Somewhere between last Saturday and now, I managed to realise I am the most pathetic human being alive. When I say this, I am referring to empathy, i.e. I am empathetic – but empathy has so much sociocultural connotative baggage involved with it, I like to use the concept pathos from Aristotle and mirror it so that I’m the one being emotionally moved and persuaded by others (and not vice versa).
Since childhood I’ve known myself to be a sensitive creature, who cramps when the guy in the movie gets punched, who cries when she sees someone else in trouble or upset, and who will make it her responsibility to ensure everyone she loves is happy, regardless of her own personal state. And I admit right now, this is a very dangerous wadi to be in because of just how unstable it can leave you at the end of the day. The danger extends beyond that, however. You see, I’m very good at listening. I will listen to your entire life’s story if you wanted me to know it, but I am the worst person at helping. I will not know what to say. I will not respond properly. I will in fact sit and cry with you. Cry when you leave. Cry all night long. And probably the next morning, too. If I try to help, I’d attempt to get your mind off your problems by chatting with you about petty things (perhaps my life story), or attempt to bribe your worries away with food. Usually that doesn’t work. And we end up crying anyway – I more than you. But in light of food, which is what I’m best at doing, I will be happy to cook things out of my comfort zone if it means I have to.
Now if you’ve ever promised a Frenchman a French delicacy, you’d know the sort of pressure I put on myself making these croissants. I have, indeed, read all your Darking Bakers challenge blog posts with recipes, I have watched at least 15 YouTube videos on how to make the crescent shaped croissant au beurre. I dreamed about these darlings for nights on end. I shopped for them. I took a deep breath. And got to work. And work started with transcribing Chef Bruno’s (who’s accent can’t be missed) Taste of Paris video by hand into my little notebook, with macarons on it!
That’s right. making these had to be done properly the first time round and I was going classical with a proper recipe on paper and memorising all the “tour double”, “tour simple”, and whatever else turns and folds were involved!
I realised after making these that the croissant itself is not difficult to make in the sense that it’s steps are almost basic baking steps you might do in any baking recipe, the waiting involved (and the realisation of how enormous these croissants can go) is what lets croissant making seem such a dragged out process. This being my first go at making croissants, I ran to the local bakery and grabbed croissant to compare. And I honestly could not tell the difference – except that some of mine were a little more buttery tasting than the bakery one. That’s a plus, surely?
The croissants themselves were delicate, flaky and crispy, but they need to be left in an airtight container to keep their crispiness, running around with them in a Japanese basket and brown bag won’t help maintain the delicate crisp. I made three batches, one was absolutely massive, the other two looked exactly like the ones you’d pick up from a local bakery. I only managed to photograph the final proofing (sounds so dramatic) as I was far too busy ensuring perfection during all other stages.
I hope you have a go at croissant making sometime soon. I highly recommend you watch Bruno’s video linked above. I enjoyed a croissant pressed in the sandwich press, stuffed with some fetta, dried mint and black seed (you need to try this with some cold watermelon: divinity between your hands).
Yields: 10-14 croissants (depending on size)
1 cup lukewarm tap water
4 tsps active dry yeast (2 packets fresh yeast can be used, just add to water & proof instead of flour)
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread/plain flour
3 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
100g (6 1/2 tbs) softened unsalted European-style cultured butter
250g (16 1/2 tbs) softened unsalted European-style cultured butter
Combine active dry yeast, salt, sugar and flour in a large bowl.
Add in the water and 100g of butter and continue kneading until just combined.
Transfer the dough to your work surface without additional flour and use your palm to knead the dough for five minutes.
When the dough comes together as a smooth, soft malleable ball, place in the bowl and let rise. This is the ‘first rise’ and should happen at 24 degrees C, that’s 75 degrees F, and should be left for roughly 2 hours to double in size.
Lightly dust your work surface and dough with flour. Deflate the dough and pat it (with your hands!) into a rectangular shape. Fold it over into thirds, then in half, wrap and refrigerate overnight. This is the ‘second rise’ and will allow the flavours to develop, adding depth and complexity. It allows the dough to relax and lose its stretchiness.
In the meantime, make your slab of butter by softening it slightly. Place the butter in a 7 by 8 inch sandwich bag and roll to the edges until you have an even thickness. Chill then trim off any thin edges.
Let the butter soften before beginning the tourage. When soft enough, remove the dough from the fridge and deflate.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 15 by 7 inch rectangle and place the butter slab on one half of the dough. Cover over with the other half of the dough. Tap the dough gently with a rolling pin then roll from the centre out until you have a 24 inch by 8 inch rectangle.
Sweep off any excess flour; fold the left third over to the centre, then fold the right over so the two ends meet. Readjust the thickness of the pâton (dough) by rolling over it then fold in half like a book. This is your double turn (called tour double).
Repeat the previous step, rolling out until you have a 24 by 8 inch long rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, making your simple turn, then wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
When chilled, remove and roll out slightly. Cut in half and return one half to the fridge. The croissant dough should always be cool while being worked with. Roll the half you’re working with to an 18 by 9 inch rectangle with a 1/8″ thickness (~3mm).
Cut the dough into six large triangles and roll into the familiar crescent shaped look.
Place croissants on lightly greased baking paper and brush with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt).
Repeat with other half of dough.
Leave croissants on a counter top to proof for 2.5-3hrs until puffed and spongy.
Brush with an egg wash again and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C) and bake for 10 minutes.
Turn down the heat to 375 degrees (190 C) and bake for another 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.
Serve the delicious, buttery, flaky croissants as you please. Just enjoy and never go back to a store bought croissant again!