Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The croissant recipe...

I kept asking myself, if baking really is a science, why is the science among the 'same' recipes so different?  I narrowed down my recipe to that of 3, they were all incredibly similar and in the end I used just one, but two of the three recipes called for butter in the dough (separate from the butter block that you mix into the dough) whilst the third did not.  Also, one recipe called for letting the dough rise before incorporating the butter block, whilst the others did not.

I can't tell you whether or not there should be butter in the dough.  I decided to trust my source and omit it and just rely on the butter block (after all, my recipe has a ratio of 84% butter to flour - maybe that's the answer?).

I researched the rising bit and discovered that a traditional Austrian croissant (you read that right, croissants originated in Austria, not France like you might have thought) does NOT let the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  You may have experienced a croissant that tasted almost 'breadier' than a traditional flaky croissant.  This most likely has to do with letting the dough rise.  To obtain a truly flaky, buttery, melt in your mouth croissant, do NOT allow your dough to rise prior to incorporating the butter block, and be careful not to overwork your pastry dough while rolling out into a rectangle prior to incorporating the butter block and while doing the 3 turns of the dough.  Overworking the dough will lead to a 'tougher' pastry.  You do not want to create a strong gluten structure in your dough.  The type of flour you use isn't going to dictate the strength of the gluten structure in your croissant dough - the amount of handling of the dough that you do will dictate it.  Clear?

Now on to the recipe...
Background: I chose Bo Friberg's recipe in his 4th edition of The Professional Pastry Chef, the fundamentals of baking and pastry.  I met Bo at the Professional Culinary Institute down in Campbell, CA where I was desperate to obtain my baking and pastry degree.  However, my career, our mortgage, and my desire to start a family all got in the way of that dream.  Nevertheless, I did take a few classes and was very impressed with him and his products.
After reading Bo's croissant recipe, it just made sense compared to the others recipes.  Of course Bo's recipe had the ratio of 84% butter to flour (good man!).  He also did not incorporate butter into his dough mixture, nor did he recommend that the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  He did, however, have some unique ingredients in his recipe that I thought were interesting: lemon juice and malt extract or honey.  I didn't have any malt extract, so I used honey.  The lemon juice was used to make the butter block.  It is said that lemon juice helps make the butter block more elastic.  The main purpose of malt extract in a yeast bread recipe is to aid in fermentation by converting starch to sugar, which provides food for the yeast. It also helps retain moisture in baked goods.  Honey is said to retain moisture in baked goods.  Thus, I can only derive that the main purpose of the honey in this recipe is to retain moisture, though perhaps it too can aid in the fermentation process (it is a sugar, afterall).

Right, the recipe...


Few drops of lemon juice
12 ounces (340 g) bread flour
10 ounces (285 g) chilled unsalted butter
1 ounce (30 g) fresh compressed yeast
1 cup (240 mL) cold whole milk
4 tsp (20 g) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (7 g) granulated malt extract or 1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
2 tsp (10 g) salt
Egg wash or whole milk


  1. Work the lemon juice and 1 ounce (30 g) of flour into the chilled butter by kneading it against the table or in a bowl with your hand.  Do not use a mixer.
  2. Shape the butter into a 5-inch square/12.5cm.  Place the butter on a piece of baking paper and set aside.  If the room is warm, place it in the refrigerator, but do not let it get too firm.  If this happens, rework and reshape the butter back to the original consistency.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the cold milk. Add the granulated sugar, malt extract or honey, and the salt.  Mix for a few seconds, using the dough hook, then start adding the remaining flour. Mix in enough flour to make a dough that is slightly firm but not rubbery.  Take care not to mix any longer than necessary (1 1/2 to 2 minutes).
  4. Place the dough on a table dusted lightly with flour; roll it out to a 7-inch/17.5cm square.
  5. Check the butter to be sure that it is smooth and at the same consistency as the dough; adjust if necessary. Place the butter square on the dough diagonally so that there are 4 triangles on the sides, fold in the sides, and seal in the butter.
  6. Give the dough 3 single turns, with 30 minutes of rest in the refrigerator between each turn, dough covered.  After the third turn, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring 18 X 31 1/2 inches and 1/8inch (3 mm) thick.  Let the dough relax for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise to make 2 strips, 9 inches wide.
  8. On the bottom edge of the strip closest to you, start at the left corner, measure 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm), and make a mark in the dough.  Continue making marks every 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) from that point.  Do the same on the top edge of the top strip.
  9. Place a ruler from the lower left corner up to the first mark on the top strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) and cut the dough, using a knife or pastry wheel, following the ruler through the top strip.  Then cut from the first mark on the bottom strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) to the second mark (9inches/22.5cm form the left edge) on the top strip.  Repeat, cutting evry 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) for the length of the dough.
  10. Beginning at the opposite end, follow the same pattern and cut from right to left.  Form 2 or 3 croissants from the scrap dough.
  11. Make a 1/2 inch (1.2cm) cut in the center of the short side on each croissant.  Pull the cuts apart a little, then form the croissants by rolling the triangles toward you.  Roll them up tightly, but do not stretch the dough too much.
  12. Form each croissant into a crescent shape as you place it on a sheet pan lined with baking paper or silpat.  The tip of the croissant should be inside the center curve and tucked underneath so that it does not unroll.  Do not put more than 16 to 18 on a full-sized pan, to ensure that they bake evenly.  If too crowded, they will get overdone on the ends before they are fully baked in the middle.
  13. Let the croissants rise until slightly less than doubled in volume in a  proof box at 78-82F (25 to 27C) with 80% humidity.  If the proof box gets too hot, the butter will start to leak out.  This can also happen while the croissants are baking if they have not proofed enough.
  14. Brush the croissants with egg wash (or milk, which is typical in France).
  15. Bake at 425F (219C) until golden and baked through, about 25 minutes.

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