Monday, November 27, 2006

THE Croissant Recipe

I would plan on these taking about 5 hours from start to finish. You're not working on them the whole time, but that's about as long as the recipe takes. The key to maintaining the flaky texture is to repeatedly chill the dough between working on it. You don't want to get the dough too hot or the obscene amount of butter you're using will melt and wreck the texture. When in doubt, stick it back into the fridge or freezer. I would also recommend a decent rolling pin, like this kind, which is easier to maneuverer and leverage. So here is the recipe. Please read through the whole thing before attempting The Feat.

Croissants by Paula Peck (and Azucar)

After years of experimentation with croissant recipes, I have finally discovered the knack of making perfect, flaky croissants at home. Actually, the proportions given in almost any standard recipe for croissants could be followed, if only the method for making and shaping them were clear (sing it sister!)

2 packages dry yeast, or 1 ounce fresh yeast
1 Tbl sugar (I actually increased this to a total of 2 Tbl, trust me)
2 tsp salt
4 cups BREAD flour
1 ½ cups cold unsalted (sweet) butter
1 cup cold milk (approx)
2 egg yolks mixed with 2 tsp cream

It is most important to use only a small amount of yeast in croissants so that the dough never rises before it is placed in the oven. If dry yeast is used, follow directions on package. If fresh yeast is used, cream it with sugar and salt to make a syrup. (I used ¾ cup of warm water and dissolved two packages of dry yeast into it. It is crucial that the water is 95-105 degrees because much warmer will kill the yeast—heat kills yeast, not cold—you can tell the correct temp because it will feel a little warmer than your fingers do.)
Place 3.5 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add yeast, sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the butter (cut into pieces and softened) and enough cold milk to make a medium-firm dough—NOT as firm as bread dough, but not sticky (I think of this as a little more firm than sweet roll dough.) Knead dough for a few minutes, only until smooth, not elastic (I used my stand mixer for the first part, and then turned the dough out onto the counter with flour and kneaded by hand until the dough was smooth.) If the dough is kneaded too long, the croissants will not be tender and flaky (this is a great tip—most of the problems with traditional bread doughs arise because you don’t knead them enough, it’s nice that you don’t knead as long. I’d say I kneaded the dough by hand for 3-4 minutes.) Place dough to rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

While dough is resting, shape butter into a flattened brick, rolling it in some of the remaining flour to prevent sticking (I cut each cube in half lengthwise and placed the cubes into a squarish pattern side-by-side.) Place butter on a sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle it with flour and cover with another sheet of wax paper. Then roll out butter into a square ¼ inch thick. Cut square in half. Wrap pieces in wax paper and place in refrigerator.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a cloth well dusted with flour, making a rectangle about 3 times longer than it is wide (I just rolled on my well-floured countertop.)
Brush excess flour from surface of dough. Place a piece of butter in the center. Fold ONE end of dough over butter. Place remaining butter on top. Fold second end of dough over butter. Press edges together to seal.

Place dough on cloth so that the short ends are parallel to the edge of the table nearest you. Roll out on floured cloth into a long rectangle as before. Brush off excess flour. Fold both ends to meet in the center. Then fold once more, in half, as if you were closing the pages of a book, making 4 layers.

Press all edges together. Wrap and chill for one hour. Place dough on floured cloth, again being sure that the short ends are parallel to the edge of the table nearest you (to tell you the truth, I kind of just moved the dough around so that I could get the correct leverage on rolling it out.) Roll out dough into a long rectangle. Fold ends to meet in the center, then fold once again as before.

Chill dough at least 2-3 hours, or until it is very cold (It was at this point that I chilled my dough for 6 hours, so if you need to leave your dough for a while, it will be ok to chill in the fridge.)
Cut dough in half. Roll out each half separately into a sheet 1/8 of an inch thick (chill half not being worked on.) Cut into long strips 5 inches wide (After rolling out one half, I ended up cutting it down the middle lengthwise for two long strips.) Divide strips into triangles (the easiest way is to use a sharp paring knife, or even a pizza cutter, and cut the dough strip through alternating diagonal cuts.) Roll up widest side of the triangles toward opposite point fairly tightly, stretching slightly as you roll to make them longer. DO NOT try to shape further for now. First, chill rolls in freezer for ½ hour.

Then, removing only 4-5 at a time, make each into a thinner, longer, and more compact shape by rolling it firmly against the surface with open palm of hand (ok, ok, I was tired at this point and did as many as would fit onto a baking sheet at a time. Roll them like a modified snake, paying special attention to tapering the ends.) Place on a greased baking sheet, curving each into a croissant (I brought the edges together to make a circle—they’ll loosen in the oven.) Chill again until very cold (you could actually freeze the formed rolls at this point.)

Set oven to 475 degrees.

Brush rolls with egg yolks mixed with cream. Place in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees. Continue baking about 8-9 minutes longer, or until croissants are golden brown (There is carry-over cooking time, so once the rolls are out of the oven they will still be cooking for a few minutes. If you try to eat one immediately out of the oven they will seem too doughy—wait for the carry-over time to finish the croissant. If you are baking completely frozen rolls, bake for about 12-14 minutes at the 400 degree stage.)

Yield: approx 3 dozen

Note: These freeze well after baking


Kiki said...

I'm forever your girl!

wendysue said...

Oh my goodness, I made a huge *sigh* as I read about the butter being tucked into the dough, chilled and then rolled out together. . . it was better than a trashy romance book.

Anonymous said...

That was a huge effort on your part to type out that whole recipe.

I thank you.

My backside does not.

fijiangirl said...

Umm... after reading over this I have decided I would rather just place an order with you. How much is shipping?

Anonymous said...

You lost me at "...about 5 hours." I'm with fijian girl- can I order it from you?

Anonymous said...

My recipe: drive to Costco, put croissants in basket, purchase croissants, show receipt at exit, drive home and enjoy!

April said...

I got tired just from reading the recipe. If you can actually put in all the effort it calls for, then I graciously applaud you. Slow clap, my friend.

Kiki said...

lazy blasphemers!

undefined said...

You have no idea how much I love you for this. I've read it over like three times already, and I'm going to fall asleep tonight with visions of croissants dancing in my head. Rest assured, I will soon be happily up to my elbows in butter and flaky layers of French goodness.

Real said...

Oh my gosh! I love all the French recipes you have collected. Is it just tons of work? Or is just totally worth it?

Maria said...

Just exactly how much butter does the croissant recipe use? It shows up as 1 A 1/2 in my browser (the A has a caret on top.

AzĂșcar said...

It's 1.5 cups.