Daring Bakers Challenge - Fresh, Fluffy, French Croissants

        




I believe in signs. And in coincidences. Since happening of two incidents simultaneously is also a sign. No not in the superstitious - 'black cat crossed my way' kind. But in a positive way. Or as said by Paulo Coehlo in Alchemist, "When you really want something, the whole universe  conspires to make it happen". No please don't expect anything dramatic after reading this line repeated by Sharukh Khan in 'Om Shanti Om'. 


Unfortunately the whole universe has never conspired to make me the richest woman on earth. Nor has it magically taken away all my extra pounds to give a figure to die for. But still it puts a smile on my face with small happy co-incidences. 










So when I came back from a relaxing holiday from Europe, I had already missed 10 days of even knowing what the Daring Baker's Challenge was. Forget about baking for the challenge. And after I got over the fatigue, unpacking and laundry, half the month had flipped past. So I knew it was best to skip this month's challenge but still curiosity got better of me. 


And finally on 16th, I sat down on my sofa with a box of macaroons I got from a bakery in Paris, to check the  challenge. So imagine my expression when I read the  header of the challenge was "Fresh, Fluffy, French". No it was not macaroons, that would have been too filmy. But it was French Croissants, what I ate for most of my mornings during the vacation. And what I had been craving for even after coming back. 





Now that was a sign - to relive my trip memories. And most importantly to recreate the taste so fresh in my mind. If you know me you would know that I would not have dared  to bake puff pastry from scratch at this stage of my baking experience. That too a recipe from none other the last word on French cooking (at least for me) - Julia Child. Now how could I say no to that? 





So here I was in my kitchen the very next morning, trying to figure out the number of times I need to fold the dough and number of times it needs to rest in between. Actually I could have made a nice flow chart or table with it. Roll the dough as a rectangle of x by y inch. Fold into three folds, top first. Rotate at 90 degree. Again fold thrice. Refrigerate for two hours. Repeat. So yes it was intimating at first. But then once the work flow is clear in you head, it's actually quite simple. OK. if not so simple, then not difficult as well.






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! 





Since the steps involved is bit long, I strongly suggest to first view the pictorial depiction of the process here or here. (2nd one is based on Julia's recipe itself, so suits better). 













Croissants Recipe - Based on Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking


Ingredients 
¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (4 gm) of dry- active yeast (about ½ sachet) 
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water 
1 teaspoon (4½ gm) sugar 
1 ¾ cups (225 gm) of strong plain flour (I used regular all- purpose flour)
2 teaspoons sugar 
1½ teaspoon salt 
½ cup (120 ml) milk 
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil 
½ cup (1 stick/115 gm) chilled, unsalted butter 
1 egg, for egg wash 














Method
  • Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little. 

  • Measure out the other ingredients 

  • Heat the milk until tepid, and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar 

  • Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated 

  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl  

  • Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video 

  • Place the dough back in the bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size. 

  • 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.  

  • Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches (20cm by 30cm). Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up) 

  • 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 (I did that) 

  • 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. 

  • Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. 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. 

  • Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or twoSpread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). 

  • Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle. 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.

  • 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). ) 

  • Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). 

  • Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.  

  • After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes 

  • Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). Fold in three, as before. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 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) 

  • It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready. 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 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½  cm by 12½ cm)) 

  • Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm)) 

  • Place two of the squares in the fridge.The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square 4. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.

  • Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet 

  • Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour 

  • Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9. 

  • Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely 

  • Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving. 





Oops...are you still with me?? If you are not then you are surely missing some buttery melt in your mouth treats. OK to be honest it didnt turn out to be best croissant that I have ever tasted. But then what was I thinking? First attempt and I will remove these French Bakeries out of the business. Hell No!! So be it. But definitely it was far better than what I expected and specially to delve on a straight from the oven croissant. Yum. And to take my taste levels to another level - I made four versions of it:
  • Plain butter 

  • Chocolate

  • Spiced - With caraway seeds, chilly flakes, salt & dash of black pepper

  • Spicy mashed potato & peas filling - like veg patties

Thanks Sarah for such an exciting challenge!!

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