Adventures in Baking

I love chocolate croissants!  Now, I’m not talking about when someone splits open a regular croissant and adds chocolate spread (I’m looking at you Panera).  I’m talking about the Pain au Chocolate!  Pieces of dark chocolate wrapped in croissant dough and baked to flakey perfection.

Sadly, I was a full grown adult human person the first time I had this culinary delight.  It was on an Alaskan Cruise with a dear friend… we had an early shore excursion so we decided to have breakfast delivered to the room instead of hitting one of the buffets.  One of the pastry options was a mini-chocolate croissant, the first day we each ordered one.  On the last day, we threw dignity to the wind and requested eight!  Although, we only ever got six.   Since then, every time I have a chocolate croissant I think about that trip and what a good time we had.

I wanted to try doing something new this month, but being that it’s January and Oregon, the idea of doing something outside sounds distinctly damp. Baking however, sounds very cozy!  Perfect for a January adventure.

First thing first, chocolate.  I ordered a box of special baking chocolate sticks.  There are so many sticks in this box!  I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of them, but I can tell you they’re delicious.IMG_7313[6719]

Next up was research, and for me that meant reading some recipes and watching some videos.  I learned that most recipes require you to have a mixer with a specific attachment, and that attachment is for a Kitchen Aid mixer.  Now, I love a good Kitchen Aid, but I don’t actually own a Kitchen Aid, so I needed a non-Kitchen Aid recipe.  Hence the reason I’ll be making completely hand-made croissants, no fancy mixing appliances here.

There were quite a few videos out there, but I finally found a video on YouTube that was all made by hand looked super delicious.

I had gone into my research thinking I had everything I needed… all-purpose flour, yeast, so much butter… but it turns out that you need bread flour, and special European style butter to make a good croissant.  So off to the market I went!

HA! Just kidding!  Off to the computer I went.  Amazon is my favorite store for a reason; a few clicks and I had Amazon Prime Now delivering me the flour and butter, also brie and raspberry jam to eat with any regular croissants I might make.  I also included some avocado oil and oranges for good measure… and to get my total purchase high enough for free delivery.

Next up, a couple pieces of equipment I was missing.  A small kitchen scale and a pastry brush.  I actually have an analog scale, but it just shows pounds and I needed grams, plus I use it mainly to weigh out clay, and to hold my extra sunglasses and gum when not being used for clay.

My lunch hour gave me enough time to run to a nearby Fred Myers, pick up the stuff, and a stop at Taco Bell for a bean burrito (no onions).

IMG_7277[6633]With all my accouterments gathered, and the weekend finally here I started the recipe Friday night.  I had to measure all the ingredients by weight, which was new to me, although it did make me be much more precise then I have a tendency to be when I’m just cooking any ole’ weeknight.

After mixing the dry ingredients I added to egg yolk, melted, butter and yeast that had been bloomed in hot water.  Try not to be too jealous of my Snow What mug.  I know it’s awesome.

Make the dough was a lot easier than I thought, although it was slightly dry and took a good amount of kneading, but being a long time pizza crust maker I’m pretty amazing at kneading.   Not to brag, or anything. IMG_7284[6639]

I also had to do a weird stretch and flop move that was new to me.  Next up was first to the rest and work pattern that make croissants so time consuming.  Rest. First “turn”.  Rest. Second “turn”.  Rest roll out into a square.  Poof overnight in the fridge. Okay, gotta say, rolling dough into a 7×7 square is as hard as it sounds.   My corners were never sharp, but in the end it worked out just fine.

I got my dough in the fridge for overnight at about 7:30pm.  Next up, was beating butter into square a few inches smaller than the dough.  My butter had softened a bit, so it was easy to get into the shape needed.  Although, I have to admit that I didn’t have quite enough fancy, European butter, so I had to add just a tiny bit of American butter.  I beg pardon from all the real croissant makers out in the world.  After being tainted with American butter, and shaped into a square, the butter went into the fridge next to the dough.

The next morning I got up ready to croissant the day away!  First step was wrapping the butter in the dough, making sure there were no cracks for butter to escape from.  Then rolling and folding it the first time.  Then it was off to the fridge!  Then I rolled and folded again, followed by a rest.  And a final roll and fold.  And finally, the penultimate rest.

Finally, a mere three and a half hours after starting my morning I was able to shape the dough.  I decided to emulate the first chocolate croissants I had by making smaller versions, with only one roll of chocolate.  Most croissants you get these days, have two rolls and are pretty big! Not that I’m complaining.  For all this work, I got 10 small chocolate croissants.

I gave them a nice egg wash before they spent two hours in a cold oven with the light on for a final rise. IMG_7297[6651]

While they rise, let’s share some fun facts!  There are stories that tell the origin of the croissant dating back to the 17th century.  Some say it was created in Buda to celebrate the defeat of the Ummayyad forces by the Franks at the Battle of Tours; and that the shape represents the Islamic crescent moon.  Others say it was created in Vienna to celebrate the Christians defeating the Ottomans in 1683, in honor of the bakers that helped protect their city.  An 18th century tale will have you believe they were made for Marie Antoinette.

In reality, they are based on a much older pastry from Austria called a kipferl.  A baker, August Zang, created them in his fancy pastry shop.  He made kipferl with a much flakier dough than was traditional, and the people called in “croissant” because of its crescent shape.

I’m just shocked to find out that croissants aren’t French at all, but Austrian! Now, back to baking…

One more egg wash, and they were ready for the oven, and about 17 minutes of baking.  Finally, just over five and a half hours after starting the morning, they were finally done! IMG_7305[6658]

Gotta say, they are delicious!  But really, how can you go wrong with something that is mainly butter and chocolate? IMG_7311[6646]

I do feel the need to add, that the next day my muscles were SO sore!  Rolling out cold dough multiple times made me super buff.  Basically, I’m saying that croissants are a work out. I’m pretty sure I burned off all the calories.

Oh, and I did make a second batch along with the first to make into classic croissants.  They didn’t turn out half bad either.

As far as venturing out and trying new things, baking isn’t too daring.  But it was fun!  What other new things should I try?

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