Croissants

Nancy zone 6March 27, 2014

I've recently tried recipes for a sweet roll using a croissant method. Also tried a biscuit recipe that used a similar method, supposed to make a flaky biscuit. I actually used the recipe from Cook's Illustrated for Morning Buns, they use a quick method for croissant dough the buns are formed after rolling out after the final refrigeration period & spreading with brown sugar & cinnamon,then put in cupcake liners in cupcake pans. My problem-there was a lot of butter that ran through the liners into the pan underneath. At least a tablespoon from each bun. They still tasted pretty good, I liked the flakiness, but I was wondering if the butter should have run out like that? Same thing happened with the biscuits, they were flaky, but almost fried in the butter than ran out. I've never made croissants, but I really liked the flakiness of these morning buns so much I'm tempted to try an actual croissant recipe, but I really wasn't expecting all the oozing of butter.

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plllog

I'll reference this good pictorial rather than 1000 wording it.

I haven't had the problem you're having (and I've done this mostly with different pastries, but the method is pretty much the same), but my first reaction was that the butter wasn't incorporated into the flour well enough, making it easier to run out when it was heated, or else that there was too much butter.

A different version of butter pastry might work for you, especially if it's a stiffer dough than croissants. Instead of putting all the butter in the middle to start with, you divide the dough first, and divide the butter by the same number, flatten (roll or pat depending on how stiff it is) the dough, spread a thin layer of room temp butter, as if you were spreading thinly on bread, fold in half, spread, fold in half again, spread, etc., until you have a little bundle that can't be folded, then roll out and repeat. Make sure your dough is good and cold, and don't use instant yeast. You don't want to be squashing the yeast while it's trying to grow. I don't know if this will work for your rolls, though.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:48AM
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Nancy zone 6

Thank you! I'm thought that surely the butter wasn't supposed to do that. I imagine you have the problem nailed in that the butter wasn't incorporated enough. We love croissants, so I will try again & I'll go to a more traditional method than the one from Cook's Illustrated next time. I think I may need to conquer croissants before trying the morning buns next time.
And I have just discovered my problem with the biscuits may be my baking powder. I thought the biscuits did not rise much, & since made muffins that hardly rose at all. The baking powder is dated good for almost another year, but I bought it last August so it is several months old.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 9:06AM
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plllog

Was it Cook's Country, perchance? I just found this description on a blog, which also said hers came out wetly greasy. If this is it, it's a pastry recipe, but it's nothing like a croissant. :) The whole point of making flaky layers is the folding. It's like making striped candy. It's all about flatten and fold, flatten and fold. The butter between the layers, whether it starts as a big block, like croissant dough, or the sectioned version I described, is what makes the flaky.

The dough in this blog post sounds very wet. Having seen it, if this is the right one, I'd guess that it's not so much the butter running out as the butter, sour cream, orange juice... I think the whole freeze then quick rise in the oven thing must be about trying to keep all the liquid in. It is a pastry dough, but not croissants. And you shouldn't have to work that hard for biscuits. :)

You can test your baking powder by putting half a teaspoon into a quarter cup of water. It should foam up almost instantly. Baking powder can lose its oomph--I'm guessing if it gets damp but I don't know for sure--but I keep mine for years and years. I always use a very dry spoon (drawer dry, not towel dry) and cover it immediately. I've never had any actually go flat, but I live in a very moderate climate.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:31AM
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Islay_Corbel

Croissant are made with a yeast dough - not baking powder. It's an entirely different animal!

