For bread and pastry geeks only: croissant experiments

While most people were thinking about what drink they would order to celebrate the end of another work week, I have been running some tests on a new croissant recipe. I did this as I’d ordered some new organic flour (strong bread flour and a separate bag of pastry flour from Shipton Mill). In a bid to master the flours and see what results I came out with I ran myself a little experiment.

This also seemed as good a time as any to make a non-sourdough croissant (with just yeast), just to see if sourdough really is better. I judged them on taste, texture, how the dough handled and the appearance of the finished products.

A basic version of the recipe and lessons learned are at the end of the post!

The verdict

Yeasted

More pronounced layers, shinier finish with the egg wash but harder to get an even finish. I also found that while the dough came together more easily it was tougher to handle and stretch out before rolling.

Good flavour, but is a bit too sweet for me and also lacks the character that sourdough brings to the table.

You can see in the photo above that the crumb opened up a lot more (from left to right: Yeasted, Sourdough 1, Sourdough 2) – but beauty does not beat flavour in my book!

Sourdough 1 (the winner!)

Maybe it’s just because I know how the dough develops so well and I have a bias but this is my winner for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it doesn’t fight back too much when you’re rolling it out and it makes it much easier to create the final shape you’re after.

Secondly, the layers are still pronounced and the flour is high enough in protein to give the pastry some decent structure.

Finally, it’s also such a pleasure to know just how much sourdough trumps in the flavour department. That’s why it’s a winner.

Sourdough 2

Unfortunately pastry flour just isn’t strong enough. The layers were there on the outside, but just not strong enough on the inside and the flakiness and the size suffered a bit as a result.

The flavour was absolutely there and I’m pleased that by leaving the dough for longer periods to relax and giving it a hearty knead, the gluten was able to develop; something I wasn’t able to achieve before this method.

Ingredients

Yeasted

Fresh Yeast 23g (14g if dried)
Water 164g
Milk 164g
Bread Flour 585g
Sugar 65g
Salt 12g
Cold Butter 250g

Sourdough 1

Poolish 100g
Leaven 75g
Yeast 2.5g
Salt 7g
Brown sugar 22g
Milk 112.5g
Flour 500g
Butter 250g

Sourdough 2

Poolish 100g
Leaven 75g
Yeast 2.5g
Salt 7g
Brown sugar 22g
Milk 112.5g
Flour 500g (450g strong bread flour / 50g spelt flour)
Butter 250g

Spelt flour is to increase extensibility of the dough when folding

The method

  1. Mix altogether
  2. Leave in the fridge overnight
  3. Roll out the dough
  4. Bash out the butter until it is two thirds the size of the rolled out dough
  5. Letter fold and leave to rest for thirty minutes
  6. Repeat letter fold and refrigerated rest
  7. Repeat letter fold for a third time. Leave it to rest in the fridge for one hour.
  8. Roll out and cut rectangles that are 8 inches by 4 inches and cut diagonals.
  9. Stretch triangle lengthways and roll that sucker
  10. Proof for two/three hours
  11. Egg wash before you bake (50:50 egg and double cream)
  12. Bake for 15 mins at 190 degrees centigrade
  13. Stand back and admire your work.

Lessons learned

  • Leaving the dough to rest for longer at the beginning is essential for gluten development.
  • For more defined layers, choose a stronger flour that’s higher in protein.
  • I find caster sugar way too overwhelming a sweetness. Brown sugar is my recommendation every time.

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