Tartine Baking Project: #1: CROISSANTS!
This croissant-baking process began Tuesday evening and has been completed at noon today (Thursday). At last! The reason to start with the croissant is twofold (get it? A folding reference as I’m talking about croissants! You fellow croissant bakers get the pun!): I picked the croissant for my inaugural Tartine baking attempt because it was my favorite treat from the actual bakery, and it’s also the first one in the book. Why not start from the beginning? I went into this knowing that making croissants was labor intensive, not from experience or even knowledge of the subject, but because the narrative of directions spanned five pages. That, and anyone I mentioned it to this week seemed ever-so mildly skeptical of such a lofty undertaking. Throughout the past few days, this was my mantra: It’s a great way to start – if they turned out well, brilliant! If it was a flop – fine! I could only go up from there.
Between Tuesday and today, the majority of the time the dough was resting, just taking a little break from the stress of its doughy life, in the fridge, and even spent a brief stint in the freezer. The second biggest slice on the pie chart of ‘How I Spent the Last Few Days’ would be reading directions. I read them, re-read them, read them aloud, whispered them to myself, and had my husband read them to me when I was in elbow deep in dough and/or butter. I just didn’t want to get it wrong.
Apparently this is what I look like when I’m reading something pretty intensely. Good to know.
A cheesecloth blanket, then waiting for it to rise. And it did!
Laminating the dough = slathering with butter, then folding, rolling out, folding again, rolling out some more. This happens one million times.
Folding into a “plaque”.
The rolling part. My arms are ripped now. Not really, but I imagine those bakers at Tartine have bulging biceps. I’ve never checked, but I definitely will the next time I’m there.
All that folding and rolling pays off! Look at those layers!!!
Cutting them, stuffing half with smoked ham and gruyère cheese (pain au jambon!), then rolling them up was the most fun part!
It was this point right here when the romance of the life of a pastry chef blew out the window, along with the smoke. Yes, smoke. I’ll touch on that soon. It’s like you’re light on your feet, glowing with the magic of a new relationship where everything is falling into place, and suddenly you wake up and they haven’t called you and it’s like 6 o’clock and they should have totally called. You find yourself anxiety-ridden, questioning your every move, scrupulously analyzing every detail of the other person. In my case, it was no man, it was those croissants! Putting them in the oven to “proof” means putting them in a warm-ish spot for them to double in size. The oven is off, and I even put a pan of steaming water in there to make it a slightly warm 75 degrees. Well, I left the oven light on and then things got crazy. Some started to get melty-ish. Maybe that’s how they’re supposed to look? I was so worried the butter was melting, I was concerned it was too hot, too cold, were they sagging?, are they noticeably puffy?, do they look spongy? slouchy?, etc., etc., etc. All these concerns resulted in me changing the water, turning off the oven light!, taking the water out all together, putting it back in, cracking the oven door. This was two hours of this nonsense! And they were all touching each other! AH!
And then there was the baking. I then added a baking sheet, and spread the 16 croissants over the two of them, squeezed them into the oven and started the timer. The smoke began to fill the air as the butter oozed all over the oven. And the fire (YES, FIRE!) happened soon after my husband, Dan, came home. Good timing. That fire was hot and I didn’t want to touch it.
We pressed on. There was a lot of rotating them around to ensure even baking (which still wasn’t completely successful) and a lot of comparing/contrasting to the picture in the cookbook. The cook time was increased by ten minutes, I guess because there were so many croissants in that oven!
I’m sure when you saw a picture of a fire you were worried of the outcome. Believe me, I was too as I was coughing and my eyes were burning from sticking my head in a smoke-filled oven to rotate those croissants a million times, and I looked at Dan and my friend Colleen (who was entertaining the kids) for support as I panicked. Ultimately, it worked out and after much convincing for honest feedback we all considered it a success!
The final result: a warm flaky croissant oozing with ham and cheese, alongside a coffee with my sugar cubes from our trip to France last fall. How perfect!