This month's Sourdough Surprise is croissant and if you've never made them before it may seem like a real culinary adventure with a delicious, buttery, flaky treat at the end, of which you will happily eat too many. If you have made them before, and I have, then you know they are a journey fought with countless pit falls that may lead to a delicious, buttery, flaky treat or, just as likely, any number of lesser items (burnt, flat and misshapen), of which you will also (sadly) eat too many.
Ya see, making croissant is a very technical process and I'm kinda more of an instinctual baker. So, I can tell you, I had my reservations. Croissant are a big investment in time, ingredients and ego (not to mention a heck of an upper body workout) and I certainly didn't want to squander any of them. But I made up my mind to do the deed and see it through, one step at a time (and there are many), to the end.
I said I made croissant before, although to be honest it was a long time ago. So the first step in the process was to read the recipe. This is most likely the gold standard recipe for sourdough croissants. It is obsessively analytical but the results are truly amazing! Precision is not my strong suit so I chose this recipe and, fingers crossed, tweaked it to incorporate a sourdough starter which had been fortified for a couple of feedings with bread flour earlier in the week. Then I just had to find my metal ruler and get started...
I was quite pleased with the results. All through the 3 day process I was cheered by the aroma of the dough, which just smelled like the best bakery in the world! The dough itself was easier to handle than I remembered. This got me worried at first but I was under the spell of it's delightful fragrance and really enjoyed the act of rolling, turning, resting and repeating.
The third day was show time. The croissant rolled out beautifully and after carefully measuring and cutting they were ready to shape. I filled some with almond filling and some with dark chocolate. I let them proof for 3 hours and kept a watchful eye on the temperature the entire time. And while I was waiting I fried up some croissant scraps, because CRONUTS!!
In the end I was pleased with the results, pleased enough to eat one plain and one almond filled before the oven even had a chance to cool down. They were delicious and well worth the weekend it took to make them. A big hug and kiss to Sourdough Surprises for this delicious, buttery, flaky, sourdough adventure!
sourdough croissant (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Note: I've included the barest minimum instructions. For more details, please check the links provided or take a course at the Cordon Bleu.
2 cups bread flour
1 & 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup & 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soft butter
1 tablespoon & 1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup starter (fed with bread flour)
10 ounces of good quality butter
for optional almond filling combine:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon egg white
for optional chocolate filling:
3- 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
cocoa for sprinkling on finished croissants
In a stand mixer combine all ingredients except the 10 ounces of butter. Mix on low with a dough hook, scraping the bowl as necessary until dough forms. Put the speed up to medium and beat for two or three minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and chill overnight.
Next day, cut the cold butter and arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to form a 5- to 6-inch square, slicing the butter through the middle as necessary to fit. Top with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, work the butter so they join together. Roll the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square and then trim the edges. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Wrap and refrigerate while you roll out the dough.
Roll chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10 &1/2 inch square. Brush off excess flour. Unwrap butter and place it on the dough so the points are centered along the sides of the dough. Fold one corner of the dough over the butter, stretching it a bit so the point reaches the center of the butter. Repeat with the other 3 corners. Press all the corners together to completely seal in the butter.
Dust top and bottom of dough with flour. Use your rolling pin to press the dough and elongate it slightly and then begin rolling. Try to concentrate on lengthening the dough instead of making it wider, and try to keep the edges straight.
Roll dough until it’s 8 by 24 inches. If the ends lose their square shape, gently nudge the corners with your hands. Brush flour off dough. Pick up one short end of the dough and fold it over the dough, leaving one-third of the other end exposed. Fold the exposed dough over the folded side. Wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or longer is your busy) to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the same rolling and folding two more times. Always start by rolling in the direction of the open ends of the dough, and chilling and relaxing the dough in between, just as above. After the third roll wrap the dough well and chill overnight.
Next day roll dough on lightly floured surface to about 10 inches. Cut in half; wrap one half and chill. Continue rolling the remaining dough until it is 9 by 20 inches, trimming as necessary. Mark the dough every 5 inches and cut with a pastry wheel. Cut each section on a diagonal so you end up with 10 triangular pieces.
Carefully pick up a triangle of dough, slightly elongate it without squeezing the dough. Lay the dough down and, starting at the long end, gently roll the dough away from you. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
For filled croissants, make a notch in the long of the dough and fill just below the notch with desired flavor. Roll as above and curve ends in towards the middle.
Put formed croissants on parchment lined baking trays. Brush with egg wash (refrigerate unused portion for later). Proof for 2 to 3 hours in a draft-free place at about 75 to 80 degrees. They won't double in size but the layers will start to become evident and they'll be a bit jiggly.
When croissants are almost proofed, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush with the remaining egg wash. For almond croissants also top with sliced almonds. Bake for 10 minutes then spin trays and bake another 8 to 10 minutes until croissants are deep golden. Makes about 16 croissants.