croissants, pt 3

Since there’s no way I can keep eating six croissants each weekend without literally dying, I froze half of the last batch of croissants I made. Stuck them in the freezer on a quarter sheet after shaping them, then stored them all together in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. I was curious whether or not they would hold up, but then, you can buy perfectly good frozen puff pasty, so worth a shot.

I’ve discovered that the ambient temp of our kitchen makes it so that proofing baked goods takes at least twice as long as expected. Last time, when I made croissants, I proofed them overnight after taking them out of the fridge for approximately eight hours (in an off-oven to protect from croissant-stealing cats), and they still seemed a little under-proofed. Which seemed ridiculous, but pastries don’t lie.

Anyway, all that lead up to say, Adam and I forgot about the frozen croissants for about a week and rediscovered them last night. We set some out at around 6p to defrost and proof overnight so we could have them for breakfast.

Then we forgot about them again.

I went to go make lunch for myself, started making some tea, and then thought OH SHIT THE CROISSANTS.

They had been proofing for something like 17 hours at that point. SEVENTEEN HOURS. They had developed a bit of a skin, but actually looked okay? So, needing lunch anyway, I baked them up, and they turned out… surprisingly well.

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The edges are a little dark, but that’s never stopped me before. Nom.

They caught a bit, because I was distracted by reading a book, but the structure of the interior was the best it’s been so far. Still not perfect (nothing’s perfect, of course), but much more airy and open and honeycombed than previous batches.

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Yeah, look at that crumb structure.

Here’s to happy accidents, I guess?

croissant, the first

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I made croissants for the first time this weekend! They ended up being underproofed, womp womp. But the good thing about baking trial and error is that your errors are often still pretty tasty, and these were no exception. You can’t go too wrong with butter and dough.

The recipe I used this go around came from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer and Martha Rose Shulman. It was a pretty straightforward, two-day affair. I found croissants intimidating before because they seemed involved, but there isn’t too much active time. Most of the time was resting and chilling.

This was also my first attempt at laminated dough, and it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I should have let the dough warm up just slightly before rolling and cutting and shaping, because the butter was a bit too cold and cracked during that final stage. And my folds weren’t as neat as they could have been.

I’m prepping for another attempt this upcoming weekend. This time, I’m using Dominique Ansel’s recipe from Masterclass (if you’re curious, here’s a referral link). This one requires prepping a levain, so I started that process as well. I’d never made a fermented starter of any kind before, so that in of itself has been fascinating.

I can feel the mild obsession creeping in. A flurry of baking approaches.

macaron lab notebook

Remember those lab notebooks you had to put together in high school and/or college chemistry? The graph paper, the carbon copies, the wrinkled and warped pages from when the notebook got inevitably wet. Those were the days…

Sort of.

I was thinking about them today because I’ve restarted my macaron experiments in earnest. I’ve made these cookies successfully previously –

 

Those smooth tops! Those ruffled feet! – but the notes I took at the time were sloppy and incomplete. Although I have a bunch of flavors that I want to try baking kicking around in my head, I’m reluctant to experiment too broadly until I’ve nailed a base cookie consistently (because that’s how my brain likes to work). There are a few major parts to doing that – the recipe, the technique, and the oven.

For the most part, I’m using Stella Parks’ French macaron recipe (with some adjustments here and there for cooking time, oven temp, etc. – I try not to mess with the ratios too much). I’ve had good success with it in the past, and I love that she breaks baking down very scientifically and demystifies the process. (Her book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, is the next on my cookbook wishlist.) There are a couple other recipes that utilize a different cooking methods that I want to try at some point, but this hers is definitely my go to.

As for technique, I have a method of doing the meringue and macaronnage that I think is pretty consistent at this point. I’m sure there are variations between batches, but that much can’t really be helped.

So the part that I’m really trying to dial in right now is the oven and baking method. My oven has both convection and conventional settings, as well as a removable divider in the middle that transforms it into a makeshift double oven (that I rarely use because I find that it does not separate different temperatures all that well). It’s calibration is a bit off, and it loses heat pretty rapidly (about a 25 degree drop in temp every time the door opens – I checked with an oven thermometer because the display does not tell you that). But it’s a poor craftsperson that blames her tools, so I’m still trying to learn the weird ins and outs (there seem to be many) of my particular oven.

To do that, I need what every scientist needs – documentation.

Enter, Airtable. (There are several pictures of sexy, sexy spreadsheets coming up. If that’s not your jam… too bad, I guess?)

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