Today I had the slightly bizarre conundrum of trying to find a croissant to eat just before I was due to arrive at my viennoiserie class to learn to make….croissants! As with daily life, first I forgot to eat breakfast because I was too busy giving my children theirs, and secondly because I was trying to write a letter to my son’s english teacher (in french – it seemed more polite and less threatening) to ask her to give him something more difficult to do – a bit of Shakespeare rather than learning to say “my favourite sport is…”
As luck would have it I left late and managed to catch the only bus which stopped mid-route to change it’s driver, who then didn’t turn up. I wisely came to the conclusion that I couldn’t endure an entire cooking class hungry, but forgot of course that most shops are shut on mondays. I did eventually come across a boulangerie with some Pains au Chocolate and hastily gorged one as I rushed to the Atelier.
There was a slight mix-up with the inscriptions this morning at “Fait-le vous-même” but a few of us came off better for it since Arnaud, the maitre Patissier hadn’t enough “Pâte”, or dough prepared, and so we started with what he had and made some more from first basics.
The menu for today: croissants, pains au chocolate and brioche.
We took our carefully measured pâte and once again found the enormous tub of butter and weighed out the appropriate amount to begin to make our pâte feuilletté which is required for pains au chocolate and croissants.
I know what you are thinking! That is a seriously large amount of butter in croissant dough. And you would be right.
The science behind viennoiserie is simple – butter melts at between 30 and 35°. To make croissant and pain au chocolate pâte the butter must not melt. Once butter melts it is absorbed into the pâte with the result being that the croissant looses its flaky texture and during cooking the tray becomes a receptacle for melted fat and the resultant croissant greasy. To make croissant pâte the ingredients and work surface must be cold, and the pâte not overworked.
Brioche, on the other hand contain almost identical ingredients, however the butter is absorbed into the pâte, giving it a breadlike texture. Extraordinary to achieve such diverse end products from such similar ingredients.
The croissant pâte is rolled once and the butter flattened slightly, laid on top and the pâte refolded around it.
What follows is an important series of turns and rolls, 1 tour double and 1 tour simple, with a minimum of three turns in total. The pâte, or detrampe, as a piece of pâte is called, is acurately measured at each turn. The resultant rolled detrampe being 60x25cm for croissants, and 60x30cm for pains au chocolate.
Arnaud tells us that if the detrampe is too hard to roll, to leave it to rest for five minutes before continuing.
so my detrampe and I have a rest!
At last I achieve 25x60cm!
Time to cut into triangles with a 12cm base and roll into a croissant.
Once glazed with egg, the croissants and pains au chocolate need two hours to prove, so there is just enough time for a little technology before starting out on the brioche.
On the subject of yeast Arnaud winces as I admit that, not knowing that live yeast can be frozen, I have actually in the past thrown some away; and he confirms that all french boulangeries sell fresh yeast to their customers over the counter – and don’ t forget the importance of sugar!
Next we discuss the types of flour and the importance of gluten in the raising process. Farine de Grist is a very high gluten flour, and good flour for vienoisserie is the so-labled “Farine de 55”.
We get ready to make the stickier brioche dough by making a flour mountain with three “puits” – loosely translated as pits, containing the yeast, salt and sugar.
We add the egg slowly and bind and thump the mixture into a smooth supple dough before adding mountains of butter and massaging it until it is absorbed. It is barely possible to extricate the hands from the ensuing sticky mass!
once the dough has fermented we roll into balls:
and with a bit of prodding form them into tins.
And once glazed, here they are ready for proving!
After the viennoiserie has doubled in size, approximately two hours later; It is ready for the oven at 180°.
Fifteen minutes later the smell in the atelier is incredible and we are barely able to restrain ourselves from grabbing the piping hot croissants, pains au chocolate and brioche from the trays!
….but just a minute, before you think this all looks so easy – who made the croissant on the left because they got their butter too warm, and it isn’t so wonderfully risen and crispy.
It wasn’t me….
Or was it? I shall have to do it all over again just to check.
Meanwhile we go home with a huge bag full of today’s masterpieces, and two more detrampes for the freezer, ready for we we are next taken over by a croissant-making whimsy!
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