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.
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 . . . .
whereas my dough looks more rough.
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!
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.
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.
My version had some decent crisp exterior shards, although not as impressive as Bouchon's.
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.