Mission, Croissants: Accomplished. What fun! And not nearly as difficult as I expected! Time consuming, yes, but actual level of difficulty was surprising in its straightforward simplicity. And the result is pure satisfaction as you dig in to your first warm croissant, in all its buttery, flaky glory.
I am not going to re-print the recipe here as Cooks’ Illustrated did such a wonderful job of including detailed information and step-by-step photos, you’d be much better off following the recipe directly.
But I will share a few things I learned:
- Mind your temperature. Don’t even attempt these if it’s warmer than 75 degrees in your kitchen. Like Cat discovered, your croissants will melt into buttery puddles.
- Grab your ruler. Yes, I am suggesting you bake with a ruler by your side. The Cooks’ Illustrated recipe is very specific about measurements, and I found if you are accurate in your rolling and cutting, your croissants will be perfectly proportioned.
- High protein flour. I didn’t buy anything special here, instead I just mixed 1/2 cup of bread flour to 3 3/4 cups regular all-purpose. The bread flour ups the protein content, promoting better gluten formation and preventing the dough from tearing.
- Freeze ‘em. 22 croissants is a lot, and considering they are best right out of the oven, you probably don’t want to bake them all at once. I baked about 8, and the rest I arranged on baking sheets and put in the freezer for a few hours. After they are frozen solid, simply bag ‘em and tag ‘em. To bake, just arrange on baking sheets and let proof according to your recipe, adding about 2 hours to the total proofing time.
- Almond paste. I made a few almond croissants in addition to the regular ones. I simply rolled a small log of almond paste into the croissant. While it didn’t quite ‘melt’ into the pastry like I felt like it should have, it still added a nice almond flavor.
How else are you supposed to cover tightly with plastic wrap while not letting the plastic touch the dough? Why yes, those are shot glasses, thanks for asking. Am I the only one who feels like plastic wrap never sticks to anything but itself? I was about ready to throw it through the window by this point.
In this case, the light at the end of the tunnel, the reward for a job well done is a pillow of flaky pastry layers, crisp and buttery and golden brown and delicious. That’s one of the things I love most about baking. Granted, it takes 24 hours of work to create something that takes 2 seconds to devour, but that’s beside the point. It is still so totally worth it.
You know what else makes me happy? That so many of you took this challenge along with me! I am so impressed with your gorgeous croissants, your lovely layers, your golden brown beauties.
What’s next? Stay tuned, I’ll be announcing the April Kitchen Challenge theme on April 1st (no joke). But tell me, what’s on your baking bucket list that you’d like to see featured in a future Kitchen Challenge? I know I have a few ideas but I want to hear yours too!