Whole wheat croissants

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As I experiment more and more with whole grain flours, I just had to do a trial of croissant dough with a couple of variations on using whole wheat flour. Just can’t get enough of the laminated dough thing, or so it seems. Oh well, there are worse things to be fixated on, don’t you think?

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The first version adjusts my base recipe from 450 g all purpose flour and 50 g bread flour (recipe coming at the end, I promise!) to a mixture of 300 g spelt flour and 200 g whole wheat pastry flour, both from Bob’s Red Mill. The spelt I used is a coarse grind and gave my dough a speckled look. I was hoping that my choice of those two flours would sort of balance each other out in terms of gluten content, giving me something closer to all purpose but with the nutritional benefits of using whole grain flours. Kinda winging it here.

The second version uses a mixture of 300 g white whole wheat flour from King Arthur (a finer grind than the spelt and a softer flour from soft white wheat) and 200 g whole wheat pastry flour from Bob’s Red Mill (another softer flour), yielding a smoother appearance with less speckling. Again - wingin’ it.

I normally use whole milk for my liquid but this time I replaced about a third of the milk with water, thinking that the final, slightly less enriched, nutty-wheaty croissants would lend themselves to more savory uses like ham/cheese or chicken salad sandwiches. I know, I know - this isn’t a very scientific study since I’m changing a number of variables, but why not play around? It’s what I love.

My two dough versions and butter blocks ready to go

My two dough versions and butter blocks ready to go

I put both versions through the usual steps of beurrage followed by three business letter folds (or 3-folds) and a final rest in the fridge before rolling out. I divided each batch into halves so I could create two different pastries with each version.

The spelt dough rolled nicely but when it came time to cut and shape the croissants, the dough felt drier and was not quite as sturdy, tending to tear when being stretched a bit.

Shaping the spelt croissants

Shaping the spelt croissants

With the second half of the spelt dough I did a savory spiral - rolled it out into a 10”x12” rectangle, brushed it with egg wash and sprinkled on mixed Italian herbs and grated gruyère cheese . . . .

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rolled it up into a log and sliced ~1 inch slices.

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The slices went into buttered 80 mm rings to proof.

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The white whole wheat version also rolled out easily and was less inclined to tear when being stretched and shaped.

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The second half of this dough became cherry-almond spirals - same idea as the cheese/herb spirals above - spread on a mixture of almond flour, egg white and brown sugar and topped it with cherry preserves and sliced almonds.

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Rolled up and sliced, these went into buttered muffin tins to proof.

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I gave the croissants a good 2-2.5 hours to proof and the spirals a bit less. Then on to the bake!

Proofed spelt version

Proofed spelt version

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

I gave the proofed cheese spirals a sprinkling of more cheese . . . .

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and here they are all baked up!

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I gave half of the egg washed white whole wheat croissants a sprinkling of KAF’s Artisan bread topping, a delicious mixture of sesame, flax, sunflower, black caraway, poppy and anise seeds.

Proofed

Proofed

all baked up

all baked up

Cherry almond here we come! A sprinkling of raw sugar and into the oven.

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Once baked I rolled them in some vanilla sugar for the pièce de résistance.

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Steve and I did a thorough sampling of all four versions. We thought the flavor was deelish and the texture pretty decent. Personally I love the nuttiness and whole grain sense of these doughs and would definitely make whole wheat croissant dough again.

I froze a good portion of the baked and cooled end results, and we were able to enjoy the croissants and cheesy spirals thawed and oven warmed with a delicious chili Steve made for a family supper out at cousin Jen’s. Everyone enjoyed them immensely. Who says you can’t have a croissant for supper eh?

So what did I learn from all of this? Truth be told, I had done some reading before the project but had neglected to consider the need for some increased hydration when using all whole wheat flour. Duh. Hence I did a thorough read through of very helpful tips and suggestions from the Whole Grain Council/KAF - so much information out there kids!

Going forward I now know to add an additional 2 teaspoons of liquid per cup of whole wheat flour used. It’s also important to work the dough more gently and shape more loosely since the germ and bran in the whole wheat flour can actually shred the gluten strands in the dough, weakening it (it was very clear to me with the spelt version that it was drier and much more prone to tearing).

