Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Classic French Croissants-Pain Au Chocolat

So finally I made Croissants today. First let me tell you that it’s a looong looong recipe. The longest I tried spanning over a period of 3 days .But don’t you worry. You just have to follow the recipe word to word. And there you are. Done and happy with a BIG BIG smile looking at a batch of yummy homemade buttery Croissants. Like I told you follow the recipe word to word. That’s all.

When I saw my croissants baking in the oven I was elated. Am ''I'' making them? The least I got close to a croissant was buying it from a nearby bakery and chomping them down my throat. And here I am trying to bake them .All thanks to Aparna’s project-We Knead to Bake-2

Since the recipe involved a large amount of butter and owing to my novice status with the word baking in itself, I was unsure whether I should try the recipe or not .So I baked my croissants with only half the quantity of ingredients listed below except for butter which I used only 100 gms against the 250 gms mentioned below. I warned myself if I messed up I would be wasting a lot of butter and flour. I decided to make Pain Au Chocolat and then proceed to make the crescent shaped ones only if my previous attempt with Pain Au Chocolat succeeded. Which did .At the end of it I couldn’t believe I made them. Really.

Aniket and my mom were elated too .A Three day work paid off when I saw a gleam on their faces.

With the rest of the dough I made small croissants of various shapes. Actually I tried to make the crescent shaped ones but since I used only half of the quantity of all ingredients my triangles were not long enough to form the actual shape of the crescent shaped croissants. 

So what is a croissant?

Well croissants are- I quote Aparna’’ Croissants are basically yeasted puff pastry that is baked in the shape of crescents. If plain they are shaped into crescents (Croissant ordinaire/ croissant au beurre) but usually left as straight rolls if filled with chocholate(Pain Au Chocolat). For pain au Chocholat just cut out long strips of the dough, place the chocolate at one end and roll them up into logs.

The Wikipedia says They are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, in a technique called laminating. The process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a pastry. A pain au chocolat called a chocolatine or chocolate croissant in south-western France and in French Canada, is a sweet roll consisting of a cuboid-shaped piece of yeast-leavened laminated dough, similar in texture to a puff pastry, with one or two pieces of chocolate in the centre.

So are you ready? Here comes the loooong looong recipe-:


Classic Croissants adapted from: Jeffrey Hamelman’s Classic Croissants. 

For the dough
All purpose flour-4 cups and a little more for dusting and rolling out the dough
Cold water-1/2 cup+2tbsp
Cold milk-1/2 cup+2 tbsp (I used 2 %)
Granulated sugar-1/4 cup
Soft unsalted butter-40 gms
Instant yeast-1 tbsp+scant ½ tsp
Salt- 2 tsp
For the butter layer
Cold unsalted butter-250 gms
To brush dough
Cold milk-1/4th cup or or 1/8 cup of cream + 1/8 cup cream or 1 egg for  egg wash

For filling

Cooking chocolate-50 gms


Day 1

Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand.
Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate .Place the ball of dough on it.
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need.
Lightly flour the top of the dough and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2

Make butter layer

The next day, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10” squares each.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs.
Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”.
Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin.
Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough.

Laminate the Dough

Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface.
 Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour.
Take the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable. If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. This so that when you roll out the dough with the butter in it, neither should it be soft enough to melt, or hard enough to break.
 Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the centre, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square.
Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one.
Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter.
Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later.
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough.
With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly.
Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight. 
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle.
If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour.
Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed.
Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold).
 Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.

Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”.
Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3

Divide the dough

The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
Press dough firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour. Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.
Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.

Shape the dough

To make Pain au Chocolat, cut the dough into long strips (rectangular) 5" wide . Place the chocolate at one end and tucking it in, start to roll the dough strips reasonably tight, right up to the the other end, in Swiss roll/ jelly roll style. Lightly press down the end and seal it and place them on baking trays with the sealed side down    
 Place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.

Proof the croissants

Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.

Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later.
Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof.
 The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.

Bake the croissants

Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven.
 Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.

Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks.
Serve warm.


Ensure that your butter is cold – cold enough that it is pliable enough to smoothly roll out; not hard (or it will break) or soft (it will melt). If the butter is too hard and breaks while rolling out the dough, you will not get the layers in the croissants.

Do not over-knead / develop the dough too much, too much gluten will not help during the lamination process. The lamination process itself is a kind of stretch and fold anyway and will strengthen the dough. So keep to the 3 minutes the recipe says. You want a soft dough, not an elastic one.

 When you cover the butter square with the dough, make sure you seal the dough well, otherwise the butter will leak out when you roll out the dough, and there’s no way you can manage to put the butter back in. You will also end up with butter leaking during the baking

Always, always make sure your dough and butter inside it are cold.  Once the butter has melted, it is difficult to get the dough to produce layers because the dough tends to absorb the butter and will make greasy croissants. So, while working with the dough, or when rolling it out, if at any point you feel the dough becoming warm and soft, put it back in the fridge immediately for 10-15 minutes. Also work as quickly as you can so the butter stays cold.

During the lamination of the dough (rolling and folding repeatedly), chill the dough in the freezer and NOT the fridge. The overnight refrigeration is to be done in the fridge NOT in the freezer. Resting the dough is an important part of the croissant making process.

     You also need a lot of patience to keep rolling out the dough with just enough pressure to stretch it. The rolled out dough before shaping should be somewhere between 1/4” and 1/8” thick
Make sure your dough is shaped with straight lines and square-ish corners. All the time you are rolling your dough out, keep this in mind. This way you will minimise waste of dough. More importantly, the edges where there is no butter would get folded in during lamination and affect your layers. So trim off those bits if you have any of them

 Keep lightly flouring your work surface (not too much), just enough to keep working smoothly without tearing the dough. However, dust with a light hand or you could end up adding more flour than desirable

Do not be tempted to fold more than three times. A fourth fold will give you more layers, but thinner butter layers between them, and your croissants will not puff of as much as you would like them to

After lamination and refrigeration overnight you can cut the dough into half and bake in two lots. You can refrigerate the remaining half (you can wrap and freeze it) and use after 2 days
You can use an egg wash on your croissants for deep colour and shine. Otherwise use milk or mixture of cream and milk(this gives better browning and shine)

If at any point you feel the dough is not rolling right or butter is leaking ,roll the dough and keep in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, that would help heaps.

If there are butter leaks slightly pat with flour and continue working on it.

To make crescent shaped croissants

Follow upto Divide the dough section for Pain u chocholat

If you’re good at “eyeballing” and cutting the dough into triangles, then forget the measuring rule, marking and cutting instructions. Otherwise, lay a measuring rule or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough.

With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all).

Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.

Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles .Scrap of dough at the ends.

Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.

 Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.

Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.

Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.

Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).

Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them.

Proof and bake as for Pain Au Chocolat

You can watch this video  for getting an idea about the process of making croissants. This
video however shows the making process of crescent shaped croissants.

Btw this is yeastspotted!

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