If you want fresh baked croissants for dinner, this recipe can be completed over one very long day. If you are looking for morning croissants, then I would suggest two days (more on this later).
Before I get started, please let me qualify the following information with a quick disclaimer. I’ve said this before, I will say it again, I suck at remembering to take pictures of the steps, especially when its 2 am. It takes 100% of my mental capacity just to remain upright and operating complicated machinery (aka oven) and sharp (knife) and blunt (rolling pin) objects.
With that said, I took the frozen dough out around 6 pm the night before – I knew that I was going to be up at 2 am to be sure I could get to work with croissants without being horribly late. The entire recipe of dough would have been too large for me to roll out in one shot, so I halved the dough along the width, put what I wasn’t going to use in the fridge, and rolled out the dough to 12 x 18 rectangle, cut the rectangle into thirds along the length and then into halves along the width – giving me a dozen triangles to roll.
Following the instruction in the recipe, I rolled the triangles from the base to the tip and placed them on parchment lined baking sheets. I had warmed the oven to 100ºF on my oven thermometer and then turned off. I put the baking sheet on a cooling rack that was sitting on my baking stone when the thermometer read 90ºF and slid a boiling pot of water into the bottom of the oven to create a steam box.
I repeated this with the second half of the dough but rather than putting it in the oven, I manufactured a ‘steam box’ out of my kitchen sink using a rectangular pan turned upside down, another cooling rack for the baking sheets of croissants to sit on, and a large garbage bag. I blocked the drain enough for the water to flow out slowly and filled the sink with hot water until halfway up the sides of the rectangular pan. I put in the baking sheet with the croissants on the cooling rack, and then anchored the garbage bag tautly on each side with canned goods, to slow the heat and steam as it escaped from the sink. This was around 3 am – and I wasn’t thinking ‘Ohh photo op!” at the time – I’m sure I’ll build this contraption again sometime and take pictures of it :).
Here’s what the croissants looked like after proofing and their egg wash:
Here’s what the finished product looked like:
I made it to work, only 45 minutes late, but I don’t think anyone cared, other than having to wait for me to show up :). The taste was spot on to the crispy-flaky croissants with the soft buttery insides. My only complaint is they were a little tough – i.e. hard to pull apart – probably from working the dough more than it needed. I will definitely make this recipe again, so that issue may eventually go away.
Like most laminated doughs, this recipe probably takes the home baker two days to complete from start to finish. Because not everyone is willing to wake up at inhumane times, like I am I did throw 4 just rolled croissants (non-proofed) into the freezer. They froze with little expansion, which I was worried about considering how active the dough felt. I did not bake them yet, but when I do I will post here. I don't see any reason why pulling the frozen croissants at 10pm, putting them on a parchment lined sheet and letting them thaw in the refrigerator wouldn't work. Another consideration would be to pull them out frozen and proof them longer in a steam box at a slightly higher temperature. We made croissants from scratch as well as made them from IQF (individually quick frozen) un-risen product when I worked at the bakery, with the latter used to make cafe sandwiches. The IQF took 45-60 minutes to go from frozen to ready to bake in a 114-120ºF rack proofer. Either way, I have 4 to test out and sometime in the next few weeks, when I am ready to look at a stick of butter again, I'll give both a try and post the findings!