Whole wheat doughs generally ferment a bit faster (more nutritive stuff in them for the yeast to munch on) but don’t achieve quite as much volume. I did give my dough the same amount of rising time that I normally give my regular croissants but did note that the rise didn’t appear quite as full. Yet I was very happy with how they baked and tasted in the end. YES indeed.

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Here’s my standard base croissant recipe with adjustments for whole wheat:

450 g all purpose flour + 50 g bread flour (option 300 g white whole wheat flour/200 g whole wheat pastry flour)
44 g sugar
18 g salt
50 g soft unsalted butter
16 g instant yeast
317 g whole milk, can be cold or room temp (add 35 g additional liquid if using whole wheat flour - may be a mix of water and milk)
283 g unsalted butter for the butter block

  1. Blend flours, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.

  2. Stir in milk (milk/water if using) with a rubber spatula or dough whisk to roughly combine. If using whole wheat flour let the mixture sit for 20 minutes to hydrate before proceeding.

  3. Mix with the dough hook on “stir”, adding the 50 g soft butter to incorporate.

  4. Increase to speed 2 and knead for 3-4 minutes (2-3 minutes if using whole wheat flour).

  5. Place on a lightly floured work surface, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30-40 minutes.

  6. Shape into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

  7. Shape the 283 g butter into a 4-5 inch square (I do this between two layers of plastic wrap). The butter should be cool and malleable for the beurrage.

  8. Perform the beurrage followed by three business letter folds, resting the dough 30 minutes between each fold. Let the finished dough rest at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours before final shaping.

It’s not my intention here to review all the steps and nuances of making laminated dough, proofing and baking croissants but primarily to share the dough recipe. Now it’s time for you to experiment on your own. Go for it! You can do it.

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Croissants revisited

Always eager to try a new technique or two when it comes to croissant making, I opted to give Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s recipe from “Bouchon Bakery” a try. With its decidedly French flair and way of doing things I figured what could be bad about that, eh?

I haven't made croissants in some months, and, now that our kitchen remodel is finished (a much improved and fantastic work space!), it was definitely time.

I looked back to my October, 2014 croissant post written soon after I first started this blog.  At that time I compared my usual method with Philippe Conticini's of Pâtisserie des Rêves and found his sorely lacking, both in process and in final product.

This time I compared Keller/Rouxel's method with the one that I had developed for myself some years ago.

WARNING!  Technical stuff coming up!!

Here are just a few things in the Bouchon recipe that vary from my usual method:  a pre-ferment (poolish) that sits for 12-15 hours; water instead of milk; higher butter:flour ratio; slightly higher in sugar; long kneading time (20 minutes!); different technique to envelop the butter; freezing the dough for 20 minutes in between all steps; different shaping technique; lower oven baking temperature - whew, that's a lot!

This post is geared to those of you who are familiar with the steps of croissant making.  If you've never made croissants, there are tons of resources available that will help you understand the process.

Let's go through some of the steps in pictures.  Once past the poolish steps I show comparisons between Bouchon's dough and mine.

Bouchon poolish

poolish after a 15 hour overnight

lengthy knead of Bouchon dough

smooth, tight Bouchon dough vs. my more lax and open structured dough

Below are two commonly used ways of enveloping the butter - what I like to think of as rectangle vs "baseball diamond".  They both work, so you choose.

ready to envelop the butter

packages ready to roll

first turn completed

second turn completed

The Bouchon dough on the left is smoother and tighter than mine, however rolling it was a more arduous task since it was more elastic and required more rolling pressure.

Freezing the Bouchon dough for 20 minutes in between each step didn't seem detrimental, but I must admit that I prefer my usual method of resting the dough in the fridge as opposed to the freezer. For me the primary issue is that the butter be cool yet malleable and not too cold and hard to break apart during the rolling.

Once all turns were completed I divided each dough into two in preparation for final rolling and shaping.  Check out the layers below.

The Bouchon dough is tighter and the laminations look more precise . . . .

Bouchon dough

whereas my dough looks more rough.

my dough

Once the doughs were rolled out and cut into triangles, I shaped them using the approaches below.  I had never seen the Bouchon method of turning the corners IN before rolling the croissant.  Interesting.

Here are the rolled up end results.

