Croissants

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I have wanted to try and bake croissants for a long time, but I have held off since it is time consuming, and a bit intimidating. I thought I was going to try a couple of times before I was successful, but this is the first time I made these, and they turned out so good.

I looked at different recipes, and decided I was going to try the one from Tartine Bread, the book from Chad Robertson with recipes from his Tartine Bakery. I got the book last year, and while I have browsed it many times, I had yet to try baking anything from the book. It is a gorgeous book, and I do recommend it, Robertson has very interesting, almost spiritual, approach to baking.

These croissants are made with a bit of sourdough too, which was intriguing, but I have tasted the ones from Tartine the last time I was in San Francisco, and they were delicious. There was one problem though, and that was my sour dough had been somewhat neglected. I discarded most of it, fed it again, and it revived. I think I would ideally had an extra day to revive it, but there was still yeast activity in there. I do in general make it and maintain it a little different than the sourdough in the book, but it should not be an issue however you choose to handle your sour dough.

Ingredients: (original recipe from Tartine Bread (book 1))

Day 1, leaven:

  • 1 tbsp sour dough
  • 220 g all purpose flour
  • 220 ml water

Day 1, poolish:

  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 200 ml water
  • 3 g active dry yeast

Day 2:

  • 450 ml whole milk, at room temperature
  • 300 g leaven (from above)
  • 400 g polish (from above)
  • 1 kg bread flour
  • 28 g salt
  • 85 g sugar
  • 10 g active dry yeast
  • 400 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (for egg ash)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (for egg wash)

Method:

Day 1:

1. Make the poolish by mixing the flour, water and yeast in a bowl. Cover and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place your sour dough in a different bowl and add the flour and water. Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature overnight.

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Day 2:

3. Mix the milk, leaven and poolish in a large bowl the next day. Save the remaining leaven as your sour dough starter, if desired.

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4. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, and mix until a dough begins to form. Let rest for 25-40 minutes.

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5. Fold the dough on top of itself, like a letter, and transfer to a bowl or proofing box and cover.croissant-7

6. Let the dough rise for 1.5 hours, where every 30 minutes you pull the bottom of the dough to the top, stretching and turning it over in the bowl. The entire dough should be stretched each time. The theory here is work the gluten without a lot of kneading.

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7. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag ( I used a heavy ziplock bag), and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

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8. When the time has almost passed, cut the butter into cubes and spread over a work surface. Dust with all-purpose flour.

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9. Bang the butter together using a rolling pin, until you have a cohesive mass. The flour should be worked into the butter, and help it have a softer consistency without getting warm. Form a 8″x12″ rectangle of the butter.

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10. Keep the butter cool while you roll out the dough. Take it out of the plastic bag, and roll it to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle.

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11. Place the butter on one end of the dough rectangle, so it covers 2/3 of it.

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12. Fold the unbuttered piece of dough over 1/2 the butter, then fold over the last piece of dough and butter.

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13. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle again. Fold the dough over in thirds again, like folding a letter.

 

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14. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. The dough should be cold, but the butter should not harden, so don’t keep it there longer. If you have to, leave the dough out of the fridge for 15 min or so before working on it

15. Roll the dough out to 12″ x 20″ again, and do the letter fold. refrigerate for an hour again.croissant-18

16. Do this once more – take out the dough, roll it out and fold it over.

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17. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. (If you want, the original recipes says you can wrap the dough in freezer proof wrap and leave for up to 3 days – let thaw overnight in the fridge before using).

18. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper. I used cookie sheets and they were too small – these are big croissants!

19. Roll the dough out to 18″ x 24″ and about 1/2″ thick.

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20. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, creating 2 long, thin, ones.

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21. Cut each rectangle into 4 parts, and cut each across to create 8 triangles.croissant-24

croissant-2522. Roll each triangle up and place on the prepared sheet.

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23. Repeat with the second part of the dough.

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24. You let these rise for 2 hours, or you can do as I did and cover with plastic wrap and retard in the fridge overnight – that way they are ready to be baked fresh for breakfast.

Day 3:

25. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator and preheat oven to 425 F.

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26. Mix an egg with a bit of cream to make an egg wash, and brush over the croissants.

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27. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and flakey.

