Intro to viennoiseries: croissant and pain au chocolat
Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Wednesday and Thursday, we learned how to make flaky, all-butter, french croissants. I once tried to make croissants at home following a recipe from the cookbook, Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (highly recommended) but it didn’t work out so well. When my dough was rising (proofing), the temperature was too high so the layers of butter in my dough started melting out of the croissant and I ended up baking over-risen dough in a pool of butter. It also tasted strongly of fermented yeast.

Given my failed attempt, I was really looking forward to making the perfect croissant in class. They didn’t look like Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan croissant, but they weren’t too bad. We had some technical problems with the dough proofer in our kitchen so our first batch over-rose. We made a second batch, which rose in the proofer properly but then, it didn’t bake up perfectly. It didn’t have that even, golden colour that our first (over-risen) batch had. I suspect it was the rushed egg brushing job since we were all trying to rush to the cafeteria before it closed.

So here it is, all the steps to making croissants and pains au chocolate. All these fall under the category of viennoiseries, which are breakfast pastries made with a yeast-leavened dough and extra butter, eggs, and/or sugar. They basically fit in-between bread and pastries.

Ingredients for croissant: flour, milk powder (or milk), sugar, butter, yeast, salt.

Step 1: Sift together flour, milk powder, salt and make a well and put the sugar, yeast and water inside. Before adding the water, it helps to crumble the yeast with your fingers with some flour. Dissolve all the ingredients inside the well and then slowly incorporate the flour. The butter will be used later.

Once all your ingredients have been combined together, you have your détrempe.

Step 2: Working the détrempe (dough) into an even, smooth texture. Since the dough is very wet, we lift and throw the dough on our marble table to knead it. To lift the dough, I scoop it up with my hands which are positioned perpendicular (top and bottom of dough) to my body.

After you lift your dough (scoop it up), you rotate your hands (with the dough) in the air 90° so they are parrallel to you and turn your palms down while throwing the dough as hard as you can on the marble table. Right after you throw the dough, drag your hands towards you with some of the dough still sticking.

Then, take the dough still sticking to your hands and throw it back onto itself like in the picture. Repeat the kneading procedure for 5-10 minutes until smooth. Keep in mind that this all has to be done very fast because the dough is very wet and sticky. You really start to feel your arms aching a bit by the end of it. Of course, in a real bakery, this is done with a machine.

Once we get an even, homogenous, smooth ball of détrempe (dough), we wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. After resting, we begin to combine the beurrage (butter) into the détrempe (dough) to get our pâton (completed croissant dough).

Step 3: To make the pâton, we take the détrempe (dough) and roll it into a long rectangle. Then, we work the butter by pounding it with our rolling pin until softened to get our beurrage (softened butter). We place the square beurrage inside the détrempe, and fold over the top half of the détrempe and seal the sides by pressing along the sides.

Step 4: Turning (creating layers of butter and dough) the dough. Before making the first turn, we turn our pâton 90°, and roll it into a long rectangle.

After rolling the pâton into a long rectangle, we are ready to make our first turn.

We need to do a simple turn and double turn. The order doesn't matter. I did the double turn first. To do this, I fold up approximately 1/6 of the length of dough from the bottom. Then, I fold the top 2/6 down so the top and bottom of the rectangle meet.

Then, I fold it in half like a hotdog and the double turn is complete. Before making the simple turn, we turn our pâton 90° again before rolling into a rectangle.

Rolling the pâton into a long rectangle. Then we fold 1/3 up from the bottom, and 1/3 down from the top.

Our double and simple turn of the pâton is completed. To remember how many turns have been completed, we mark the dough with our fingers. 2 marks = 1 double turn, and 1 mark = 1 simple turn.

After the turns, we wrap the pâton in plastic wrap and rest in the frige for another 30 minutes. Then, it will be ready for shaping the croissants and pains au chocolat!

Step 5: Shaping the viennoiseries. After resting the dough, we roll the pâton to the width of our rolling pin and the length of our entire marble table. Then we cut it in half along the width to get 2 long strips. 1 strip will be used to make croissants and the other strip will be used to make pain au chocolat.

For one strip, we cut into 10 triangles to make the croissants.

To shape the croissants, we make a slit at the base of each triangle and fold up, stretch the triangle along its length slight, and roll up.

Step 6: Going into the proofer. Here are my shaped croissants!

For the pain au chocolat, we cut the strip of pâton into the width of the chocolate sticks and roll 2 sticks of chocolate inside each piece of dough.

After all the shaping, the croissants and pains au chocolat are placed in the proofer to rest overnight at 5°C. At 7am the next day, the proofer will automatically begin to increase the temperature to 26°C over an hour so that it is ready for baking at 8am. However, there were some problems with the proofer and the temperature increased too quickly. The result was over-risen viennoiseries. Here are the pictures of our over-proofed products.

Step 7: Baking the proofed viennoiseries. Here are my over-proofed croissants (right 2 rows). Over-proofing results in large, unstable bubbles (carbon-dioxide gas created during fermentation) which result in a weak structure. This means that your pastry will likely collapse after it's been baked.

The weak structure of the dough is evident here in the wrinkly surface which was created by the large bubbles during over-proofing.

Over-proofed croissants, baked. Because the dough rose too much, the shape and layers of the croissant are poorly defined.

The over-proofed pains au chocolat baked up pretty well though.

Our Chef was unhappy with the result of the over-proofed pastries so he wanted us to do it again. We used the machine to make the détrempe (dough) this time. Here are the properly risen croissants and pains au chocolat.

After a proper proofing, they are egg-washed and baked.

Since 2 sticks of chocolate didn't seem to suffice in our first batch, I snuck in an extra stick of chocolate in all my pains au chocolat when Chef wasn't looking.

After baking the second batch, we cut open everyone’s croissant to examine the structure inside. The croissants should be light and airy with medium sized bubbles evenly distributed. This can be a result of how you knead your détrempe (dough), how evenly you turn your pâton, and how much you stretch your dough when you shape your croissants.

In this picture, you have the croissant on the left where the air bubbles are too big, the croissant on the right where the air bubble are too small (dense) and the croissant in the middle that is perfect.

To keep us going through all the kneading and turning, we needed some sugar of course.

Our breakfast table which consists of cakes made earlier this week.

3 Comments so far...
  • Lester Fontayne
    May 6, 2012
    What an excellent tutorial. Thanks. I'm looking forward to browsing your archive and following your future exploits. :o)
  • lev
    October 31, 2011
    Those look great! Been following your blog for a while, and always look forward to see whats new. Been trying different recipes of croissants, first 4 or so were bad but getting better, have a paton retarding in the fridge for tomorrow tea time :) Next time I will try your procedure
    • Emily
      November 1, 2011
      Hi Lev, thanks for reading and leaving the first comment ever! Croissants are definitely not easy to make, especially in a home kitchen. Kudos to you for trying so many times! By the way, I made a mistake in the post yesterday. Our proofer increases the temperature to 26°C (from 5°C overnight) in the final hour, not 20°C as I had originally written. Let me know how your croissants turn out :)