chocolate croissants

I’ve been wanting to try to make puff pastry ever since I saw this cool demo on Artisan Sweets.  She makes it look so easy!   I haven’t made puff pastry yet, but I *tried* to make croissants a few weeks ago.  My real agenda was to make chocolate croissants because I had been craving them ever since I had one in San Francisco.  I make enough sugary, buttery things at home so I usually refrain from buying myself croissants.   I actually don’t know why I choose to refrain from them – it’s not like I really refrain from eating cupcakes and other things.   It’s not that I don’t like them that much.  When I was in college, I worked at a coffee shop and I had no problem eating them whenever I wanted – plain, chocolate, ham and cheese, bear claws – any kind, any time of today.  But that was how many years ago now?  That was when I was actually active and ran around campus all day.  I have a desk job now and sit on my behind for 8 hours a day.  I try to exercise “regularly”, but for me “regularly” usually ends up being once a week so I have to refrain from something…right?

I was fascinated by the folding, turning, and rolling of the puff pastry demo and I figured croissant dough would be fairly similar.  Plus, I had splurged on some Plugra european butter after I won a $25 shopping spree at Trader Joe’s and I have tons of chocolate and yeast that I need to use so I decided to just do it.  I read a review that the recipe in Baking with Julia was very rich so I went with the recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II.  (Did I ever mention that I love Julia Child?  I started watching her show before I started kindergarten!)

This was quite a process, but I was adequately forewarned, “The minimum time required for making croissants is 11 to 12 hours.” It actually took about 36 hours before I actually baked them.  Something was wrong right from the beginning.  I don’t know if my yeast wasn’t fresh enough (it wasn’t expired yet) or if my house was too cold.  I think it’s the latter.  The recipe said that the dough needed to rest at about 72 degrees for about 3 hours to rise 3.5 times its original volume.  Well, mine sat in my 65 degree kitchen for  almost 8 hours and it only rose 2.5 times its original volume.  I had all kinds of problems – rolling my dough out to the correct size, “smearing” the cold butter onto the flattened dough, shaping the dough, accidentally par cooking the shaped croissants in a warm oven (I was trying to help them rise)…

The croissants came out spongy instead of flaky and they were very buttery even though I had used the minimum amount of butter called for.  I have to say though that I didn’t think they were that bad for my first attempt and they did hit the spot.  I’ve eaten a couple more croissants since this trial, examining what a “real” croissant should look like and how it should taste.  (I kind of use that as my excuse – experiencing them will help me next time I try to make them, right?)


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