Croissants
Home-made buttery croissants, freshly baked, are a real triumph. Feel proud when you spread on the jam!
Ingredients
625g/1lb 5oz strong white flour, plus extra for rolling out
12g/½oz salt
75g/3oz sugar
20g/¾oz dried yeast
500g/1lb 2oz butter, chilled
8 sticks chocolate (optional)
1 free-range egg, beaten
Preparation method
Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, slowly mix in a little water until the mixture forms into a pliable dough.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until it feels elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
Return the chilled dough to your floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle, around 60x30cm/24x12in.
Roll out the chilled butter into a rectangle about 1cm/½in thick, around 20x30cm/8x12in.
Place the butter rectangle in the centre of the dough rectangle, so it covers the middle third of the dough.
Fold each side of the dough over the butter, so there is one layer of dough on the bottom, a layer of butter, then two layers of dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for another hour.
Lightly flour the worktop and roll out the dough to a rectangle, around 60x30cm/24x12in. Repeat the folding process, folding the long sides into the middle, then return the dough to the fridge for a further hour.
Repeat this process of folding and chilling two more times, then wrap the dough in cling film and set it aside to rest overnight.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the rested dough to 3mm/1/8in thick.
Either use a croissant cutter to cut triangles or cut the rolled out dough into squares, each 20cm/8in square.
Cut each square diagonally, making two triangles.
Place the dough triangles on a lightly floured surface with the right angle away from you.
Roll the croissant towards the right angle point and curl the dough roll around into a traditional crescent shape. If using chocolate, add the chocolate across the widest part of the triangle, before rolling it up.
Place the shaped croissants on baking trays lined with baking parchment and leave to rise for 1½ hrs.
Preheat the oven to 200C/425F/Gas 6.
Lightly egg-wash the croissants and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:57AM
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Nancy zone 6

Sorry, you are right, it was Cook's Country & not Cook's Illustrated. It did use yeast & was a fairly wet dough. If it weren't for all the butter running out, it actually tasted pretty good & were flaky, I just hate to think about wasting all that butter :) And wondering if a real croissant recipe wouldn't taste better. I may wait til next weekend when I have company to help eat them before I try croissants again.
The biscuits were a completely different recipe that did use baking powder, just the method of putting cold butter on the dough pressed out flat then folded up & chilled, then cut out. I think biscuits would get tough if I worked the dough enough to really incorporate the butter enough to keep it from running out, so not going to try that again. Although I did go ahead & get new baking powder. The can was almost empty anyway. I know I have heard somewhere recently that baking powder starts fading at 6 month, although I have used mine much longer. Lately I have had more problem with it getting lumpy when it get low. Sounds like moisture is getting in, but I am always careful to use a dry spoon when measuring. This particular can was not lumpy, but I didn't want to waste any more ingredients on it.
I'll give that recipe a try, I do love croissants.
Thanks again to both of you for the advice! I don't know if I can wait til next week to try again. Maybe I can make them & freeze.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:23AM
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Islay_Corbel

Good luck. It's a lot of work!!!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:33AM
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jkom51

From an article last week in the WSJournal on "The Best Croissants in Paris", an excerpt:

"...I became an eager student of croissants (columnist Alexander Lobrano, who has been living in Paris for the past 27 yrs.). The key to spectacular examples is the dough, bien sur. "It takes 48 hours to make good croissant dough," said Fabrice Le Bourdat of Blé Sucré bakery in the 12th Arrondisement.

"First you make the dough and let it rest for a day chilled. The following day you add the butter and do the feuilletage [laminating]. Then you spread and stretch it, roll it again, and let it rest so that it rises slowly. It's a very time-consuming process involving a lot of manual labor, and this is why so many Paris bakeries now buy their croissant dough ready-made."

I recently embarked on a week-long tour des fours with a baker friend who was visiting from abroad. On our expedition, I learned how important the raw ingredients--"butter, flour, milk, sugar and yeast"--are to a great croissant. The new generation of bakers painstakingly sources minimally processed, often organic, components for dough. (Mr. Le Bourdat, for example, said he uses organic yeast, because "it contains no extraneous chemical agents and produces a slower fermentation, which allows the flavors to develop more fully.") "

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:36PM
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plllog

I'm guessing you're right that your BP had died if you've had previous ones that clumped. That does sound like a moisture problem. Do you have a lot of humidity? I don't know if it would work, but you could try keeping your BP container in a vacuum sealed container, or even just a plastic bag with the air pushed out, to have an extra layer of protection.

