Greetings from hell. As I’m sure all of you know things are still bad out there. I leave the house once a week to go to the store and it feels like a treat. I’ve got to find some way to fill the time, so why not spend 3 days making croissants??? I feel like the family from that Spongebob episode:
Now technically I didn’t HAVE to spend 3 days making croissants. But here at bimakingpie.com we always strive for….adequacy….and I figured my best chance at making an…adequate…croissant was to go balls to the wall and take no shortcuts or cheats. To quote my best friend Marina (of “We Live in Hell” fame) sometimes you gotta risk it for the fuckin biscuit. (She didn’t come up with that but I learned the phrase from her a couple days ago and I think it’s a fucking delight.)
I SCOURED both my cookbooks and the internet trying to find a croissant recipe that both seemed legit and had enough steps so that a dum dum like me would have as few chances of fucking up as possible. Eventually I settled on this recipe from Pardon your French
I chose this recipe not only because the lady who wrote it is actually French, which I assume gives her some authority, but also because every step was written out in extreme detail. And yeah, she did also post a recipe for 1 day croissants, but what else am I gonna do to keep busy???? Talk to my family?????
Now here’s the problem. Since we descended into hell yeast has become a hot commodity. Everyone’s a fucking baker these days. On the one hand I think this is great, baking is fun and relaxing and a very useful skill to have. On the other hand, I NEED FUCKING YEAST!!!!! YOU LITERALLY CANNOT MAKE CROISSANTS WITHOUT THEM!!! That’s why there was such a large gap between making my bear claws and making these, it took me a week or two before I could get my mitts on the TWO FULL TABLESPOONS of yeast that I needed for this recipe.
Now here’s the thing. A lot of the recipes and articles I read on croissants claimed that it takes 3 or 4 tries before you can get it right. But I’m A) A Perfectionist, and B) A Perfectionist with a Limited Resource. If anyone was going to get it right on the first time it was me. This is not because of some inherent talent I have either, I just told myself I was going to do it through sheer willpower. No this tactic does not work often. Also I had already made puff pastry twice at this point, so I figured that counted as my first two tries.
If you’re wondering what makes croissant dough different than regular puff pastry, puff pastry is like starting off with pie dough and laminating it with butter, whereas croissant dough is like taking an enriched yeasted bread dough and laminating with butter. This means you have to deal with the tricky parts of making bread AND the tricky parts of making puff pastry. Joy happy day.
The very first step of the recipe was also a new technique for me, which was making a “poolish”. If you’re like me and didn’t know what the fuck a poolish is, turns out it’s just a way to bloom (or “preferment”) the yeast by mixing it with a little bit of flour along with the warm water, instead of just blooming it in warm water like a lot of recipes call for. I also like to think it’s a way of saying “Polish” in a funny accent.
Right off the bat I fucked up a little because the recipe called for instant yeast and I had active dry yeast. There is a difference, but don’t ask me what it is. I had to work with the precious resources I had, so I just used the active dry and spent half an hour compulsively checking my poolish to make sure it was rising correctly. (It did). The rest of the process was pretty much a standard enriched bread dough recipe, although I kneaded it way less than I would knead a regular bread dough. Also I ended up adding more milk than the recipe called for because it was seeming WAY too dry. The recipe said the dough would be sticky, but mine might have been a lil’ too sticky. Day 1 of 3 was over and I put the dough baby in the fridge overnight to ferment.
Day 2 was laminating day, the day that strikes fear into my heart. Amazingly I actually had the European style butter the recipe called for (graciously donated by my brother who bought it for some reason) but my butter block was not…great. I should have spent more time making sure it was a smooth homogenous block. The first time I rolled the butter out inside the dough rectangle it definitely seemed like the block was breaking apart and wasn’t rolling out into a smooth sheet? Disaster? It was too late to turn back now. (It wasn’t but again I didn’t want to waste my yeast or the fancy European butter.) For some reason this dough was a little easier to roll out than the full puff pastry was, maybe the more bready dough made it easier to stretch? Regardless, I was able to more or less do my 3 folds and turns fairly well. Then came time to shape the croissants.