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I was really happy with the taste and flakeyness of these, it was worth the work – though it was a lot of work, or waiting, at least. The portion is HUGE though, it makes 16 very big croissants. Next time I might try to half or even quarter it, and maybe make them a little smaller.

The croissants were fantastic right out of the oven, pretty good the next day, and OK the third. I don’t think they would have been good to keep longer. We happened to be invited to a small gathering the evening of the day I baked these, so I gave the rest away for people to eat the next day – there was no way we could have eaten all of these by ourselves!

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4 Grain Bread

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My mom sent me this recipe, she originally clipped it from a Danish magazine. It is called ‘a bread that keeps’, and it really does keep well. I made it two times, and I think I have tweaked the recipe to where I like it.

It is started the day before you bake, making a quick ‘sourdough’ – but it still contain quite a bit of commercial yeast, and does not really have a typical sourdough taste, as you get with a fully developed sourdough. It is then made with buttermilk, which I think make it very moist.

The original recipe calls for 2 types of flour I can’t really get here in the US, sigtemel which is a mix of sifted rye and wheat flour with 30%-50% rye. I mixed bread flour and rye flour with about 60% rye, though the result is a little different, as I use whole grain dark rye flour – sigtemel is a white flour. Secondly, the recipe calls for 4-korns mel which literally means 4-grain flour, and that might be what it is. I don’t recall having seen it in stores, and the only thing I could find online was from Norway, where it indeed was a mix of wheat, rye, oat and barley flour. My mom, however, was convinced that it meant some flour with whole kernels in it – though she said she usually just makes it with sigtemel telling me ‘you know how fussy your dad is with whole kernels’. I’m pretty sure it would be a great bread to add some soaked wheat or rye kernels to, but I stuck to adding some whole grain barley and oat flour.

You can play a bit with the ratio, this is a bit of a dense bread because of all the non-wheat flours, they don’t have much (if any) gluten, so the bread does not become that fluffy.

I baked this on the pizza stone, and that worked really well, but you can bake it on a regular sheet with parchment paper just fine.

Ingredients: (original recipe from unknown Danish magazine)

Day 1:

  • 25 g yeast cake (8.3 g /0.3 oz active dry yeast)
  • 250 ml lukewarm water (1 cup)
  • 150 g bread flour (5.3 oz)
  • 100 g rye flour (3.5 oz)

Day 2:

  • 400 ml buttermilk (1.7 cups)
  • 1 tbsp coarse or kosher salt
  • 150 g oat flour (5.3 oz)
  • 150 g barley flour (5.3 oz)
  • 150 g rye flour (5.3 oz)
  • 325 g bread flour (11.5 g)

Method:

Day 1:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water

2. Add the initial bread and rye flour and mix well.

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3. Cover with film and let stand at room temperature for 12-14 hours.

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Day 2:

1. Mix the buttermilk with your dough.

2. Add salt and the barley, oat and rye flours and mix.

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3. Add most of the bread flour in 2-3 portions.

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4. Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead well, add more bread flour if necessary. The dough is a little sticky, take care it doesn’t get too dry, but is should feel elastic and easy to work with in the end.

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5. Let the dough rise for about an hour.

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6. Form 2 breads (or one big one).

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7. Cover and let rest for 20-30 min. Preheat the oven to 200° C/ 395° F. Have your pizza stone in the oven if using one.

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8. Score the breads with a sharp knife, and brush with milk or egg as desired.

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9. Gently lift the breads onto your stone, or put your sheet in the oven.

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10. Bake for 20-30 minutes. 40-50 if you are only making one.

11. They should sound hollow when tapped when done, and be nicely golden on top. Take out and let cool on a wire rack.

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This bread freezes really well, and also keeps well. Even a week old I don’t feel a need to toast it, it is still moist and fresh.

Sourdough bread – take 2

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As I wrote about earlier, I tried 5 & Spice’s recipe for sourdough bread and was partial successful. I updated how I maintained my sourdough and tried making it again the other day, this day with more success.

I had fed the sourdough starter the day before, and left it out that night. Next day it was nice, risen and ready to use. I mostly changed what I did on day 2, leaving it out much longer. The bread was not uniform as the original recipe, but with some large holes in it, I am not sure if it rose too long in the end, but it was much less dense and just as moist.

