….to see the Queen. That’s for sure.
Overall, and as an outsider looking in, I think the Queen was a good egg.
And although I’m not British and the only familiarity I have with the Royal Family is the tea that’s been spilled lately about all of them. Despite the sensationalism, I was a bit sad when Queen Elizabeth passed. She was the longest-ruling monarch and overall, she seemed like a nice lady.
And when it came down to it, she was Granny-to-the-World.
I shan’t tell you what I think of King Charles.
Ugh. King Charles and the Step-Queen. (I was a Diana fan)
So, moving on. I had a “thing” removed from just under my collarbone. It was another skin cancer but it was taken care of. And I used sunscreen but from years and years and a lifetime of beaching, it caught up with me. I took a lunch hour to go to my dermatologist, it was taken off, and I went back to work.
Then The Frenchman and I headed out to Cincinnati to visit my new grandson, Bennett. And of course, Owen. It was a good weekend. I’m fascinated that my baby is now the mommy of her babies and she’s doing a better job than I ever did!
Welcome Bennett, with my maiden name Wynne as his middle name. Nine pounds of love! He was huge and Oona had him two weeks pre-due date!
Work? I’m now happy to say that my hours are 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. And I’ve never been happier! No more overtime. I have my routine down pat and it is a pleasure!
Yay! Now I can head home to work on blog posts!
And with that being written, I resumed baking this past weekend. Yes. I took Friday, Saturday and Sunday to prepare Croissants and Pain au Chocolat. It’s a process. I don’t want to say that it isn’t for everyone because that sounds cocky. But I realize a number of people just don’t like to bake because of the time, sometimes intimidation, and lack of shortcuts. However, I highly recommend that if you are tired of what mass-market bakeries have to offer and you want a tasty pastry –try this. You’ll be so proud of yourself!
Even if they don’t turn out looking all that great, the taste will prove otherwise. It took me a while to get comfortable baking these at home but you feel more at ease with each time you bake.
A bit of my own back story (in case you are not familiar with this blog): My husband is Parisien. He is very particular. He is extremely particular when it comes to bread and pastries. The bread people at Wegmans run away from me when the see me approaching because I squeeze the bread and my husband, because his accent is very heavy, has me relate his complaints.
I am NEVER greeted like this at the bread department of Wegmans. Never.
Forget about his beloved croissants. You do not want to be with us when someone recommends the greatest croissants on Philly’s Main Line. He has never liked any and they end up in the trash.
And so, I tried making my own. The first time was a total disaster. I tried laminating the dough and just couldn’t get it right. Things improved when I took a croissant class at Cookin’ With Class in Paris last year. (click this to head to my paris blog post) I learned how to properly laminate the dough and it was incredibly helpful.
My very first attempt at croissants. I think this was in 2017 0r 2018. They turned out so friggin’ tiny, they never had that “rise”. It was awful. I can’t even remember the recipe I used. I do remember that the taste was better than the Pillsbury cresent rolls but it was not a true croissant.
The recipe the class provided proved to be too large a recipe for this home cook, so I perused the internet and found The New York Times Croissant Recipe. It is excellent. In addition, I found Claire Saffitz’ tutorial on YouTube. Both have assisted tremendously.
What the video and written instructions do NOT tell you is that you need to use a rimmed cookie sheet—like a Jelly Roll pan. I used a regular cookie sheet the first time and almost set the house on fire because butter leaked and smoked up the kitchen. All the fire alarms in the house went off and didn’t subside for an hour. The oven had to be cleaned and it was a mess. Although the croissants tasted really good!
Do not do this! Butter will leak. Unless you are a professional with years of training and you work in a Paris establishment, butter will leak. You WANT to use a rimmed cookie sheet. My house almost went on fire because I had no idea. I learned my lesson! But the croissants turned out great!
Another thing—you have to work with a chilled dough. The dough is a challenge to roll when your counter space is limited and once the dough warms up, it becomes resistant. Chilled is better—so when you find the dough warming up, stick it in the fridge for about 15 minutes then take it back out.
You want your dough chilled. It’s amazing how quickly dough warms up.
So, we are ready to start. Make sure you read the recipe well. Honestly, every time I bake these, I still read the recipe carefully. (I also watch and rewatch Saffitz’s video over and over). You do not want to miss anything.
Read that recipe and read it until you comprehend EVERYTHING about it!
Day One: And I did this on a Friday evening: Get your ingredients at the ready. First of all, I don’t use American butter. There is less butterfat and our USA butter contains water. The FDA amazes me at times—but that’s another topic. I use Kerrygold unsalted butter is the butter I use. President butter works just as well but any European butter will work.
