Baking

I challenged myself to make croissants…

croissants

… and they turned out surprisingly well so I want to share a few things that I learned whilst spending a whole Sunday afternoon baking them a couple of weeks ago. My croissants were far from perfect but as an experienced baker I’ve got a fairly good idea of where I went wrong.

Before I get onto the croissants I just want to say I can’t believe it’s July already and I’ve not had a post up for 2 weeks! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve still been making lots of interesting food and going to a few foodie events, I just haven’t been able to spend long enough on the laptop to write up the posts. For the past few weeks at work I’ve been converting my really long and not very exciting (to most people) thesis chapters into shorter articles for publication. Going back into academic writing mode seemed to kill off my food writing abilities, very inconvenient for a food blogger. Fortunately I’ve managed to submit one of the papers and the second is with my supervisor awaiting feedback.

I was all fired up to start writing blog posts again over the weekend and then our internet connection kept cutting out, plus we were away visiting the inlaws on Sunday, well technically not inlaws as we’re not married but you know what I mean. Cakes were requested for the visit so I had a go at making speculoos cupcakes, here’s a photo of them on Instagram and they will definitely be featuring on the blog in the future because they were amazingly good. Our internet woes continued when we got back and were finally resolved yesterday evening whilst I was at an event, typical!

Onto the croissants. For June Lisa set the theme for The Pastry Challenge as breakfasts and after a bit of thinking I decided that I would set myself a proper challenge for once and break out of my comfort zone by making croissants. As they’re made with a yeasted dough this also would have linked in well with Bready Steady Go which I run with Michelle. Although I feel quite confident when it comes to playing around with dough, I’ve never attempted to make any kind of laminated dough or pastry before so I’m really pleased with how my first attempt turned out.

From start to finish it took me about 7 hours as the dough was a bit slow to prove in my kitchen but I really think it was worth the effort. I decided to document the process on the day and just for fun I put together a quick little video on Flipagram which hopefully should work if you press play below. The recipe I used is from “Bread” by Christine Ingram & Jennie Shapter. This is the only bread book I have at the moment and is the one I learned from when I picked up a copy for about £5 in WH Smith’s around 6 years ago.

At the start I asked my Instagram followers if anyone had ever made croissants before and a few people had, including Jo from Every Nook and Cranny who gave me an excellent tip. After cutting out the triangles for the croissants she suggested rolling them out longer than I thought I would need to make shaping the croissants easier. She was definitely right, it was much easier to roll up the dough with a longer triangle to work with, so thank you very much Jo.

Making the dough was easy, I mixed together 350g white bread flour, 115g plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 25g caster sugar, 1 tbsp dried yeast reactivated in 225ml lukewarm milk and 1 beaten egg then kneaded until it was smooth. The dough did feel a bit drier than other enriched doughs I’ve worked with, but I resisted the temptation to add more liquid because so far I’ve had success with every recipe I’ve used from this book. It turns out I was right to trust my instincts as the dough rose beautifully and felt wonderfully smooth after the first proving.

croissant dough

Adding the butter was fun, just shy of a whole block at 225g, I bashed it out into a rough square shape using a rolling pin between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper, it’s always good stress relief bashing things up with a rolling pin, then rolled the dough out into a large square and folded the corners over the butter like an envelope. The next step was rolling the dough into a long rectangle then doing the first fold to begin the lamination. As I’ve never even made my own puff pastry I got a bit confused when it came to rotating the dough for the subsequent folds and ended up doing an extra fold because I didn’t think I’d remembered to turn the dough 90 degrees on what should have been the third and final fold. This added an extra 20 minutes to the process waiting for the dough to rest in the fridge after the final fold. Lesson learned, pay closer attention next time when rolling, folding and rotating the dough.