So, here's the thing about traditional baked goods like butter pastry, macarons, pie crust, etc. People will tell you they have a sure method of doing it the foolproof quick and easy way. Some of those ways are even half decent. But if you want it to come out just right, rather than good enough for the lack of effort expended, you have to do it right. The way they've always done it. These hundreds of years old things aren't someone's brainchild. They're the evolution of people doing it and doing it and doing it across years and continents. It's what works.

Example: Food Processor Pie Crust. I have a problem with pie. I can make a decent crust (not perfect, but flaky), but it's a bother, so I avoid it. I've made a few different highly recommended FP crusts. They're good. And in the end, I have pies. And I may never go back to my pastry blender. But it's not my pie crust!!!. Every single one is more of what I'd call a cookie crust than a pastry crust. They're good, the pies bake well, and almost no one eats the crust anymore because they're on diets, but they're not pie. I don't use lard, which is the real secret to a flaky pie crust, but the difference between my butter by hand crust and the butter by FP crust is still really big.

It's the same with croissants. The recipe Islay Corbel gave you looks like an authentic recipe for croissants, just like any other. As with any, the exact flour, given grind and protein content, may make a slight difference in measurements. Otherwise, croissants are a known thing, and that's the way they're done. And you have to make them 100 times (maybe some less, but that's the expression) to really know them and have making them just be a task rather than a project. (And, no, I haven't made that many!) It's worthwhile doing it though. You'll learn a lot by doing it until you're happy with the outcome. Then you'll be able to apply what you've learned to other pastries.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:47PM
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Nancy zone 6

Well, I'm on my way to croissant, I hope. I've rolled out & folded the dough a total of 4 times today & will finish up tomorrow. I'm thinking I should roll out & fold another time though before cutting & baking, the butter still seems very visible. I considered the quality of my ingredients before I started making the croissants, only had 1 stick of good butter, & 3 sticks of store brand. I just use Sam's brand of flour, so very cheap & seems to work well for the breads I usually make. We'll see how well it works for croissants. The dough feels nice so far.Keeping my fingers crossed! Really doesn't seem like that much work, but it does require attention, doesn't it?
I love to bake & often make breads & pastries. I use the food processor for my pie crust too usually, but it definitely is better when I do it all by hand. I wish I could get the hang of biscuits. They are ok, but not the biscuits my mother made. I've tried lard, but while they are different using lard, they just aren't the light biscuits she made. I imagine it is the flour, & probably the type of lard I can get around here.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 5:47PM
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plllog

Good for you for leaping right in! I was supposed to bake today, but spent the whole day with tech support instead. :( And it sounds like you're using good judgement with the dough. You should see strata and stripes, but not chunks of butter. Your dough will get stiff if you overwork it, though, and your yeast could get unhappy if it warms up too much and starts to bloom then gets cold again. I doubt adding a round would hurt, but try to make that the end. I don't know if the AP flour is an issue with incorporating the butter or just learning curve.

The brand of butter shouldn't matter much for baking as long as it's pure butter (not softened with oil or anything), and not "off" (i.e., smelly). It's not the brand of flour, specifically that makes a difference, but the grind and the protein content. That's the point of the soft flour for Southern style biscuits.

Any old AP will make biscuits, but there are differences. Similarly, you'll have croissants with your Sam's flour. If they don't seem light or fragile enough for your taste, though, try pastry flour next time. But that's degrees of elegance. For just making rolls already, you can use any butter and flour and you'll have rolls when you're done, whether they're croissants or biscuits. :) It is true that the best ingredients (most appropriate, not necessarily most expensive) produce the best result, but you can make very good things from bargain brands. And part of that is flavor. For instance, summertime pasture butter is a lot tastier than plain wrap cowshed butter, which is pretty flavorless. I don't bake with pasture butter. Just salt can overwhelm the flavor so why pay extra? It might come out in those fancy, professional croissants, however, since croissants have such a delicate flavor anyway.