Next—the flour. I use King Arthur All-Purpose Flour due to the 11.7% protein content. If you can’t find the King Arthur, any AP flour will do but I’m a fan of the brand.
I swear by King Arthur Flour. The higher protein percentage is stronger for all those delicious but delicate layers in the croissants and the pain au chocolat. And Kerrygold butter is readily available at supermarkets these days. A few years back it was difficult to track down–no more!
Whole Milk—and I wouldn’t substitute either. I’m very compliant. Yeast, not instant. I use the powdered yeast. Sugar. I use plain white Domino granulated. Kosher salt.
For the Pain au Chocolat you will need chocolate batons. They can be purchased on Amazon or..if you get a sudden urge to be economical and make them yourself, buy an inexpensive mold from Amazon like the one below that I bought. Dark chocolate chips and make the biggest mess of your life—but they will turn out just fine!
This mold, at $8.99 was an excellent buy. I may have made a mess (scroll for pics), but at the end, the chocolate batons were the perfect fit!
I used a pastry bag and tip to place the melted chocolate into the molds. It wasn’t until later my friend Doreen told me to go to Michael’s for a squeezy thing-like a mustard squeezer and that works much better–ya live–ya learn!
I kid you not. I went through a plethora of tips and made a most incredible mess.
It was a chore to clean…but..
…the batons turned out great.
And they went into a plastic bag until I needed them!
We have our ingredients at the ready. Because I made both croissants and pain au chocolat, I made two batches of the dough—otherwise known as detrempe. To be honest, when it comes to baking, I do not want to mess with the recipe and double it. Baking is a science and it takes only a few extra minutes to make a second dough.
You also want a good rolling pin and a ruler. Add to that a pizza roller which will be used later.
Mixed in my Kitchen Aid on low speed, it takes a while but the end result is so worth it!
Sorry that I don’t have a better photo but here’s the detrempe. It’s resting before rising. I made two of them.
While the detrempe was mixing, I made the butter slabs. Measuring out the butter on my scale, I cut it into pieces, placed it on parchment paper that I drew an 8X8 inch square, pounded the butter gently until it softened then rolled it out to the desired shape and measurements. Back in the fridge it goes.
BTW, this is the scale I use. I couldn’t stand it at first but now I use it all the time. Exact measures are needed for baking and I find this works so well.
To perfect 8×8 inch squares of buttery goodness!
With the detrempe (both) made, I let them rise till doubled in size. Then shaped into a rectangle, covered in plastic wrap and placed both in the fridge overnight.
Day Two: I got up early. This is the day that most of the work will be done. I was fortunate that it rained because my motivation was at it’s lowest. Having to roll and rest, really isn’t a bad thing when you don’t want to do much.
It’s roll, freeze, rest. Repeat.
Okay. I had my coffee. I took one of the doughs out of the fridge. I’m ready to work it!
Laminating the dough. This is the most intense part—I don’t care what anyone says, laminating the dough is key. If the butter is too cold, it’ll break. That’s why the European butter is great—it’s pliable when cold. Roll out the dough, place the butter in the middle and fold both ends up to the middle of the butter slab. Pinch to enclose and pinch on the sides.
Note the ruler on the left. It’s needed! But this mat that I ordered from Amazon has been a godsend. I can take measurements off of it and it stays put! It’s a dream: Here’s a similar one (I get a small commission from Amazon) for sale. Silicone Baking Mat. Mine is so old I don’t think it is available any more
Then roll out into a rectangle. Turn the block around so that the seam looks lengthwise and beat the dough. This is the first turn to create layers. Not hard but a nice softer beat. It will help to lengthen the dough. Next the dough gets rolled out to a long slab. Trust me, this isn’t easy when you have limited kitchen counter space. And the dough gets soft so it needs to be placed in the fridge to cool off.
More rolling. My one slight “issue” with the rolling process is none of the experts and professionals stress how quickly the dough warms and starts to resist the rolling.
After it’s rolled, fold into another rectangle. But fold both ends up to the center of the narrow slab. Then fold crosswise like a book. Actually, it is referred to as a book fold. Now you’re making more layers.
Here’s the “book” fold. There’s lotsa layers in there!
Time to go back in the freezer for twenty minutes then in the fridge for an hour.
Now it’s time to relax for a while and say to yourself “I really should get up off my ass and close that cabinet door”. But you don’t. You play Candy Crush instead.
Rolling out again. The next turn is the last. Some more beating with the rolling pin. Any air bubbles you can pop. Roll and if the dough gets too warm, place back in the fridge. Roll out then one more fold. Fold the dough like an envelope then back in the freezer then fridge. Roll back out and fold like a letter. Wrap it in plastic and roll in the plastic for even ends. Freezer then fridge.
