The biggest lesson I learned from baking croissants is that it’s really hard to mess up something that’s made of mainly butter and white flour. And, believe me, there were plenty of ways I almost messed this up!
We’re talking GOBS of butter. Four and a half sticks, to be exact! But I’m getting ahead of myself. I began my croissant-making endeavor by going on a wild goose chase looking for “fresh yeast.” I called a few bakeries, and Great Harvest was willing to sell me some for a good price.
This yeast is different from dry active yeast because it has never been dried out. It’s fresh. I was worried when I added it because it did not bubble or really do anything like I am used to seeing with my everyday yeast. Everyday yeast. Never thought I’d be blogging about everyday yeast.
I will give you just the highlights of this 48-hour process, and perhaps after reading you will see why my arms are so sore. The rolling and rolling. Perhaps I should get back to the gym. Not a bad idea after consuming a few of these croissants, regardless of arm strength.
Step One: The Mixing of the Dough. Combine the flour, yeast, whole milk, sugar and salt. Set aside to chill for 2 hours. Mix up the butter with more flour and chill for 2 hours. Incorporate the dough with the butter by folding that butter inside the dough. I did this wrong! I should not have allowed any butter to go through, and I should not have folded up the ends. I should have watched the video before attempting to make these!
Step Two: The Turns. The dough needs to be turned (rolled out and folded) three times, with a two hour resting break between each turn. On the second turn, I took the dough out of the refrigerator and placed it on my countertop. I couldn’t figure out why the butter was oozing through and melting everywhere. Turns out the countertop was warm because the dishwasher had just finished running below. Duh. This was when I started doubting my croissant making skills. Yes, it took me about eighteen hours into the process to start having doubts.
Step 3: Forming of the Croissants. By now I had watched the video and had seen how Esther McManus and Julia Child so elegantly pulled the croissant dough into twice its size. My pulling resulted in either oozing butter or ripped dough. Also, I cut them way too small, so I got some mini-croissants. Sheesh.
I think this is the first time I actually almost cried over a baking project. I was incredibly frustrated to have spent so much time and effort doing this only to have a drippy, gooey mess.
Step 4: Proof in the oven for three hours. Seeing the result of my “proofing” was the ultimate frustration after all those hours of work. I had heated the oven to 350 degrees and let it cool off, just like the recipe said. Only I didn’t let it cool enough, and my croissants melted! Just look at this mess!
Thinking this project was a complete catastrophe, I threw them in the oven to bake, and something amazing happened. The house filled with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked croissants! I pulled them out of the oven, and they were golden. Not beautifully golden and perfectly formed, but I had something pretty remarkable here. I could even see the individual flaky layers of butter and flour in the little pastry.
I tried one that evening, after letting it cool, and I have never appreciated a pastry so much. Delicious!Oh! And I had one for breakfast. And I shared some with a few friends. The rest are going in the freezer so we can enjoy them whenever we need a special treat.
Thanks to George for helping me make these by keeping the kiddos occupied! I had no idea these would take so long!
If you would like the actual recipe without my commentary, please visit Amanda from Girl+Food=Love. If you would like to see others’ renditions of this recipe, please go on over to the baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie.