I had the privilege of participating in my first ever “Daring Baker” challenge. What is Daring Baker? Daring Baker comes from The Daring Kitchen a website that challenges both bloggers and non-bloggers to a different baking or cooking challenge each month. The bloggers attempt a difficult recipe, then blog about it on the same day each month, revealing to their readers what the secret challenge was. I joined in August and was ready for my first challenge this month, and what a time to start!
The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!
Lucky for me, croissants are a baking challenge I’d been dying to try ever since watching “It’s Complicated”-with their bakery scene making pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants).
Now, I don’t know how many of you realize how truly involved the process of baking croissants can be (I didn’t). Perhaps you have a never-fail family recipe that you can whip up and serve hot, fluffy croissants in a jiff…
This is not one of those recipes.
My dough sat overnight twice, if that gives you an idea of the time investment. It is possible to make these in one day, if you have one FULL day to spend on croissant making (it takes 12 hours). I, however, did not. So there, you are warned.
I was surprisingly happy with how my croissants turned out, that is until I went to our secret forum to see the other blogger’s results. Some of them were out of this world fantastic. I’m jealous.
However, to be a good sport (and show you that croissants can be well-worth the effort), I am posting links to some of the croissant-bakers blogs that seemed to really outdo themselves. Be sure to visit and show them some love.
I think I’ve decided my issue was the second dough rise. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong (I followed the instructions to a T), perhaps the Tennessee humidity was my downfall. Hmmm…
I also wanted them to be a bit darker than the result. I did a double egg wash, coating the dough in a generous amount of egg/milk mix, and then again right before placing into the oven. Others did the same process with a much different result.
I read a few tips that may help those who prefer a dark shell:
1. use a pan that has low edges/rim so it doesn’t block heat from gliding across the croissants
2. space out your croissants placing only 6 on a pan (I put all 12 on one pan) in order to allow more circulation of heat
Audax Artifex has some great tips to getting beautiful croissants.
I ended up making a few plain croissants, pain au cholocat, and apples and cinnamon.
And without further ado, for the brave at heart, Julia Child’s Recipe (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2). I have grouped the steps into manageable segments.
¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam slightly.
2. Measure out the other ingredients and heat the milk until tepid, dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
3. Scoop flour into a large bowl. Add oil, yeast mixture, and milk. Mix with a rubber spatula, don’t over mix.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest while you wash out the bowl.
5. Knead the dough eight to ten times. Check out this video from Julia Child.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the entire bowl in a plastic bag.
7. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.
8. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
9. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle, about 8 X 12 inches (20cm X 30cm).
10. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).
11. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.
12. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
13. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
14. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
15.Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
16. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm).
17. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.
18. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
19.. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
20. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm). Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
21. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
22. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
23. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
24. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three, as before.
25. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).
26. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.First, lightly butter your baking sheet.
27. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out into a 20 X 5 inch rectangle (51 cm X 12½ cm).
28. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 X 5 inches (25½ cm X 12½ cm). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
29. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 X 5 inches (38 cm X 12½ cm).
30. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 X 5 inches (12½ cm X 12½ cm). Place two of the squares in the fridge
31. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
32. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
33. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
34. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
35. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
36. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.
37. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
38. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water (or milk). Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
39. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely.
40. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
If you give these a try I would love to see the result so be sure to take pictures and send them my way. I’m hoping to give them another try soon. Best of luck and I look forward to sharing next month’s Daring Baker challenge with you all.