I’m starting to write this week’s newsletter while the croissants are still unfinished. Somehow the week got away from me and so the 24hour+ process of making croissants did not start mid-afternoon yesterday! Fear not, they will be done in time for me to include Caitlin’s expert review.
As I wait for the dough to rest between the second and third turn I thought I’d take sometime to talk about my plans for baking this week and what comes next for this newsletter, but first, an excerpt from a conversation between Emery and Caitlin while I worked on the first turn.
One of the great things about 3 year olds is how earnest they can be. Today whole rolling out the first turn, Caitlin asked Emery if he was going to be a croissant expert (he has come to be my trusted helper), here is a transcript of the conversation that followed.
C: Are you going to be a croissant expert?
E: No, I already AM.
C: What is the next step?
E: Sprinkling! (said just as Matthew sprinkles flour onto the dough)
C: And what’s next?
C: Do you know this because you’re just describing what daddy is doing right after he starts to do it?
E: No, it’s because I have so much brain in me.
C: Oh, where is your brain?
E: In my belly.
E: Yea, and yours is in your pony tail. (Caitlin does not have a ponytail)
C: Mmmm, I’m not sure thats how it works.
E: It is.
This week marks the end of my time focusing each newsletter on a different part of the process. The first batch I gave a high level overview of the four main steps of making croissants and in each week since then I’ve tried to focus on just one step (mixing the dough, butter and dough blocks, lamination. But, with the deep dive into baking below, the four steps are done. Now it’s time for something completely different.
Next week I’ll be trying local flour and honey butter. The week after that I’m going to make two batches, one with instant yeast and one with active dry. Sometime soon I want to make sourdough croissants. The idea will be to pick one (maybe two) parts of the base recipe and experiment with a small change to help me learn how changes affect the product.
I’d love your suggestions, please send them my way. There are seven issues left in this newsletter, I hope one of them is some crazy idea you forwarded my way.
Cutting, Shaping, Proofing, Baking
I normally recap what I did in the going deep section, but since I am now between the third fold and cutting out the triangles, what follows is my intention for the cutting, shaping, proofing and baking of these croissants. Proofing will fail somehow, it aways does.
Roll it out
Once the dough rests after the third fold we need to roll the dough out. When rolling the dough out this time, we are stretching the dough to be as wide as we want our triangles to be tall, and about a quarter of an inch tall. You’ll note I said nothing about how long the dough should be. The length of the dough will dictate how many croissants we make, but the width and thickness will dictate how good they are.
I’m going to target 10 inches wide by a quarter inch thick and pray I get at least 28 inches in length. (I got 24…)
Once the dough is rolled out, I’ll mark one of the long sides every four and a half inches. Then I’ll mark the other side with one mark two and a quarter inches from the bottom (halfway from the bottom of the dough and the first mark on the other side) and then count out four and a half inches from that mark.
To cut out the croissants, I’ll use the ruler to connect a mark from one side to the other and then use my sharpest knife to slice the dough, making a bunch of interconnected triangles. One thing I’ve been working on in this step is trying to not drag the dough when cutting. Partially this means having a good knife, but it also means pressing the knife down with enough force that the blade cuts even the thinest bit of dough.
Once the triangles are cut it’s time to roll them into croissants. To do this you start at the base of the triangle and roll towards the tip. If you want your triangles to be a bit taller you can pull them out a bit here. Depending on how close to ten inches my triangles are I may or may not do this. (I did it on a few of them).
Once you have a rolled up triangle out it on a baking sheet with parchment paper, make sure the tip of the triangle is under the croissant.
Once all the triangles are shaped, it’s time to give them their first egg wash. To do this beat one egg until it runs well and then use a pastry brush to apply it to the croissants. (Caitlin thinks I should remove the egg yolk).
Now put the croissants in a spot where they can proof just under 80 degrees (I’m shooting for 78). This step could take a long time, since I’m under time pressure today, I’ll be proofing them for an hour and a half. The real done point is when they have doubled in size and have bubbled a bit (I’ve never had mine bubble).
A tip I got last week was to let your oven preheat for much longer than what the internal thermometer says. I’ll be doing that this week, setting the oven to 390 in convection mode a bit before I start proofing (this turned out to help keep the room near 78 for proofing which was the goal).
Before putting the croissants into the oven I’ll give them one more egg wash. Then it will be in the oven at 390 for 6 minutes before lowering the temp to 330 and cooking until they look done (about 10 min).
Once they are done, I’ll them cool for a bit and then cut in and enjoy (fingers crossed).
OK. The croissants are now out of the oven. Emery and I took a few around to people nearby who read this newsletter and have not eaten one yet. I have a subgoal of this project to get as many people as I can (prioritizing for those reading this newsletter) to eat one of my croissants. Today I was able to check off four more.
Expert rating: 7.5 out of 10
Expert review: Pros: The croissants this week had amazing flavor. The salt level was hovering on the line between just-enough and too-much (which felt almost right). The layers were distinct. Cons: they felt heavy, not light like a croissant, and the individual layers were thick.
Caitlin thinks this weeks were better than lasts, thus saying these are the best ones so far. I am a bit less convinced, they are tied for me. The butter flavor was better (I switched from Kerrygold to Plugrá) and I think the salt flavor was better (I switched from course salt to fine grained) and the bake might have even been better, but the croissants had a thicker butter skin and were a fair bit smaller than last time which made them not feel right.
I think the thicker skin was caused by a combo of needing to use more flour than I’d like when rolling the dough out combined with not getting to rest the dough as long between phases (I only rested 1 hour between folding and cutting this time, previous times I waited almost a whole day). I also really struggled with the proof. I’ve had some advice that I need to be more patient with the proof (something I rushed today) so maybe I’ll try a much longer proof for batch 6. I think this is part of what is causing the thick layers Caitlin pointed out in her expert review.
I think the smaller size was caused by making the triangles a bit shorter than the last few times and by the failed proof. I made the triangles shorter because they felt too big last week, but now I think I was wrong. The proof is just something I need to work on.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with this batch and I’m also ready to try experimenting next week.
Some small changes from last week. This week I used Plugrá rather than Kerrygold. This butter is made with more butterfat and thus has a creamier flavor. I also moved from course “Real salt” to fine. The hope is that this will result in having the salt distributed through the dough better.
20g fine “real salt”
12g active dry yeast
50g unsalted Plugrá butter, melted
60g cane sugar
260g of water @ 100f
520g all purpose flour
276g Plugrá butter for the butter block