We should all be singing the praises of the dairy cow till…well, till the cows come home. This magical food from the gods is well worth a break in the diet now and again.
Not all buttery creations are worth your time. A freshly made butter croissant IS, trust me.
And you will have all of your friends and family singing your praises if you take some time and learn to make them yourself. Your pocket book will thank you too. Seeing as how 15 of these little beauties, delivered fresh frozen to your door by Williams-Sonnoma will cost you a mere $39.95. Gasp!* And you still have to bake them yourself no less.
What I propose is that YOU too can make these lovely pockets of buttery goodness yourself if you have a little time and patience. Patience is the REAL quality you must possess if you want to learn to make croissants… that and a little knowledge about butter:
Butter: it softens at room temp and melts at around 90 to 95 degrees. When it gets very cold it can crack when struck hard or rolled out forcibly. It contains fat water and protein solids all of which play their part in the creation of a croissant.
- First: it takes some time to learn and you have to have someone who already knows how to make them, who is willing to teach you (enter me).
- Second: you have to have some relaxed time on your hands and no pressure on yourself to get them right the first time you try.
- Third: if everyone knows how to make these babies, who’s gonna spend $3 to $4 a piece for them.
True, they do take a bit of talent to make but I think that most people who have an interest in baking can learn how to make them in the end and anyway it’s the adventures and successes that make life fun and exciting right?
Keeping an adventurous spirit in mind I invite you to give making croissants at home a try. All it will cost you is one afternoon and evening (or an evening the next morning which is what I recommend) and less than $10 dollars.
Let’s start by looking at what a “laminated dough” is. I’ll let the folks over at bakingbites.com field this one.
“Laminated dough is a baking term that can show up from time to time that is often not fully described. Lamination is a term for the process of alternating layers of dough and butter when making pastry. The dough is wrapped around butter (so that the butter is completely enclosed in dough and cannot slip out), the “package” is rolled out, folded over to double the number of layers, and then the whole thing is repeated. Each time the dough is folded, it is called a “turn.” The more turns your laminated dough has, the more flaky your finished pastry will be. Laminated doughs include puff pastry, croissant dough and danish dough.
Technically the fat used to make a laminated dough could be something other than butter and the name would be the same, but the best tasting and best looking laminated doughs use butter. Butter is essentially made of milk fat/solids and water. When heated, the water in butter turns to steam. The thin layers of butter in laminated dough cause the dough to puff up and rise during baking, giving croissants and puff pastry their layered and crispy look, and the milk solids in the butter cause the pastry to brown – and, of course, taste delicious.”
Now a word about margarine. Don’t! Really, why bother? They won’t taste good. You might as well go buy a “croissant” from a Ralph’s “bakery”. Also, why spend those calories on margarine when butter is what makes a croissant a croissant!
And a word about Gluten. You must have it here. It’s what gives these babies structure, fluff and flake. When you make cakes you want little to no Gluten development so the recipe always says ” do NOT over mix”. Then when you make a tart or pie crust you want just enough to give form but not so much that it becomes tough. Here my friends you need to pay attention to how you build up those protien bonds. You want them long and strong and ready to hold all of that lovely steam puffing out of your butter as it cooks so pay attention to how long to kneed your bread dough and give it the love it deserves. *Ahem… I once heard a story of an old nanny who used to kneed every daily loaf of bread on her bare chest for 30 minutes, to develop the flavors. But I’ll leave it to you to judge weather or not you want to put in that much love.
Let’s get started. First let’s make some bread dough. We are going to be using the recipe from Julia Child’s cooking show. Because frankly, I love her! After pastry school the first recipe for croissants that I used was hers and they always turn out quite nicely. So here it is.
1 Tsp dry yeast
1/4 Tsp salt
1/2 Tb sugar
1/4 cup warm water (not more than 110 degrees, otherwise you’ll kill the yeast)
Start by mixing all these ingredients with the warm water until dissolved, and let it sit for 5 min. If the yeast is active (and it should) it will form a soft foamy mass on its surface:
No big secret here to be learned. Make sure that when you measure “1 cup of flour” you actually sweep off the excess with the edge of a knife so you will have a consistent quantity. The quantities given here are good for a batch of 12 croissants. I usually double it and freeze a half of the dough (after I have the butter in it).
2 Cups of your flour mix (see Flour Options above).
1 Tb sugar
3/4 Tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 cups tepid milk
if using unbleached flour: 2 Tb vegetable oil (I used Canola)
if using bleached flour: 4 Tb vegetable oil