P & Q: Croissants

Anyone actually ever make these? I am more than a little intimidated. I think this is going to be a busy post…

61 thoughts on “P & Q: Croissants

  1. I really have only one question: How to substitute for the fresh compressed yeast ? I’m not really in the mood to buy a cake only to use a quarter of it or less, and have the remainder go bad.

      • I started these last night and substituted a very scant tablespoon of instant yeast (probably closer to 2 1/2 tsp) and all seems to be going well so far. I did bloom it in the lukewarm yeast for about 5 minutes just to give it a head start (probably not needed, but never seems to hurt)

      • 100% fresh yeast=40 to 50% active dry yeast=33% instant yeast
        It’s Peter Reinhart’s conversion.
        I used fermentable leaven but I think for 20/24 croissants: 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast will be good.

    • Another source:

      Cook’s Thesaurus: foodsubs.com :

      fresh yeast = compressed yeast = active fresh yeast = cake yeast = baker’s compressed yeast = wet yeast Equivalents: 2-ounce cake = 3 X 0.6-ounce cakes Notes: This form of yeast usually comes in 0.6-ounce or 2-ounce foil-wrapped cakes. It works faster and longer than active dry yeast, but it’s very perishable and loses potency a few weeks after it’s packed. It’s popular among commercial bakers, who can keep ahead of the expiration dates, but home bakers usually prefer dry yeast. To use, soften the cake in a liquid that’s 70° – 80° F. Store fresh yeast in the refrigerator, well wrapped, or in the freezer, where it will keep for up to four months. If you freeze it, defrost it for a day in the refrigerator before using. Substitutes: active dry yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each .6-ounce cake of compressed yeast) OR instant yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast) OR bread machine yeast (Substitute 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast)

  2. You could freeze the remaining fresh yeast. From the Chowhound.com forums:

    From the King Arthur Baker’s Companion:

    “If your recipe calls for cake or compressed yeast, you may substitute 1/4 ounce (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast for every ounce (or cake) of compressed yeast.” Using this calculation, if your recipe calls for 1/2 ounce fresh yeast, you’d use 1/8 ounce of dry yeast.

    On the other hand, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg, says, “To substitute dry yeast for fresh yeast, reduce the amount called for in the recipe by half.” So, if the recipe calls for 1/2 ounce fresh yeast, you would use 1/4 ounce of dry yeast, which is one envelope.

    Hmmm, which one is it?

  3. So confused already… I guess once you feel intimidated you will be ..so lets think positive . .. and think bold! We can do this!!! hee hee hee .. fingers crossed… big time!

    On the yeast discussion .. I will just go with the cake yeast because I do not want to take any chances and it might just take a couple tries to get the recipe right.

  4. I made these before (I subbed compressed yeast for regular, but I can’t remember what ratio I used..), and I was actually really disappointed in them. I found they tasted like biting into a chunk of flaky butter… the flavour was limited to that. I threw out most of them, which made me pretty sad.

    I guess I had very high expectations since they took so long to prepare. And it probably takes a baker more skilled than I to make them correctly!

    Anyway, I’m very curious to see what everyone thinks! If they’re a hit, maybe I’ll sum up the courage to try them again one day.

  5. The croissant episode of the TV show actually came on PBS the last two weekends where I am. It certainly made me want to try my hand at the recipe – maybe it’ll help everyone.
    (Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make these in time because of a trip to San Diego, but I’ll try later in March!)

  6. I had trouble finding compressed yeast untIl I was told that the better bakeries would sell it to me. I found a bakery who was willing to do so. I just finished making the dough and beating the butter. On Sunday I will continue on.

      • I am amazed that the grocery stores in our city don’t sell the little cubes of compressed yeast that I remember seeing in the refrig section as a kid. That used to be the only yeast I remember my mom using for baking.

      • The only place I recall ever seeing it in the stores was at Central Market in Dallas, TX….amazing supermarket. but here in west central FL, I asked publix, the local natural grocer, a specialty supermarket and whole foods. none of them had it. I don’t know why I didn’t think to call the italian grocer first.

  7. This morning I started to incorporate the butter with the dough. It is now in the refrigerator after the first turn. I have 2 more turns to go and then will freeze it. So far this has been very easy. The dough is lovely to work with. I have never made croissants before. So far, so good.

  8. The video is very helpful for us visual learners, so thank you very much for the link. I tried making croissants a few years ago from a book and with so many steps, it can be daunting when you can’t really “see” what they’re talking about. Needless to say, those did not come out right. I highly recommend watching the video several times. I’ll probably have my finger on the pause button while making these! I also went and purchased a marble slab since I don’t have decent counters or boards to roll this length of a dough out on. I’m actually very excited to try this (and thoroughly intimidated as well:).

  9. Another thing I wanted to mention – I am able to find fresh yeast in my local grocery store (Big Y) and we’re pretty rural, so make sure you check near the eggs at your local store. They may have them there (it needs to be refrigerated).

  10. I also ordered chocolate batons for the pain au chocolat version. Looked everywhere for them here but didn’t find any and I really wanted the baton shape to make them authentic and easy rolling.

    The part I am going to have trouble with is the last rise for 3-4 hours where they recommend you place them in an off oven with steaming water. There is no way I can fit all the sheet pans into my oven at once, let alone with a pan underneath. I can only fit 2 sheets at a time, and it appears you have to space them in such a way that one sheet may only have 6 on it (recipe makes 20-24). So is room temperature rising good enough? Do they really need to rise in the oven?

    • Re: pain au chocolat: when I made these in a croissant class, the pastry chefs just told us to use high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips if you don’t have the batons. It turned out fine.

