A few weeks ago, Joseph and I hosted brunch at our place for a group of friends, one in particular who was visiting from out of state. Since our dining room is more or less in a perpetual state of readiness to host, we offered our space, promised omelets made to order, whispered that there might be croissants, and asked people to bring whatever else they liked. Naturally, we ended up with a great mix of side dishes, jams, fruit, vegetables, and Bloody Marys.
Ever since we were in San Francisco earlier this summer, we’ve been thinking about making our own croissants. We had eaten, of course, at the famous Tartine bakery while out West, and had dreams of tackling what amounts to one of the more difficult pastry recipes.
After some research, we came across this recipe on The Daring Kitchen website. The recipe is Julia Child’s own croissant recipe and contains 57 steps. (!!) Clearly, this was daring, but we decided to take the plunge anyway.
I am going to say this here: croissants are not difficult. They just take time.
In fact, the more I think about it, for so many recipes that we post, whether our own, those of others, or adapted from various sources, time is an essential ingredient. Yes, there are 57 steps. Yes, you have to rise your dough at least a bazillion times. Yes, there are two separate occasions at which you can refrigerate your dough overnight. Yes, you have to work quickly with cold butter. But, really, when you read over the recipe, you should notice that none of the techniques are particularly difficult. In fact, they are mostly mundane baking techniques and tasks.
The trick is achieving the right temperature for your butter so that it spreads evenly throughout your dough. This is what gives you flakiness.
It is important that you respect the times outlined in the recipe. In the past year or so, I have really found my wings with baking. I average a bread or two a week; I try to make all our bread for home myself. We’ve done breads, rolls, crusts, popovers, etc. And, one theme that keeps coming back is this: low and slow fermentation yields the best results. You simply cannot replace this step and get the same texture and depth of flavor.
So, invite your friends for brunch. I can guarantee your guests will be completely satisfied when they discover that you are serving homemade croissants.