Friday, December 25, 2009

Croissant Xmas

Once again I have been remiss in my duties as writer... I apologize for both of you who read this, if you still do. It is Christmas day. Uhg, I hate typing that. As many who know me can attest, I am an avowed atheist (not quite strong, but leaning that way at least. If you don't know what this means, you probably don't really care. If you do, feel free to google "strong atheist" and you can probably find an explanation.) and while I love the festive atmosphere and revelry of the holiday season, I disdain the dogmatic reverie into which so many fall on this, the day appointed to celebrate the birth of Christ, albeit most likely not the actual day upon which the event occur ed. Xmas, then, as I find the popular name so guiling. It is Xmas Day. I started the day with utter failure. Endeavoring to show off my newly honed skills to friends who so graciously invited me to xmas dinner, I turned the textbook to Croissants. No mere rolls would satisfy this time! I was giving them the full monty! Well, culinarily speaking that is.
Professional Baking by Wayne Gissling pg. 198:


Milk - 225g (I use metric, as I find it much easier for conversions. The editors apparently don't as I will get to later.)
Yeast, fresh - 15g (note..I don't have fresh yeast. What home baker does? I use instant dry, which has to be converted at 33% instant dry for 100% fresh. In other words, 5g)
Sugar - 15g
Salt - 8g
Butter, softened - 40g
Bread flour - 400g (closest I had was AP. I figured the high gluten flour I have would probably not go over well with croissants)
Butter - 225g (this is for the barrage, aka the big pat of butter you roll into the dough and then fold)

Mixing: Straight dough method.
Scald the milk (ok,first of all, for those who don't know, scalding is heating the milk to 180 degrees F. I did this but ended up burning some of the milk on the bottom of the pan which then sent chunks floating when I stirred. I strained these, but in retrospect, I probably should have just started with new milk. I have this thing about wasting food; I can't stand it. Anyway, I don't think this is the reason for my failure, we will turn to that in a minute. As a fun side note, the reason you scald milk in bread recipes is because it destroys an enzyme natural to milk that inhibits gluten formation. Yes, folks, he can be taught!), cool to lukewarm, and dissolve the yeast (I skipped this, as I was using instant yeast. The dissolving part that is, I still cooled it, which took forever). Add the remaining ingredients except the last quantity of butter. Mix into a smooth dough, but do not develop the gluten. Gluten development will take place during rolling-in procedure. (And here is my mistake. I took "do not develop the gluten" to mean mix the ingredients until just combined. As it turns out, the "smooth dough" they talk about is more like 10 minutes into the mixing. At least I know what happens when a croissant dough is undermixed. Failure...that's what happens. For those interested, it means that the dough is incredibly stiff and will not easily roll out, unless of course you are stubborn as hell like I am and do actually get 3 turns on it and a final roll. The dough layers will tear easily and the butter layers which are supposed to remain separated will combine into a sloppy mess which is incredibly difficult to shape and which yields an end product destined for the din heap.)

Fermentation: 1 - 1 1/2 hours @ 75 degrees F
Punch down, spread out on a flat pan, and rest in refrigerator or retarder 30 minutes.

Rolling in: Incorporate the last amount of butter and give 3 three-folds. Rest in retarder overnight.

See page 205 (there are pictures on this page which depict how to roll out and shape the croissants. Basically roll out to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick, cut into triangles and roll into croissant shapes. There are some technical skills here which would be hard to describe. Suffice it to say, don't smoosh the centers while shaping.)
Proof at 75 degrees F and 65% humidity (I think I messed this up too, not that it much mattered after the original mistake. I put them in my bathroom with the shower running to create steam for the proofing but it was too warm with too much moisture. Butter melts at about 85 degrees, so too high a proofing temp can lead to premature butter seepage mixed with a gelatinous outer crust. That just sounds nasty..). Egg wash before baking.

Baking 400 degrees F (at least I got this part right...)


Well, at least I had the instinct to realize something was amiss with my croissants. Previous incarnations had never been as stiff as this dough was nor torn so readily. I punted just in case and baked up a batch of fairly simple hard crusted dinner rolls. This would have been much easier at 6am this morning after two hours of sleep if the editors had bothered to check the metric measurements for the recipe. The recipe called for 750g of water to 625g of flour. I should have realized the impossibility of this for a hard roll dough, but like I said, I was sleepy. Apparently the editors had failed to catch that the conversion of 13 oz of water is not actually 750g, but 368.5 g. That is not just a little mistake, that is monumental. Luckily the soup that I had mixed from the original recipe was easily fixed by doubling the dry ingredients. Unluckily the new sized dough was too big for my 5 quart mixer so I was forced to split the dough and develop the gluten for both separately. All turned out well, however, and the rolls were a smashing success. I am sure the roaches at the dumpster will be overjoyed at the failed croissants. You and me will meet again soon croissants.... and next time, I am kicking your ass!

Next time I will talk about tools and this little beauty:

Merry xmas all!

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