Here is the recipe again, for reference, and the steps I ended up doing, still very close to the original.

  • 200 g sourdough starter (1 cup)
  • 400 g bread flour (3 cups)
  • 8-10g salt (2 tsp)
  • 300 ml room temperature water (1 1/3 cup)

Method:

1. Stir together sourdough, flour, salt and water and mix well. It is pretty sticky. Turn the dough out on a working surface and see if it might need a little more flour, but be careful, it is a sticky dough at this point. (I know that where I store my flour it ends up having a high moisture content, so I usually need to add a little more flour than a recipe calls for).

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2. Stretch the dough to a rectangle, and then fold one end 1/3 over the piece, then again with the other end, so you end up with a 3 layer rectangle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold again. You can’t really see the layers at this point, it is that sticky.

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3. Oil a clean bowl, and put the dough to rest in it and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it to rest for 1 hour.

4. Take the dough out and repeat the stretching and folding like before, 3 layers one way, 3 layers the other way. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest for another hour.

5. Repeat the folding again, the dough should be less sticky now. Rest for another hour.

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6. Stretch and fold again and put the dough in a large, clean bowl. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

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7. Take the dough out of the refrigerator the next day, about 2-4 hours before you want to bake. Now is a good time to pull a little of the dough from the top to put back in your starter, if you like to do put developed dough back in there. Be sure to close it up nicely. Let it stand to rise at room temperature for about 2-3 hours. It should be puffed up a little bit.

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8. Turn the dough out on your work surface, stretch it and form a round loaf.

9. Dust a cutting board with corn meal and place the loaf there. Let rest for another 1 hour or so. Score the top of the bread.

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10. Preheat your oven to 475 F/ C and put a Dutch oven in there.

11. When the oven is ready, take the Dutch oven out, and take off the lid. Careful, remember this is all really hot! Gently life the bread up and put into the Dutch oven and put the lid back on.

12. Bake with the lid on for 25 min, then take the lid off and bake for another 10 min.

13. Take the Dutch oven out, and carefully take the bread out ( I used grilling thongs). Remember, HOT!

14. Put the bread on a rack to cool

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I was pretty happy with this, and so was the family, it was perfect with some potato leek soup. It was not perfect, however, I might try some other sourdough recipes next to compare.

Soup and bread  - perfect toddler meal!

Soup and bread – perfect toddler meal!

Sourdough musings

Due to my latest sourdough experiment, I have been reading a bit about maintaining a sourdough starter.
In my original sources it said to keep the starter in the refrigiator and feed it every 3-4 days.

On a work trip to San Fransico my husband recently picked up the book Tartine Bread, which is an amazing book, though I have yet to try any of the recipes in it. I hope to review it a bit later, but he does spend some time discussing his experimentations (over years!) with sourdough starters.

There was a couple of things that stood out to me when reading about his sourdough.
The first thing was having a predictable feeding schedule, and feeding more often. His recommendation was every day, at the same time, with the same amount of flour water. This would lead to predictable yeast activity.
The second thing was discarding 80% of the starter every time it was fed, too keep it young and fresh, this should lead to a less sour sourdough.
Thirdly, he would keep it at 65-75 F. Two types of acids are formed in a sourdough, and the more sour one thrives better a lower temperatures.

I decided I would try modify my own sourdough caretaking based on this, but tweak it so it fit my baking. I don’t plan on baking sourdough that often, and I plan on use it for different things and in varying amounts (for the basic Tartine bread, only one table spoon is used to create a leaven before making the dough, then you use the leftover leaven as your new starter). It needed to work for my Danish Rye bread too, and I didn’t mind it would be a bit more sour maybe.

I will try to a) discard about half of it when feeding. b) Feed it every second day instead of less often, and with different time intervals in between. I can probably not achieve feeding on the same time every day, but I can try. c) Feed it a predictable amount of food, 50g bread flour, 50g rye and 100ml of water. I chose to use whole grain rye, as it fit the types of bread I would like to make, and I think it would give it a unique flavor.

I don’t have anywhere it would always be between 65 and 75 degrees. In the winter our house is usually colder at night, and in the summer hotter in the day. I will keep leaving it out after feeding it, and then store it in the fridge.

