Episode 2: CHICAGO - Croissants
If you think of those Pillsbury rolls when you think of Croissants*, then GOOD GOD you need to make these from scratch because you have no idea.
*I will always capitalize the C in Croissant because these pastries deserve the same respect and honor as our deities. At the very least they deserve to be referred to using the formal "usted".
These are gonna take awhile. “Oh, but Kenny, I’m so busy. I have work and shopping and vaccuming-“ shut your trap and grow a pair! Sure you might only make these once in a blue moon because they can be time consuming, but nothing will impress your friends, and yourself, more than a batch or twelve of these buttery, flaky gifts from above. A sample schedule for these, for those who have weekends off, would be to make your starter dough on Friday night, spend Saturday during the day alternatively tending to the dough and letting it rest, and Sunday morning cranking these babies out. BUT you can always do all the steps for the first two days of the Croissant prep and then freeze the dough for a week or two until you need them.
I usually serve these with butter, jam, and whipped cream. If you haven't already, I would recommend trying out my Blackberry-Peach-Ginger Jam recipe because it goes SO WELL with these Croissants.
One last thing before I throw you out into the battlefield. This entry is LONG. Read the WHOLE thing before your start. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you need to do. If you have questions, comment down below or send me a message. Allow me to be your one-man Croissant support group. We never stop learning and growing in the art of Croissant making, so lets take that journey together, loser.
A note on lamination:
Much like your third grade teacher did to every piece of paper he or she owned so that your grubby little fingers wouldn’t ruin them, we are going to laminate the Croissant dough. Just like laminating paper calls for pressing two thin sheets of plastic around a sheet of paper to protect it, we will be laminating two thin layers of dough around a layer of butter. Getting thin layers of butter in between thin layers of dough is what causes these traditional French pastries to be so flaky. Now that you have an idea of what’s gonna be going down, lets get started.
3/4 cups skim milk (at room temperature)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups whole milk (at room temperature)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon melted butter
5 1/2 sticks or 2 3/4 cups of chilled EUROPEAN butter
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1. Right before you go to bed, make your starter dough. Combine the skim milk, yeast, and flour, cover the bowl with cling-wrap, put the bowl in the fridge and leave it there overnight. If you only have the whole milk that is required for day 2 in your fridge and don't feel like buying a carton of skim milk, use half water and half whole milk. Or honestly, in a pinch, just use water. But don't substitute all whole milk for the skim milk in this instance.
*A note on milk temperature. It is important to the success and science of cooking that, unless specifically noted in the recipe, you combine ingredients of similar temperatures. This allows for ingredients to combine successfully without having to deal with any possible chemical reactions that may come from a cold ingredient getting dropped into hot ingredients or vice versa. Since your flour and yeast are at room temperature, your milk should be as well. You can either leave the amount of milk you need out for an hour or so, or just microwave it in 15 second increments until it has lost all of it’s “chill”. Another reason this is important is that liquids that are too hot or too cold can kill the dry yeast causing it to not rise later on in the process.
Good morning y’all! It’s a beautiful day to make some Croissants.
1. Remove your starter from the fridge. Don’t expect much growth since you are looking for the starter to ferment rather than double in size. Add the dry yeast to this mixture. Mash the yeast into the stiff starter until it is evenly distributed.
2. Next, break up and loosen this mixture using the whole milk. Add roughly half of the milk to your starter and break it up with a fork. You can add the milk all at once like I do in the video, but this could take longer to incorporate. It will be easier to add a couple tablespoons at a time and then, once incorporated, add the next tablespoons.
*If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to accomplish this step.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (Flour, salt, sugar, and melted butter) and the remaining whole milk and mix with your hands until the dough is JUST incorporated. Then let the dough rest for 20 minutes. You should not OVER work your dough when you are dealing with pastry.
It will strengthen
the gluten in the flour and cause your end product to be dense and chewy rather than light and delicate. You will be rolling out this dough AD NAUSEUM over the next 24 hours so the gluten will be MORE than developed by the end stages.
