This post was submitted to YeastSpotting on 2/3/2013
There is just something utmost special about croissants. I don’t know if it’s the shape, the warm buttery aroma, or the lacy-flaky-feathery-melt-in-your-mouth-with-slightly-crunchy-tails texture, or all of the above, but when I come across croissants, be it at a grocery store, a bakery, or a street stand, I get one of those feelings… you know, the kind that Winnie-the-Pooh was getting regularly… one of those time for a little something… feelings.
Croissants are one of those things that people wouldn’t think twice about making at home vs buying (if think at all). This feathery flaky texture must be a work of art, something that only gods of culinary skill and very sophisticated bakery machines can produce. At least I thought so, having given them a try at home once in my rosy-cheeked youth… Well, as many a rosy-cheeked youth, I was a hot headed fool. I know better now than giving up on things after the first attempt. As my mom said once to me, “everything is easy to make if you know how”. And to know how, you need to try more than once, or at least get a good book/teacher.
I’ve come across a nice little book called Local Breads by Daniel Leader. The croissant recipe featured in it included sourdough starter, which intrigued me. Knowing that wild sourdough tends to rise slower than commercial yeast bread, I was puzzled by this approach. I thought that croissants were one of those rapidly rising breads. I was wrong, of course, but I didn’t know it yet. Having reviewed the recipe a couple of times, I decided to give it a try.
I have made some discoveries. First of all, it doesn’t require a long time nor the tremendous effort put in. Instead, you mix the dough, and give it two rounds of roll-and-folds with 1 to 2 hours interval. Convenient — you can mix the dough before your gym trip or a dog walk, come back after and turn it, and then do it again 1 hr later. Then you leave the whole thing in the fridge overnight or 24 hrs, whichever suits you best. Rolling the dough isn’t hard at all, it’s soft, pliable, not sticky, and pleasant to the touch. Cutting the dough into squares and then triangles is a child’s game, really. Nothing hard about that. It took me about 10 minutes to deal with the entire batch of croissants in the morning, that included rolling, cutting, and shaping. Great thing about it — you can freeze and store croissants you aren’t planning to bake/eat right away until later. And the best part — it only takes 20 minutes to bake them.
What you get is: the whole house smelling like caramel and butter for hours. And by whole house I mean, your hair, your fingers, even your dog. And when everything smells like caramel and butter, you’ll notice that life is suddenly feeling like a piece of cake, and all the stress is gone. And don’t make me talk about that incredible sense of pride and accomplishment that rises to the top of your chest when you break that freshly baked golden crescent and sink you teeth into it. No folks, there is just nothing else like it. You have to try it to understand.
Adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader
- 1/2 cup of ripe wheat sourdough starter
- 1-1/4 cups milk, tepid
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3-1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 4 tbsp melted butter
- 1-1/2 tsp sea salt
- 14 tbsp cold butter for rolling
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cream (or sour cream)
- 1 tsp sugar
Mix the first four ingredients and stir them well in a large bowl. Add flour, butter and salt, mix until just combined.
Knead for 3-4 minutes by hand, or about 2 minutes in a stand alone mixer with a dough hook.
Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled container, leaving some room for rising. Place the dough covered in a fridge and keep there for about 1-2 hours. It will expand slightly.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter brick. Soften the butter just enough to make it pliable. Place the butter between two sheets of plastic or parchment and using a rolling pin, roll it into a 5″ square. Place in the fridge.
When dough is chilled, remove it from the container. Lightly flour your working surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle twice as long as the butter brick.
Place the brick on one side of the dough, cover with the other half. Pinch the edges, thus locking the butter inside the dough.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10″ x 14″. Fold the dough like a business letter. Place it back in the container and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. This was our roll and fold number one.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll it out into the rectangle and fold again. This was roll number two. Now turn the dough 90 degrees, roll it out and fold again. This was fold number three.
Place the dough in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hrs.
When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into two halves. I found it was easier to work within my limited countertop space when it was divided, but if you have a longer counter, feel free to keep the whole thing. Roll the dough into a nicely shaped rectangle 1/4″ thick. Divide it into 4″ squares, and cut each square diagonally in half, forming 24 triangles.
Line your baking sheets with parchment. Starting with the widest part of the triangle, roll your dough towards the tip of the triangle, and bend it slightly to give it a crescent shape. Place croissants onto the parchment.
At this point you have a decision to make: should you decide to bake the entire batch of croissants, good for you. If not, you can freeze all the croissants you don’t want right away on baking sheets of trays (or pieces of cardboard), then place them into a ziplock and store in the freezer until needed.
Place the croissants you want to bake right away on a baking sheet and let them rise, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hrs. They won’t rise too much, just become puffy and tender to the touch.
Make the egg wash by lightly whisking an egg, sugar and cream until smooth. Brush the egg wash onto croissants all over the open surfaces. Bake croissants for about 18-20 minutes in the 350F oven, until they are beautifully golden all over.