croissants and pain au chocolat

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I hesitated sharing this post with you, as I realize how labor-intensive and unrealistic making croissants at home can be, especially considering the multitude of bakeries that offer high-quality, delicious pastries without any of the work. I also can't take complete credit for this recipe, as I only slightly adapted it from The Faux Martha, who adapted it from Tartine. And, while this space was once more of a reflection of others' recipes that I had tried and loved, it has since evolved into an almost exclusive journal of my own recipes  -- hence my hesitation to share something I couldn't truly take credit for. But, after making these croissants, tasting them, and feeling the profound sense of accomplishment in having created them, I couldn't help but share the process with you.

So, if you ever find yourself at home over a weekend, without many plans, I hope you'll think to visit this space and try your hand at making croissants. I promise you that biting into a buttery, flaky, warm croissant that YOU have created in your own kitchen, is reward enough for your efforts.


croissants and pain au chocolat

These pastries are the epitome of decadence and comfort. Buttery, flaky, and simply all around delicious. While they are labor-intensive and take almost a full weekend to make, the effort is completely worth it. This is not a process to rush -- enjoy the slowness and exactness of it and you will be rewarded.

Slightly adapted from The Faux Martha's recipe, which she adapted from Tartine.

 

ingredients

preferment

3/4 cup nonfat or lowfat milk

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

dough

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 3/4 cup whole milk

5-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

roll-in butter

2 3/4 cup (5 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool but pliable

egg wash

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup heavy cream

pinch of sea salt

 

instructions

Preferment: In a small sauce pan, heat milk until just warm [approximately 80-90 degrees]. Pour into medium bowl and add yeast. Stir until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2-3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Dough: [Throughout these steps, try to work the dough as little as possible. An overworked dough will result in a tough croissant]. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the preferment mixture and 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant yeast to the bowl. Mix on low speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides if necessary. Increase speed to medium; while the mixer is running, gradually add half the milk and beat for 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add remaining milk, 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Mix until a shaggy dough forms, about 3 minutes. Allow dough to rest for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, set the mixer to low speed and add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough is smooth and elastic [not sticky or dry]. [You may not need to use all of the flour -- I only used 1/4 cup additional]. If you find that your dough becomes too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Transfer dough to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a cool place for 1 1/2 hours [dough should double in size].

After 1 1/2 hours, transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Press into a rectangle, about 2 inches thick. Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Allow to rest for an additional 4 hours.

Roll-in butter: About 3 hours into the dough's resting period, prepare the butter. Add butter to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium until malleable, about 3 minutes. Wrap butter in plastic wrap and shape into a square, about 1-inch thick. Transfer butter to fridge to chill, but not completely harden.

Laminating process: Remove dough and butter from fridge. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle closest to you, add the butter square to the left side of the rectangle. Spread butter over 2/3 of the rectangle, leaving the right-most 1/3 of the dough uncovered. Fold dough in thirds, like you would a letter: first folding the right, non-buttered portion over the middle, then the left, buttered portion over. Press the seams together to seal the butter in. This is called a plaque.

Turn the plaque so that the long edge is closest to you again. Roll out into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough in thirds again, and wrap lightly in plastic wrap. Return dough to fridge and allow to rest for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove dough from fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough into a 28-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough in thirds. The dough should measure 9-inches x 12-inches, and be about 2-inches thick, once folded. Wrap again in plastic wrap, but this time place in freezer to chill for 1 hour.

Assembly: Remove dough from freezer and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll our into a 32-inch x 12-inch rectangle, about 3/8-inch thick. [This is not the easiest step -- just keep at it!] Using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel, cut long triangles, 4-inches wide at the base and the length of the short side of the rectangle, for croissants. For pain au chocolats, cut 6-inch x 4-inch rectangles.

Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, Silpain, or parchment paper. To shape the croissants, begin with the base of the triangle closest to you and tightly roll away from you, towards the point. Make sure the point sits under the croissant. [I found that it was easiest to stretch my triangles slightly before rolling, so that the croissants weren't too squat]. To form pain au chocolats, add a chocolate baton or dark chocolate chips in a row along a short side of the rectangle. Beginning with the end with the chocolate, roll tightly away from you into a cylinder, making sure the seam is under the pastry. [Same with the croissants, I felt it was easier to slightly stretch the rectangles before stuffing and rolling. Make sure NOT to over stuff with chocolate, as it will ooze out during baking!]

Place pastries on the lined baking sheet, at least 2-inches apart on all sides. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free room for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. [At this point, you can retire the pastries to the fridge, and bake them off the next morning, or freeze them and bake them another time. Make sure to defrost frozen pastries on the counter, or in the fridge overnight, before baking].

Egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, heavy cream, and salt until pale yellow.

Bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, carefully paint the pastries with the egg wash, being sure to cover all sides. Once pastries are covered, make sure to wipe any drippings off the baking sheet. Allow the egg wash to dry slightly before baking.

Place pastries in oven and immediately turn heat down to 400 degrees F. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to bake for another 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, and transfer pastries to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Make sure to eat warm!

Storage: Once cooled, keep pastries in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one day. Or, store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for 7-8 minutes.

makes about 14 - 17 croissants