Thursday, March 25, 2010

Croissants: Part Two

Back to the top 10 "Most Difficult" Recipes: #9 Croissants.
Picking up where we left off with Croissants: Part One.

Getting ill this month threw my croissant plans for a loop. I had intended to mess around with the pastry a bit (I think the hydration levels in the recipe I use could be tweaked just a bit) but that will just have to wait.

Getting ill did have another, somewhat unexpected result...

When I was bedridden with my wonderful virus, I gave Mr. Humble the chore of baby-sitting 'our' wild sourdough starter. Suddenly he became obsessed with it and with bread making. In the last two weeks he has been learning to bake with his little pot of wild yeast and gobbling his own sourdough breads fresh from the oven.

Our starter.
Nicknamed: 'Mr. Stinky'

He is prodigiously proud of the vigorous Mr. Stinky and his breads. In fact, he has started calling himself an 'artisan' bread maker. Keep in mind though, when I met my husband his cooking skills were limited to some of the worst bachelor fare on the planet. Though he has taken it upon himself to learn how to cook in the last year or so, as a way to help lighten my work load since having our daughter.

So yea my husband, the 'artisan bread maker', a title I think he adopts to tease me. In fact, he told me last week he will be starting his own food blog since he is so great. I'm not certain if he is being serious, I think he just wants to tease me about eclipsing my blog with his own.

Mr. Humble... oh sorry, Mr. Artisan Bread Maker, feel free to dazzle me with your uber-bread skills. In fact, perhaps you could inaugurate your blog with some croissants?

They're certainly a pain for me to turn out, what with my spindly arms and all. However, a man with your skills would certainly have no trouble with them.

So, the croissants.

I'm sorry it took so long to get part two posted. I've had these photos ready to go for almost two weeks. However, I really wanted to bake the third batch of dough before doing the post. When I got sick, that third batch of laminated dough sat in the fridge for a week only to be tossed. All 5lbs of dough, a full day's worth of work (sigh).

However, I do have a set of good croissants and a recipe that works to share. This is from the Culinary Institute of America's baking book, however I've changed the recipe to give correct metric weights.

CIA's Croissant Dough
adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft
Yields 5 lb 8 oz /2.26 kg (roughly 11 Croissants)
716 grams (1.58lb) whole milk, room temperature
120 mL (4 fl oz) malt syrup
907 grams (2lb) bread flour
28 grams (1oz) yeast
113 grams (4oz) granulated sugar
142g (5oz) butter, cold but pliable

Roll in:
680 grams (1lb) butter, cold but pliable

A few notes:
If making pain au chocolate you're also going to need about 2oz of chocolate for each croissant. You can find chocolate batons made for pastry making online, I like Valrhona's Batons de Chocolat. They do make rolling the croissants easier, however you can use any semi-sweet chocolate you have lying around. I've even molded my own batons from 53% cacao chocolate.

Also, this recipe is vague regarding the malt syrup and butter. For this recipe I'm using unsalted butter and a diastatic malt syrup. For folks who are wondering what I am talking about, diastatic refers to enzymes in the malt syrup which convert starch to sugar. There are non-diastatic malts out there, which simply acts as a sweetener. Unfortunately, this recipe doesn't specify which...

Start by turning your 142g of butter into a pliable mass. I do this by loosely wrapping cold butter in parchment and then beating it with my rolling pin. Mind your overhead cabinets, this is a violent process. Once the butter is pliable but still cold you're ready to start.

Mix the yeast with the room temperature milk and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Add the flour, sugar, malt syrup, the pliable butter broken into pieces to the bowl of your stand mixer. Pour in the yeast/milk mixture and mix with the paddle attachment until it comes together. Once it is too stiff to mix with the paddle, swap out for your dough hook (The book's recipe calls for doing the entire process with a paddle but this has to be an error as it would be murderous to any household mixer. I did it with one of my batches and I will never, ever do it again.) Mix with the dough hook for 3 minutes on medium-low and then crank it up to high speed for 2 minutes.

