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croissants revisited

An update on the laminated classic
When Chris and I traveled full time during 2018, I took a break from baking croissants. Now that I am baking them again for Moss Mountain Inn, some updating is in store and it is all good news! First, it is much easier to find unsalted, organic, European style butter than it was just a few years ago and the domestic brands are fresh and vibrant. My favorite is Organic Valley.

I have changed butter block techniques a number of times over the years, but I have stuck with the method outlined below for awhile now and results have been uniformly good. I have switched over to a marble rolling pin which is kept in the refrigerator between use and the weight of the pin and coolness of the marble has made laminating the dough much easier. Precut parchment paper helps keep the size of the butter square uniform from batch to batch.

Regarding the sponge, for a better rise, I now use dry milk instead of fresh and have increased the amount of yeast slightly. 28% whole wheat adds texture and a pleasant nutty flavor without adversely affecting the dough.  The dough is quite hydrated at 84% but handles easily with refrigeration between steps.

I prefer a croissant that is quite thick in the middle and tapers off quickly to the ends. To achieve this classic look, I always keep a constant tension on the dough being rolled; enough tension to lengthen the dough triangle out significantly, but not so much that the dough tears. 

Keep in mind that this is a double batch of dough, making 36 or so croissants.  Halve the ingredients and halve the size of the butter block and rectangles if you just want to do some experimenting, it will still be plenty of dough.  The easiest way to make croissants is to work with the dough in a stepwise fashion over a period of three days, with day 3 being the day of baking and serving, day 2 for dough lamination, and day 1 for making the dough.  Stretching the process out to three days, of course, helps develop the flavor of the dough also.

The Dough

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, dry milk, and sugar. Stir in the warm water and knead or mix until the dough is developed, 6-8 minutes. Proof at room temperature for 1 1/2- 2 hours then refrigerate at least 4 hours before laminating the dough.

5 1/4 cups (735 g) all purpose flour
2 cups (280 g) whole wheat flour
Dry yeast 2 Tbsp (18 g)
Kosher salt 1 Tbsp (14 g)
Sugar 1/2 cup (100 g)
Dry milk 1 cup (69 g)
Butter, melted 1/4 cup (56 g)
Water, 3 1/4 cups (796 g, 84%), warmed to 105-115 F

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Lamination

The sizes of the butter square and initial dough rectangle are based on 12 x 18 inch parchment paper size.  Vary your size as needed to your parchment, and always make the rectangle 1/3 longer than the butter block for folding.

Butter 3 cups (six sticks, 675 g)
All purpose flour, 1/4 cup (35 g)
Set the sticks of butter on the counter for 10 (warm kitchen) to 20 (cool kitchen) minutes to soften slightly, then slice each stick longitudinally into four equally thick slices each about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle a few Tbsp of flour over a sheet of 12 x 18 inch parchment paper then arrange the 24 butter slices evenly over the parchment in three rows of eight. Sprinkle with a few more Tbsp of flour then place a second sheet of parchment over the butter. Roll with a pin until a uniform butter square is obtained, flipping the butter top to bottom a few times during the rolling. Place the butter square in the refrigerator while rolling out the dough.

Below left:  Butter square with dough folded over the right half
Below right:  Left third of butter square and dough folded to center
On a large, lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12 x 27 inch rectangle, squaring up the corners nicely. Remove one side of parchment from the butter square and place the butter face down onto the left 2/3 of the dough rectangle. Tease the top layer of parchment off the butter square then fold the 1/3 of dough on the right over onto the middle of the butter square. Fold the left 1/3 of the butter and dough over onto the middle 1/3 of the rectangle to fully cover the butter. Adjust the edges and press down to seal in the butter. Fold the half of the dough nearest you over the half farthest from you.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and working quickly, roll the dough out into another large rectangle, about 12 x 27 inches and 3/8 inch thick. Fold the dough by thirds once again, folding the right third over the middle third, then the left third over the middle. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap then rotate 90 degrees and wrap tightly in a second layer of plastic.   This completes the first two turns.  Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.

Below left:  After above folds, dough folded in half.  The first fold is now completed
Below right:  After 2 or more hours in the refrigerator, the dough should be very plump, like it is going to explode through the plastic

Remove the dough from the plastic and roll the dough into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface, as large as you can or until the dough is about 3/8 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds as previously then rotate 90 degrees and roll out into a very large rectangle again. This completes the second two folds.  Fold the dough into thirds, then wrap tightly in two perpendicular layers of plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
After the dough has risen again, repeat two more folds as described above.  Again, after completing the fifth and sixth folds, wrap tightly in two perpendicular layers of plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before shaping the croissants.

Below:  Starting the second fold, dough is rolled into a very large rectangle

Shaping and Baking

Egg, beaten, 1
Cream or milk, 2 Tbsp (30 g)
Pinch of salt
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Divide the dough in half, re-wrap and refrigerate the unused half (Use this other half within 5 days). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 11 inch wide rectangle, adjusting the length as needed to make the rectangle about 3/8 inch thick.   Trim the edges as needed to keep things nice and square and help reveal the lamination layers.  Make 3 1/2 inch markings along the long sides then cut the dough into long triangles.

Cut a notch at the base of the triangle to make it easier to stretch the base a bit.  Begin to roll the croissant by rolling it one turn at the base while stretching the base out a bit to lengthen it slightly.  Next, use one hand to hold the base while using your other hand to keep a constant tension on the distal portion of the triangle to gently stretch it out. Resume rolling the base while the tip end is being stretched until the pastry is fully rolled. Press the tip into the croissant and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, with the tip underneath.  

Below left:  Cutting the croissants, note the dough trimmed off the edges
Below right:  Gently stretch the tip of the croissant with one hand while rolling the croissant with the other hand.

Beat the egg with cream and a pinch of salt. Dip a brush into the egg mix, then press the brush against the side of the bowl to get rid of excess egg. Brush the croissants lightly.
 
Cover the baking sheets and allow to proof until puffy, but not yet doubled in size. This will vary with the ambient temperature, around 1-1.5 hours in a warm kitchen or high altitude and 1.5-2 hours in a cool kitchen at lower altitudes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F, and lightly rebrush the croissants with the egg mix. Bake for 28-30 minutes until the tops are deep brown. If using a gas oven, place a broiler pan on the bottom rack and pour two cups of water in at the start of baking to help with browning.  Serve warm.