Otherwise known as - How the crazy lady spent her weekend.
So back in December, I read a post on several blogs about a cross-blog baking effort for chocolate biscotti. It looked like so much fun, all these bakers making the same recipe on the same weekend, that I asked to join in. (There were times this weekend where I felt I should have kept my fingers from asking!)
But I didn't, so this weekend I tackled the task of making croissants for the first time. Yes, the baker who doesn't like to roll her own pie crust dough made croissants. Ironic, isn't it?
And before I get much further - don't forget to visit the blogs of the rest of us crazy ladies and see how their croissants turned out: Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Peabody from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Helen of Tartelette, Veronica of Veronica's Test Kitchen, Lis of La Mia Cucina, and Brilynn of Jumbo Emphanadas.
I didn't have a recipe for croissants (the whole idea of making them caused a bit of anxiety actually) but Ivonne was kind enough to scan and send off the recipe we were making, from Tartine by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson. It was 5 pages long! And was quickly followed up by a schedule by Veronica, to make things easier for us!
Oh how I read and reread those instructions and that schedule. I even made my own notes, using lots of color, and to be safe, taped them to my kitchen cabinets for quick reference.
I'm not going to copy out the recipe here - if you want to make your own croissants using the same recipe, see Veronica's blog. She did a great job of copying out the entire recipe, including her own notes.
Thank goodness for the support system of the girls this weekend - we shared over 100 emails over the 3 days! That's right - 3 days of making croissants!
So let's start with Friday. Friday was prep and preferment day, if I wanted an overnight preferment, which I did. My preferment seemed to work out fine, though at one point one of the girls had me running to my fridge to see if it was turning into a sponge or a ball of dough!
Mine was a sponge, thank goodness, as I'd run out of yeast, having premeasured my ingredients for the next day, including the yeast needed.
Saturday morning had me up mixing the sponge with more yeast, 6 more cups of flour and a few other ingredients. I thought my poor mixer Bob was going to die on me!
He persevered for an entire 4 minutes, however, which let me move onto the next step, the first chill and rise.
I used an extra large ziplock bag to store my dough in while it rose, so I didn't have the problem of the dough rising through the plastic wrap or smaller bag. (Though at least then I would have known how much mine had risen.) The next step involved rolling out the dough to laminate it - as in smear it with lots and lots (and did I mention lots?) of butter. Where I ran into my first problem:
My counter was not big enough!
I was supposed to roll it into a rectangle 12 inches by 28 inches. My counter is only 26 inches.
And do you know how hard it is to roll out that much dough into a rectangle? And then spread butter evenly over the surface without melting the butter or tearing the dough?
Well I didn't, but now I do.
I think it looks kinda rectanglish. It was straighter before I started smearing the butter on.
Folding the dough into my plaque wasn't as difficult. I'd been practicing. On playdough. :-)
Okay and a few years in printing, knowing how to do a letter fold didn't hurt either.
So I did it again - roll out into a too short rectangle, fold over. Chill, then repeat. Three times in total.
I don't know why my arms weren't sore.
Next was break time. Time to freeze the dough for awhile, then unless I was so inclined as to be baking croissants at 11pm at night, let the dough chill and rise in the fridge over night. I was not so inclined, and chose to wait until morning to start cutting and baking my croissants. I would have warm croissants for breakfast on Sunday morning!
Now remember how I said I had read and reread the instructions? And remember how I frequently still forget things? Well this time I had forgotten about the rising time after cutting and shaping.
No early morning croissants for me!
Actually, maybe I did remember - and that is why I woke up at 3:30am thinking I needed to get moving on my croissants! (I wasn't so inclined then either, so rolled over and went back to sleep.)
Now Peabody had made her croissants earlier in the week and had said they were "on steroids."
So after more email consultations, I went with the suggestion to divide my dough in half and make mini croissants instead.
But really, no offense to the authors of the recipe, but how the heck did they get all their giant croissants on one half sheet pan and still have room for rising? I used 4 full pans and one little bar pan for the last bit, giving my croissants lots of space to rise (which they barely did, so I must have done something wrong somewhere, or my yeast was dying.)
Some of mine rolled beautifully, others were barely passable. I think I should have also practiced that step with the playdough. Oh well, too late now!
Shaped and rolled all the croissants, leave them to rise. Note to self - do not forget to preheat oven!
I actually didn't forget to preheat the oven. What I forgot was to pull the sheet out I had rising in there (I'd run out of room elsewhere) before I turned it on!
Quick, quick, pull them out of the oven - oh wait, too late for this batch, it's already puffy and golden and half way cooked.
Now once again, remember that rereading part? Well forgetting that one sheet totally threw me off the entire rest of the recipe. I forgot the egg wash, which I was supposed to slather all over my croissants at least 10 minutes before I put them in the oven!
And do you know when I remembered about the egg wash? As I was rotating my last sheet of croissants, half way through the baking.
No purple check mark through that stage of the recipe. No extra golden color on my croissants.
Hey wait a minute! Look at my croissants! I forgot the egg wash and yet they are golden and browned! They aren't on steroids, but they are light and airy and flaky.
So what was that egg wash for again?
Now the recipe called for a few optional variations on the basic butter croissants. As wonderful as the "plain" recipe is, a change will be welcomed. Afterall, how many butter croissants can one family eat before they need something different?
So in addition to the "plain," I also made some chocolate croissants, rolled in rectangles instead of the traditional crescent shape, nestled inside each square of puff pastry a square of dark chocolate. No wimpy milk chocolate here! I need quality and flavor, or it will be lost inside those folds of butter.
In the end, I made 30 mini croissants, and a dozen chocolate croissants. The chocolate ones were so popular with my children that they are gone, long gone, with both children having requested one in their lunch yesterday.
Phew! Baking over, croissants made, kitchen still in one piece, husband still talking to me!
And 6 great friends to help out via email!
I do not think I could have done this without the help and support of the girls. We reassured each other that, yes, the butter was going to melt out no matter what, that it was okay to forget the egg wash, (and lose the milk in the pantry), to make mini croissants. And that yes, it was completely normal to eat half a dozen croissants as soon as they came out of the oven, warm, crisp and golden!
So I raise a glass to you girls on a job well done!
And I look forward to next months recipe, provided it doesn't involve making croissants again!
Otherwise known as - How the crazy lady spent her weekend.