Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Butter Croissants

I'm back from Spain! (Didn't even notice I was gone, eh?)

I took an extra day off today, just to get my travel stuff cleaned up. And... to make croissants? I tried it on a whim, since I was just doing laundry and cleaning while watching a Top Chef marathon on Bravo. (Man, I love being on vacation.)

I got this recipe from Williams-Sonoma's baking book. It's a great basic baking book. Among many other techniques, it details how to make basic pastries.

So, to get the flaky layers typical of pastry, you "laminate" the dough by folding butter into it. You start off with your dough ball (for croissants, it's a basic flour-yeast-milk deal, with some sugar and salt). Then, you make a butter block.

Yep. This is literally a block of unsalted butter. Two sticks have been smushed down into a basic rectangle with a rolling pin and the heel of my hand, and then dusted with flour. It's important to keep the butter the correct temperature and consistency -- otherwise it will melt right into your dough, and ruin the laminating/layering effect. You need the butter to be malleable, and no more.

Now, roll the dough into a bigger rectangle, and fold the dough over the butter.

Then, you do your first "turn." Turning your dough for pastries is how you build the layers. Each turning technique is different for different pastries. For each croissant turn, you flatten out your dough into a long rectangle, then fold it vertically by thirds (like folding a letter). Then, store it in the fridge for 45 minutes to let the butter get back to a cold temperature. It's important to keep it cold!

Finally, after the 4 turns that are required for croissants, you let the dough sit for 4 hours, or overnight. Once chilled, you roll out the dough one final time, and cut it up into triangles. Roll each triangle out individually, until it's flat and even and double its original size. Then, roll up the triangle, starting from the wide end.

It's important to keep your hands cold! Run your hands under cold water (and dry them) in between croissants if you must. Be aware of your hand temperature. If your dough starts to feel slimy, the butter is melting! You don't want your butter layers melting after all that effort you put into turning the dough.

Brush the croissants with egg wash and bake on a buttered baking sheet.

I am SO PLEASED with the results of this attempt. My first try at an actual pastry, and the croissants are buttery, flaky, and soft. And I can only get better with practice, right? :)


shippo said...

I was wondering why you hadn't posted in a while... How was Spain?! :D I'm super jealous. I want to go off to Europe! Your croissants look awesome, by the way. We should have a baking party together sometime... ^__^

Iris said...

yummy croissants!!! good job :)

so who eats all of your food when you cook it? just curious.