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Croissant academics, please respond

BakersRoom's picture

Croissant academics, please respond

Hello all,

I recently started making croissants. I had a buy if beginners luck at first, then I've been getting worse results with each bake. 

My method is basically as described in TX farmers sourdough croissant post on this site, but basically here's what I do:

1. Make the dough. It's a pretty basic ceoiddant dough with a sourdough pre ferment added. I mix it by hand to incorporate the loose flour, then 2 minutes on speed one if my stand mixer, 2 minutes on speed 2. I'm getting a dough with well developed gluten. After it's made, I pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to stop fermentation, then into the fridge overnight. I do not ferment the dough as many recommend. 

2. Make the butter square. Pretty straightforward, I make the square, make sure it's nice and even  then into the fridge overnight as well. 

3. The next day, I take the butter square out of the fridge for 45 minutes. Bruno Albouz recommends this time parameter, and it seems okay.  After 45 minutes, I roll out my chilled dough and lock in the square. Then I roll out the dough/butter to the required parameters, which for my recipe is 6×16 inches. I do the letter fold, then back into the fridge for 30 minutes.  I repeat this twice for 3 folds. Then the dough goes into the fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours. 

4. Final roll out. I roll the dough out into a 9×18 inch rectangle. It usually takes 2 or 3 goes, with me putting it in the fridge to relax for half hour between attempts. 

5. Cut and shape croissants. I'm doing it the way I see it done and hear it described. Though I may be doing it too rough.  After shaping, I proof them for 3 hours at room temp 75 degrees or so.   

6. Bake, 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. 

The problem I'm having is dense, doughy croissants. When I look at the proofed croissants, there are layers, but I don't see butter. It's like it's just layers of dough. Some if not all of my croissants come out hollow with dense centers where all the layers are smashed together  

I have my theories on what's going wrong:

1. Over developing gluten. The pros develop the heck out of the gluten, as I do, but they also use a sheeter. Me with my humble French pin, I might need a weaker dough so the roll out can happen faster and with less force, so the butter doesn't warm up, and I don't smash the layers 

2. Butter too warm/soft. The first time I made croissants, I used butter straight from the fridge, and it fragmented into hard clumps between layers of dough. I thought this was a bad thing, and in a sense it was, because I couldn't get the butter rolled out evenly between the dough. However, this cold butter made the best croissants I've made to date, which are in my profile pic. Looking at them now, I realize they're not perfect either, some of the layers look smashed together. But they're a LOT better than what I've come up with since.

3. Bad shaping. I think I use too much flour on the final rollout, and the croissant doesn't stick to itself during shaping.  So I have to press harder. I think that's what's making the middle dense. The croissant not sticking to itself causes it to unravel during the bake.

4. Underproofing. I live with... well let's say several large people who set the thermostat too low.  Sometimes the three hours pass, and my instincts tell me they're not ready, but I have to go to work soon, and I don't want them to over proof waiting for someone else to get home. This could account for the density, but it's my least favorite hypothesis. 

Well that's it, my analysis as of now.  I'm interested in those who can describe the characteristics of the butter, and the rolling technique. I've heard people say to be very gentle during roll out, not applying much pressure at all. TX farmer said she didn't have enough arm strength to accomplish the first roll out in one go. So I'm confused. 

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance guys!

Ps: sorry no pics, I angrily fed this batch to my dogs. 

BreadLee's picture

If you want to watch a Frenchman make croissants and make it look fun,  julien is your man. I love this video. He shows you the exact techniques and process.

There's also alex who is hilarious and really got into his croissants.  You can't help but love him.

Hope this helps.  Good luck! 

BakersRoom's picture

The problem with the first  video is that I can't really tell how cold the butter is. 

It also jump cuts, so I can't tell his timing. Like how long he puts the butter in the fridge, how long he leaves it out, etc.

What about you? Ever tried it?

BreadLee's picture

I haven't.  To be honest, I'm just too lazy to make croissants.  And I definitely lack the talent to pull it off!

julie99nl's picture

I have the ability to do both, and it was  a challenge for me to develop a feel for the dough when I wasn't using the big spiral dough mixer or the sheeter.

This is how much I develop the dough in my kitchenaid:

Youtube video of my dough
I start the mix with ice cold liquids, which for my recipe is part water and part milk and starter discard for flavor. The leavening power comes from commercial yeast. When it's done mixing, I don't want the final temp higher than 73.

Butter too warm or too soft is often the biggest challenge when making croissants by hand. Especially in the summer, a small mass of butter can change very quickly. I have the benefit that I live in Europe where we can not only get higher fat butter, but we can also get dry butter. Dry butter is my preference, but I've made with both because I believe the biggest factor to the butter is the pliability and not the temperature. I achieve a cold pliable butter by pounding it to it's size and not just letting it get soft and rolling. Antonio Bauchour adds some flour to his butter to create a dryer butter. But I've never tried it. That said, a higher water content butter will have a lower melting point and will be more of a challenge. It only means you have to work much faster.

If you feel you are using too much flour in your final shaping, get a brush and brush it off. After cutting, place them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Which is yet another point where the gluten will have a chance to relax and the butter will chill down. I brush all extra flour off after each roll, after cutting, and during shaping.

Underproofing is just another block that is reducing the potential of your croissants to achieve perfection. I proof 2 hours at 87F in 70% humidity. I believe you are in the US so your butter may have a lower melting point, but you might want to try raising your proofing temp a bit and humidity.

My most successful method to roll out is to do both turns back to back very fast. I only do 2 turns. I roll out the dough for the butter before it goes into the fridge the first time. Then it comes out and roll, fold, turn, roll, fold and back into the fridge within a couple of minutes. No mussing, no fussing, touch the dough as little as love taps or pokes..

Did your dogs eat them? My dog scarfed a whole tray of croissants that were in their final proof and she had a terrible case of the barfy barfs and gassy gas for days. We ended up taking her to the vet when her belly started to bloat. I assume yours were baked...


BakersRoom's picture

Thanks for your response.  Just to ease your mind, my croissants were baked, and my dog is fine.

I'm using Plugra butter, which is a US made European style butter. It may not be up to the Euro standard, but it's the best I got.

This butter has 82% butter fat. Do you think I could proof at 87? The word on the street is not to proof any higher than 80. Bruno Albouze, for example, proofs at 75. He lives in America though. 

Tell me about your turns: is it a double fold, then book fold? Or 2 book folds?

Tell me about your butter: you say you pound it into a butter square, then start rolling. Do you chill it after you pound it into shape? Or just go?

Does your dough resist you? Does it ever spring back when you roll it? How do you deal with this? Thanks again!