You're right that it's not that much work. It's fussing with making all those even rectangles so that everything is distributed evenly and all that gets to some people. You have the right attitude and enthusiasm, however, and a cheery disposition makes for light work.

Trailrunner has sung the praises of flake lard that she gets from her son, the farm to table chef. Barring that, you should be able to make good biscuits with butter. Do you have or can you get your mom's recipe? Another thing that might make a difference is the water, and there's just no way to account for that. Oh, other than if you have a water softener or something, you might want to use bought water.

I haven't tried this recipe, but it looks like an excellent, flaky baking powder biscuit. If you don't have self rising flour, I'd look at the King Arthur notes about making your own. White Lily, Martha White or King Arthur self rising are more likely to give you a fluffy soft Southern biscuit than Pillsbury or Gold Medal because they have a lower protein content. I've heard about "tough Northern biscuits". ;) I'm from the West, though, where we have both. :)

General rule of thumb for making your own self rising flour, is 1 cup flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, though there are other proportions used by different people. If you have it, use pastry flour, or half cake flour/half AP. If you're grinding your own, use soft summer wheat. :) The important part is to sift them together thoroughly so that the BP and salt are well distributed. I don't know how they make it work in the packages to keep it from separating, or maybe they don't. I've never used it but all the good down home biscuit recipes seem to.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Nancy zone 6

Just to let you know, the croissants are finished & I have to say they are quite tasty. The ones I have gotten from the bakery are a little better, but mine are much better than the packaged ones I've tried. I think I can do better the next time I try.
I've tried recipes similar to that biscuit recipe you linked to, plllog, although I never keep self rising flour. When I make my own SR flour I use exactly those measurements. I will try using some cake flour in my next batch though. I happen to have some I need to use up fortunately.
Thanks! I appreciate the hand holding through my croissant process, I really needed the assurance that I could do it. So glad I tried it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:19PM
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plllog

Oh, congrats! I'm glad they came out! Now's the time you post a picture. :) (Not obligatory, but pictures are always nice.)

Next time you might try pastry flour for the croissants. I don't know what they use in the bakery, but it's a good guess. :) Or you could ask them. :)

Of course you can do it!! You can do anything.

There's one kind of biscuit I've never found a good recipe for. It peels off in discrete layers, and is probably more like a croissant dough than a biscuit dough, though they taste like biscuits. Come to think of it though, biscuits are mostly just salty-buttery.

AHA! Search term is "folded biscuit"! Here's a folded lard recipe. I just like the "for engineers" title. :) I've never made these, and can't be sure if it's good from reading.

This one uses beer!

As far as I can tell, most of the people do want pull apart layers start like a regular rolled biscuit, but fold the dough like this guy does, without buttering or squishing like you do for croissants.

Congratulations again on the croissants. It's great to see your triumph.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:48PM
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Nancy zone 6

I'll give these recipes a try. They don't seem like my grandmother's biscuits, but they sound like what DH would like. He loves those canned Grand's biscuits that flake in layers like that & has been complaining that they don't flake like they used to. Personally, I loathe the canned biscuits, just don't taste at all like what I expect a biscuit to be. Thanks for those links.
I'll try to post a picture tomorrow of the croissants. Gotta charge the battery on my camera. I think the best looking ones have already been eaten of course, yum.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 8:47PM
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plllog

Glad to help. :) You'll soon be an expert in folded butter pastries. :) I don't get the canned stuff either. They made us "cook" with them when I was in school. But I love the layers in the good ones my aunt had (probably form the bakery). There's a Mexican version (sweetish, and probably a yeast dough rather than baking powder) that was always one of my favorites from the mixed box of pan dulce from the bakery.

Random guess why the canned ones don't flake right is that they probably changed to a more current kind of fat.

