Cathe Cat, Cathe Cat—Where Have You Been? Well..I Have Not Been to London..But I’ve Been Baking Croissants!

….to see the Queen. That’s for sure.

Queen Elizabeth II: 15 Key Moments in Her Reign - HISTORY

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.

Queen Elizabeth's Death Certificate Reveals Cause and Time of Death - The New York Times

And when it came down to it, she was Granny-to-the-World.

I shan’t tell you what I think of King Charles.

The alleged love-child of King Charles III and Camilla claims to be the Prince of Wales: It's a kick in the face | Marca

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!

Bitmoji Image

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.

french bonjour GIF

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.

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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.

Freezing Cold Weather GIF by filmeditor

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.

Episode 5 Reaction GIF by PBS

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!

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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.

Can You Tell Me What I Wore This Winter? | Atypical 60

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.

Buy KitchenAid Pizza Roller Cutter

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!

DEC208879 - GHOSTBUSTERS STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN ACTION PIN - Previews  WorldHow the Michelin man logo came to be – Creative Review

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!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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16 Responses to Cathe Cat, Cathe Cat—Where Have You Been? Well..I Have Not Been to London..But I’ve Been Baking Croissants!

  1. kyriaana says:

    Congratulations on the birth of your second grandson, Cathe! You did a superb job raising your daughter and that’s why she is a good mommy!!! As for the croissants, I’ve never had homemade ones. I think the ones from Wegman’s are pretty good but don’t tell the Frenchman I said so. I can make bread of any type, any style. But I stop at bread. You, however, are a bakery warrior. P.S. before I retired, I was a dermatology nurse and assisted with the procedures you speak of; I hope you got an imperceptible scar! Love to you, XOXO. See you on Instagram.

    • Catherine says:

      HI Kyriaana! Thank you so much. Do you have a Lidl near you? Their “rustic” baguette is greatness. Their croissants aren’t bad either (but don’t tell my husband that either). It was so funny to watch him eat his croissant earlier this morning. He makes it a ritual. The night before he takes it out of the freezer (they freeze extremely well) . Then in the morning he reheats it for a couple of minutes and he is so happy when he bites into it. He said mine are the closest thing to a Paris croissant and better than some of the places. That’s what keeps me making them! XOXOXOXO

  2. lovsjaz says:

    Wow! What a post! The variety, the photos and your descriptions were such a treat. What a lady! Lookin’ cute in your pj’s too!

  3. Elizabeth T says:

    Congratulations on your new grandson! Very happy to read your posts whenever life makes them possible.

  4. doodletllc says:

    Hi! I love this post…I love croissants but wouldn’t dream of attempting to bake them…some of your comments and your photos are spot on like the Great British Baking Show…I chuckled when I understood your steps in the baking process from watching that show…I have always enjoyed your posts on cooking/baking French food. I am sort-of retired and have a tiny cafe (in the building where I was a lawyer for 27 years) – I am having a fun time…but I am an “assembler” more than a cook/chef…it’s just me and it makes me almost giddy when people say they love my food! And my best France News…we (FINALLY) are going to France…10 days between Christmas and New Years…we have stuff booked in Paris and then on to SW France…this time period is probably not the best time to go, but with work/school, this was the best we could fit in. I tried to remember where you had stayed in Paris, but wasn’t too sure…and I think we’ll be staying on the “Wrong Bank” but the price was right…hope it all works…but hey,, if nothing else, it will be an adventure! Oh yes…and a question…can the croissants be frozen? Take Care! Love your writing! Jeanne…Doodle T and Me! and now…Pink Cloud Cafe.

    • Catherine says:

      OMG. Jeanne!!!!!!!! You are livin’ the dream! I swear if I lived near you I would ask you to let me bake for you. What a great new career! And I’m thrilled that you are finally going to Pairs. Where are you staying? You HAVE to email me! XOXOXOXO

  5. Susan says:

    You’ve inspired me to try! I am recovering from naso-labial skin flap surgery (look it up and see how lovely I look) to repair a small basal cell cancer which was removed using Mohs surgery. The plastic surgery is extremely painful and takes forever to heal as it is two stages. It’s a whole other ball game on your face! Keep using the sunscreen, I wish I had used more.
    As it is, my face is so swollen and really looks weird. Staying in is the best option so as not to scare young children…

    • Catherine says:

      Susan. Honestly. Its the fact we should have sunscreened up when we were younger. All my cousins and aunts and uncles and one of my sisters–we’ve all had skin cancers. We all grew up at the beach and boats and it is just how it was. The key now is to catch it early. It does take forever to heal though! XOXOXOXO

  6. cathe says:

    The Times They Are A-Changin! Great post and hopefully I’ll have time to do some baking myself soon.

  7. Susan D says:

    Just love the photo of Owen and Bennett. You must be over the moon with the two of them and obviously so proud of Oona.
    You have such patience to make croissants and pain au chocolat, and after a long working day too. You are to be admired. I retired at 58 and felt ready to do so. I certainly don’t think I’d have liked to work through my sixties.
    Susan D

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Susan, LOL_ I wasn’t expecteing to work through my sixties but my divorce ruined me financially and I never want to be dependent on anyone ever again.
      That being said, I’m ridiculously proud of Oona. She takes to motherhood like a fish takes to water. It really is fulfilling to see my daughter in such a great place. And those grandboyz! XOXOXOXOXO

  8. juliet brown says:

    Oh my goodness your Oona and Sam do the cutest babies – congratulations all round. I am in awe of your baking skills, how you contain the mess is a mystery – we generally seem to involve most of our tiny house if anyone bakes (Nr.1 child just made the Christmas cake as only he likes it and he is very particular… I just follow behind with a damp cloth and whimpering at the sight of splatter everywhere, that seems my very thankless involvement, then removing any that got in my hair). Actually we have just come back in from a potter about the lovely autumnal Cumbrian countryside – the husband got it in his teeny-tiny head to look for crabapples to make jelly… 14 kg later he informs me, that once they are boiled to mush they need to go through the jelly strainer overnight and there are at least 3 maybe 4 batches and HE is going back down to London early tomorrow… I’m not thrilled with that. I was going to ask – do you follow Marie-Anne LeCoeur? she is so fabulously elegant AND she also has a very simple food channel on you tube, divine – between your blog, Marianne and then Nancy of Shopping on Champagne on YouTube (are you guys actually related as you are totally meant to be), my weekends should be pure pleasure, however I have a scabby crabapple mountain to do something with, sigh, no Marianne or Nancy for me this weekend I suspect.

  9. Sandy Scott says:

    *Wow! What a process! You must love that man dearly. And, please show him this – He must be crazy for you!!!
    *What girl are you wearing with your pajamas?

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