I egg washed and proofed . . . .

ready for the oven

then egg washed again and baked just a few of each (the remainder of the shaped and unbaked croissants went into my freezer).

Unusual for me was the 325ºF oven temp recommended for the Bouchon version, whereas I bake my croissants at 400ºF.  I was taught that the hotter oven temp helps the initial oven rise when baking laminated dough.

The Bouchon version required 40-45 minutes before I was happy with the degree of browning.  Mine looked good after the usual 20 minutes or so.

Bouchon on left, mine on right

The size difference is due to the fact that Bouchon's recipe is a slightly larger amount of dough cut into 16 portions, whereas mine is cut into 12 portions, yielding larger croissants.

Once cooled it was time for cutting and tasting.  The Bouchon croissants felt heavy.  What a disappointment when I found the interior to be doughy with flat layering and a vacant space in the center!

Bouchon version

My version felt light to the touch and exhibited a honeycombed, airy interior.  While I would like to see more distinct laminated layers, the appearance still beat Bouchon's.

my version

While the Bouchon version had a crisp, shard producing exterior and a decent flavor with a hint of sweetness, the texture was doughy and unpleasant, and the croissant left a greasiness on my fingertips and lips that suggested too much butter for my taste.

Bouchon version

My version had some decent crisp exterior shards, although not as impressive as Bouchon's.

my version

When all was said and done, it was clear to me that I should stick with what I know.  I'd still consider tweaking my approach with perhaps a slightly longer kneading time, but otherwise I'll move forward with my standard recipe and technique.

I always love experimenting - it's one of the best ways to learn!!

And remember - there's never an end to the story.

Ahhhhh croissants - old favorites and a chocolate trial

I held a croissant class recently, and, in preparation for that event, I baked a couple of croissants and pains au chocolat for class tasting purposes.

Just imagine that flaky, crisp exterior and lovely airy, not-quite-bready interior.  So good.




And for a special treat I had to do croissant aux amandes, bien sûr.  A big hit with the group.




In addition to the classics, I'm periodically on a path of discovering different things to do with croissant dough.  On one of my morning walks I started thinking chocolate, and, since I had recently finished a batch of chocolate pâte feuilletée, it seemed only natural to try croissant dough with a chocolate twist.

I made a half batch of my usual recipe, adding in some Dutch process cocoa powder (10% by weight of my flour amount) with the dry ingredients.  I increased the milk just a bit, since I find that cocoa powder tends to have a drying effect on dough.

the détrempe

In addition I worked some hazelnut flour into my butter block hoping to give it a nutty flair.  Yup!  Definitely wingin' it!!


hazelnut butter block


Ready for the beurrage . . . .




Finished dough after the three turns . . . .




Not long ago I added a new flexi-mold to my Silikomart collection and was itching to use it.  I had visions of dough spirals dancing in my head.  Even though these silicone molds are non-stick, I brushed them with soft butter so I could coat them with vanilla sugar before placing the spirals in to rise.




I rolled the finished dough out to allow for shaping a couple of typical croissants . . . .





plus a block of dough topped with vanilla sugar and mini chocolate chips . . . .




that I cut into 3/4" strips, rolled up into spirals and popped into my buttered/sugared molds.




I gave them a 1.5 hour rise . . .


after the rise

after the rise

and then on to the bake!  One thing's for sure - the chocolate makes it much more difficult to assess whether they've baked long enough, but I could appreciate some browning and the croissants had the "feel" of being fully baked (once you've felt it, you just know).


rather interesting, eh?




 I wanted to give the spirals a bit longer in the oven to make sure the interior layers were done.  I took them out of the molds, drizzled them with caramel, baked 'em another 5-10 minutes and called it a day.






Taste test time!!

Cutting into the croissant resulted in the hoped for shower of crispy exterior shards.  The inner laminations looked OK and the texture was good, but the taste wasn't much different from a regular butter croissant (although Steve thought it on the dry side).  And this is the key for me - minimal (if any!) chocolate flavor and no hint of hazelnut.  So much for that.




The spirals, however, offered a pleasant, crispy caramelized texture and flavor, and the mini chips added just the right touch of chocolate.


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In the end, this attempt at chocolate croissant dough was not worth the effort.

Perhaps an increase in the amount of cocoa powder, or adding the chocolate to the butter block rather than the détrempe might make a difference, but at this point I'll stick with the classic dough from here on out.

