Monday, March 4, 2013

Tuesdays with Julia and Dorie: Croissants

7:00 am Thursday
I had looked forward to baking croissants from the time we began Tuesdays with Julia and Dorie.  One of my daughters, also a member of this group, and I discussed several issues before we began.  We tried to purchase yeast cakes but were unsuccessful.  Growing up, my mom used this type of yeast, always let her bread rise twice with this  longer lasting, slower working yeast loved by professional bakers but almost impossible to buy now.  This yeast ferments slowly and give breads a wonderful flavor and texture.  There is a specialty grocer near my home who will make a special order for me, but I did not plan this in advance.

I was not happy with the long rise on our foccacia bread and should have sped up that process which would have produced a more “bubbly” bread.   My yeast was almost done by the last rise and my dough was not as bubbly at the baking point as it had been earlier.   I did not want my yeast to be spent on this croissant project which goes on overnight and then for many hours the following day.

I decided to use 2 ½ teaspoons of yeast for today’s recipe and I also sped up the process, cutting all the times by about 1/2.

I was working from home today, doing taxes and other business odds and ends, so I planned my day to take short breaks allowing me to make my croissants.  I decided to mix the dough early in the morning, and have baked croissants before I went to bed.  That way they would be cooled and ready to eat for breakfast.
Everything went well.  I took short breaks to fold and roll my dough and to keep it chilling.  I was proud of my croissants which looked beautiful when ready for the final rise before baking.  I made plain and chocolate.

I had to go down to the office at one point, only 1 ½ miles away so no big deal, and there is a Fresh and Easy about ½ mile before the office.  I ran in and bought a 14 oz dark chocolate bar.  When having a really stressful day, one of our employees used to walk to the store and come back with a bag of this chocolate to share.  It used to have printing on the packaging that said the maker of this chocolate  is Calebout chocolate...and at a fraction of the cost of Calebout packaged chocolate.  We ate it by the pounds and loved it.  For the past several months I’ve become addicted to Trader Joe’s chocolate pound plus bars, but the Fresh and Easy bars are more easily broken into narrow strips that are perfect for hiding in my croissants.

Then I watched the PBS video with Julia and Esther McManus, a real French baker whose recipe we are baking for today.  She suggested that at the point I was at, one should place the croissants into the oven with a pan of boiling water for steam and where a pilot light would keep the rising dough warm.

Now I made my big mistake.  I wanted to cry.  I had given all my precious free moments to these croissants and I messed them up.  At this time of year I put in lots of 18 hour my moments here and there are very precious.

I do not have a pilot light, I bake gas in our neighborhood.  So I thought I’d be smart and make my own proofing oven...I do this regularly when I bake other breads and rolls to speed the rising process.  I warmed my oven to about 110ish^ and added the steam tray.  I inserted 2 pans of my rising croissants and proceeded to roll out the last half of the recipe which I planned to use with my chocolate.  When I opened the oven door to add my chocolate croissants....BOO HOO!  All my plain croissants had melted.  All the now slimy little rolls of dough were swimming in melted butter.

Well, what did I think would happen?  Obviously I did not think about butter melting in a warm oven.  I don’t know the temperature for a pilot light oven, but my oven was at butter melting temp and all that lovely butter I had incorporated into my croissants in many layers had oozed out and puddled in the baking sheets.  What a mess.
9 pm
OK, my croissants are now into their 3rd hour of rising just sitting out in the kitchen.  No more oven rising for buttery doughs.  I don’t know if my plain batch will be any good...less their butter which melted out, but the chocolate variety should be OK.  However, I just checked them, and they don’t appear to be rising at all.  Hummmmmmm.
10 pm.
This project continues on.  Maybe the croissants will be baked for breakfast???  My oven is a little warmer than room temp so I will again attempt to get this rising dough ready for baking by re-entering it into the oven.  I will continue to wait.
Everyone has gone to bed.  I need to work quietly.  My croissants look like they need about 3 more hours to rise. They don't seem to be growing at all.  I know my yeast is good...just used it this week successfully.  Sooooo slow.  I egg wash them again so they won’t dry out and then I decide to just do it.  Bake these little monsters that melt when I get them warmed and won’t rise when they sit out.  My kitchen is 76^.  It was an 80^ day.  This rising business should not be so difficult!
10:50 and, yes, we are p.m.
Did I mention that I do all our business taxes?  And because I do, I get phone calls often from people from our church, the neighborhood, family, etc who want to know about taxes; everyone has questions.  I just spent the last 20 minutes helping a friend who started her own business last year.  She is so confused.  The tax laws really need to change.  Paying taxes should not be so difficult or time consuming or costly...I pay for computer programs, supplies, and a CPA to review my work.  It costs me thousands of dollars every year just to do all the payroll taxes, business taxes, April 15th taxes, etc..  I have to account for every penny.  Everything needs to balance to the penny.  Sometimes I add up columns of numbers over and over and know it is time to quit for the day when I get a different total each time I add those columns, sometimes 20 times.  And for what?  I have to keep track of every pencil we use, the weed killer, mileage, A/C filters, postage...everything.  If  the business expenses don’t get added in,  our taxes are higher.  Everything matters.