4. After 20 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth. This should take no more than 5 min. Let it rest, in a covered bowl at room temperature, for one hour. It should grow a bit, and this also relaxes the gluten before continuing.
5. After one hour, pat the dough into a rectangle no more than 1 1/2" - 2" high, wrap it in cling wrap, and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Since its going in the fridge, and you have wrapped it up, you can stretch this time to six hours if you need to, based on your schedule for the day.
6. About an hour before you are ready to take the dough out of the fridge, ASSEMBLE THE BUTTER! Cut up the European butter into small slices and place them in a bowl. With a hand mixer, or by hand (God bless you), blend the butter until it becomes one homogenous mass without big chunks of butter in it. You aren't trying to melt the butter, you just want it to become malleable like clay.
7. Once you have a malleable butter mass, transfer it onto cling wrap, form it into a square or rectangle about 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch thick, and throw it back in the fridge for a little bit so it gets it’s chill back. When making Croissants, it is very important that your dough and butter stay cold so that they don’t melt and obscure the layers you need in order to make the croissants flaky.
8. Once the dough has been in the fridge for at least 4 hours and your butter has re-chilled, roll your dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle that is roughly 28" x 12". The 12" side should be closest to you.
9. After it’s rolled out, we need to add butter to the dough. The butter needs to cover the bottom two thirds. To do this you can use your hands, but work quickly so you don’t heat up the butter. Squeeze off small bits and plop them over the top of the bottom two thirds of the dough, leaving a small border around the outside. Then lay plastic wrap over the butter clumps and use a rolling pin to make it even. Be gentle so as to not push butter down through the dough layer. Once you have the butter in an even layer over the bottom two thirds of the dough (with a small border) it is time to begin the lamination process.
10. Fold the top third of the dough, that has no butter on it, over on to the butter layer. Then,
fold the bottom third (that has butter on it) up over the exposed dough from the top third. Essentially, you are just folding this dough like a business letter. You should have 5 layers at this point: dough on the bottom, then butter, dough, butter, and then dough on the top.
Pinch the seams on both sides together to seal all the butter in the “dough” packaging.
*If, depending on the temperature of your kitchen or how much you handled the dough with your hands, you feel as though the butter is getting too soft and verging on melting, after you have pinched the seams, throw the dough into the fridge for around 30 minutes to re-chill the dough and the butter. If not, continue on!
11. Gently turn the croissant dough 90 degrees so that the seams are now facing towards you and away from you. Gently roll out the dough AGAIN to 28" x 12" (re-flour your surface if need be). After you roll it out, repeat the same business letter folding process you just did. If, while you are folding, you notice a lot of flour from your surface on the dough, gently brush this flour away using a pastry brush. No need to pinch any seams this time. You should now have 15 layers of dough, since you started with 5 layers and folded it over three times.
12. At this point, carefully wrap the dough in cling-wrap and place it in the fridge for 1 hour to re-chill the butter so that it won't seep out from any edges.
13. After the dough has re-chilled, take it out and repeat the whole process one more time. With the seams facing toward and away from you, roll the dough to 28" x 12" and complete the business letter fold. 15 layers folded over three times now gives you 45 layers, which will be perfect for your Croissants.
Wrap the dough in cling-wrap, place it on a baking tray, and throw it in your freezer this time. Leave it there until you are ready to go to bed. Before bed, transfer the dough from the freezer to the fridge so that it will defrost overnight and be easier to roll out in the morning when you wake up.
*The layers in croissant dough can be VERY fragile. If, during the rolling process, you see small tears in dough, butter leaking out, or the bottom of your dough begins to stick to the counter because tears in the dough occurred underneath DO NOT FRET! You're making these in your home kitchen, give yourself a break! Bakeries have machines that roll their dough for them in order to avoid those issues, but I have an easy solution for you if it happens. Just sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the exposed butter, gently pat it in, and then use a pastry brush to gently brush away any leftover flour. This will plug up the hole. Do this the instant you notice a tear or leaked butter so that any situation does not get worse.
