>> Monday, August 15, 2011
The other day I had a really big craving for croissants, but not just any croissant. French croissants. The ones that you could only get from France. The super buttery flaky break-apart-at-the-slightest-touch croissants, that I have yet to be able to find anywhere else. It’s a taste that is hard to describe and must be experienced. As you sink your teeth in to the pastry, it will flake and produce a rush of butter flavour that I can’t compare to anything else I’ve eaten to date. To this day I am still perplexed as to why the croissants in France taste that much better than any where else in the world. Is it there butter? The flour? Could it be the way they’ve prepared it or just because it’s the French air that makes them rise?
So I was on a mission to find out. I went to a French bakery shop here in Calgary and tried their almond croissant as well as the famed Pain au Chocolat. They were definitely up there as being one of the best crossiants I’ve had in Calgary, but unfortunately it isn’t quite the same as the ones from France. Therefore I decided that I would google up a Julia Child croissant recipe. What better recipe to reproduce then one made by the famous Julia Child (it’s so well coveted that there is a youtube video on it, you may watch parts 1 & 2 online).
Off starts my croissant making journey (I call it a journey because it felt that long, almost like a pilgrimage. Almost). Finally after 48 hours from beginning to end, I had my little croissants. What was the verdict you ask? Well, they were good, they looked like croissants, they smelled like croissants and they tasted like croissants, but let’s just say…I was looking at ticket prices to Paris shortly after that. I guess it’s still a mystery as to why those croissants from France so unique that even a French women working with Julia Child couldn’t quite compensate for the real thing. Or maybe it’s just the French butter, but that is a blog all in itself.
Here’s a rough step by step process of the Julia Child Classic French Croissant recipe, maybe you might have better luck ending up with an “authentic” French styled croissant!
For the Dough: 1 ounce Fresh Yeast (equivalent to3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
For the Butter: 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
For Crossiants: 1 croissant dough – well chilled
For the Dough: Since I used active dry yeast, I had to reconstitute the yeast, which isn’t in the original recipe because Julia used fresh yeast. To do this, you can warm half of the milk in the microwave.
Make sure not to over heat the milk, 15-20 seconds in the microwave should do. Or else you will end up cooking the yeast. Pour the yeast in to the warmed milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Then in a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, the yeast mixture and the rest of the milk. Using the dough hook on the mixer, turn it on the lowest speed and let it mix for 1-2 minutes.
The dough might be a bit dry still at this time, add a bit more milk 1 tbsp at a time until the rest of the flour gets picked up by the dough. I only needed to use 2 extra tbsps of milk.
Turn the mixer to its highest speed and let it work the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. The dough should no longer be sticky at this point. Roughly 4-5 minutes. OR to ensure the dough is fully mixed, turn off the mixer. Remove the dough after about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer on to high, pinch off a golf ball size of the dough at a time and add it back in to the mixing bowl. When the dough all comes together, it is ready.
Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap it in plastic and place it in a Ziploc bag so it can relax and rise a bit at room temperature. After 30 minutes, place it in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.
For the Butter: Make sure to use cold butter for this step because the butter should not melt during this process.
Cut up the butter in to 1 inch cubes and using the paddle attachment on the mixer, add in the flour. Beat the butter cubes and flour until it becomes smooth and combined. Make sure there are no more lumps in the butter.
Scrape out the butter and wrap it in plastic and shape the butter into an oval that’s 5-6 inches long and 1 inch thick. Chill it in the fridge until required.
If needed the butter can be frozen until needed and defrosted in the fridge overnight.
Incorporating the Butter and Dough: Sprinkle a bit of flour on the work surface, place the croissant dough on top and sprinkle a bit more flour on the dough.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it forms a 10 inch x 17 inch oval. Brush off the excess flour from the dough.
Place the chilled butter over the center of the oval. Fold the top and bottom layer over the dough (I also folded the sides in to avoid the butter from leaking out).
With a French rolling pin, beat the dough and butter, while holding one side of the dough until it becomes roughly 1 inch think and 14 inches long x 6 inches wide. If it doesn’t quite reach this length, roll it out until it does.
Once it reaches these dimensions, place it on a sheet pan with parchment paper, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
However, if you feel the dough and butter is still cold then you can continue onwards.
Rolling and Folding (Turn 1): Rolling the dough in to a rectangle of 24-26 inches long x 14 inches wide (with the long side facing you).
Brush off the excess flour on top of the dough before folding. From left to right, fold the dough inward in to thirds (like a brochure). At the end it should be 8 inches wide x 14 inches long.
Carefully move it back to the sheet pan, marking the parchment to remind you of the first turn, wrap it and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Turn 2: Flour the work surface well. Remove the dough and lay it so you have the 14 inch side running left to right.
Again roll out the dough until it is 24-26 inches long x 14 inches wide. Dust off excess flour.
Fold the dough like before, in to a brochure style. Place it back on the sheet pan, label it turn 2, wrap it and put it back in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Turn 3 (The wallet): Flour the work surface, remove the dough from the fridge and again place the 14 inch side running left to right.
Roll it out till it reaches 24-26 inches long x 14 inches wide. This time fold both left and right sides of the dough in to the middle like a book, leaving a bit of room in the middle. Fold the left side over the right side like closing a wallet or closing a book. This is the famous double turn.
Wrap the dough again and put it back in the fridge for another 2 hours. You can also freeze the dough at this point for up to 2 months. When using defrost it in the fridge overnight.
Rolling and Cutting: Flour the work surface, remove the dough from the fridge and it’s ready for cutting and rolling to form croissants.
Cut the dough in half and put half back in the fridge (we’ll use that afterwards).
Roll out the first piece of dough till it is 24-26 inches long x 15-18 inches wide. Remember to use lots of flour to avoid the dough from becoming sticky.
Carefully fold the top half of the dough down to the bottom, so you have a long rectangle.
Using a knife or pizza cutter measure off a 3-4 inch base and begin cutting triangles. You’ll have scrapes left over but they will be used to fill the croissants later.
Open up each of the folded triangles and cut each of the pieces in half, you should end up with 10-12 triangles.
Shaping the Croissants: Working with one triangle at a time, gently stretch the base so they widen slightly. Hold the base of the triangle and stretch the dough from base to tip.
Place it on the floured work surface. Add a bit of the left over croissant dough scraps from cutting in the middle of the base of the triangle. Holding both sides of the triangle, roll it slowly to the tip. Put the finished roll on parchment paper, repeat with the rest of the triangles.
Repeat with the second half of the dough. (You could also use the dough to make Pain au Chocolat, where pieces are dark chocolate are placed in to the middle of the dough as opposed to the dough scraps or try almond or even savoury croissants).
Glazing and Rising: Rive the croissants a last gentle plumping, you can also turn the ends down or leave it straight.
Brush each with egg wash and allow them to rise uncovered for 3-4 hours, until they’ve tripled in size and spongy. You can feel them, they will feel hollow.
Baking: Preheat the over to 350ºF.
Brush the croissants with egg wash again. Place them in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until they turn a golden bronze color.
Remove them and let them cool on racks. Croissants are best eaten when they’ve had a chance to cool completely because the layers within need time to set.
Enjoy your hard work because you deserve it (because I know I felt like I did)!