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.

Recipe: 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]

Egg wash
- 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.

* * *

Now, my biggest issue with croissants, as with bagels, is: how do I get them fresh for breakfast without getting up at 4 am?!!

* * *

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.


zorra said...

Yummy, your croissants look awesome!

To get fresh Croissants in the morning, just freeze them after shaping. Take them out of the freezer the evening before, they should rise overnight. In the morning you have just to bake them, finished!

linda said...

You make croissants too! Very professional looking...and delicious looking too!

GingerbreadGirl03 said...

The look is Incredible!!!
I try to make them ;)

Ginger ~♥

Astrid said...

Zorra - Thanks for the tip! I always thought you should defrost yeasted dough overnight in the fridge, then do the final proofing at room temperature. I'll try your suggested approach!

Linda - Thanks! But you should see the batch I made right after this one. A disaster, due to too little water in the détrempe. I do plan to post pictures of it, in the interest of full disclosure...

Gingerbreadgirl - Thanks! Let me know how they turn out for you.

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog and it's amassing. Thanks!

Could anyone recommend me about a baking school in Zurich?

Astrid said...

Hi Anononymous, thanks for visiting. Sorry no, I don't know of any baking school in Zurich. But that doesn't mean there isn't one.

Jessy said...

Those look really good!! I love how it look soo flakey and good!

Becky said...

i would never summon the courage to make my own croissants, i can't really bake. yours turned out beautifully well though!

Zooey53 said...

nice job! croissants are so much work but such a great treat for yourself or someone special. Definitely freeze some for later, and don't toss that extra dough, just bundle it into something and bake it-- it will be just as yummy.

zoebakes said...

Wow, croissants have to be one of the most wonderful foods on earth and these look fantastic. It isn't everyday that you see them made at home and with such success. Bravo!

Annie & Nate said...

I love croissants, and sandwiches made from croissants. Can you make them bigger, say 8 inches long?

Benji said...

What is a "simple turn"?
I'm a bit of a simple turn.

Astrid said...

Jessy - Thanks! Flaky and good is what I'm after...

Becky - Thank you! Yeah, croissants aren't the easiest to start with, but I looked at lots of recipes and videos and just decided to go for it.

Zooey53 - Yes, the leftover dough is precious!

Zooebakes - Many thanks for the praise!

Annie & Nate - I don't really know how to make them bigger (and in France they're rarely used for sandwiches... too rich!)

Benji - Your comment made me smile. Sorry if that wasn't clear. A simple turn is folding the dough in three, like a letter.

A double turn is folding it in four (as shown in a previous croissant post, here.

If these explanations aren't clear, search with Google, there are lots of photo and video demonstrations of turns for laminated pastry.

Karen said...

I wonder if putting it in the freezer for 30 minutes chills the dough faster to stop the action of the yeast... just a guess.

Karen said...

Ooh I'm so annoyed at myself. I made the croissant dough and since I knew it would be a major pain anyway I doubled the recipe. But I think I only put in one recipe's worth of yeast...because the darned things won't rise :-( Now I have a freezer full of lovely but unusable chocolate croissants that I will have to tear apart to get the chocolate out (no way am I throwing away $10 of good chocolate).

Just shoot me now.

Astrid said...

Karen - Oh I feel your frustration. But did you try to make the croissants rise for a longer time, in a nice warm environment like the microwave oven in which you've put a glass of boiling water? I think if there's less yeast it will still rise, just a lot slower... It's worth a try, double the rising time and see what happens.

Karen said...

Actually, I DID leave them all last night in the cold oven, with a dish of boiling water, to rise. They rose somewhat more, but still not enough :-( I baked them this morning anyway just to see how they would turn out and they are awful -- dense and dry -- so though I split the difference and used 300g of water it was perhaps not enough as well.

A big question: I converted all your gram measurements for the ingredients directly to ounce measurements and weighed each ingredient on my postal scale. Should I be doing actual weight conversion like that, or should I use the grams-to-ounces/cups measures given on your site? I used half pastry (cake) flour and half all-purpose flour, weighing each separately, and it seemed like an awful lot of flour in relation to the amount of butter.

Toujours l'audace... I will try again!!

Karen in northern Idaho, USA

Astrid said...

Hi Karen,
I appreciate your posting a comment even though you must feel very frustrated. I hope there's no mistake in the recipe I've posted, but I don't think there is. I checked in the book again, and other than the water amount that I changed, all the other quantities are correct.
I would not convert from weight in grams back to volume measurements, but straight to ounces. I tried doing the math for you, and this is what I get:

- 600g flour = 21.1643 oz.
- 35g very soft butter = 1.234584167 oz.
- 325g cold butter = 11.46399583 oz.
- 12g fresh yeast = 0.423286 oz.
- 15g whole milk powder = 0.5291075 oz.
- 300g cold water = 10.58215 oz.
- 75g sugar = 2.6455375 oz.
- 12g salt = 0.423286 oz.

