Before I wrote Making Croissants in the Tropics, I had made many many croissants. Have no doubt that my insights were standing on a mountain of duds I’ve inadvertently baked along the way.
How ‘well’ did this novice screw up? Let me count the ways.
#1 – Hard Rock Croissants Day
For my first attempt, I took a 500g-flour recipe to work. This recipe required the dough to be kneaded (by hand) for 15 minutes until window-pane stage. I didn’t get the window-pane after after 30 minutes, or 60 minutes or 90 minutes. By then of course the yeast had become hyperactive.
The dough was full of holes so naturally the lamination wasn’t successful – butter was melting and spilling out from those holes. I was too cheapskate to throw them away even though they looked hideous. I baked them anyway and got rock-hard croissants.
I must be the first to make Hard Rock Croissants that even the stray cats downstairs abhor.
#2 – Elasticity is a Sin
Second time round, I used another recipe. This time, I halved the recipe but added a lot more milk because the dough looked extremely crumbly. I thought I was quite clever because I was able to knead it till it was smooth, within 15 minutes.
However, come lamination, the dough was so soft and elastic it bunched up at the edges of the barely-stretched butter slab. What was a desperate baker supposed to do?
Chopped those bunched up dough off and slapped them back onto the butter slab was what I did. And continue rolling – of course.
# 3 – Too Hard, Too breakable
You know the oh-oh moment when you press and drag the rolling pin down the dough and you see large patches of yellow alternating with nothingness beneath the dough. And the despair that comes over when the more you roll, more holes start to appear and bits of butter start to peek out? Yes the broken bits of butter hadth poked through the dough.
But you know, you just press on and hope for the best.
# 4 – Softies Not Welcomed
Because of #3, I overcompensated subsequently, letting the butter soften more than was necessary. It’s like a BGR rebound.
Overly-soft butter is also a poor candidate for lamination. So much butter seeped out, smearing my baking sheet here there everyway. All I could do was lament the wastage of my precious butter – and carry on.
#5 – Hot Before Its Time
At first, my croissants did their final proof in my 30°C kitchen. The butter was probably on the verge of melting inside even before they were put to bake. As expected, they began to weep very early on in the oven; there were still pools of melted butter after they were out of the oven.
So, no light flaky layers just decent-looking duds that taste like they were soaked in lots of butter.
I did contemplate turning on the living room air-con.
#6 – Fancy Butter?
You want to use higher-fats butter because it melts at a slower rate, right? So a 95% butter is better than a 82% one, right? I thought so and got rocky croissants instead. Not rock hard but still hard. The lower moisture level in the 95% butter did in fact alter the texture of the final product.
Leave the fancy butter for those pros and their for-pros-only-recipes was my takeaway.
It’s never as bad as it seems. Make it, bake it, do it all over again – but better.