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January 19, 2013

Complicated Pastry Day - Part One

Thanks for everyone's interest in my Complicated Pastry Days! It was very fun. There's a lot of 'splaining to do so this might be a multiple part post. First tho, I think I did OK. What do you think?

Homemade croissants - not bad.

They lean a little "crescent" but are still croissant-y. The finished product reminds me more of the coronetti I had in Italy. More bread-y than a real croissant....and I definitely need to work on my flakiness.

Lots of layers but needs more flakiness.

My goal for Complicated Pastry Day(s) was to learn about puff pastry and croissants. I was inspired by a pic I saw on foodgawker. I figured if a regular person could make croissants then I should give it a go. And what else was I going to do trapped in the house worrying about everything I wasn't getting done. Plus there isn't a decent croissant within 100 miles of our farm and I was starting to languish from lack of pastries.

Want to give it a try? You'll need two days of being at home for this bad boy. No kidding. And you can't monkey around with the timing.  So clear your schedule, take all your foldin' money down to the store and buy the most expensive butter you can find, and roll up your sleeves.

I won't do a step by step because this is really the best explanation I've seen. A WARNING tho - this .gif heavy post may make your dizzy. I copy 'n pasted the instructions on a static page so I wouldn't become homicidal.
Fresh from the oven. I'm not being arty with the lighting. I have very little natural light in my kitchen.

Since I was going to be chained to the kitchen with this not-so-labor-intensive but surely needed-my-full-attention process I thought I'd kill two baking birds with one stone. I also broke out my new favorite baked goods book, The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle- I wanted to try his "worth the effort" puff pastry dough. I used two different timers and a sticky note to help manage these two different processes going at the same time.

I learned a lot of things. First, the ham and cheese croissants I made were a hit right out of the park. Delish! The chocolate ones were pretty darn good, and the plain croissants were a solid "good." In all, I'll give this project a firm "B" and I'll definitely do it again. There are a few things tho that I'll do differently next time.

While I was glad for the simplified process given by Top With Cinnamon, it was probably missing some steps and institutional know-how. Granted I probably would never have tried making croissants without this short hand version - more detail in the "how to" is warranted for the next go round. I did a quick search and discovered that other folks had similar results to mine. So I didn't feel too bad about my lack of flakiness. But I want to do better next time.

I will also get the best quality, highest fat butter I can find. But wait, isn't regular old Kroger butter good enough? Probably not. From what I can tell, the fancy-pansy pastry chefs use higher in fat "European" style butter. So I'll get my hands on some of that.

Little croissants on a tray just waiting to rise.

Also, I need to get better at my timing - the first two batches of croissants should have been baked sooner. I had to go to town during the "rise in a cool place" step and I think the butter in the croissants started to get too soft. The last two batches of croissants did much better - and the ham and cheese ones were great.

The best thing about my Complicated Pastry Days was doing both the croissant and the puff pastry dough at the same time. What I needed to learn for making better croissants was taught to me in the puff pastry instructions. Oh yeah.. my man Tom D. did not let me down at all. Those 4 pages of instructions were worth every word. The puff pastry was stunning. I made a few little tarts from the scraps and they were terrific.

I'll do more research and incorporate what I learned from the puff pastry into my next round of croissants. The puff pastry is resting comfortably in the freezer right now.  I'll bake up some of the puff pastry squares as tarts and do a follow up post with details next. 

So what do you think? Has anyone ever made real croissants before? Do you have any tips?

Complicated Pastry Day - Part Two coming soon.

Happy Saturday everyone!