Line a half sheet pan (13" x 18" x 1") with a piece of parchment paper. Turn the dough out (it will be a bit sticky) into the pan and roll it out so that it evenly fills the pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then retard the dough for 5 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Now prepare the butter for the roll in. Take the pound of cold butter, wrap in parchment and beat senseless with a rolling pin. You want to create a pliable slab of butter half the size of your sheet pan so roughly 13" x 9". You also want a uniform thickness and no hard lumps or bumps in the butter. Hard butter can punch through the dough when rolling, messing up the lamination process. When the slab is ready, wrap the butter and refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight.

Turn your sheet of dough out of the pan, it should be puffier and less sticky from the night in the fridge. Place the butter (if it is too hard, beat it up again before doing this step) on one half of the dough and fold the dough over. Pinch the dough around the butter to lock it in, make sure the edges of your slab are straight and the corners square.

Roll the slab back out to roughly 13" x 18". (Note: It is very important to keep the dough cold during lamination. On a hot day, I deal with this by tossing a large bag of ice onto my marble pastry slab and letting it chill. I do this between each step and it keeps the dough nice and cool. Using a chilled marble rolling pin is also useful.)

Preform a four fold on the dough, folding the two narrow sides to the center and then folding in half like a book.

Poke the dough to mark what step you're on (one dimple: first set of folds, two dimples: second set of folds...etc)

Wrap the slab in plastic to prevent it from drying out and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This process not only helps maintain the dough's temperature but allows the gluten to develop in such a way that it can withstand the punishment of lamination.

After 30 minutes, roll the dough back out to 13" x 18" and preform a 3 fold (like a men's wallet). Mark with two dimples and return to the the refrigerator and allow to chill for 30 more minutes.

Then preform the final three fold on the dough, wrap and return to the refrigerator for two hours.

When the two hours are up you can roll out the dough and prepare your croissants.

Roll the dough into a long rectangle (roughly 9 x 25"). For the next step I find using the wheel of a sharp pizza cutter is the best. Zig-zag the cutter over the dough creating triangles roughly 9" tall and 4" wide at the base.

Cut a 1" slit at the base of each triangle, gently stretch the points of the triangle and then roll them up on an un-floured surface. Using the heal of your hand to exert pressure and keep them tight. Place them seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and curve the sides inward to give them that crescent shape. Brush the croissants with egg wash (1 part egg, 1 part whole milk) and proof at 85°F/29°C until doubled in size.

After proofing, gently brush the croissants with egg wash again and bake at 375°F/191°C until well browned (Brown! Not pale gold or not golden brown. Brown), about 15-20 minutes.

Once cool, fanatically cut open all your croissants and examine the insides.

Considering the fact that I do not own an industrial dough sheeter, I think these turned out lovely. Moist, feathery interior, crisp buttery exterior. Dangerous little pastries.

Of course, not as dangerous as...

Pain au Chocolat (chocolate filled croissants)!

To do this, cut your dough into long rectangles. Place a chocolate baton at one end (or if just use chopped chocolate/chocolate chips because at this point, I was all out of batons after making 2 dozen croissants the day before) and roll the dough over it once it is completely inclosed, place a second baton down and roll the dough up completely.

Place the croissants seam side down on the baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Proof at 85°F/29°C until doubled in size.

After proofing, gently brush the croissants again with egg wash and bake at 375°F/191°C until well browned, about 15-20 minutes.



  1. I'm so impressed - they look so perfect! I need to completely master bread baking before I move on to something like this :)

  2. Bravo, Mrs. Humble!

    I just love to see your beautiful handiwork!

  3. Beautiful work!! I have some danish, laminated dough in my refrigerator that is about to be ready to be thrown out if I don't do something to it today! Ugh!

