Today I took some time to do something I have wanted to do for a very long time, and that I have only done once before: baking croissants! The last time I tried was basically for the same reasons: I wanted to give myself a challenge, and see if I could beat it. My first batch of croissants was very tasty and smelled delicious, but they were rather ugly, all of different sizes, and they didn’t rise very much. That was nearly 5 years ago, where has time gone!?
OK, back then I had made a real mess of my pastry, the butter had started to melt while I rolled it, and it was coming through the layers of dough. I really struggled with that part of it, and I wasn’t too good at rolling either. Since then, I have baked dozens and dozens of loafs of bread and other bakery good, and I’ve learned a lot about yeast, gluten and the process of making yeast-based foods. So, since this week is the last of our University semester, I thought I would make a batch of croissants for my fellow students. This time, however, I am doing a full batch, since there are about 25 students in our class.
This idea actually came to me thanks to Anne-Marie, who bought me a fantastic baking book called Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness. Thanks to this book, I have finally broken the secret of sourdough starters, with which I’ve been battling on and off for over a year. I even have two shaped sourdough loaves in the fridge getting ready for baking tomorrow, and not a grain of yeast, sugar or salt was used to prepare them! The book also has great viennoiserie recipes, including croissants, so I thought I’d roll up my sleeves and give this very difficult recipe another try. After all, since my first attempt I have even managed to make my own puff pastry, so this couldn’t be much more difficult!
Now that my 36 little croissants are nicely waiting in the fridge for tomorrow morning’s proofing and baking, I wish I had taken photos of the various steps of this process, because I doubt I will again attempt this feat any time soon. It took me far less time than my first attempt, of course, but it was still time-consuming, and included some prep work over the previous 2 days. After tasting some of the four “samplers” I baked earlier today, I must say I am looking forward to seeing the final result tomorrow, and I WILL take some photos this time 🙂
I find it a real shame that so many people today are unwilling to try their hand at traditional cookingand baking methods. Of course, you can buy pretty good croissants at your nearest bakery (if you’re lucky), and many foods that we buy ready-to-eat today are nigh impossible to make by hand. For example, have you ever tried to make your own poppodums (sorry, I had to pick one of the 49 different spellings for that word)? However, I think it’s important to know how food is made, what goes into it, how you can make it yourself in case, one day, they’re no longer available from supermarkets or in highly processed forms. It’s incredible that not only men, but many women (thankfully not most) today do not know how to cook even the most basic things, because you can survive quite well today without ever having to break an egg, boil water or get flour on your hands.
I’m really grateful that my mother taught me some basic techniques of cooking and baking, giving me a love for these things since I was little. I love the chemistry of cooking, I love the predictability with which carefully repeated steps yield the same results, time after time. I don’t believe that anyone is “bad at cooking”, they just don’t have the passion for it, and consequently they don’t have the patience to learn from their mistakes. I’ve had my share of catastrophes, and sometimes it certainly feels easier to just open a can of condensed soup or have a bowl of cereal. However, I find the pleasure of eating home-baked bread far superior to the convenience of grabbing something off the shelf and re-heating it in the microwave in 2 minutes.
Time for bed now, I’ll be up around 4:30am to get my croissants out of the fridge into room temperature so they can rise for a couple of hours, then I will bake them for 15 minutes and take them to school where they will delight all 5 senses of those who will be lucky enough to get their hands on them 🙂
That’s if I don’t burn them…
That’s it, I’ve made the croissants, and they’ve all been eaten before they had time to get stale 🙂 I made about 40 small ones and took most of them to University for our last day of the semester. I think they were a hit!
- Sourdough bread: No knead to slave away (telegraph.co.uk)
- Croissants: aux Amande et Chocolat? (ridingforchocolate.wordpress.com)
- Chocolate and Raspberry Muffin Recipe – Bourke Street Bakery Book (totallyaddictedtotaste.blogspot.com)