September’s Daring Bakers Challenge was a croissant recipe by Julia Childs. I meant to participate but lost track of time and now its almost November. I can’t wait for the upcoming holidays–Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. This is my favorite time of year to bake breads and pastries. When its much cooler outside, nothing warms up the house quite like freshly baked goods.
I like to wake up early. Even on weekends, I like being the first one up and having uninterrupted peace and quiet all to myself. I cherish the mornings I wake at the crack of dawn and get to curl up in my favorite chair reading a good book. This morning was extra special because I had croissants to enjoy as well.
|Black Forest ham and Gruyere cheese croissant before baking|
Croissants can seem like a daunting feat, especially if its your first time working with laminated doughs. Baking is very much a science, based on precise and calculated measurements and ratios. There is a reason why you need x amount of liquids to y amount of dry ingredients. Ingredients work with one another to produce desired results. For example, baking powder is added as a leavening agent in cookies and muffins and extra sugar contributes to increased moistness in cakes.
|Classic croissant dough before baking|
My personal chef (read about Alex here) says laminating a dough is like shuffling a deck of cards. Half the stack is butter/lard/fat and the other stack is plain dough. If you shuffle the cards perfectly, you’ll have an alternating layer of fat and dough, creating the desired lamination.
In laminated doughs, the butter is distributed evenly across each layer. Unlike biscuit dough where fat is randomly placed through layers in chunks, laminated doughs are folded and manipulated in order to produce distinct flaky layers.
As a result, making layered pastries is quite time consuming and requires plenty of patience. Aside from having the right amount of ingredients, the temperature of the dough, warmth of your hands, and the humidity of the room become important factors. But don’t be discouraged or intimidated, the rewards of homemade croissants are well worth it and its one of the most impressive baked goods you can share with friends and family.
|Plain classic croissants|
Croissants, from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Note: I followed the recipe exactly as it is printed in the cookbook. Its a great instructional book with lots of interesting recipes. Due to copyright issues, I cannot publish the directions. I highly recommend getting the cookbook.