After months of drought here in San Diego we are finally getting some much-needed rain. Rain was predicted all weekend which is exactly what happened. I don’t know what it is but rainy days always make me want to bake. I was feeling adventurous and since outdoor activity was pretty much not going to happen I decided to use the time to indulge myself and make croissants. There is nothing difficult or at all daunting about making these but they are time-consuming so plan your time in advance. With that being said the hands on time with this is actually quite minimal. Most of the time is spent waiting on the dough while it chills between rollings. This dough and the procedure for making it is very similar to that for puff pastry. The exceptions here being that the “trope” or top dough for croissants is yeasted and made with milk as opposed to puff pastry which has no yeast at all. My only warnings or tricks here would be to work quickly, keep everything cold and don’t force anything.
The top dough and butter need to rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours to overnight before they are combined so I began on Friday after work. This process takes only about 30 minutes for both so it is easy to fit it in while making dinner.
The dough is easy, It is simply 3 3/4 cups flour, 1 ounce of cake yeast (1 tablespoon active dry yeast), 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 cup milk. Put everything in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low-speed with a dough hook for about 2 minutes just to get the flour moistened and the dough started, then turn the mixer to its highest speed and mix for about 3 minutes constantly checking the dough. It should be moist and should pick up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl. If it doesn’t add a little milk a tablespoon at a time and check to see that all the flour is moistened. Once the dough has formed and is smooth and supple, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a plastic bag and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to ferment. Meanwhile, work on the butter. Take 1 pound 2 ounces of chilled unsweetened butter and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer, to this add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and mix using the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes. The flour will ensure that any water in the butter will be absorbed which makes the dough flaky. Remove the butter from the bowl and pound it a few times on the counter to remove any air pockets. For it into block about 5 inches wide and i inch high. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Once the dough has rested, refrigerate it with the butter for a minimum of 8 hours.
After the dough and butter have chilled overnight, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 17 inches long and 10 inches wide. Keep the dough floured while working. Place the dough with the short side facing you. Brush off excess flour and place the butter block in the center of the dough. Fold the bottom up over the butter and brush off the flour. Fold the top down and again brush off excess flour. Turn the dough sideways so the open ends are on the left and right. If the dough fells too soft, chill it for about an hour, otherwise, using a rolling-pin, begin lightly beating the butter from the center to the outside edge while holding the other end steady. You want to coax the butter out the edge of the dough. Hold the flattened end and lightly beat the butter from the center to the other edge. Once you have the butter uniformly even you can make the first turn. This dough will get three turns, 2 single turns and 1 double turn.Once again, keep everything cold so if the dough feels too soft, chill it for an hour before continuing. Brush off excess flour and fold the left side into the center, brush off flour and fold the right side over to the edge, like a brochure fold. Dust off all excess flour, wrap in plastic wrap and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Mark the parchment with 1 turn so you will remember what you have done and chill for 2 hours.
Once the dough has rested and chilled repeat the above process and mark the parchment as having had 2 turns and again wrap and chill for 2 hours. Once the dough has chilled again you are ready for the final turn which is the double turn. Again, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 23 inches long by 15 inches wide. Dust off excess flour and fold the left side into the center. Fold the right side into the center leaving about a half in gap in the center of the dough. Fold the left side over the right and match the edges. Wrap in plastic and allow to chill for 2 hours.
At this point the dough is ready to be formed or it can be tightly wrapped and frozen for about a month.
To form the croissants:
Place the dough with the seam side on the left and cut it in half horizontally. Wrap one half and refrigerate while working with the other half. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 20 inches long and 15 inches wide. Remember the dough is chilled and yeasted so it will want to resist. Don’t force it, just work quickly and allow the dough to rest a few minutes if it seems to resist. Once fully rolled, dust off excess flour, with the long edge toward you, fold the dough in half lengthwise, folding the top down to the bottom edge, dust off flour and using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut triangles about 3 inches wide. There will be excess dough cut from each end which will be used later. Unfold the dough and you will be left with diamond shape pieces. Cut these in half to form triangles.
Take one triangle and gently stretch the wide end to widen it slightly. Holding the wide end in one hand with fingers in back and thumb on top of the dough, gently use the other hand to stretch the dough from wide end to point to lengthen it. Take a small piece of scrap dough and place it in the center of the wide end of the triangle. Fold the dough over the scrape and then with one hand on each side of the wide end with the point facing you, keep the heel of your hand flat on the counter and with the fingertips roll the dough toward you. Place the formed croissant on a parchment lined baking sheet with the point up and facing you. Once they are all formed, brush with egg glaze and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours before baking.
To make the Petits Pains au Chocolat, roll the dough out in exactly the same manner but instead of cutting triangles, cut strips about 3-4 inches wide, unfold the dough and cut the strips in half. Place about 1 ounce of chocolate on one end of the dough and rolled the dough up. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and press down slightly. Brush with egg glaze and allow to rest at room temperature for 3 hours.
To bake, Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place racks at even thirds in the oven. Brush the croissants with another layer of egg glaze and bake them for about 12 minutes. Rotate the pans, top to bottom and bake to front and bake for another 4 – 6 minutes until they are golden brown. Cool on racks to room temperature. The Petits Pains are baked exactly the same way.
Time consuming yes, but worth every minute you spend on them.