    Your croissants look amazing. They are perfect. You have a good husband. I hope he does start a blog :P. He could start a bread-baking, artisan blog and have it latched on to yours. He could just have his own section or something. Add a tab to this blog. Yes? hahaha Should I not be encouraging him? :)

  4. Oh man, now I have to go get something to clean the drool off my monitor...pain au chocolat are my hands-down faves. *weeps gently in joy* These look fabulous!

  5. Hmm, well you've convinced me that making laminated dough for puff pastry or croissants isn't as hard as I thought it was (although I suppose that might just be saying something about how hard I thought it was). I'll have to give it a whirl.

    On a side note, do you have advice about where to look for sourdough breadmaking? I've done some googling around, but I was curious if you had somewhere you learned from and liked specifically.

  6. I made croissants once over a year ago and I remember how difficult the laminating process was. I had a sore arm for a few days after, but was able to console myself with fresh croissants, so it was worth it. Is there any way to make this process easier? How cold should the butter be when you start? I think mine might have been too cold. The process had made me hesitant to make them again. Seeing your post makes me want to eat, and by extension make, fresh croissants again.

  7. Hello Mrs.Humble.
    This is my first visit to your gorgeous blog...
    and for sure this will not be the last... You are such a talented baker...
    Love your croissant specially the chocolate

  8. OMG I love your blog Mrs. Humble. I'm your typical i-banker turned stay at home mom who also loves to cook. Your pictures and dishes look amazing. I'm so glad I found this blog!

  9. breadandbeta,

    Basically the only things that will make the process easier is a bakery dough sheeter (or knowing someone arms like tree trunks).

    Using a roll-in that is cold but pliable (because of the rolling pin beatdown) does make the process a bit easier.

    I figure all the work it takes to make out compensates for the pound of butter you end up eating when they're finished.

  10. Изглежда фантастично!Поздравления!

  11. Nik,

    One of my favorite sites for sourdough bread making is the aptly named

  12. My goodness, these are so impressive!

  13. I did some last week (using Tartine book) and used the "cold but pliable butter." I think it just needs to be cold enough to not squirt out when rolling. It was probably not spread as uniformly as yours appears, but more spotted and spread. It was so much easier on the arms and I couldn't tell a difference at all.

    I also left the end points up during the proofing and several slid sideways and lopsided. It appears you proofed and cooked them with the point down? there was no difference in the result really, except that they were not symmetrical.

    Excellent, I love them, especially without a sheeter!

  14. I have a couple of questions, as I'm considering trying these for Easter:

    1. How many croissants does this make?

    2, How do you proof them at 85F without cranking up the thermostat?

    3. Can the batch be halved at all, and if it can, do you need to change the dimensions for laminating?

  15. Geeklady,

    1. The CIA recipe makes a whopping 11 full size croissants. That's right, not even a dozen.

    2. 85°F is what the CIA calls for. I proofed mine at 75°F (the average temperature of my kitchen when I have all my ovens going) and gave them more time.

    3. Halving a batch that yields 11 croissants? You could. Yes, you would have to reduce the roll-out size as well, as rolling it that thin could lead to tearing.

    Croissants are a huge investment in terms of time and ingredients. Unless you're absolutely bent on conquering homemade croissants, I'd just buy them from a bakery.

    In fact, if it wasn't for the blog I would almost never bother with them. Puff pastry, yes. Croissants, no.

    They're just too much work.

  16. I was with you up until:

    "Cut a 1" slit at the base of each triangle, gently stretch the points of the triangle and then roll them up on an un-floured surface. Using the heal of your hand to exert pressure and keep them tight. Place them seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and curve the sides inward to give them that crescent shape."

    Perhaps some images would help, because I really don't understand what the stretched points look like or what 'seam side down' would mean...

    Otherwise, I really wish I could have breakfast at your house :)

  17. Pupsinmelb,

    Here are a couple of photos from the book to help you.