After only 2 times doing this, I noticed a lot more yeast activity in the starter. I fed it in the afternoon, and forgot to put it in the fridge by bedtime, and I think that might actually work well me – feed in the evening, leave out overnight.

I also discovered that having a lot more yeast activity does lead to a lot more gas being created – the lid of my patent jar came off with a loud pop! when I opened it. I will probably just cover it with some plastic wrap going forward, even though those jars are pretty solid!

We will see how this will work for the sourdough breads I would like to make. I definitely want to try the Tartine bread too, as well as some other things from his book.

A Sourdough Experiement

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Last week I saw this post, and thought that looked like a really good bread. I also wanted to find a good recipe and opportunity to do an all wild-yeast sourdough white bread (many recipes I see use commercial yeast in addition to your sourdough).

I tried making it, and I wouldn’t say I was 100% successful. I have a few things I would do differently along the way when I try next time, and I think my sourdough might have been a little too inactive.

I started out by removing half the starter and feeding it the day before, this should make it less sour in taste. I did see yeast development, but maybe not enough.

Here is the recipe and how I did the steps, original at 5 & Spice.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g sourdough starter (1 cup)
  • 400 g bread flour (3 cups)
  • 8-10g salt (2 tsp)
  • 300 ml room temperature water (1 1/3 cup)

Method:

1. Stir together sourdough, flour, salt and water and mix well. It is pretty sticky. Turn the dough out on a working surface and see if it might need a little more flour, but be careful, it is a sticky dough at this point. (I know that where I store my flour it ends up having a high moisture content, so I usually need to add a little more flour than a recipe calls for).

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Ingredients

Sticky dough

Sticky dough

2. Stretch the dough to a rectangle, and then fold one end 1/3 over the piece, then again with the other end, so you end up with a 3 layer rectangle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold again. You can’t really see the layers at this point, it is that sticky.

Folded once

Folded once

Folded twice

Folded twice

3. Oil a clean bowl, and put the dough to rest in it and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it to rest for 1 hour.

4. Take the dough out and repeat the stretching and folding like before, 3 layers one way, 3 layers the other way. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest for another hour.

Folded again

Folded again

5. Repeat the folding again, the dough should be less sticky now. Rest for another hour.

Stretching, this time less sticky

Stretching, this time less sticky

6. Stretch and fold again, but when done fold the corners of the dough under to form a round shape and place on your work surface.

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7. Rub a bunch of flour in a linen towel and use that to line a large, clean bowl. Put the dough in there, cover with a damp towel and rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Towel with flour

Towel with flour

Ready for resting

Ready for resting

8. Take the dough out of the refrigerator the next day, about 2-3 hours before you want to bake.  Now is a good time to pull a little of the dough from the top to put back in your starter, if you like to do put developed dough back in there. Be sure to close it up nicely. Let it stand to rise at room temperature for about 1-3 hours. I should be puffed up nicely at this point, which mine really wasn’t.

Just out of the refrigiator

Just out of the refrigerator

9. Preheat your oven to 475 F/ C and put a Dutch oven in there.

10. Dust a cutting board with cornmeal and carefully turn out the loaf on the board. I found this to be quite hard, but in theory you should do it without ripping the bread. Score the top of the bread.

Ready

Ready

11. When the oven is ready, take the Dutch oven out, and take off the lid. Careful, remember this is all really hot! Gently life the bread up and put into the Dutch oven and put the lid back on.

Bread in the Dutch oven

Bread in the Dutch oven

12. Bake with the lid on for 25 min, then take the lid off and bake for another 10 min.

13. Take the Dutch oven out, and carefully take the bread out ( I used grilling thongs). Remember, HOT!

Done!

Done!

14. Put the bread on a rack to cool

The bread tasted good, but clearly didn’t rise enough, even if it did rise some.

I think that after resting the dough in the refrigerator it took a very long time for my dough to even get warmer, I keep my house pretty cool at the moment, so I should probably have left it out longer. I also didn’t like the method of resting the dough in a cloth, next time I will just rest in in the bowl, and probably take it out of it to reform the loaf and let it rise longer on day 2. I think a bunch of cold moisture was retained in the towel for me.

I really liked the high water percentage in this bread, as well as the Dutch oven method of baking, I will be doing that again for sure.