It was when my first babe (little miss Penny) was around 4 months old, that I learnt how to make croissants. I had plenty of time on my hands back then, so it was as good a time as any to practice, and hopefully perfect, one of my favorite foods.
Not knowing where to start, I searched all the cookbooks we owned but couldn’t find a recipe with really good information and instructions. My search led me to find the Pie and Pastry Bible, which I now regularly borrow from my local library. The recipe includes clear descriptions of the method and processes involved, and I’ve been happily creating my own croissants using this recipe.
Imagine my excitement (sheer joy and happiness) upon recently discovering a new croissant recipe in the book Making Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz. This book is written for the ‘home’ baker and has fantastic photos and information about the method and process. It also has a DVD with great chapters on folding and shaping the croissants (essential). If you want to try making croissants at home then I highly recommend you track down this book (I have it on loan from my local library).
Croissant Pastry is not the same as puff pastry. It is made from a yeast dough enriched with milk and eggs (although the Pie and Pastry Bible recipe omits the egg). However, it is similar in that it involves creating fine layers of butter and pastry in a process called lamination, which results in puffy and light croissants. The main raising agent is the steam created between the layers when the butter melts during baking, and I can’t stress enough the importance of using a good quality butter (one with at least 85% milk solids), as explained in my puff pastry post Apple and Rhubarb Turnovers.
The method for making croissant pastry is also similar to the one I describe in my puff pastry post, and that it can be done in the same three stages; 1. Make dough, 2. Rolling and Folding, and 3. Shape and Bake.
These stages can be done over three days, (overall it needs 32 hours) but it only take about one hour of active work. I find them easier than puff pastry as the enriched dough is softer and more elastic so it handles the rolling much better than the puff pastry dough.
My top tip would be to use a small tape measure or ruler and stick as closely as possible to the measurements given for the size and shape of the pastry a various times in the process. Croissants are one pastry where precision can really affect the final outcome.
Shaping the croissants is also an art that requires some precision. It is essentially a triangle (two long sides and a shirt side) rolled up. I use a triangle template I made out of cardboard, and small tape measure, to get a consistent and even shape.
The following videos demonstrates the process of shaping the croissant from the triangle of pastry.
Once the croissant dough is shaped into individual croissants they can be frozen in an airtight container and then baked (straight from the freezer). I often freeze most of the batch so that I can bake a croissant (or two) anytime, in very little time. The baking time is adjusted to account for the fact that the dough is frozen, but apart from that the result is just as good.
And don’t waste any pastry scraps. After all that hard work every piece counts. They can be used to make great little bite size treats such as sugary palmers, or cinnamon snails. Just a thought!by