Les Croissants

Easily the most famous French pastry, the croissant is enjoyed by many around the world. With the growth of coffee culture, croissants have become widely available. But what makes a good croissant? One word comes to mind as I contemplate this question…

BUTTER. To me, the perfect croissant is flakey on the outside but also tender on the inside. When you bite into it, there’s a divine layer of crisp completed with a butter-rich soft pastry. But the trick to achieving this is through the technique “laminating”, where butter is worked into the dough and folded several times.

When this month’s Fresh from the Oven Challenge was to bake croissants, I had mixed feelings about them. On one hand, I was filled with excitement, knowing that I’d finally make the King of Pastries. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but worry if my croissants had failed, and were incomparable to those of cafés / bakeries. After all, they are notoriously laborious to make!

This excitement, as usual, turned into a mild obsession with croissants.

Whenever I saw a café that hinted the existence of a croissant, I wanted to see it.
I wanted to see its golden crust.
I wanted to see the occasional chocolate drizzle.
And I wanted to see its crescent shape.

Sometimes, without realizing, I was reaching for my purse and shortly after, I had just gobbled up yet another croissant. So much for hot yoga.

After much procrastination, I finally reserved a weekend off from work to make croissants. I had brought the butter (and most other ingredients) to room temperature and bought all the ingredients I required. Yes! It’s time to witness the magic first-hand!

As soon as they popped out the oven, I took the ugliest “non-croissant looking” croissant and gobbled it up first! Yuuuummmaaaaayy!!! Of course you eat the ugly ones first, and reserve the pretty ones for your hour-long photography session. Success?

But of course, as you know, nothing from my kitchen goes undressed! Everything from the oven gets sweetened up! Not even these croissants can escape the wrath of Sweet Samsations! 😀

That’s right!!!!

IT’S CROISSANT AU CHOCOLAT! But not quite “Pain Au Chocolat” style. hehe..

You can pretty much use any chocolate you want for the chocolate topping. I just bought some milk chocolate bars and melted them then transferred into a Ziploc bag and piped onto the croissants.

Another option is nutella®! Yes, nutella® can also be piped generously onto these croissants.

Top with more almonds if desired! And icing sugar later! (Above: nutella®, Below: Milk Chocolate Melted)

So now for the recipe…

Croissants

source: Recipe and directions from Lavender and Lovage

Ingredients

  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 325 g/ 3 cups strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 25 g/ 2 tablespoons softened butter (room temperature)
  • 7.5 ml/ 1/2 tablespoon active yeast (room temperature. I notice some people freeze their yeast. Not a good idea)
  • 115 ml/ 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 30 ml/2 tablespoons warm water
  • 175 g / 3/4 cup softened butter (Separate into 1/4 cup portions)

Glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Topping: (Optional)

  • sliced almond nuts
  • nutella® Spread
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Icing Sugar

2 crescents (croissants) where the pastry got its name from!

Directions

I used my kitchen aid to make the dough using the hook pedal. If you have a bread machine and would like to use it, please refer to the site instead.

  1. Combine beaten egg, flour, salt, sugar, 2 tbsp butter and the yeast in a large mixing bowl.
  2. On the lowest speed, slowly mix in the warm milk and the warm water until the mixture forms into a pliable dough. If your milk / water is not warm enough, the yeast will not react as well.
  3. After dough is well combined, knead on a floured board for until the dough is elastic and smooth
  4. Cover and place the dough in a warm place, until it has nearly doubled in size. My dough took approximately 1.25 hours to rise. I like to turn on my oven for 2 minutes then turn it off and let me dough rise in there.

To Shape the Dough

Shaping the dough may sound quite complicated. It was too troublesome for me to alternate between my DSLR and dough. The last thing I wanted was butter on my expensive camera. So for a visual image please refer to original recipe.