    Note the slit is in the bottom of the short side. This helps you elongate and curve the croissant into its crescent shape.


    Then pulling at the corners to elongate as seen above.


    Rolling with gentle pressure to keep them tight.


    Placing them seam side down simply means keep the loose end tucked under, so they don't unroll while proofing or baking.

  18. They look delicious. I have not yet been brave enough to attempt croissants, but your post may have pushed me a little closer. Thanks for sharing your passion with the rest of us.

  19. WOW. Amazing post. I SO wish I had the time to make these sometime soon. This is very tempting, but now I will at least go buy some - sadly, I haven't had a croissant in a very long time. This also reminds me that I have brioche molds in my drawer that I have never used, in 7 years. I'll put croissants on my list after brioche. Thank you!

  20. Eleven isn't actually so bad. I was worried about it making a couple dozen.

    They're obviously a lot of work, but first, the bakeries in my area all tend to bake them to pale gold instead of brown. And second, I just can't resist a recipe that calls for me to beat up a pound of butter with my rolling pin. I have to do that at least once. (This rule also applies any recipe that involves setting things on fire.)

    Thank you!

  21. I've finally had a chance to try this (first time I've both had time AND had enough butter in the fridge, housemates keep using it up...)

    So far it's been a disaster. :( The dough was so sticky, that when I took it out of the fridge from its overnight sit, half of it stuck to the baking paper. I still can't scrape some of it off...

    And while I thought the butter was more than pliable, when I did the four-fold there were huge lumps everywhere trying to come through the dough! I'll be taking it and trying to roll it out for the next fold in a few minutes, but I'm really not hopeful about this. :(

  22. Well, they're kinda flaky. Some are better than others. I had to lift them onto a rack halfway through cooking, because they were sitting in huge pools of butter, and they turned out so massive in size that the outsides were charring before the insides had cooked! (The fact that my oven only has fan-forced settings available doesn't help, of course...) Delicious, sweet and buttery, but the fact that they don't cook through is a dealbreaker. :( What a shame.

  23. Wait till you see what happened to my croissant!!

    Check it out! lol

  24. Hi Ms Humble,

    This is my first time reading your blog.
    Your croissants look amazing and the crumb just look beautiful like honeycomb.
    Anyway, I read your recipe and isn't it lack of salt? How does the final product taste? does it sweet? what kind of yeast are you using?


  25. Mitzarooski,

    The recipe is straight from the CIA (modified to fix the typos in the recipe), and surprisingly doesn't call for any salt. The final product tastes like an standard, buttery croissant.

    The yeast I used was active dry yeast. The recipe (like many in this CIA book) is frustratingly vague about the particular ingredients. I tested it several times with active dry yeast, simply because I didn't have enough fresh yeast cakes on hand to test 6 batches of dough at the time and it did the job.

    I do have a second croissant recipe stashed away, one that I think is even better and I will blog about in the future. I'm just waiting on the desire to laminate dough... which I admit is not a terribly strong urge right now. Soon though, soon.

  26. Wow, I'm amazed with the amount of the yeast they are using in CIA...You see, from my experience, and all the recipe that I used, the amount of the dry yeast would be half of the recipe from the CIA croissant recipe...This is interesting, I shall try this recipe myself :)

  27. Nevermind about the yeast amount, I read on another website that the amount of active dry yeast would be twice the amount of instant yeast :)
    Can't wait for your next croissant recipe ;)

  28. Those photos made my mouth water! I have been looking for a good recipe for chocolate croissants and this one looks amazing. I can't wait to try it although it looks a bit intimidating. I have been having fun with various bread recipes and I feel it is time to move on to croissants.

  29. Oh! I'm testing croissant recipes too and my first try will be the CIA's. But thanks god I found your "saga" (well, you know a little research, it's always necessary) and the "typo". Like you, I don't look the imperial weights, only the metric.

    Ms Humble, thanks so much! :)


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