Tuesday 17 March 2009

Exam results - day in the life of a croissant

So we were given our results for last week's practical exams. I came 2nd by 0.08 points (the French have a thing about standardizing all marks out of 20). This was frustrating because there was only one person I had hoped to beat and I would gladly have come second from bottom as long as I took him to the cleaners.

Sadly 'twas not to be, and it was him who pipped me by a mere smidge of a point. But, on the subject of cleaners, if you include our hygiene marks in the totals (washing your hands is, after all, an integral part of making a bun) then I happily take the yellow jersey. He's a dirty frenchman.

It's not that I dislike the fellow, in fact, we get on rather well. But he has this tremendous habit of offering you unsolicited, unwanted and even incorrect advice with tensing regularity. He'll tell you your things in the oven are cooked when you've only just checked yourself; he'll peer over your shoulder as you mount an entremets and tell you to centre it on the cardboard; and, best of all, whenever a timer goes off, he'll call out the letter of the group it belongs to, in case they are unable to hear it (despite being closer).

It's all done with the best intentions, though, so one cannot be to harsh to him about it. However, nothing to stop one bitching about it on your blog.

After all that excitement we made croissants. Here are some photos of the process.

1. The détrempe after rising for the first hour. This is a dough with low fat content made with flour, yeast, milk, butter, salt and sugar. The ingredients are quickly mixed to avoid over-developing the gluten then put in a warm place (a prooving oven @ 25°C) to kick start fermentation.

2. After it has been knocked back, the détrempe is treated like that of a normal puff pastry. I.e. it is rolled out, chilled and combined with butter. This 'laminated' dough is folded many times to multiply the layers. Here is the butter about to be folded into the détrempe. The top and bottom flap will be folded in and the butter completely incased. The dough will be given a quarter turn and then rolled out.

3. The newly rolled out dough is given a tour double which looks like this from the side (really nailed the auto-focus on this one).

4. And, after resting in the cold to relax the gluten, a tour simple. Many recipes advise giving more folds to the pastry but our chef recommends fewer since it helps keep the layers in the finished croissant more distinct.

5. After chilling the dough is then rolled out to 50 x 60cm which is a huge size to work with and very tricky. Although we have rolling out machines I decided to practise working by hand since this is what we will have to do for the exam. To get the base that large, I had to chill the dough twice in the middle of rolling out. As the dough heats up, the gluten becomes more elastic which makes the dough retract and well on nigh impossible to work with. Here it is cut into two strips 25cm wide (the length of a croissant).

6. The croissants are then cut out with a kitchen knife. They are 12cm wide and 25cm long. The length of the hypotenuse is the root of the sum of the squares of the two other sides (assuming a right-angled triangle). Before rolling into shape, each croissant is gently teased along its length to maximise size. The notch helps give a little bit of extra length to the finished croissant. If the last two sentences are not clear, you can see the moves in action in this clip (not me).

7. The croissants are placed directly on a baking sheet, glazed with egg then left to prove for a couple of hours. Then re-glazed. I had to really rush my glazing because prof had started a demonstration so it was a pretty amateur job. Here they are about to go into the oven. Boob of a photo.

8. Sadly I was a little after the others in ovening my croissants. This meant they were scarcely cooked when everyone else started bashing around taking theirs out. Mine took a bit of a pounding, deflated and came out looking pretty pants. Really rubbish, actually. Och, aye, you win some, you lose some (occasionally by just 0.08 of a point...)

PS I've not detailed the full recipe since I doubt anyone would actually want to try this. But I would happily post it if there is a sod who fancies it.

1 comment:

  1. Please post it!!
    Your blog is fantastic!!