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jeudi 22 décembre 2011

Croissant, everything about it

This is the english version of the previous post - sorry for the mistakes, my english sometimes gets really bad !
Version Française ici

Part 1 :  Puff pastry, everything you need to know about it

Puff pastry is known to be technical, very difficult to make, and many wouldn’t even think of making it  themselves. I hope to convince you otherwise with this article.
The key to success in making puff pastry is to understand how it works. Even in pastry, especially in pastry, there’s a scientific part. Everything begins here.

I The dough
To make a puff pastry, you always start to make a dough (« détrempe » in French), which is basically flour, water and salt mixed together, and kneaded. But what interests us here is what happens :
Thanks to the kneading, and with water, insoluble proteins contained into the flour turns into an elastic substance: gluten. Gluten is what gives your dough an elastic consistency.  However, if you knead too much gluten becomes too tough.
The dough is then worked into a ball that you cut on top (an X-shaped incision) to facilitate the rest (although it’s not been proven yet).
Finally, détrempe is left to rest for at least 30 minutes which will allow starch to inflate/rise and the dough to become thus less elastic.

Note : in this basic détrempe, there’s no butter. But to make croissant, as for every puff pastry, you add butter to the dough so that the butterfat hampers the formation of gluten and makes the dough less elastic, so resting time is way shorter.

II Butter
Butter is of topmost importance here. Some replace it with special puff pastry margarine which is easier to work, and cheaper, but also less healthy! (because of some toxic fatty acid). Besides, you can’t compare the taste of butter with something else. And for some professionals, there’s also carotene enriched butter which has a nice yellow-orange color.
This butterfat needs to be worked, pound with a rolling pin, so that it softens to the same consistency as the détrempe. This is very important : if it’s too tough, it will not be uniformly distributed in the dough and the dough will break and if it’s too soft it could spread out of it.

III Le tourage (folding process)
Once butter is incorporated, you need to roll the dough and fold it to alternate layers of butter and layers of dough. Professionally, you call the folding process “tourage” and a fold, a “tour” (or a turn).
There’s different types of tours, tour simple, tour double (“twice folding” in English), but we'll see about that later (see recipe below).
Just know that the tours are meant to superimpose layers of dough and layers of butter, and the more tour you make, you understand it now, the more layers of puss pastry you’ll get.
The “millefeuille” for example has actually not a thousand, but 729 layers…
The thing is, you have to be careful not to damage those layers. In the best case, there are of even thickness, not torned, and butter is well distributed, with the right consistency.
Some advice to mark the dough with your fingers (press it with your thumb) to remember the number of tours you made, and not lose the count, but you SHOULD NOT, because you’ll ruin your layers.

IV Shape your croissant
To shape your croissants, or anything else actually, your dough should be cold, and you ought to cut it with a well sharpen knife, so you don’t crush the dough. You could use a pizza wheel.
Don’t forget to brush them, generally with beaten egg, some say egg yolk, others sweetened milk, I think there’s not much difference, but I like to brush mine with whole egg just before baking in the oven. Others say you have to brush them before you let them rise, or to brush them twice (before and after rising process).
In any case, the egg mixture should not spread out on the sides too much because it may bother the croissants’ development, and it could burn.

V  Baking
That’s when the magic works. And you get a strong sense of satisfaction.
The smell! One of those you wish to lock up in a phial to smell it every time you want. This is a smell of nostalgia, greed, lazy Sunday mornings…
But let’s be scientific one more time. Because even if it’s magic to me, there’s always a trick, isn’t there? A magician trick.

During the baking process, butter melts into the dough and keeps the layers from sticking to each other, it also waterproofs each layer to prevent it from being soaked with the water from the détrempe. In parallel, the air expands and the water from the dough evaporates into steam, which allows layers to separate from each other, giving height to the feuilleté : it develops.
Finally, the starch of the dough stiffen while baking, steadying the feuilleté.
If you open the oven during the baking process, or if the temperature is too low, the dough doesn’t stiffen quick enough and fall.
Some advice to put a bowl of water in the oven, or to wet the baking tray, to facilitate the development of layers (because you add steam), but once again nothing has been proved (because this water doesn’t come from the dough itself).

VI Eating !
The final act of your croissants, or of your puff pastry, the key to success, it’s the “sound of croissant”, says P.Hermé.
Beat into it, feel the crumbs falling between your fingers, and enjoy the oh-so-delicious smell, and its scent. I'm not even talking about the warmth (so comforting)…

-   - Work on a cold and smooth surface (marble is the best, but my wooden table gave me great satisfaction).
-   - Make at least 500g of dough (yes, it can be frozen).
-   - Don’t flour too much, and take off excess. Especially while you shape your croissants, because it wouldn’t hold otherwise.

