The croissant chronicles

The following is a series of events chronicling my first attempt at making croissants.

The low down

At the end of last week, I was thinking about what new recipe I could try on the weekend.  The hubby had been hinting that I haven’t made him breakfast in a while, so I decided that it was time to try something different instead of the usual scones or pancakes.  I settled on croissants, which is something I wanted to learn how to make.  Once that was decided, I went to Brown Eyed Baker, my go to website for baked goodies, for a recipe.  There, I was greeted with a picture of the most deliciously golden, crispy and flaky looking croissant.  I was hooked, that is until I read the two page recipe, which involved: making a preferment, resting the dough, mixing and laminating the dough, resting again, shaping the dough, letting it proof and finally baking.  What in the world is a preferment and laminating dough?  I was tired just from reading the instructions.  I didn’t want a (whole) weekend project; I just wanted something different for breakfast.  Wasn’t there another less time consuming way to make croissants?  My prayers were answered when I found a quick croissant recipe that can be made and baked in two hours.  Jackpot!  I had to give this recipe a try.

The play-by-play (in pink, recipe in black from Pease Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 7g (1 pkt ) yeast – I used a 8g pack of instant yeast.
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm milk (first amount) – I used skim milk.
  • 200g cold hard butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces – I used unsalted butter.
  • 2.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm water (second amount) – I think this was a typo in the original recipe.  I used warm milk.
  • 1 tbsp water

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C (350°F).
  2. Combine yeast and warm water, stirring to dissolve yeast.  My yeast didn’t completely dissolve.  There were a few granules after mixing.
  3. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 of flour, then add warm milk and sugar and whisk until smooth. Cover bowl and rest for 20 minutes in a warm place ( I place mine on the stove top while the oven is heating up).  I think this step is making the preferment.  It looked promising after 2o minutes because it had risen.  The yeast seemed to be doing its thing.
  5. Combine remaining flour with butter.  This is where things started getting hairy and it went downhill from there; hence, no pictures.
  6. Pour yeast batter into flour mixture, then fold together with a spatula enough to moisten flour without breaking butter pieces.  The original post said the butter should be incorporated into the dough after 5 turns.  It took me more than 10 and even then there were wet sticky parts and dry parts of flour not incorporated.
  7. Turn the dough onto lightly floured surface (parchment paper in my case).
  8. Pat dough down and roll into a 18″ x 12″ rectangle, if the dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour.  The dough was quite sticky, I had to add quite a bit of flour to prevent sticking to the parchment.
  9. Fold 1/3 of dough toward center and then fold from other side, overlapping the first 1/3. Lift folded dough off work surface, and scrape surface clean.  After doing the 1/3 folds, I folded the dough in half lengthwise before lifting off the parchment.  Should I not have done this?  I didn’t scrape the parchment, but simply changed to a new piece when it got too sticky.
  10. Sprinkle work area with flour and repeat, rolling then folding as above 4-5 more times (laminating the dough) to ensure all the butter is combined into the dough and there are no more lumps. Dough must still be cold at this stage, if not, freeze for 15 minutes.
  11. Cut dough into 8 equal parts. Each part will make 2 croissants.
  12. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest of the dough in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  13. Roll each piece individually into rectangles, ¼ inch thick. 
  14. Cut into two pieces diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Rolling out dough is not one of my strong suits.  I could not roll out a perfect rectangle for the life of me, so the triangles I was supposed to end up with after cutting it diagonally were more like a cone, pentagon or trapezoid.  Yes, it was that bad!  So instead, I cut out a triangle-like shape with a knife after rolling out the dough.  Even then it wasn’t perfect, as you can see.  I used about 2/3 of each piece of dough to make each croissant because I thought the croissants were too small if each piece of dough was used to make 2 croissants.  I ended up with 11 croissants.
  15. Roll the dough up from wide end to point. Place on an un-greased baking tray. Curve ends to crescent shape.  Like snowflakes, each of my croissants were slightly different.  Some were small, some were big, some were flat and some were poofy.  But they were all unique and special.  ;)
  16. For chocolate croissants place a small square of chocolate at the wide end of the dough and then roll to point.
  17. Beat egg with water to form a wash and brush croissants with this and set them aside in a warm place to prove 2 times original size.  Oops, I didn’t read the last part of this sentence until I was about to put them in the oven.  I was supposed to let them proof to 2 times the original size?  No wonder each piece of dough was to be divided into two.  The croissants that I thought were too small were supposed to double in size.  Duh.  By this time, I was already 3 hours into the croissant making process from all the re-rolling and re-shaping the dough I was doing to get the perfect triangle.  I figured the first few croissants I made had been sitting around long enough.  Maybe they hadn’t doubled in size, but they did look bigger.  It was getting dark and I still had to put dinner (ribs) in the oven, so in the croissants went.
  18. Bake for about 10 minutes until puffed and brown.  After 10 minutes, they didn’t look brown/golden at all, so I baked for another 5 minutes.  That didn’t do much, so I brushed on more egg wash and stuck it back in for another 5 minutes.  And that was the end of it. 