  1. Place the risen dough on a floured surface and knead well until it feels elastic. Slightly oil to the bowl and return the dough, cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Return the chilled dough to your floured work surface and roll it into a rectangular shape, around 50cm X 20cm – 20″ X 8″.
  2. Mentally divide your rectangular dough into 3 parts. Using 1/4 cup butter, dot the butter over the upper two thirds of the rolled dough, keeping a 2cm/ 1″ border around the edges.
  3. Fold the dough into three, bringing up the bottom unbuttered part of the dough, and then folding the top buttered part of the dough over. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the open edges are now top and bottom and seal the edges with your rolling pin. Then take your rolling pin and press the dough at intervals to seal the dough and create air pockets.
  4. Roll out into a rectangle again, the same size. Place the dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Remove and repeat the process two more times until your butter is used up, ensuring your dough is cold all the way through.
  6. Remove the dough from fridge and roll carefully into a big rectangle 50cm/30cm – 20″x12″ cut in half lengthways, divide each half into 6 triangles. (divide into 3 first, then divide into 2)
  7. Take one triangle at a time,and brush the triangle with the egg wash of milk and egg. Spread nutella® or insert pieces of milk chocolate if desired.
  8. Then from the widest edge of the triangle, roll up LOOSELY and place in a crescent shape on a tray. Brush with the egg wash over the top for the glaze. If desired, top with sliced almond nuts. If you roll them up too tightly, they croissant will be very dense and not puffy. I made that mistake with a couple of them.
  9. TO FREEZE: At this point the croissants may be frozen; Place them on a large tray, a baking tray is fine and then pack them into a rigid container or freezer bags when they are frozen. For use, remove from freezer the number required for breakfast, put onto a baking tray and leave overnight. Put into a hot oven and cook for about 20 minutes until browned and risen.
    TO BAKE: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the shaped croissants on baking trays lined with silicone baking parchment and leave to rise for 1 hour. PLEASE SPACE THEM OUT!! They will expand like little monsters. If they are not expanding, there might be something wrong with your yeast, or perhaps you are not placing them in a warm enough area.Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Ensure that they are well spaced-out

Croissant Dough

I wanted to take a picture of a croissant dough to demonstrate how these bread could expand so monstrously! But only remembered after already placing them in the oven for 5 minutes. lol. oh wells.

My croissant took an entire span of 2 days to make. I had to place the dough in my fridge overnight at times because I simply did not have enough time to complete the entire process in one day!! Now I know why it’s so labour-intensive!!

Croissant Variations

Then came my favourite part, the decoration and photography!! This probably took me another good 2 hours. Jeez… You can probably tell that I took a billion pictures of my croissants. 

So I wanted to compare how my croissant fared with one from a bakery. Here is a croissant from Thomas Haas, a famous local bakery in Vancouver. Headed by a German executive pastry chef, Thomas Haas boasts a fine collection of desserts – featuring the best chocolates and pastries. I used to live across from their first location when I was attending a boarding school in North Vancouver. Their chocolates are just to DIE for. I’ve also heard magical stories about their Black Forest Cake and would love to try it some day.

Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates & Patisserie on Urbanspoon

I bought an almond croissant with almond paste in it.

Thomas Haas's Double-Baked Almond Croissant

Let’s take a bite…..

WOW WOW WOW!

OMG SO DIVINE!!!! I looooove the crustiness of this croissant. I also looooved the almond paste in it!! Now as I am writing about it, I can’t help but drool as I reminisce this delicious croissant. Next project? lol.

Note that this isn’t exactly traditional croissant, but a delicious almond paste croissant! Therefore the interior would differ from how a traditional croissant looks.

Let’s compare this to mine…

My humble croissant. lol

FLAKE FLAKE FLAKE! YAY 😀 😀 😀 😀

Overall, I was very happy with my results. But I know there is still a lot of room for improvement. My croissant wasn’t as hollow as a traditional one, which is kind of the texture I was hoping for. Although this took forever to make, I’d love to give it a go again and hopefully some day perfect my viennoiserie skills! Nevertheless, my friends and coworkers enjoyed this very much, especially with  almonds and chocolate added.

Let me end this post with another croissant picture because you obviously haven’t seen any yet.. 😛

Cheers!

Breakfast Time!

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