Sunday, November 02, 2008
A big batch of croissants was the highlight of my recent Brunch for Breast Cancer. The recipe came from The Roux Brothers on Patisserie book, my go-to text for all things French patisserie. The things I knock up in my kitchen will never, could never, be as perfect and gorgeous as the delicacies gracing those glossy pages, but it would be silly to let that stop me from getting stuck in and having some pastry-related fun!
Making croissants is a long and tedious, yet rewarding process. You need lots of butter, lots of time, and lots of rolling and folding and resting and rolling and folding and resting to get all the pretty flaky layers.
Remembering that making the croissant dough takes up the better part of a whole day, and that all yeasted dough can be frozen and defrosted successfully, I prepared the dough the weekend before my brunch.
Once the dough is formed and risen (a 6-8 hour rise in the fridge), you form it into a ball, cut a cross in the top and roll out the edges to make a 4-pronged star shape. Place a block of firm butter in the centre, wrap it up in the dough, and start rolling. I can never quite get my head around that "turning" business, but basically what you need to do is roll the dough into a big rectangle, and fold it into thirds like a business letter. (The first turn). Then you cover the dough and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then you take it out and do the rolling and folding thing again. (The second turn). Another 30 minutes in the fridge, then another turn. The waiting is a pain in the arse, but the rolling is great fun. I loved watching the butter distribute throughout the dough and seeing all the layers form.
Then it is time to form your croissants! Les frères Roux instruct you to use an isosceles triangle template to maintain a uniform shape, but this didn't concern me too much, so I just winged it.
I also made some pains au chocolat (P.A.C.s), in a none-too-fancy way. Just broke up some Lindt excellence 70% cocoa pieces and wrapped them in my buttery buttery dough.
I wrapped the formed croissants/P.A.C.s carefully in cling wrap and foil, and shunted them into the freezer. My plan was to defrost them in the fridge overnight, and simply bake on the morning of my brunch. Given the time and effort invested in making the dough, however, I wanted to make sure I'd bake the croissants correctly. So, I did a couple of test runs throughout the week. (They only take 15 minutes to bake in a hot oven, so that was fine to do while I got ready for work in the morning).
Trial Run #1 - Tuesday night/Wednesday morning
I took one mini croissant, one regular croissant and one P.A.C. out from the freezer, placed them on a lined baking tray and let them defrost in the fridge overnight. In the morning, they hadn't risen very much, but I baked them anyway. Taste was good, size was small.
Ooh.. spirally layers!
Trial Run #2 - Thursday night/Friday morning
This time I let the croissants defrost overnight at room temperature.
Success! They rose satisfactorily overnight, and made decent-sized croissants. As you can see, I didn't glaze them. It would have been a waste of a whole egg just to glaze 2 croissants.
The real thing - Saturday Morning
I let the raw croissants defrost overnight at room temperature, then glazed them with egg-wash and baked them! They got brown very quickly, and I was scared that baking the croissants for the time specified in the book (18 minutes for the P.A.C.s, 15 for the croissants) would leave my little pastries burnt, but they turned out fine. Keep an eye on them though, especially if your oven, like mine, is on the hotter side.
My P.A.C.s were a bit long and thin, but at least my croissants were normal-looking! The taste was good too - buttery and flaky. The croissants were nice to eat just plain, but a smear of strawberry jam (confiture aux fraises de Bonne Maman, naturellement) was a great accompaniment. Fab recipe! The Roux Brothers do it again. There's no way that I, with my rolling pin and homebrand unsalted butter could compete with a professional baker, but I was proud of my achievement all the same. Nothing beats a fresh, hot croissant straight out of the oven, wonky shape or no.
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