The next step after laminating the dough was to roll the dough out to a little over THREE FEET IN LENGTH and then cut it into little triangles to roll into croissants. I had to use our dining room table because I didn’t have 3 feet of counter space. This was a PROCESS y’all. It’s absolutely crucial to work quickly with laminated dough so that the butter doesn’t melt, but rolling out dough that keeps trying to spring back on you TAKES AWHILE. Also the dough was still a little sticky so I couldn’t tell if there were places where the dough was ripping or if it was just general dough stickiness. I was basically this picture the entire time:
After an eternity I finally got the dough close enough to 3 feet where I could say good enough. The recipe gave instructions for where to cut the dough so you get the right amount of triangles, and yeah, I tried to do that, but I’m also bad at measuring, so even though the recipe was for 12 croissants I ended up with 13 of varying sizes. Rolling them up wasn’t too bad though, although again I was in quite a rush because of how scared I was that the butter was going to melt. Also, as an aside, on a whim I tasted a little scrap of the unbaked dough and it tasted NASTY y’all. Proofing dough over such a long period of time results in great flavor once it’s baked, but man, when it’s still raw dough it tastes SO yeasty, and almost carbonated??? Not a good time. Day 2 came to a close with me putting the shaped croissants back in the fridge overnight again so that I would be able to bake them in the morning for breakfast.
Day 3 seems like it should be the fun day since that’s when you actually get to eat the croissants, but it’s the most nerve-racking day because there’s still SO MUCH that could go wrong. You have to proof the croissants one last time, and if you are even a MINUTE off in your proof time your croissants will be sad and you’ll be a sad croissantless buffoon. Okay maybe not a minute off, but it’s important to get the proof time right so that the croissants rise correctly and have nice layers.
I made half of my dough into chocolate croissants (which people who have visited France once will gladly tell you are not ACTUALLY croissants, but rather pain-au-chocolat, but this is America and when have we ever been concerned with getting anything right). After I was pretty sure that the croissants were proofed I stuck my first tray in the oven and sweated it out for 17 minutes. And Y’ALL.
I think I nailed it?!?!?!?!?!?!? I honestly, HONESTLY thought I was going to fuck these up, especially after the time I had rolling out the dough, but these came out SO. GOOD. Honestly the proudest I’ve been of my self probably since I got into grad school. Now maybe someone with some actual croissant knowledge would find a million little things wrong with these, but to my very untrained eye these were exactly what I wanted. Super flaky, super buttery, and very soft and a little chewy on the inside. AND THE LAYERS!!!!!
Doing the full three day process really paid off because the flavor was amazing. Seriously these might be the best things I’ve ever made? I really don’t want to toot my own horn, who knows if I even got these technically right but really I don’t care. Joy is a rare find these days and I’m going to suck that shit up wherever I can get it.
I would say I’m extremely please with how well making puff pastry went overall. It was definitely tricky like everyone said it would be, but I found that once I found a recipe that had very detailed steps, it was a lot easier to figure out how to laminate the dough and what to watch out for. All of the goodies I made turned out very delicious and I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to add laminating dough to my skill set. Honestly that’s why I did all of this, I am genuinely just trying to improve my baking skills and discover what I’m capable of doing. That’s what makes a hobby like this fun.
Here’s my biggest takeways from this whole puff pastry experience:
- Cold butter or bust
- Take your time rolling out the dough. It’ll want to resist but you gotta be gentle.
- Resting the dough is also essential
- This is a time where you absolutely want to follow instructions to a T. I’m known for liking to fuck around but if you fuck around you’re probably heading straight for clown town.
- Don’t worry about how much butter you’re putting into this stuff, that’s what makes it delicious
- People will be very very impressed with you if you make puff pastry, which, lets face it, always feels kind of good. But mostly you’ll impress yourself which feels better.
- Croissants are fucking delicious but honestly this is very much a special occasions only recipe. I can’t be spending 3 days a week making croissants.
Thank you all for following my puff pastry journey. Honestly I have no idea when all of this craziness is going to end, but on the bright side that means I’m going to try and do more bigger baking projects. Will macarons be next? (Yes, I’ve already decided. Lord help me.)