NEWS ALERT—I REPEAT, NEWS ALERT. I FINALLY TRIED MY HAND AT BAKING CROISSANTS AT HOME. Well, in all honesty this is my second attempt but my first was a complete disaster…one that we shall never speak of again if we want to preserve whats left of our sanity…(am not even kidding). I was really happy with the end result, despite the lack of honeycomb texture. I believe it was my use of only all-purpose flour rather than a mixture of or only bread-flour. In addition, I have discovered that the REAL secret to not tearing the dough during the folding and rolling out process is a really big, really sturdy rolling pin and lots and lots of counter top space. Honestly! And as is true with any croissants that lack preservatives, they taste best the first day. The chocolate and maldon salt combination was to-die-for but next time I’ll go with my all-time-fave almond cream, and maybe even a pine-nut-praline variation. Stay tuned for that post! For now, I’m off to sign myself up for a marathon run. You can guess why. *laughs*
Homemade Croissants and Pain Au Chocolat
Yields 8 portions of each (16 total)
250 grams (8.8 ounces) bread flour
250 grams (8.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
75 grams (2.65 ounces) light brown sugar
8 grams (0.28 ounce) yeast
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
150 grams (5.3 ounces) whole milk (reserve another 30 grams/1 ounce for if the dough is too try)
10 grams (0.35 ounce) honey (preferably local, or amber)
15 grams (0.53 ounce) kosher salt
100 grams (3.5) unsalted butter, at room temperature but not mushy
330 grams (11.64 ounces) unsalted butter
1 egg white, for brushing on top
Pain Au Chocolat
24 x 5 gram (0.17 ounce) dark chocolate squares
maldon salt, for sprinkling
Please follow the pictures that correspond to each letter for a better tutorial.
0. An hour before you start on the poolish, heat your Crockpot/slow cooker with water on the lowest setting. Turn off the heat after the hour is up. (If using a deep sauce pot big enough to rest a metal bowl over the top of it instead of a Crockpot, only let it warm for 25 minutes instead of an hour). Also, pound your butter into a 6+ 3/4″ by 7 + 1/2″ rectangular block. Wrap and allow to chill in the fridge.
A. When you’re ready to start on your poolish, mix together your flour, yeast and water until just combined. No need to over-mix the poolish.
B. Cover with a shower cap or plastic wrap and let it sit atop the Crockpot or sauce pot for 2-3 hours or until large bubbles have formed and the poolish has doubled or even tripled in size.
C. Pour in the remaining ingredients listed under “croissant dough”, except the butter.
D. Stir to combine.
E. Dump the dough out onto a clean counter top and mix in the cubes of butter.
F. Knead, using a pastry scraper if necessary to collect any dough that may stick to the counter.
G. Knead for 15-20 minutes straight, if doing by hand. You can check the elasticity by pulling at it between your finger tips. If it does not yield and tears easily it still needs 5-10 more minutes of kneading.
*If using a KitchenAid stand mixer, set it to 4 or 5 and let the dough-hook do all the work (lucky you!) and skip to step K.
H. The way I knead is by pushing the dough away from me using the heel of one hand to stretch it across the counter, then pulling it back towards me using my fingertips.
I. Then I press it down into the center and roll it back into a rough ball. Repeat again and again until a smooth, soft elastic dough has formed.
J. The dough is ready when it springs back to the touch. Check again by stretching the dough between your fingertips, if it tears in almost perfectly round “O”‘s and is almost translucent (like a “windowpane”) then it is ready.
K. Roll it into a ball.
L. Proof it for another 1.5 hours in a large bowl, covered with a shower cap or plastic wrap, either on top of the crockpot/sauce pot or somewhere else warm.
M. Once it has tripled in size, dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10″ by 7+ 1/2″ rectangle.
N. Lay on a tray or baking sheet and cover in a clean plastic bag. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
O. Remove your butter block from the fridge.
P. Remove the dough from the fridge and lay the butter block atop the dough in the center.
Q. Do the letter fold; take one side of the dough and bring it to the center to cover the butter; finally, take the other side of the dough toward the other edge and seal.
