Before a croissant is baked, twenty-five percent of its mass is butter. And yet, I haven’t talked about butter for more than a few asides in this newsletter yet! What am I even doing? Well, I hope to redeem myself this week by diving deep into what makes butters different and how this difference effects a croissant. But first, the run down for batch 7.
For batch seven I returned to my normal batch size of about 12 croissants and did so with the soft red flour I used last week and buy at the local famers market. This flour is lower in gluten content and protein and so I’m still working on trying to pin down the amount of flour I need, so this week I did about 600g or 80g more than if I was using all purpose flour.
For this batch I’m also using 85% butter fat butter. I’ve been looking this percentage (normal butter is 80%) each week at my local Whole Foods and some finally came in stock. This butter is from Minerva Dairy and is an amish styled salted butter. To help the saltiness level of the croissants stay about the same, I calculated the amount of sodium added by the salted butter and then removed the equivalent amount of salt (about 4g).
For this batch I tossed the yeast into the dough before blooming it in the water. This was an accident that I couldn’t come back from and so I decided to continue and see what happened. Also, normally I make the dough on one night, fold in the butter on the next night, and then cut, proof and cook the croissants on either the next morning on the next night. I’ve never made croissants in less than 48 hours before this batch, but for this batch I did the whole thing in less than 24. This means ignoring the instructions to let the dough rest of 12 hours before folding in the butter and also taking the short cut mentioned in the base recipe of going right into proofing after the folds. Like last week, I let these croissants proof for an extended period of time. This time it was a full night, in my oven, with the oven light off and door closed.
Expert rating: 3 out of 10
Expert review: This was pretty tasty bread, with a rich buttery flavor. I mean, I ate three so I guess that tells you something. It just wasn’t a croissant.
Sadly, all of those details about my process doesn’t mean the process worked well. As Caitlin points out (and you can see) the croissants were much more like bread than flaky layers of laminated dough. I think this is in part a problem with the croissants seeming to not raise during proofing combined with the gluten structure of the doughs being too low. I want to keep using my local flour guy, but next time I might switch from his “pastry” flour to something with higher gluten.
I was able to give these croissants out to a few friends, and everyone who ate them commented on how buttery they were so I think moving to the 85% butter fat butter had the desired effect. This will be my new butter moving forward. I also think my calculations to remove salt from the recipe worked as everyone noted that the salt levels felt good.
All in all, it was kind of a frustrating week. Enough went wrong in this bake from failing to bloom the yeast to having to cut down the time (time helps gluten develop) to not having any raise in the proofing process that its hard to point the finger at one skill I need to improve on next and say, next week, next week I will do that better. So, we will see what next week has in store for us. Lets hope they have some flakiness to them at least!
Let’s geek out on butter together!
OK. So, disappointing croissants aside, let’s talk butter.
So far I’ve used 4 different butters.
First I used the normal stick butter from Whole Foods. This is 80% butterfat butter. Its main selling point is being organic and made from the milk of cows not treated with rBGH. Which is to say, it’s normal butte. The only extra ingredient is lactic acid to help keep it fresh on the shelf.
Then I used Kerrygold, which is also about an 80% butter fat butter. This is made from the milk of grass feed cows. Generally I find Kerrygold to be a bit softer than “normal” butter, which has something to do with the type of proteins in it, but I don’t really understand this yet.
Third I used Plugra extra creamy butter. This is a European style butter which means it likely has about 82% butter fat. This butter also has natural flavors which just seems weird to me and was why it took me a few times to try it even though the base recipe told me to find European style butter.
Lastly, this week I used Minerva Dairy’s 85% sea salt butter roll. As implied by the name this butter is made with 85% butter fat, which is sometimes labeled as Amish butter. It also comes in a roll rather than a block, which is a traditional way to package butter that is being worked by hand and is Minerva Dairy’s way of reminding you that their butter is slow churned.
Is this all the types of butter?
Not at all. There are lots of different types of butter. There is cultured butter, which is butter that is made from slightly fermented milk. There is whey butter, which is butter made from the small amount of butter fat that escapes with the whey in cheese making. There is also clarified butter, which is butter which has had the water evaporated away and is thus almost pure butter fat. And then there are all the butters which are only partially made with milk and the butters which are made from non-cows milk and the butters which are butter mixed with things like honey. The list of options is endless.
So what do we mean when we say “butter”?
Normally in America when we say butter, we mean butter that is 80% butterfat made from sweet cream that has not been fermented. Sometimes this is organic or grass feed, but often not.
Butter is a water-in-oil emulsion, meaning that water and oil are mixed together so well that they become one thing rather than being separate things. This is why butter sweats the temperature of the room effects the emulsion and as butter warms up bits of water escape the oil and drip down the sides. This is also why the croissant baker needs to keep their butter below the melting point as melting butter breaks the emulsion, someone one does not just repair with a few beats of a whisk.
Why is 85% better?
Being a water-in-oil emulsion, the butter fat is the oil and the water is whey. In a normal butter, that means that 20% of the butter is a mix of water, lactose and proteins while in 85% butter this water mixture only makes up 15% of butter block. Since the desired flavor of a croissant is something that is buttery, having more butter fat and less water helps us achieve our ends. That said, the butter needs to be something that becomes hard at fridge temperature and stays solid at room temp and so high fat content butters such as clarified butter are not that help as removing the water makes the emulsion not possible and thus makes lamination not work.
Isn’t butter cool? Part of me wants to churn some of my own, but I would need a lot of milk to get the amount of butter in a croissant.
Here is a quick run down of the weights I used this week.
- 260g of water, with 1g of sugar devolved into it
- 12g of yeast, which I pitched in the flour not the hot water…
- about 600g of flour
- 60g of sugar
- 16g of salt
- 50g of 85% butter fat butter w/ sea salt
- 2 yolks
- rolled into a 10x10 block
- 276g of the same butter as above
- 5x5 inch block
Thanks for reading!