If I had to choose a single pastry that is the embodiment of all that is French viennoiserie, it would have to be the croissant. In the U.S., croissants have been steadily increasing in popularity, particularly as the basis for a wide variety of breakfast sandwiches. When properly baked, the croissant has a crisp, flakey exterior with a light, open and wonderfully buttery interior. If formed in a rectangular shape wrapped around a stick or two of chocolate, the pastry takes on the name, pain au chocolat. A croissant with a favorite spread, or a pain au chocolat, and a hot cup of coffee is a great way to start the day.
The croissant formula used here is derived from the one described in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas. Not having the osmotolerant yeast specified, I used just a bit more instant yeast. I also used an imported Irish butter (unsalted Kerrygold), with a slightly higher fat content than typical American butters (82% vs. 80%). I find that the higher fat content makes the butter a bit more pliable, making it easier to fold into the dough. The Kerrygold is also made from cultured cream, giving the croissants a wonderful, more complex flavor. For the pain au chocolat, I cut up a bar of high quality semi-sweet baking chocolate to form the bâtons.
- 145 g Heartland Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour
- 145 g Water
- 1/8 tsp. Instant Yeast
- 335 g Heartland Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour
- 115 g Water
- 65 g Milk
- 65 g Sugar
- 10 g Salt
- 1½ Tsp. Instant Yeast
- 20 g Butter
- 290 g Poolish (all of the above)
- 225 g Butter
- Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate Bâtons (as needed)
The night before baking, prepare the poolish by mixing the flour, yeast and water until combined. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temperature overnight, until the level of the poolish just begins to recede, about 12 hours.
The next morning, mix the flour, sugar and salt until evenly distributed. To the mixture add the 20 g of butter in small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips. Mix in the yeast, then add the milk, water and poolish. Mix with a dough whisk until all the ingredients are hydrated, then empty the bowl onto the countertop and mix by hand until moderate dough development is achieved. Immediately place the dough on a floured sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
After the 2 hour rest, the dough is transferred to a floured work surface and the dough is rolled out to a 7″ x 14″ rectangle. The butter is then incorporated into the dough and the dough is given its first turn as follows: After the first turn, the dough is returned to the refrigerator for another 1 hour rest. After the 1 hour, the dough is turned two more times, each time followed by a one hour rest in the refrigerator. After the final turn and refrigerated rest, the dough is once again placed on a floured surface and rolled and trimmed into a 16″ x 16″ square. The dough is divided in half and one of the halves is cut and shaped into croissants as follows: The other half of the dough is cut and shaped into pain au chocolat as follows: After the croissants and pain au chocolat have been panned, each piece is given an egg wash, and the pieces are allowed to proof by placing the sheet pans in an enclosed, temperature-controlled environment (I use a homemade proofbox) for 1½ hours at 76ºF. The pieces are then given a second egg wash and the sheet pans are placed in a 375ºF oven and baked for 20 minutes, the first 5 minutes being under steam. I dare you to wait for the croissants to cool before your first bite!