|Plain, Almond, Almond Coconut, and Pain Au Chocolat|
- The heaviest rolling pin you can find.
- Enough butter to shape a life-sized cow.
- Stronger-than-average bicep muscles. (Shameless plug for Jazzercise.)
- The patience of
a sand-sculpting Tibetan monk. (Shameless plug for sand-sculpting.)
Here are some optional, but very useful tools:
- A cardboard triangle with a 3 to 4-inch base.
- A game-changing industrial flattening machine called a “dough sheeter.” It will only set you back $1,500 to $6,300, depending on the model. But you’ll get your dough rolled out in five minutes – flat.
A professional pastry chef by your side, to guide you every step of the way; and to correct your addition.For my first solo croissant project, I acquired most of the items on this list. Can you guess which ones were missing? (I’ll give you two hints: my amazing strength trumped the need for professional hardware, and 12 + 8 now equals at least 24. It’s the new math.)
|The 3-inch base produced smaller croissants, which gives you an excuse to eat more than one.|
I’ve started with this handy list because it’s difficult to summarize the process of creating croissants and it’s important to get the essentials in order. A good week of my life was devoted to this project -- hurtling me straight over the divide between casual baking aficionada and die-hard pastry geek.
The croissant quest started with an invaluable hands-on class at Scratch Baking, in Milford Connecticut. I’ll be indebted to the team forever at this local gem of a bakery. I only wish I could have brought Lesli and Melissa home with me to pluck up my confidence as my own dough rolled ever thinner, morphing not into a rectangle, as dictated by the recipe, but into a butter-pocked irregular polygon again and again.
Perhaps the ladies also would have been useful in the measuring department. With each “turn” I somehow managed to stop about 6 inches shy of the required “rectangle” length. Like I said: new math. It took some time, but eventually I figured out my error, and to taste the miraculous end result, no one would have been the wiser. Except you, because you're reading the Insider’s Guide.
I was as prepared as I could be when the assignment from the Tuesdays with Dorie group came in. Yet there was more work to do, including several slow-motion viewings of the Baking With Julia instructional video, followed by a lengthy online discussion thread. Guest baker Esther McManus was a real pro, and I am planning to invite her to my son’s next birthday party. We’re that close.
My quest included some hilarious reconnaissance with another favorite local baker, Jaime from Bread and Chocolate, as I made a clandestine attempt to procure chocolate batons from his new baking facility. I’m fairly sure he thinks I’m insane to be making croissants at home. But he knows me pretty well by now, so he no longer puts up roadblocks to my dough-ventures.
At one point, there were some complicated metric-to-standard conversions and dry-to-active yeast conversions. Despite several online resources for this kind of thing (here’s one), I’m still not sure I got it right. But I soldiered on.
Finally, it was time to get rolling. And rolling. And then waiting. And waiting. And rolling some more. And waiting. And rolling some more. And waiting some more. And rolling again. And waiting. Then shaping and egg-washing. Then waiting for the nerve-wracking rise period. Then more egg-washing, and finally they were ready to bake. Then I had just a little more waiting until the croissants were cool enough to eat.
End result: they’re worth every minute.
Forget everything I said about the French and their pretentious baking techniques. After this project, I’m a believer.