Educated guess as to why your biscuits don't taste like your grandmother's: 1. the softness of the flour, 2. the flavor of the water, 3. the amount of salt (though if you have her recipe, that's probably right), 4. she make them a lot more times than you have and they get "right" with practice. :)

I've recently been learning whole wheat. So far I've done good popovers and I'm getting the pizza dough closer to what I want. The trick to whole wheat is don't even try to adapt a favorite recipe. Just start with something new that's meant for whole wheat from the beginning and jump in. :) I have a recipe for whole wheat biscuits but I haven't gotten around to making it. I'm thinking maybe I should find a different recipe. ;)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Islay_Corbel

The amount of water in a biscuit isn't going to affect the flavour!!! It would affect the texture.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 2:34AM
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plllog

Agreed. It's the minerals and all in the water that create a specific taste and texture. And it's pretty subtle, the ineffable je ne sais qoui that makes NY bagels and pizza different, at least by repute. I had bagels in Manhattan several days running, and they were good bagels, but they didn't seem any different than good West coast bagels. I'm assured, however, that there's a difference, even when the same baker is making them. It's more obviously true where the water is particularly hard or soft that the breads are distinctively different, and the difference could even be in Grandma's pipes. That's one of those impossible to reproduce things, though.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:54AM
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Nancy zone 6

Got a photo of one of the croissants left. Not the prettiest of the bunch, those were the first to go. One thing I will definitely do next time is give them more room on the baking sheet.
I don't have my grandmother's biscuit recipe, I would have had to watch her make them. She had a big cabinet where she made her biscuits. The flower was in the bottom-& it was big! The top boark slid back to get to the flour & she would just scoop some flour in a pile on that top, add some leavening & lard , then just made a hole in the center & added milk. No bowl, no recipe. Always perfect. She never added water to her biscuits. I would imagine if she did they would have been awful.They had sulphur water, really strong & nasty if you have never had it. Didn't get the water out of pipes either, they had a well. When they moved in town, the water wasn't so sulpher tasting there, but the gadget they used to bring up the water was rusty, so you had to let it settle to the bottom of the bucket before you could drink it. She's been gone over 15 years, but she lived that way til just a few years before she died. She had electricity, but used coal burning stove to heat & an OUTHOUSE. She did have an electric stove the last few years & complained about it every time she started cooking. I sure miss her.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:00PM
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plllog

Woohoo!! Beautiful picture, and a lovely pastry! You can just see the butteriness.

Your grandmother sounds like a remarkable woman. My great-aunt made noodles like that. Heap of flour in a volcano shape, egg dropped in the middle, mixed with a fork, rolled and cut. I can't tell you how many times I've tried with pitiful results. And she showed me many times!

But you do have her recipe. It's flour, lard, milk, baking powder, and probably salt. To replicate it, you need a similar flour, good "real" milk, and good, old fashioned lard. By real milk, I mean 100% whole milk, but pasteurized. Raw milk has too many potential dangers and traditionally, one was supposed to scald the milk before baking breads, anyway, so think of pasteurized milk as pre-scalded. :) If you think your grandmother's milk might have been grass fed, you might even be able to find that (the flavor is different). Try to avoid ultrapasteurized milk, however. It's pretty dead. A lot of the commercial organic milks, like Horizon, are ultrapasteurized. You can't make cheese out of it. ;) You should be able to find a pig farm in your area where they have good flake lard, though you'll have to ask other people (there are some in this forum) how to use it.

Once you have ingredients, it's a bit of trial and error until you get it just right, but you can get there if you're determined.