      Re: rising: during the class, we created a “proofing box” using a rolling sheet pan cart and placing a jelly roll pan with boiling water underneath the pans with the croissants. Then we covered the whole contraption with a large plastic sheet. But the pastry chef said that if you don’t have the energy to MacGuyver it, you can simply let the croissants rise somewhere high and out of the way (ie, on top of your fridge). No steam necessary. It may take a little longer, but the egg wash will protect the crust and you’ll know when they are spongy. The texture gets crazy funky. Good luck!

    • I MacGyver my oven into a proofing box fairly regularly…

      If you have steaming rack thingies (found at Asian stores for holding a bowl above water for steaming in a pot – mine are stainless steel, round, with feet that vary between 1-3″ tall), you can fit 3 or 4 trays in a normal oven, plus have space for a pot of hot water.

      I put one rack as low as it will go, then put 2 trays – one above the other, balanced on a steaming rack – to one side, and my pot of hot water on the other side of the bottom. The second oven rack goes in the top 1/3 of the oven, with my remaining tray(s) on it. If they don’t fit side-by-side, you might have to balance one tray on the other again, because you want to leave some space for the humid air to circulate a bit

  11. Thanks for the tips. I guess you could also buy a bar of semi sweet and cut it into strips. Well, my husband will laugh when a box of 60 batons arrives in the mail:)

    I think for the proofing, I will place them in a room with the door closed and the electric heater running. It sounds like the key is for them to be warm.

    • I think regular dry winter air is okay, but the addition of the heater might actually dry them out (despite the egg wash). Better to just keep them in your warm kitchen while you’re cooking dinner or doing something else. Just my two cents.

  12. I just took my first pan of croissants out of the oven and I am pretty sure I will be speaking French by the end of the evening! They look beautiful! I am so excited and so happy. I only baked up half the recipe (the other half to the freezer) in case I had trouble with them. Looks like I will be baking up the other half soon!

    I found this video really helpful: http://video.pbs.org/video/2250835454/

    Blessings Ya’ll !

  13. I just put the butter into the dough and its resting in the fridge for a bit.
    I was very impressed with how the dough acted. it was super easy to roll out.
    I actually bashed the dough/butter a bit too much and it’s a smidge too long, but I’m sure that’ll all get worked out as I fold it and roll it some more.
    At least at this point I feel very positive about this project.

  14. I don’t know about all of you but this is turning into a three day project! I had the dough and butter sit over night thinking I would finish them today but with all the turns and the 2hrs in between…not to mention leaving them in the oven to proof. I will have to finish them tomorrow. I am hoping that leaving the dough overnight in the fridge after the last turn will be ok. Anyone else have to do that?

    • I know, this definitely is a weekend project! The video mentions the 2nd and 3rd turns can be refrigerated for one hour, so that could cut some time down. Not sure if I should go by video or book but either way it’s best to start the turns early in the day. I think you could fridge them and bake next day, but I would not freeze them.

  15. Thanks for the link to the video (loved it… “Don’t be afraid of the dough” but “be kind to it and treat it with authority”). Also, thanks for the tip on getting the fresh yeast at Great Harvest. Rob Hengen, the owner of the bakery in Rapid City, SD, gave me a quarter pound for free. Thanks so much Rob!

  16. Quick tip if you haven’t shaped yours yet: I used a cardboard triangle as a stencil so I wouldn’t have to guess at the angles. Just place the flat side on the bottom left edge of the rectangle, cut the dough with a pastry scraper or pizza cutter, then flip the triangle upside down for the next one, etc.

    Also, when I took the class, I thought it was a useful visual cue to say “stretch the triangle until it is shaped long and thin, like the Eiffel Tower.” Good luck!

  17. I feel like the process of making these croissants is never going to end!! I’m at the last turn, but still have to make the croissants and let them sit for 3-4 hours. Sure do hope they’re good after all this! :)

  18. Mine are proofing, but at room temp. The process is taking so long that I had to start dinner and needed my oven, so no oven rising for them. The book says room temp is ok. I have to say the rolling was not as easy as it looks. A few tore on me and some formed much smaller than I expected. Wish I had made more with the chocolate and less plain, but hoping they taste ok. I’ll be baking them late into the night!

  19. I started proofing mine in the oven with hot water. They were looking great after the first hour…nice and puffy. But now after three hours are flat. Just brushed them with the egg wash again and am baking. Don’t know how they’ll turn out.

    • I’m dying to know what happened. I’m told that if you let them rise for too long, they will completely deflate. But 3 hours is what they said, right? I don’t know what the flattening will do to the texture in the long run. Man, such a finicky recipe!

      • Mine deflated and never came back even when I baked them. The second batch I didn’t proof at all and worked much better. ugh. Such a long process for this to happen.

  20. Croissants are now in the oven with a pan of hot water for the final rise. I plan to bake them around noon. Rolling out the dough for this phase gave me a real morning workout. The other roll outs did not seem that challenging, but this final phase took time.

  21. My croissants have been rising in the oven for over 2 1/2 hours and so far rising nicely. I added a pan of very warm steamy water and turned the light on in the oven in hope this would provide enough warmth without too much heat. Stay tuned for more info.

  22. Maybe it was because I didn’t proof them in the oven, but mine don’t look quite as nice as Esther’s in the video. They taste good, but just aren’t as big or bronzed. Oh well.

  23. I should have read these Ps and Qs before making a huge error…I warmed my oven just a little thinking it would be like a pilot light temp…and my hard work melted…slimy dough rolls in pools of melted butter. Should have known this would happen…butter does melt easily. But with hot water steam and a flame I thought the temp would be about 110^, HA! Huge Mistake! Better to rise out in the room.

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