with half the butter added, followed by one simple turn with no butter added. I think I popped the dough a few times in the fridge to rest and relax as rolling croissant dough is hard. You have to be really strong, yet not manhandle the dough too much for fear of the butter escaping... Flour your work surface regularly to make sure the dough doesn't stick. And use a brush to remove the flour when you fold the dough.]
Place the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes, then in the fridge for 1 hour, and repeat the turns first with the remaining butter, then with no added butter.
[So you should have made 4 single turns in all, one with added butter, one without, rest period, then one turn with rest of butter, and one turn with no added butter.]
The dough is now ready. Roll it to 2.5 millimeters thickness [ha! good luck trying! Actually, I kept popping the dough back in the fridge every so often to give it a chance to relax, which helped a little] and cut triangles 20cm tall and 12cm wide (thus about 60g per croissant). Roll the triangles from the base, curve them into croissant shape and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, leaving 5cm of space between them. Let them rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature.
[These shaping instructions are brief. May I suggest you look at my previous croissant post and particularly at the PBS video described in that post to find out more about shaping. One tip I would like to highlight here is to grasp the dough triangle firmly in one hand by the short side and pull the whole dough strip from top to bottom with your other hand. This stretching seems to help. Also cut a nick in the short side and really pull the ends out to make those pointy tips I love in croissants.]
Once the croissants have risen, brush them with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes in an oven which has been preheated to 220°C and lowered to 190°C immediately after putting the croissants in.
[The croissants may seem too dark to you at first but it's important to really bake them for that long. I underbaked the first batch and the insides were too heavy and wet. Also, try, really try, to let them cool for 10 minutes or more before digging in... ]
I want to improve my shaping skills to get tighter, pointier tips to my croissants. Those crunchy ends are my favorite part.
My husband's verdict on these was that they are better than any croissants you can get in Switzerland. Which if you ask me, is a somewhat of a back-handed compliment, but never mind, I'll keep honing my croissants skills to elicit even higher praise from him. As I progress I'll add more photos to this post, with more step-by-step process photos if readers request it.
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Now, my biggest issue with croissants, as with bagels, is: how do I get them fresh for breakfast without getting up at 4 am?!!
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Update: Summary of my croissants endeavours
I've written a total of four posts about croissants (yes...), so here's an overview:
- First attempt, recipe from Le Pétrin
This post provides the first recipe I used, a lot of process photos, and links to many other croissant resources
- Second attempt (this post), recipe from Hermé is included in this post. This is my current favorite recipe, provided the water is increased
- Third attempt, and total failure, still using recipe from Hermé.
This shows what happens when the dough is too dry (yuck)
- Fourth attempt, using recipe from Hermé
Good croissants. Increasing the amount of water and improving proofing made a huge difference. Some process photos.