Roll the dough out to a longer slab. Not too long just enough to place on a cookie sheet after it is wrapped in plastic.
Both my dough slabs are laminated, turned , rolled out more, wrapped in plastic and are going to be placed in the fridge overnight!
Place in the fridge overnight.
One other note. Look at the photo above. The wooden rolling pin is tapered at the ends. I found this to be annoying for the croissant/pain dough. The sides were thicker due to the tapered ends. I really had to move that dough and the pin around. I ended up ordering another straight rolling pin from Amazon. Here is the link–it arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to use it. It’s going to be great for Holiday baking: Amazon Extra Long Straight Wood Rolling Pin.
I can’t wait to use this. Maybe I’ll make a tarte later! See the difference? It’s long and nice and straight!
Day Three: Okay. Wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee. Don’t get dressed yet because you will be working with the dough and shaping and proofing.
When we bake, we dress like a little piggy in her pajamas. I even take the hair off!
CAVEAT: The recipe that I linked makes eight croissants. My husband does not like oversized croissants. He prefers his croissants smaller—and trust me, these aren’t that small. So, rather than measure out eight, I shaped 16! I worked on the croissants first. And kept the pain au chocolate dough in the fridge.
Take your ruler. Make sure your rolling surface is floured. Start rolling. And rolling. To make ends even use the pizza roller—it’s so much better than a knife! Place the shaped dough on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment and into the fridge while you prepare for proofing.
I use this pizza cutter from Kitchenaid. It works like a charm to trim the edges of the dough!
Formed and ready to proof. For this step, turn your oven light on but do NOT turn the oven on. Simmer water into a pan and when bubbles start to form, open the oven and place the pan with the water, on the bottom of the oven. This will create steam and move the proofing along.
Take the croissants out of the fridge. Gently brush with a mixture of one teaspoon of heavy cream or milk and one beaten egg and place in the oven. Here’s a tip that I want to pass on to you. All instructions I’ve read and followed, say to cover the dough lightly with plastic but be prepared to take the wrapping off very gently to prevent deflating the croissants. Instead, I went to Michaels and purchased two plastic storage bins that fit over my jelly roll pans perfectly. I place the bins over the croissants and then put everything in the oven to proof.
The dough isn’t risen yet. It’s shiny because I brushed (with a light touch) the egg wash on.
Don’t judge me for not washing the labels off the storage tubs. I’ve had these for almost a year. How lazy can one be? Anyway, these storage tubs, turned upside down are great for proofing!
This will take about 2 to 2 ½ hours. You do not want to overproof. If you aren’t sure that your dough is proofed—wait an extra half hour. The dough should be jiggle like little Michelin tire men or the Sta-Puft Marshmallow man!
The croissants should be jiggly and wiggly like these guys!
And they will get larger as they bake!
Turn the oven on to 375 degrees (my oven works best at either 375 or 350). Do another egg-cream brushing and let the dough rest whilst the oven heats.
Place in the oven and bake! I bake for ten minutes then set the timer. When the timer goes off, I rotate the pans and cook for another twelve to fifteen minutes. I want to make sure these are done. Again—you know your oven and what works for you.
And, as the croissants were proofing with the plastic tubs over them, I did put some plastic wrap on the pain au chocolat. I’m going to buy two more tubs. Notice there’s a small bit of butter leaking out. It’s fine. Didn’t affect the bake or the taste!
After taking the croissants out of the oven to cool, I did place the tubs over the pain au chocolat to proof in the oven. See those little “rolls” of dough on the silicone mat? I don’t believe in throwing scraps out. It’s a sin. So I brushed egg wash and sprinkled with sugar and..
I made a little snack for The Frenchman whilst he watched soccer. These ended up to be a sort-of poor man’s Kouign-Amann.
As an aside, Trust me. This is well-worth the effort. Take a weekend when you have absolutely nothing else going on because it takes time and patience. And look—will they taste like they came out of a famous French patisserie? No. It’s a home bake but they will turn out wonderfully tasty, buttery, flaky and light. And—my husband who is extremely critical absolutely loves them.
I could improve on the shaping. I managed to use all the dough. Check out that little one on the bottom left!
That was for me and it had a nice crumb!
I got 14 pain au chocolat but honestly, next time I’ll make these smaller!
Look at those layers! Just look!
Give it a try—you’ll want to make them again and again!
It won’t be the same as enjoying a croissant at Cafe de Paris in the 6th–but it’ll come close!