Croissants and Brioche are one cornerstone of French pastry, specifically Viennoiserie or breakfast pastries. Said to be brought to France by bakers from Vienna, these pastries are butter-rich and delicious.
From these two doughs, several other pastries are created. For example, from croissants we get pain au chocolat and from brioche, pain au raisin. These doughs are tricky in that the pastry chef must either fold or knead in large of amounts of butter.
For croissants, the dough is layered with a portion of butter then “turned”, or folded several times, to layer the butter between the layers of yeasted dough. The chef must be careful not the allow the the dough to warm, or tear during the rolling process. Mishandling the dough can result in croissants without the light ethereal layers.
For brioche, eggs and butter are incorporated into the dough. The long kneading process producing a light rich yeast dough similar to bread. The classic brioche shape and tins make them easily recognizable.
Also referred to as laminated pastries, both are brushed with egg glaze before baking to produce the beautiful shine. Pain au raisin also receive a brush of classic nappage or apricot glaze after baking.
Recipe: Croissants and Pain au Chocolat
Makes about 15 croissants or pain au chocolat
For the Dough:
6 cups all purpose flour (600 gm)
2 tsp salt (10 gm)
1/3 cup sugar (56 gm)
1 TBSP instant yeast
6 1/2 oz milk ( 200 gm)
1 cup water
2 TBSP soft butter
For the Folding Butter:
3 sticks cold (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, the best you can find
2 TBSP flour
1 egg for brushing the croissants
chocolate batons or bittersweet chocolate pieces for pain au chocolat
For the dough:
With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or by hand, mix the ingredients (except cold butter and 2T flour) until shaggy.
Gently knead for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Dough will be sticky. Place in lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
The next day, cut the folding butter into ½ inch pieces, sprinkle with the 2 TBSP flour and pound between two pieces of parchment with a rolling pin or beat in mixer with flour until smooth. Be sure to keep the butter cool. Using the parchment to prevent heating the butter too much, shape into a 6 x 6 inch square about ½ inch thick. Return to the refrigerator if your butter feels too soft.
Place the dough on your lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into a 7x14 inch rectangle. Start with the narrow edge nearest to you. Place the butter square on the bottom half of the dough, and fold the top half over the butter. Lightly seal the edges, and tap with the rolling pin to even out the thickness.
Be sure you can always slide the dough easily on the work surface. If the dough sticks, the butter will break out of the dough. But, be careful not to dust with too much flour. Use a dry pastry brush or big flour brush to brush away any excess flour on the dough as you continue.
Turn the dough 1/4 turn so the fold is on the left and could open like a book.
Roll the dough, keeping about the same width, to 24 inches in length. Fold the dough into thirds, as you would a letter. Tap the dough to even the thickness, and turn again so the fold is on the left side. You’ve just completed one turn!
Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for twenty minutes. If your room is warmer than 72 degrees, and you have concern about the dough becoming too soft, you can also rest the dough in the refrigerator
Make two more turns (waiting at least 20 minutes between turns). Remember, if your room isn’t too warm, you don’t need to return to the refrigerator after each turn. Each time you fold the dough, you’re making more and more layers of butter and dough. When the butter heats and melts in the oven, the water in the butter will become steam. The steam pushes the layers of dough apart creating the flaky light layers of the croissants.
For croissants, divide the dough into two portions. Roll the first piece of dough into an 6 x 18 inch rectangle.
Cut triangles with a bottom width of about 3 inches. Roll the triangle to lengthen, cut a 1/2 inch slit on the bottom edge.
Starting at the bottom, roll the dough towards the point, gently stretching the dough. Use both hands, splaying them apart as you roll. The slit will help widen the the dough and create a traditional shape. It will take about 3-4 rolls to reach the end.
Place the croissants on a parchment lined baking sheet, point side down. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
For pain au chocolat, cut rectangles measuring 3x4 inches. Place a chocolat baton at each end. Roll/fold each end of the dough toward the center, then each end once again. This will create a scroll shape. Place the dough smooth side up, rolls down, on the baking sheet.
When finished shaping, cover and allow the pastries to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Just before baking, beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork. With a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the croissants with egg wash. Try not to let the egg to drip down the sides of the croissant onto the pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F, for 30 minutes. Rotate pan ½ way through if necessary. Transfer pan to a cooking rack, and allow pastries to cool at least thirty minutes. If you serve the croissants too soon, the butter will not have cooled, and the pastry will have a greasy feel and taste.
Susan M. Holding, The Little French Bakery
The Little French Bakery Cookbook (Skyhorse) is released on 11 November. It is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound for pre-order