I hope all of this is correct, I'm trying to watch two grumpy tired kids as I type! (-; I'll let you further convert to fractions or however ounces are usually presented.

The other possible culprit would be the yeast, did you convert fresh yeast to dry, and if so, use the right conversion rate? I'm not sure about what the ratio I provided, maybe double check on the internet?

Could the fluids have been too hot and killed the yeast?

Do let me know if you figure this out, I hate to think a recipe I post is difficult to reproduce.

Karen said...

Thanks so much Astrid, your recipe is not the problem, it was operator error I'm sure! I did convert grams weight to ounce weights rather than to ounce volume measures, but I will double check your figures against mine. Yup, I found a site showing compressed yeast to dry yeast conversion; I am pretty sure that I simply forgot to double the amount for the double recipe. Stupid me for not writing out the DOUBLED amounts of each ingredient to make sure I put in the correct amount. I will try to get the dough started later in the week so I can do the rolling on Sunday... my only day off anymore.

Your site is wonderful with all the photos, recipes, and amusing descriptions of how things go wrong with a recipe! Thanks for the entertaining blog :-)

Karen in northern Idaho, USA

Karen said...

SUCCESS!! I finally attempted another batch of croissants, making the dough yesterday. I perused Martha Stewart's website and she also had a similar recipe, but she does all her rolling except the last one before refigerating the dough overnight, so I used your recipe but her instructions, finished rolling out this morning and baked half the batch with the other half going into the freezer. This dough took some effort to roll out but was much, much easier to handle than the failed batch. I think I could have perhaps let them rise a bit more and maybe baked them a minute or two longer, but they are flaky on the outside, tender on the inside, and delicious! I baked them on stoneware and they were evenly browned top and bottom.

After making the dough yesterday I dissected the old, failed batch of frozen croissants for the chocolate to use in this batch. I did experiment with leaving some of the old batch overnight in the cold oven with a pan of boiling water in the bottom, but they still barely rose. I am now certain that I simply forgot to double the yeast for that batch.

Now that I have had a success I will definitely be making these again! Next I would like to try almond paste filling.

Meanwhile last week I traveled to visit my mom and sisters and had a box of frozen chocolate croissants shipped there through Willaims-Sonoma, which we baked and enjoyed. There is a short video on their website showing the chef making croissants, and I thought it very interesting that they mix their dough for 20 minutes (!! maybe because they mix such large amounts at a time?), and that he doesn't roll the dough out super thin at all -- maybe 3/16 of an inch thick (about 5mm), and he does not restretch the dough before rolling each one up. The baking instructions for the frozen croissants from WS were to set on and cover with parchment paper overnight at room temperature, test by gently poking dough and if it springs back it has risen enough, and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. They burned on the bottom on her metal baking sheet.

Karen said...

Oops -- that was Williams-Sonoma, not Willaims-Sonoma.

Astrid said...

Thanks Karen for keeping me updated on your trials and tribulations with croissants, as well as providing tips of your own. I wish I could see a photo of your results!

Anonymous said...

can i half the recipe for this? i love this blog. thanks so much.

Astrid said...

Hi anonymous. I imagine it's OK to half the recipe, though it's a shame to put in so much work for less croissants. Why don't you make the whole recipe and then freeze half the croissants once they are formed? You can then let them defrost overnight (if your kitchen isn't too warm) and pop them in the oven when you wake up.

Kathy said...

I'm going to try this! I am also married to a real French man and boy do we miss croissants. We moved from Europe to live in the states so I could go to medical school. It's our first anniversary this weekend and I might just try them then! I'm going to show your blog to him in the hopes we can make some of the delicious things we enjoyed so much in France.

Astrid said...

Happy anniversary Kathy! Giving your husband home-made croissants seems like a good way to win his heart all over again. Please let me know how these work out for you.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you. I've just finished making the croissants and they turned out amazing. I can't believe I've done this by myself. I am 17 and all my other attempts were disastrous.
Thank you!

sara said...

hello! they look amazing! i have some questions: when you dissolve the yeast, is it in cold or warm water? if its in cold, doensnt it kill the yeast? And about the foldings, i didnt really understand how to do that!!!! do u have pictures or the site that explain it? i would be very gratefull, cause i wanna make them today :) thankyou!!