What do the numbers 27, 81, 243 and 2187 have in common? They are all factors of 3, and are the number of layers in laminated dough pastries.
So Pastry Joe tells me on his excellent blog all about baking and pastries:
“A folded flaky pastry for say, a galette, can have as few as 27 layers. Croissants often have 81, Danish 243, and puff pastry can have as many as 2187 (though I prefer the less flaky version of 729).”
According to Mr Google, the croissant is a relatively modern French take on an Austrian yeasted roll, the kipferl. The kipferl is made of yeast dough, without the laminated layers. Somewhere along the way, a Viennese person introduced the kipferl to Paris, and the Parisien pastry chefs turned it into the many-layered buttery fantasy we know today. Quel genius!
Genius or not, croissant is a word that strikes terror into the heart of many a home baker. All those layers, all that kneading and folding, all that butter. Will my croissant look like the ones in the bakery, should I give up and just buy one from the bakery? Will my thighs look big in this?? (to the last question, yes, probably)
I have been bookmarking croissant recipes for a few months, but never had the time courage to take the plunge. When someone in the TWD group suggested croissants as our next project, I seconded that vote. Panicked. And re-read all the croissant tutorial I had bookmarked.
After reading (and re-reading) the tutorials, I finally gave it a go…..on one of the hottest and most humid days we have had all summer.
It was very nearly a disaster. The moment I took the dough out of the fridge, it warmed up and became floppy – gloopy even – in the wet blanket-like heat of our kitchen. The butter liquefied. But, miraculously, the croissants came together and looked kinda like real croissants. The texture and taste, on the other hand, weren’t quite croissant-like. I felt there were higher levels of croissant-greatness that I could aspire to.
I tried again this weekend.
The results were better. Not perfect, but better.
The croissants browned well in the oven, and maintained the crescent shape. The pastry crust was crisp, and shatters when we bite into it. The insides were pillowy soft when fresh from the oven, and had the layered effect. It wasn’t the kind of honeycomb that other home bakers have achieved, but you could see the hint of honeycomb.
I added little bits of marzipan and chocolate in the centre of each croissant. And that’s how we had marzipan-choc pastries for dessert on Sunday evening, and for breakfast on Monday morning. Mmm dessert for breakfast.