The other day, I was in the mood for a baking challenge, so I started searching the internet for something fun to make. There is a web site called The Daring Kitchen, and within it is a group called The Daring Bakers who participate in The Daring Bakers Challenge. Unfortunately, unlike the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, I was unable to find a site that simply lists the recipes that have been made in the past. I’ve found random recipes here and there on various blogs, but no comprehensive list. I tried creating an account on The Daring Bakers site, but having additional access didn’t provide me with any extra info. All in all, I think that site kind of sucks. ANYWAY, somewhere in the middle of all this, I happened upon a blog where someone had baked Julia Child’s croissants, and I thought that seemed like a good project. The blog had reposted the instructions, but there were so many steps (57) that I thought it would be easier to get the actual cookbook. So, I went to the library and obtained Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2.
The recipe goes from pages 96-103, so obviously this is no joke. I read over the recipe a couple of times in the days before actually starting it, which is something I rarely do. I also watched Julia Child make the croissants on an old episode of The French Chef. While I thought that would help, it actually caused some confusion as Julia’s methods on TV were different than those described in the cookbook. The other slight problem I had prior to starting the croissants was the fact that I accidentally bought bleached AP flour instead of unbleached. I did a little research to determine the difference, and bleached flour has a lower protein content, which gives baked goods a softer and lighter texture. BUT, it also undergoes a chlorination process to change the color. I try pretty hard to avoid chemicals in any food situation, so there was no way I was using bleached flour. Instead, I decided to use the little bit of unbleached AP flour I had left, along with some bread flour. Once I had that figured out, I could actually start. Onward…
I combined flour, milk, salt, sugar, yeast, and vegetable oil. It made a very sticky dough. The other discrepancy between the cookbook and the TV show: cookbook says 1 3/4 cups of flour, and Julia used 2 cups. I wish I would have remembered that detail when I was mixing the dough according to the book’s directions. I probably added about 1/4 cup of flour during the kneading process, but all the while was worrying that I was going way over the flour quota. Below is the dough, before and after kneading, and before and after the four-hour rise.
After the dough tripled in size, I kneaded it into a rectangle and then gave it a tri-fold (like folding a letter). Then, the dough had to rest for another hour and a half. After that, I took a stick of butter out of the fridge and started slamming it with a rolling pin, as per the instructions. Once it was adequately smushed, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle and spread the butter over the top 2/3 of the dough. Normally, I HATE working with butter when baking. When I make buttery cookie dough, it always winds up getting too warm too fast, and therefore very sticky and difficult to work with. I expected to have similar troubles here, but surprisingly I did not. The butter was relatively easy to smush and spread onto the dough without getting too warm and greasy. Huzzah!
After spreading the butter, I gave the dough a tri-fold, then rotated it, rolled it out again, and did a second fold. Then, I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge for two hours. When the two hours were up, I removed it and did the “roll and fold” two more times. I’d post pictures of that, but they’re kind of boring to look at.
After the fourth fold, the dough went into the fridge overnight. On Day 2, we will be shaping and baking the croissants!