Making whatever we can with what counter space we can find...
Sunday, February 27, 2011
BBB Anniversary - Croissants
My house smells like melted butter right now. It's heavenly. Yesterday it smelled like scalded milk; I can't decide which is better. Some people look at me funny when I say how much I love the smell of scalded milk, but it's so nostalgic and comforting. I didn't grow up with warm milk at bed time or anything, but it puts me in mind of homemade puddings and custards. It's just very appealing to me. Plus it makes great bread. And this month's BBB challenge was to bake any one of their recipes (your favorite) from the previous three years. I really loved the Ensaimadas from February 2010 but I wanted to try something I hadn't done before. So I went back to a year before I knew about them and chose croissants because I've always wanted to try them out. It's a long process let me tell you. Croissants were the challenge for January 2009. The recipe is posted there although I used a slightly different version by doing a preferment.
The whole process took most of the weekend, but not an obnoxiously large cumulative hands on time. More like lots of little bits of time with lots of rests or rises or chills in between. I started the preferment Friday night, that only takes a couple minutes. Took a couple hours to put together the dough on Saturday. A few more hours to do the laminating and turns. Then the final shaping and rise on Sunday morning to bake them off. I learned a lot. I haven't done a laminated dough in 20 years. I will use part pastry flour next time. Gluten is a pain in the butt when it comes to rolling out laminated dough and King Arthur all purpose flour is actually a pretty strong flour. I will also do a better job of making the butter malleable. I did end up with break through on the third turn. So here is the dough, which smelled absolutely sublime by the way, ready to laminate to the butter pack. I took the time to find some cultured European style butter and picked the hardest one I could find since I heard that dry butter makes the best croissants. I bashed and rolled it out between parchment paper to get my square. I think next time I might work it with a paddle mixer until cohesive and then form and rechill a bit.
After all that work and the butter breakthrough, which wasn't too terrible, I decided to take the precaution of putting foil under my baking sheet. It's sideless and I knew I'd have a buttery, smokey mess in the bottom of the oven if I didn't. It was a good thing too because the foil caught a good quarter cup of butter oil if not more. I would recommend not using an airbake pan because it will leave the bottoms underdone while the tops are perfectly golden. I am going to have to find myself a half sheet pan one of these days...
These things smell SO good when baking. I liked the flavor enhancement from the preferment too. No bland pastries, these. They are positively swimming in flavor. (And butter.) Can't decide whether to use salted or unsalted butter next time. Leaning toward salted and adjusting the salt in the dough. Doing it over the course of a few days though gives it so much flavor already that it may not make a huge difference.
The girls devoured the little mini swirls I made out of the side scraps and declared them delicious. Overall I am very happy with how they turned out for a first try. French, they are not. Tasty they are. Most importantly, I did it! As a matter of fact, I am going to take one of Cookie Baker Lynn's high fives for this one.