Chocolate bread pudding here I come!




Just how good are the pastries at King Arthur's café?

During my recent 4 day artisan bread class at King Arthur Flour, I simply had to do a petite sampling of a couple of my favorite pastries - croissants and scones.  So, one morning I arrived early and picked up a cup of coffee, a croissant and a blueberry scone.

The croissant had a classic appearance,

and when I pulled off an end, there were those lovely golden exterior shards that fell onto the plate.

The interior had a nicely laminated airiness,

and the flavor was pleasant with just the right buttery mouth feel.  Biting into the croissant yielded that crispy exterior and airy, yet substantive interior.  All in all I'd give it a thumbs-up!

Here's a quick observation regarding the croissant's shape.  I was taught that in France, if the croissant ends are turned in (as this one's are) then it is NOT an all butter croissant.  If the croissant is straight, it IS all butter.

Now, I will admit that I didn't ask the staff whether their croissants are all butter, but I did observe the large butter blocks being formed in the production kitchen, so I think they must be.

The blueberry scone looked pretty classic.

I broke off a piece,

and upon tasting found it to have a just-so hint of exterior crunch, a pleasant flavor, packed with blueberries but a bit too cakey on the inside.  I'd still give it a thumbs up.

Tasting and comparing flavors and textures is great fun and a wonderful way to discover more about how you might want your own pastries to turn out.

It's all about learning!

Les croissants

OK.  I think I make a pretty darn good croissant.  So this next recipe in Philippe Conticini's book, La Pâtisserie des Rêves, got me a bit excited to try another take on this quintessential French pastry staple.  Little did I know. . . .

Over the years I've compared many croissant recipes and tested out a number of them.  I  considered ingredient proportions, mixing and kneading times, numbers of folds/turns, resting and rising times and came up with the recipe and process that has worked well for me.   So, you ask, why mess with (near) perfection?!  Because life is all about learning!

As I read through Conticini's recipe for this laminated dough, I quickly developed a few concerns about some of his ingredient proportions and the kneading time he recommends.  There is a higher ratio of butter to flour in this recipe than that which I typically use, and I prefer my croissants not too heavy in the butter department. Strike 1.

Pascal Pinaud taught me that the dough should be mixed ONLY until it comes together and NO MORE, so when I see a 5-minute kneading time, I start to worry.  Strike 2.

The idea is to work the dough very little at the beginning, thus avoiding development of gluten at this stage.  That will come later as you put the dough through its folds and turns, essentially kneading it with your rolling pin.

Conticini's recipe starts with making a poolisch which is a rough slurry of flour and liquid (water or milk) with yeast added.  I am certainly no expert on the use of a poolisch (also known as pre-ferment or starter), but my understanding is that it is usually a ratio of 1 flour to 1 liquid by weight to which a tiny amount of yeast  is added (0.1-0.2% of the weight of the flour).  Since 90 gm flour is called for here, by using this rule, the amount of yeast added would only be a miniscule 0.1 gm - a teensy, weensy amount!  This recipe calls for the equivalent of 6 gm instant yeast, or 60 times what would typically be used. Strike 3.    

It’s better if the pre-ferment sits for 6-24 hours (at room temp or into fridge if holding for up to 24 hours) before adding it into the final dough.  This contributes to the flavor as well as the texture, crumb and structure of the end product.  In this recipe it sits for 1.5 hours. Strike 4.

(Note:  I normally make a détrempe (the croissant dough) with minimal mixing time, let it rest for 45 minutes at room temp and then into the fridge over night, tightly wrapped.  My steps are otherwise similar to Philippe's recipe -  beurrage, 3 single folds, final rolling, shaping, proofing and baking.)

poolisch ingredients pictured above

So here goes!

For the poolisch simply mix the flour, milk and yeast, cover with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for 1.5 hours.  In the future I would use a rubber spatula rather than a whisk - a MUCH easier tool from which to scrape the sticky dough.

poolisch pictured above

You can then mise en place the remaining pâte à croissant ingredients (the recipe calls for milk and water - I used all milk) and shape and refrigerate your butter block. 