-   - Analyse des phénomènes et transformations culinaires – ed. LT Jacques Lanore –  from Bruno Cardinale and René van Sevenant

-     - Magazine Régal n°40 – avril/mai 2011 – Les mille et un tours du feuilletage

Part II : THE LEGEND – or the history of Croissant

Croissant dates back to XVIIe century (1683 exactly), when Turkish lead siege in Austria.
One night, bakers in Vienna heard the enemies digging a tunnel, to take the city by surprise. They gave the alarm and thanks to them, the city was able to defend itself.
When Ottoman were defeated, Jean III Sobieski give the bakers the privilege to create a pastry that would immortalize the event.
They made Hörnchen (« small horn » in German), allusion to the crescent on the Turkish standard.
So one of the most Frenchy pastry, alongside the baguette, doesn’t come from France ! Queen Marie-Antoinette came from Austria and introduced Croissants in the court of Louis XVI in 1770. Such a greedy woman…

An other tradition awards the invention of croissants to a Viennese café proprietor named Kolschitsky, from Poland. Thanks to his courage during the siege, he is said to have received a bag full of coffee stolen from the enemy. He then would have had the idea to serve this coffee accompanied with a pastry in the shape of crescent.

Le Grand Larousse gastronomique


Print Recipe

For about 20 croissants 
For the détrempe :
-          500g flour
-          20g fresh yeast
-          65g sugar
-          50g butter
-          240ml water, lukewarm
-          10g salt (I used less, 6g)

For tourage :
-          220g butter

Before starting, I advice you to watch this vidéo, even if it’s in French, it will help you understand the method I describe below, and the small details that I can’t write. Besides, I know my English is not always very good.

Make the détrempe : Put the butter out of the fridge, to soften it.
In a bowl, sprinkle fresh yeast, add the flour over it, sugar, salt, butter and water. Mix everything, with a robot if you have, but I did everything by hand and it went pretty well.
Knead for at least 10 minutes, by hand : knead by pushing/pressing the dough on the surface of your table, then pulling it back toward you, and so on (see on the video).
Shape it into a ball, and make an X-shape incision on top.
Cover with plastic film and let it rest for 30mn.
Tap the pastry with your hand to evacuate the gaz.
Roll it into a rectangle 1 cm thick as even as possible. Cover with plastic film and place in the fridge for one hour.

Prepare the butter :  Take the butter out and tap it with a rolling pin (see on the video). I then used the same method as seen on the video : put the butter on a parchment paper, cover it completely so the butter is wrapped into a square of parchment paper. Roll the butter with rolling pin to spread it evenly until it fill up the angles. You should obtain a layer of butter. If it’s too soft, place in the refrigerator.

Tourage :  Spread your dough into a rectangle twice or three times longer than wide.
Place it in front of you (the small side of the rectangle before you). Place your square of butter in the middle, it should be the same wide than your dough (adjust if needed).
Fold the two edges of your rectangle of dough over the butter, and press the edges closed (but don’t superimpose them). Tap with a rolling pin to join them tight.
Turn your dough at 90°. You have the seam perpendicular to your working table.

Lightly floured the surface your working on, and roll your dough so that you get a rectangle 3 or 4 times longer than wide. Don’t hesitate to turn it over to roll it more easily.
Make a tour double : fold the two ends of your rectangle toward the center so that they meet, carefully aligning the edges (you can fold the bottom end of your rectangle toward the 2/3 of the rectangle and the top end to the remaining 1/3 of the rectangle so that the seam is not in the center for the next fold). Then fold it in two (see video). Tap the dough with rolling pin but not too hard.
Turn it at 90° and roll again into a rectangle.
Make a tour simple : fold one end toward the center of your rectangle of dough, and cover it with the remaining end of your rectangle (you superimpose them this time). Tap it lightly, so you don’t have something too thick.
Wrap in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for about 1h.

 Shape your croissants :  Divide your dough in two halves (because it’s easier to work with less dough). Roll it into a rectangle around 3 mm thick and 20cm wide.
Cut triangles, about 7 cm wide.
Make a small slit (1 or 2 cm no more) in the middle of the base of the triangle, pull a bit on the point of your triangle to stretch it a bit. Roll the triangles to form croissants (see video).
Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Let the croissants rise and brush them : you can brush them with a beaten egg right away or you can wait until it’s time to bake (I prefer the second option).
Let croissants rise for 2 hours (depends on the temperature, it should never exceed 36°C, but the warmer it is, the faster it’ll rise) : you can place your baking tray with your croissants on a chair and place the chair in front of the radiator (not too hot though).

Baking process : Preheat the oven to 180°C (some say 200°C). Brush your croissants if it’s not already done.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes (it took me more : 35 minutes) until they look nice and golden brown. Let them cool for a few seconds and eat them still warm !

Note : croissants can be frozen (before you bake them !)....

-  - Vidéo from and, recipe from chef Pierrick Challamel and chef Philippe. I used this video for the ingredients and the method. It's well explained and easy to follow. here
- Cooking blog, "la cuisine de Bernard" with step by step pictures. I used this article for the cooking and resting time. here
- Baking blog "le pétrin" : an other recipe that I didn't try yet because a lack of time, with a totally different method, but which is a very very good one judging by the number of people who have tested it. here

5 commentaires:

Elena a dit…

I want to follow your blog but I cant't see where can I do it...

W-Girl a dit…

it's a the end of the left column, under everything =)

Anonyme a dit…

Wow they are beautiful! Thank you so much for the English version. :)

Anonyme a dit…

found this online! Thought it was exciting (it's watercolor of one of your photos)

W-Girl a dit…

Waoouh thank you I hadn't seen that ! That's beautiful!

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