On another note, I am trying a very traditional recipe for macarons, and am aging my egg whites in the fridge. It sounds riduculous to me, but apparently the egg whites like to be aired out. You put them in a dish with a paper towel over it. I might try an experiment down the road to see if there's a fluff difference between aged egg whites and straight from the egg egg whites from the same carton, but to start with I'm following directions. :)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:42PM
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Nancy zone 6

Interesting, I've never heard of that for macarons, but then, I don't make them often. I love whole wheat bread, but DH doesn't like it. I remember trying to make some whole wheat biscuits a few years ago, they were so very bad I never tried again. Good luck! I'm sure yours will be much better than mine were. I didn't try to use a recipe, just subbed some whole wheat flour for white. I don't remember now the amounts I used, but I'm sure I used too much whole wheat.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:36PM
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plllog

100% Whole wheat can either taste so awesomely delicious that you don't understand why white flour was invented, or it can taste like cardboard. I've recently learned that a big part of cardboard is not enough salt. Substituting WW in just means your recipe is going to fall flat. :) It needs a different amount of water, yeast, salt, etc., and because of the relatively lower ratio of gluten, it doesn't puff up the same way. You can add vital wheat gluten to add in some stretch. A lot of WW recipes are meant for people who don't have any, though it's easy to find nowadays. Instead, they use about half WW and half white, and while that might give you some WW flavor, it kind of defeats the whole point.

Of course, Grainlady will also tell you that if you use packaged flour rather than grinding the wheat just before use, you're losing a lot of the nutrients. The protein remains, however, and that's what gluten is.

The popovers come out beautifully. The recipe I use puts a little oil in the cups, like for Yorkshire pudding, which gives a crisp, moist crust. They pop perfectly, but didn't do the cloud thing that's currently popular where the whole thing pops all over the place and you have all crust and no insides. These are more the old fashioned way with a yummy crust and lots of "roll" inside. I'll let you know if I manage a good biscuit. :) Maybe it's a good time to practice the folded method?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 12:24AM
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Islay_Corbel

NGraham, your croissant looks very tasty!
As for airing egg whites before making macarons......Bear in mind that some of the greatest patissiers in France have been making them for years without .............. many of these ideas are faddish.
A difference between the way fresh egg whites behave and older egg whites then yes. But airing them out?????? I'd be intrigued to hear if you find a difference.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 3:37AM
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plllog

Oh, I'm glad you think it's funny too. :) The recipe is a traditional one. We'll see... It's supposed to increase the volume. I'm using fresh eggs. I figured that was important. :) It may be a remedy for eggs that arrive in the stores less than fresh? It's hard to know why something gets started. Maybe it's like that old Reader's Digest thing about why you're supposed to cut the ends off the roast. The woman had always done it that way because her mom did. When she finally asked her mom why, the answer was so that it would fit in the pan. :)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 2:49PM
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plllog

So anyway, my aired out aged eggwhites fluffed up fine. But then I've used fresh eggs and been hanging around eggs without aging the whites and I couldn't tell any difference in the loft, in the KA no problem at all, but even by hand. Maybe you really only need to age them if they came right out of the chicken? I think the airing part is wives tale. Or maybe it's just that you need enough air in your covered bowl so that aging can take place? I did it because you're supposed to, I sifted the heck out of everything. And then the piping bag defeated me. I think it squished the air right out, and I wasn't able to get beautiful coins, either. I did the last third with spoons and got better circles, and more evenly spaced by eye than on my carefully drawn template! They're fine. They have feet. They didn't crack. But they're a bit meh, anyway. :) So much easier to buy them....

(BTW, curing less than fresh eggs (above) was a joke!)

So. Any croissants left? Any plans for more buns?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Nancy zone 6

Really does make you wonder why they suggested airing the eggs, at least we know now that its not necessary. I bet they were good though. Yeah, easier to buy them, but what's the fun in that?
Not many croissants left. Took some to friends, & we ate way more than we should have. I put a few croissants in the freezer to see how they do. One recipe I read said to freeze them before letting them rise, another said to cook them & then freeze. I meant to freeze some before cooking & compare, but I got into trying to form them & trying to get them to look nice that I forgot. And after I had them formed pretty, I put them too close together & only a few looked like a good croissant.. I don't know when I can get to another batch, have to wait til I have a whole day at home :) I think they will be yummy as cinnamon buns though, but think of the calories.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 10:42PM
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Islay_Corbel

Well, they're breakfast food. I'm sure one or two won't make you too fat!!!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 2:34AM
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