The verdict

The croissants came out of the oven at 5pm, not the most opportune time to eat these pastries, but I had to try one.  I hadn’t had coffee all day and I needed something to go with my Vietnamese ice coffee.  The coffee did not disappoint, but the same could not be said about the croissants.  They were non-buttery, non-flaky and non-crispy.  They were somewhat dense and more like a bun than a croissant.  Let’s just say it’s not a good sign when your hubby needs to add butter to it before he could eat it.  What did I do wrong?  Did I add too much flour and over work the dough?  Did I over-bake?  Is resting and proofing all that important?

A few days later, they were still the same.  The croissant fairies did not show up and magically make them better.  Sticking them in the toaster oven helps to make them crispier and more golden, but sadly not more delicious.  There is perhaps one saving grace and that is the chocolate that’s inside.  Chocolate always makes things better.

And that concludes the chronicles of the failed croissants. 

To all you bakers out there:  HELP!  How can I make these croissants better (aside from following the instructions)? 

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35 thoughts on “The croissant chronicles

  1. Hi Yvonne,

    Thanks for trying the recipe, they did turn out a beautiful shape even if you did trim them and loose a bit of dough.

    This is a quick ‘one hour ‘ recipe, one you can get up on Sunday morning and do and one I make with students regularly in my classes under two hours with demo and make. Traditionally croissants should take 2 days to make, resting the dough for several hours in between every roll and fold, then proofing overnight before going in the oven. resting the pastry like this would produce better layers and a crisper crust.

    Just a few things. You used 80g of yeast which would be far too much but perhaps that is a typo.
    Maybe the kitchen or area you where working in wasn’t very warm so it took longer to proof.
    I have since modified the recipe to bake on a higher temperature in domestic ovens since my commercial oven is a lot gruntier!

    Appreciate your feedback. Regards, Allison

    • Hi Allison. Thank-you for the explanation! It was a typo – I used 8g of yeast. I think my kitchen was a bit cold when I made these. I will have to try the recipe again. I think after having some experience from the first time it will turn out much better. :)

  2. I think you did a great job! I think Alli may be right. Your kitchen temperature will play a role, as will the use of skim milk as opposed to whole milk. I do believe that rest time and proofing are both very important when working with high fat content doughs. If you were looking for a more traditional croissant it is a day and a half process with proper resting, proofing, etc. It is a lot of work but the rewards are well worth the work. Hope that helps a little. I, of course, am no expert on the matter. I am simply speaking from experience:)

    • thank-you so much for your suggestions! it’s great to be able to learn from others with experience in making these. i didn’t think using skim milk would make a difference since i make this substitution all the time for other recipes. but i guess some recipes are more strict than others and sometimes, good things are worth the effort. :)

  3. Although I can’t provide suggestions on how to make the croissants better next time (I’d probably make them entirely inedible), they sure look good, and chocolate is always a good thing. Better luck next time! :)

  4. I think they look really pretty, it’s a pity the taste didn’t match up to their looks. But at least you’ve tried! I think you’re really brave (: I hope I’ll be able to muster up enough courage one day and try baking these!

  5. Thank you for this post! It’s my goal to blog about both my cooking successes and failures, but it usually takes me so long to (start writing and then) write each post, that only the successes ever make it onto the blog. With this post, you still gave your readers lots of croissant insights and lovely photos. Hope I can follow suit.

    • thank-you for your feedback! it also takes me some time to write these posts, especially for new recipes i have to make notes of how i do things and observations of each step. i hope these posts help others, but i think mostly the readers end up helping me more by making suggestions of what i could do differently. :)

      • That’s true! I’ve found that I get so much feedback on my recipes after they’re posted (mostly from friends so far), that it nearly makes me want to revise/re-write half of the posts so others can see all the great suggestions I get, too.

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