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October 22, 2000
two years ago
three years ago

All-Butter Croissants

I didn't wake up early this morning. It was really grey outside, so not at all bright, so I had absolutely no incentive to get up and about. I slept in until 8, even knowing that in order to get the croissants into the oven it would be quite a while.

John was a sweetie and made breakfast while I started the dough. Since the recipe is pretty much online, it'd likely be easier to go through all the things that I did do that weren't in the recipe. It's actually pretty amusing finding out just how much of it I didn't follow. I did do the initial foaming of the yeast, but my yeast didn't foam, and since it was the last of my yeast and my brown sugar, I decided to use it anyway. I completely forgot the salt, which, later on, I regretted as the salt really does do a good job of balancing the richness and the chocolate, too. I would have only put a teaspoon, maybe a teaspoon and a half of it for the whole batch, though.

I used my handmixer's dough hook to mix the dough and that was really hard work. I think that if I were to actually get a stand mixer it would only be so that I'd have a dough hook that moved at a reasonable speed, instead of this crazy thing. The dough turned out as asked for by the recipe, except that I left out the last quarter cup of flour. It's much dryer up here than down by the east coast, which, I think, is where Gourmet is based. Then, to make sure that the yeast was alive, and also in an attempt to bypass the later eight hour waiting period, I put the dough in front of the fireplace for about twenty minutes. Speed rising it to increase the sheer amount of yeast in the dough. I figured that the eight hour rest, after the three one hour rests, was mostly to let the dough proof a bit as well as relax the gluten a bit more. The dough, in just twenty minutes, doubled in bulk.

I punched it down, wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge for the hour long chill. Forty five minutes into it, I started bashing the butter, pretty much per the instructions. It was fun, and when I got it into the sheet of the proportions asked for, I stuck it in the fridge and went for the dough. Given the back article where the woman who wrote this recipe is saying that she had to let some of the dough hang off the counter in order to get leverage to put enough power into rolling the dough, I was expecting it to be tough to get it to roll out. It turned out to be easy. I think that I would have made the sheet twice as big, and with the initial envelope fold actually make two layers of butter; but it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. With the four folds, it's getting 81 layers anyway, even with just the one layer of butter to start.

The next three hours were pretty much per the instructions, though between foldings I washed all the dishes from the last week, John ran out to get some things for me, as we finally ran out of the infinite roll of plastic. Sometime in the 80's John and I bought one huge roll of food service plastic wrap from Costco, and it's been with us ever since. I finally used the last of it wrapping the butter, and needed a bit more to make sure that the folded dough wasn't going to dry out. I also did laundry, played FFVII and played with Fezzik. It only took about ten minutes every hour, so I had plenty of time to do things. I also found that the butter didn't spread evenly when the dough was cold enough that the butter just seemed to chunk up. I worried about it a little, but it turns out that it didn't really make a difference for the worse.

Around 2 I was finished with all the folding and I wanted to have dinner around 6, so I knew that with a two hour rising time, I would have to start things around 4, which was well short of the eight to eighteen hour waiting period recommended in the recipe. It gave me another two hours, though, to play Final Fantasy VII! Hoorah! The problem was that when the time was up, I forgot to save and just turned it off after spending a night in the Inn in Del Sol. This is after fighting the big nasty in the ship and everything, and nearly dying, so I was kinda bummed. Still, I knew what I could or should do, and I had, likely, plenty of time later.

The butter croissants were really fun to shape. They looked really neat, too. Instead of the chocolate batons they recommended, I used a bar of bittersweet Michel Cluizel's 72% cocoa butter chocolate. Hee. Two squares proved to be of a perfect length, and with the two squares cut in half, it seemed to shape the little pastries the way they looked in the magazine. So I rolled up half the dough as pains au chocolat and half as regular, butter croissants. I then did the cool garbage bag tent thing, had John start the fireplace again and two hours (and a refight and better outcome for that stage of FF VII) later they were perfect.

Being high altitude, things need a hotter oven to bake to the same point. I have no idea why; but I did increase all the temperatures for the oven in the recipe by 25 degrees, which is fairly significant. And everything turned out beautifully. With the water spray, the really high heat, the outsides of the pastries were crisp and brown and the insides were still moist and chewy and tender. Hoorah! I almost think that the way it was baked is far more important than what the dough was made of or even how it was made. Bagettes and rounds use the water in the air method to make the really hard crust and keep the insides tender, and that seems to be a very important textural necessity for a good croissant. These were utterly fabulous. The chocolate ones were so rich they were nearly overwhelming, especially without the salt to balance the taste.

While the last batch baked, I also put in pork chops with Shake and Bake on 'em. I also nuked French cut string beans and mixed up some instant mashed potatoes. A very satisfying dinner with the 'bread'.

I sometimes wonder if croissant recipes use so much butter just to be impressive. Or something. I don't doubt that it wouldn't taste the same without that much; but these puppies were swimming in melted butter by the time they were done and all the layers were utterly saturated. I really think I'd like having less butter and more bread, but wouldn't want to lose all the layers. I almost think that even using half to a third the butter for this size batch would still give the layering effect without quite the saturation. Still, these were so good I didn't complain too much.

Football and then another fairly exciting World Series game. I enjoyed that a lot. Then deep sleep.

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