1. Remove the dough from the fridge, remove the cling wrap, and roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to 32" x 12" this time. Then, trim the edges of your Croissant dough. Make sure that this is a SMALL trim. You don't want to waste ANY of the good butter layers you worked so hard on.
2. Time to cut up the dough. You need to cut long triangles that have a height of 12" and are 4" at the base. This dough recipe should make you 16 large croissants if you cut them correctly. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a pizza wheel, but if you don't have that a chef's knife will do just fine.
3. Next, take each unshaped Croissant and cut a 1/2 inch slit in the middle of the base. Take both ends of the base with your hands and gently stretch it out a little bit. When you roll the Croissants up, this slit in the base will form space in the center so that your Croissants aren't too fat. This also gives the Croissants space to rise during their final rest before going in the oven.
4. Roll the Croissants up from the base to the tip. No need to form a crescent moon shape with these. Place them on parchment lined trays with the tips resting underneath. Make sure there is enough space on the trays for the Croissants to double in size without touching. Let them rise at room temperature for 2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
5. After 2 hours have passed, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, cream, and salt with a fork to make the egg wash. Using a pastry brush, GENTLY brush the egg wash on the tops of the Croissants. You don't want to put too much pressure on the dough and force air out or ruin any of your lamination. You also don't want to get too much egg wash on your exposed butter layers on the sides (the egg wash will seal up those layers and affect your final product.
*Some schools of egg washing technique will tell you to let the applied egg wash rest for 15 minutes to dry or to add another layer of egg wash after that first layer has dried. Some will give you a different recipe for egg wash entirely. Do what you want. I like this egg wash because it is thick and glossy. However, if you don't want to buy heavy cream because its not something that you use regularly (although you should TOTALLY serve these with freshly whipped cream) you could use milk or even water. Dealer's choice. Variations in egg wash won't make or break your Croissants, in my opinion.
6. Place your Croissants in the oven. Once you close the oven door, IMMEDIATELY turn the temperature down to 400 degrees. Leave them in the oven for 10 minutes without opening the door so that any steam inside the oven stays there.
7. After 10 minutes, open the door, quickly flip your trays around to ensure that the Croissants are baking evenly, and then bake them for 6-8 more minutes until they have browned and are cooked through. They should feel light when you pick them up.
8. Let your Croissants cool on a rack and then eat all of them before you have to give them away to anyone else!!
Roll a stick of chocolate up in your Croissant to make "pain au chocolat". Or to go one step further with authenticity, cut the dough into 6" x 4" rectangles, place one stick of chocolate along the 4" side and roll it up once, then place another roll of chocolate just above the rolled up one and then roll the wrapped chocolate stick over the other piece of chocolate.
To make ham and cheese Croissants, do everything you would do for the plain ones then place a piece of ham and sliced, or shredded, cheese on top of the dough before you roll it up. Then roll and bake the Croissants as you normally would.
The first, and easiest, thing I do with leftover Croissants is use them as sandwich rolls. Pile on your favorite chicken salad recipe, thick slices of tomato, and bacon and you have yourself one AMAZING sandwich.
You could also make a Croque Monsieur. Fill it with a slathering of Dijon mustard, ham, and swiss/gruyere cheese and bake until the cheese has melted. Then top it with a couple spoonfuls of Béchamel sauce (or white sauce), a sprinkling of cheese and throw it under the broiler until the top gets brown and bubbly. You'll have a Parisian style cafe sandwich that is to DIE for.
The thing I normally do with my stale-est Croissants is make bread pudding. Substitute your stale leftover Croissants for any style of bread you normally use for bread pudding. My favorite version has chopped almonds and banana slices inside and is topped with a caramel sauce. Mmmmm!