It’s nice to have projects such as these croissants and grandkiddies to force work breaks.  I’ll go check on my croissants...hope they have puffed up and are edible.
Well, I won’t say success, but maybe ½ success.  As I walked downstairs there was a lovely aroma of buttery bread baking.  Nice.  I opened the oven and my croissants are browned and OK looking. Two pans are baked and I  I have two more pans to go.  The croissants rose to at least double, maybe more, but not triple as Esther said they should.  I’m interested to try this recipe again in the summer when my kitchen is hot.  I wonder if the rise will go better or if the butter will melt?

I am disappointed that the chocolate melted out of the ends.  I rolled the chocolate croissants as Esther did in the video...with nothing covering the chocolate ends.  I thought it would melt out, but I actually  hoped that some magic would happen and the dough would puff up and close off the ends.  Not!  I can’t call these croissants “beautiful.”   Next time I will enclose the chocolate.  I am smarter now.
Time to get my second batch out of the oven.  I had planned to use my croissants for breakfast sandwiches.  Filled with bacon, eggs,a spoonful of hash browns, salsa,  melted cheese.......but they are not as large as I had hoped they would be.  I will, instead, use them for dinner rolls for tomorrow’s meal.  I will leave them alone, let them cool and set, and try one in the morning just before I post my experience.

Sorry for all my rambling, but I need to remember what happened.  I do want to try this experience again and hope for greater success.
I was greeted in the kitchen by No. 2 Son who exited his homework room because of the wonderful smell of freshly baked croissants in the kitchen.  He begged to try one, and then another.  He thinks my croissants are great.  Since he was eating them, I also had to try a plain one and then a chocolate one.  I must admit, they are delicious.  Not perfect, but good.  Maybe better than OK.  They are light and flaky and have a wonderful flavor.

I am happy I made these croissants, even with my problems.  I plan to order the better yeast...or find a bakery willing to sell a pound.  With the correct ingredients I will go for the 2 day process.  Also I will make my croissants a little larger for sandwich use.  And, I will experiment with other fun fillings.

Hope you all enjoyed success with this project.  Have a happy week!



  1. Your croissants look great Kris, despite your woes. I will confess that a number of times, I did not wait the full time for resting and rising, as I just did not have the time. I found this dough too buttery for my liking, giving me some limp little butter knobs at the ends, and will go back to the Daring Bakers recipe next time. I hope that you get some spare time soon.

  2. In spite of the oven rising issues, they came out great! Beautiful pains au chocolat too!

  3. Great idea to speed up the resting times...this recipe to eons to be completed! SO happy yours were delicious despite the glitch...hooray!!!

  4. Whew. Glad they worked out in the end - you had me scared for a minute!
    Mine didn't get as puffy either during the rising,but they more than made up for it in the oven.

    Bravo! You conquered the mighty croissant.

  5. Your croissants really look delicious. I made exactly the same mistake of trying to proof the shaped croissants in the oven. What a mess indeed! Glad that you were happy with the results!

  6. Your croissants look great! I too had the same issue when I proofed my first batch....they went totally flat. So disappointing after all those hours. I couldn't find compressed yeast either, but if I do, I might be tempted to try this recipe again..maybe. :)

  7. Kris, both your versions look like pure delightful buttery and delicious bliss! I like the way the crescent shaped and chocolate filled croissants look like - just wonderful, despite some slight glitches, you made perfect looking croissants - I agree that they were so time consuming but I think the learning experience will lead me to try out some other recipes for croissants as soon as I can find the time.
    Have a wonderful Wednesday!

  8. In the end, it is the taste of a recipe that matters the most, that being said, your croissants do look absolutely beautiful Kris. Especially the pain au chocolate(in my opinion, it makes it even better with the extra melted chocolate leaking out the ends.) Great job!

  9. Lovely looking croissants. I liked reading your time frame. :)

  10. You just ran a marathon! It must have felt good to have your son beg for more. Way to hang in there!

  11. What an odyssey, with taxes too! Your croissants look absolutely beautiful, just like bakery ones, and you know it's good when the family ask for seconds (at close to midnight)!

  12. I'm so impressed, Kris! I would love to make croissants. I'll bet your finest reward was your son asking for more!

    Do you think you can attend the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle in September? A lot of Doristas have signed up - I would love to meet you!