croissant dough

Rolling out the dough after all the folding into a large rectangle ready for cutting into croissant triangles was interesting. Whilst my kitchen isn’t teeny tiny it’s also not exactly spacious and workspace is at a premium. My stand mixer got relegated to the floor while the bread bin and knife block found a new temporary home on top of the chest height fridge freezer all to give me enough space to roll out a rectangle 60cm wide and 30cm long. It’s times like this that I miss the huge kitchen we left behind in Plymouth 3 years ago. The final stage of croissant prep was cutting out 14 triangles, each with a 15cm base and placing them on baking trays to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

croissant dough

Once the triangles were firm, I rolled them out slightly longer as Jo suggested and then carefully began shaping them into croissants. I’ve seen French bakers roll out croissants on TV so had some idea of what I was aiming for, I was a lot slower and not quite as neat as a French baker, not surprising really. Some of my triangles were a also a bit wonky which didn’t help. The recipe then said to brush the croissants with an egg wash then leave to prove for the final time at room temperature before glazing again and baking. One important point that I appeared to overlook was avoiding the exposed edges of the rolled croissant with the glaze. I just went ahead and brushed the glaze all over, this meant that I didn’t get the nice layering in the rolls of the croissant after they were baked. I also neglected to grease my baking trays thinking that greaseproof paper on its would be sufficient, it wasn’t and I had to scrape my finished croissants off the paper. Next time I will grease the paper or use my silicone baking mat, essential to avoid picking bits of paper off the bottom of my croissants.

croissant dough

I’m not sure I let my croissants prove quite long enough before baking, but after spending all afternoon preparing them I was getting bored of waiting and was impatient to see what they would taste like. This led to a silly mistake with my oven. It only has one shelf which means baking in batches takes ages, this time I felt like speeding things up my using an upturned roasting tin as a makeshift second shelf because I got a good result doing this when baking biscuits a while ago. Turns out this was a bad idea for croissants, the top shelf ended up too dark whilst on the bottom shelf the croissants ended up mottled on top like tiger bread.

croissants

Despite the few silly mistakes I made, the croissants tasted amazing, much better than supermarket offerings and at least in terms of taste, they were a pretty close contender to the real thing, though a long way off on looks. However as they say, practice makes perfect and I have a couple of ideas in mind for filled croissants that I will be experimenting with once I’ve reorganised the kitchen to give me more room for rolling out the dough. I also really want to have a go at making pain au chocolat, my absolute favourite breakfast pastry.

croissants

  • nazima
    July 1, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    wow what a great looking set of croissants – really impressed with how they turned out! I have only tried once, didn’t work that well and I was scared off trying again by the insane amount of butter needed! I do love croissants though and really should try again.
    nazima recently posted…Holy Moly it’s hot! Cool Down with this Pineapple and Coconut Ice Cream FloatMy Profile

    • Jen
      July 1, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      It is a lot of butter, though when divided between 14 croissants it doesn’t seem quite so bad!

  • Diana
    July 2, 2015 at 8:25 am

    YUM I love croissants! I tried making them before and they turned out perfect but I don’t like eating them often because of the huge amount of butter than goes into them… But sometimes, it’s not easy to resist!
    Diana recently posted…Skinny Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini NoodlesMy Profile

  • Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    July 2, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I have this fear of delicate pastry like this so I am very impressed with your effort. Now can I come round for breakfast and have 2 of those please.
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry recently posted…No Bake Cashew Guava Cheesecake – Sierra Leone FlavoursMy Profile

  • Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs
    July 2, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I am so impressed! These look absolutely delicious. You’ve really inspired me to have a go. They’ve been on my to-do for a long time but I was more than a bit daunted by the whole process – which I guess is understandable seeing as it takes so long.

    Glad to see you back posting again though 😀
    Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs recently posted…Pork Roast with Apples and Cider GravyMy Profile

  • Jeanne Horak-Druiff
    July 2, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Ooooh – I am in awe of you for making your own croissant pastry, let alone trying to shape them properly! Your step-by-step pics makes it seem so achievable, even for non-bakers like me!
    Jeanne Horak-Druiff recently posted…Dukley Beach Lounge, MontenegroMy Profile

  • Just Jo
    July 3, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Hi Jen – sorry for not replying sooner but it’s been a busy week. And thank you for the shout out! Although I meant once you’ve rolled out the dough, you cut out a longer triangle than you think you should – for instance in your picci even of the triangles of dough, I’d have kept the base that size but made each triangle the full 30cm you rolled it out to be. Then you don’t need to roll it out further and you’ll get more laminations coming through. Well done on your first try at croissants and laminated dough – I love this sort of pastry, to work with and to eat! Jo xxx

    • Jen
      July 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Ah that makes more sense, thank you. Was following the recipe to the letter to make sure I cut out the right number of triangles so I could roll them longer afterwards. I’m never very confident when it comes to cutting out free form. Cutting them bigger to start with is a better idea, at least next time I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing! 🙂