Above: flour, salt, sugar in the bowl; butter ready to be softened or melted; milk; yeast

Above: butter block 15 cm square

Give the flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast a quick whisk in the mixing bowl, add in the milk and butter and top it off with the poolisch.  Mix with the dough hook on slow speed, then, once everything is incorporated, increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes.

Pretty rough.

Above: still pretty rough after a 5 minute knead, but a bit more together

Now cover with plastic film, let sit at room temp for 1.5 hours, then wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.  You want the dough cool for the next steps.

Above: after the 2 hours in the fridge

Now for the beurrage or the enveloping of the butter block.  Take your butter block out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before this step.  Tapping it with your rolling pin helps soften it a bit - you want it to be cool, yet malleable so it will spread evenly between your dough layers as you roll.

On a lightly floured surface roll your dough out into an elongated diamond, large enough so you can place your butter block in the center and fold the corners of the dough over it, so as to fully encase it (sorry I forgot to take a picture of this!).  You should have a neat package of dough and butter.

You should feel the butter out to the edges of your dough package.  Notice how rough the dough looks.

I'll note here that this dough feels pretty stiff and isn't easy to roll. Strike 5.

Now for the turns:  roll this package out to a length about 3 times its width and do a three fold (also called a single or business letter fold).

Above: rolled out, ready for the first fold

Above: first three (or single) fold; dough turned to prepare for next fold

The photo shows the "spine of the book" on your left.  That's how you want your dough positioned for the next roll/fold/turn.  Wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes then do the same thing 2 more times, resting and chilling the dough between each turn for a total of 3 turns.

Plan for a final one hour rest in the fridge before rolling the dough out for cutting and shaping.

So here is where I really knew that this would be a fiasco.  As I continued to roll the dough for the turns, it remained stiff and difficult to roll. The dough started breaking down and butter showing through - NOT a good sign. Strike 6.

I did struggle through to the final shaping, although my doubts were rising exponentially.

Can you appreciate the butter showing through the dough in the photo above?

Fortunately I had made some of my own croissant dough a couple of days before this, so I'll show you the final steps with that dough, as well as some comparison shots.

When rolling the dough out for final cutting and shaping, give it a rest every now and then.  You want it to be nice and relaxed so it won't shrink up when you cut it.

Above: almost there - resting before achieving the 9" depth

When cutting 12 croissants, I roll my dough out to about 24" across and about 9" deep.  I cut approximately 4" sections of dough, each of which is cut into 2 triangles.

Above: marking my (almost) 4 inch sections

Above: triangles cut, ready to be shaped

I cut a slit in each base, pick up a triangle, give it a gentle stretch, then place it down and roll it up snugly, tugging gently at the tip as I roll.  The tip goes DOWN on the baking sheet.

Here's a comparison:

Philippe's recipe above - a shiny, shaggy, buttery sort of mess

My dough above: smooth and looking good

if you’re not baking your croissants right away, cover them with plastic wrap and hold in the fridge until morning or pop them in the freezer uncovered and once frozen, wrap them tightly for up to a month until ready to thaw, proof and bake.

If ready to proceed with baking, brush on some egg wash and give them a decent 1.5-2 hour proof, ideally at a temperature from 70-78ºF. If you proof too warm, the butter will start melting out - not a pretty picture.

The next two photos show after the proof.

Philippe's above - layers more prominent, but it looks heavy and greasy

Mine above - layers more prominent and it looks light and shiny

Heat your oven to 425ºF, give them a second egg wash and bake about 12-15 minutes.

REMEMBER: watch what’s going on in your oven.  Every oven is different (I'll say it again and again)!!  I rotate and change positions of my sheet pans about half way through, and I gradually lower my oven temp throughout the baking time, depending on how my croissants are browning.  I want the surface to be nicely browned and the laminated edges to be tan not pale, or I risk a croissant that's doughy inside.

Above: heavy, bready center, some exterior fragility and flakiness, but feels heavy in the hand

The French Tarte above: not bad - note the little browned shards as I cut.  (Check out my next post for a tasting of some Providence croissant offerings.)

Above: nice airy lamination, exterior fragility, and has a certain lightness in the hand

It's hard to explain the feel of a good croissant, but once you've experienced it, you just know.

So if you want to make croissants, choose a recipe other than this one in Philippe Conticini's book and practice, practice, practice!