R. Roll it out into a 16″ by 7+ 1/2″ by 1/2 ” rectangle. Do another letter fold.
S. Mark one corner with one fingertip to indicate “first fold.” Place back onto the tray/baking sheet and into the plastic bag; chill for another 45 minutes in the fridge.
T. Remove from the fridge; roll the dough out into a 22″ by 9″ by 3/8″ (thick) rectangle. Do the letter fold and mark one corner with two fingertips to indicate “second fold.” Chill in the fridge for another 45 minutes.
U. Repeat one more rolling out of the dough, and one more letter fold. Mark the corner with three fingertips to indicate “third fold.”
V. Cover the dough properly, place on a tray, and chill in the fridge for another 45 minutes.
W. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out into a 24″ by 9″ rectangle. Divide the rectangle into 2 separate ones. This would make each rectangle 12″ by 9″.
X. Next roll each rectangle out to be 19″ by 9″. Trim off all the edges to be as straight as possible. They should both now be approximately 18″ by 8″ rectangles.
Y. Here is the view of the layers of butter-dough. Cover the two rectangles in plastic wrap and chill, for the last time, for another 45 minutes. After chilling, continue to step Z.
Z. For croissants, slice the rectangle in half and then quarters. Next, slash each rectangle fourths into triangles, from top left corner to bottom right corner. Or you could do like me and alternative, top left-bottom right; top right-bottom left. Whichever way works best for you.
ZA. Cut a tiny slit at the bottom of each croissants.
ZB. Tuck the corners of the croissants in before rolling straight up.
ZC. Make sure to tuck the pointed end of the croissant under each croissant so it doesn’t stay visible after proofing/baking. Pointy ends make for ugly croissants! (Though no less tasty).
ZD. For pain au chocolat, instead of slashing each rectangle into triangles, cut them perpendicular into halves to get 8 squares/mini rectangles. Fill the middle with 2 chocolate squares; fold the bottom lip of the square/rectangle over the chocolate.
ZE. Lay another chocolate square over the top.
ZF. Now roll the dough over again to cover the chocolate.
Proofing and Baking
1. If baking on the same day, allow the croissants and pain au chocolat to proof for at least 3-4 hours so that the middle of the dough can properly expand. This is to ensure it does not collapse from the heaviness of the butter during the middle of baking. (Which means a dense, wet croissant!)
2. If baking the next day, chill in the refrigerator (properly covered in cling wrap) overnight. Allow it to proof to room temperature, and then some, for at least 5-6 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 455 degrees F/235 degrees C. Brush the tops with egg white and, for the pain au chocolat, sprinkle with maldon salt.
4. Bake the pastries for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 365 degrees F/185 degrees C. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes, or until a dark brown. You don’t want to underbake the insides of the croissant or it will collapse once it has cooled.
5. Remove from the oven and rest on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes. Transfer to a metal rack and cool. Best to serve on the same day it is baked.
*Note 1: it is important to trim off any edges that has no exposure to the butter block before doing the letter folds (Step P)! The reason is if you continue to roll out and fold the dough that has no butter in it, and it mixes with the layers of dough that DO have butter in it, then you will lose the flakiness that comes from the distinct butter-dough-butter-dough layer when it bakes. Instead it will just bake as dough-dough-dough.
*Note 2: if you have a lot of leftover croissants, simply freeze in an airtight ziploc bag immediately after it has cooled (should freeze on the same day you bake them). To eat, let it thaw on the countertop for an hour or two before heating in a 390 degrees F/200 degrees C oven for 5-6 minutes.
*Note 3: the addition of vital wheat gluten helps expand the gluten in the dough faster and more efficiently.
*Note 4: the extra addition of honey (and not just sugar) is due to the yeast’s appetite. It consumes all the sugar during proofing and without the extra honey your croissants/pain au chocolat will not brown and crystalize as much during the baking process.
*Note 5: feel free to experiment with the all-purpose and bread flour ratio. Some claim that using bread flour, which has a stronger/higher gluten content compared to all-purpose, produces a better honeycomb texture that many people desire, better than all-purpose flour can.
*Note 6: more notes will be added as I continue to experiment. If any information is missing, wrong, or contradicting please notify me immediately in the comment section. Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks!
Bon Appetit, everyone!
And now, to end this long adventurous journey with a lovely view of the morning sun, rising in the East. Happy baking, everyone!