Recipe 11 of 61: Croissants & Pain au chocolat

Croissants is the last recipe in the French Pastry Classics chapter! Hallelujah! I’ve learned so much, but I’m kind of excited for some (hopefully) shorter blog posts!

This post includes a lot of photos because not only do I just love croissants, but also because I had croissants in Paris, and I want to share my experience! 🖤

The day I had my first Parisian croissant turned out to be my favorite day in Paris. We woke up early to the sun starting to shine over the trees of Montmartre and the birds singing. Heather and I had gone shopping the day before and purchased summer dresses to wear not only because it was insanely hot (90° in April!) and we didn’t bring the right clothing, but also because we planned to go to the Palace of Versailles after breakfast and wanted to feel pretty ☺️. We were so incredibly excited for this day!

We started out walking uphill through the cobbled streets to my dream breakfast cafe, Coquelicot. Walking through Montmartre, past Le Consulat Café with a view of Sacré Couer, wisteria blooms all over the stone walls, this was the best morning Heather and I experienced in Paris.

Now. Coquelicot. Translated to English is red poppy, and the entire outside of the cafe is decorated with poppies 🥰

The food. As soon as you walk into Coquelicot, the aroma is intoxicating. My pictures don’t do the place justice as I was trying to be sneaky haha!

Fresh croissants and pastries, homemade quiche and freshly squeezed juices. I didn’t feel very well that morning not only from the time change but also because we had eaten two pizzas and a bunch of desserts the night before, so I ordered a tomato and zucchini quiche with salad and fresh kiwi apple juice AND a croissant. They also include a sliced baguette when you order a sit-down meal 🙂 It was exactly what I needed. I don’t remember what Heather ordered, but I do remember her bowl of coffee 🙂

My first Parisian croissant was everything I had dreamed it to be 🖤

I have been sooooo excited for this recipe as I have wanted to recreate what I had at Coquelicot since that day. There have been only two places in my entire life where I’ve experienced a LEGIT croissant: Nantucket Bakery in Grand Rapids, MI, and Coquelicot in Paris. Even the croissant on the Eiffel tower wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (although it had the most beautiful view 🖤)!

I made croissants prior to going to Paris using Half Baked Harvest’s recipe about five years ago and thought I did such a good job.

Now, what did I do wrong? Can you tell?

There are countless things wrong that I see in these photos, but I’ll touch on two of the most important.

First, the shape. Did you know that you can tell a difference between croissants by how they’re shaped? It has to do with the butter content! If a croissant is straight, it has to be made with all butter whereas if it’s crescent moon shaped, they’re allowed to have margarine in them! I don’t know about you, but when I buy a croissant, I expect the highest quality ingredients, and that definitely includes butter. In France, the shape of croissants is actually a law, and thankfully, it seems like the majority of cafes and shops in other countries follow suit.

Second, I used a recipe that didn’t require butter with a fat content over 82%. Also, while her recipe included an overnight in the fridge and four folds to, with no folds on the day of baking. There weren’t a ton of layers and my lamination was embarrassing!; however, I didn’t have anything to compare these to, and at the time, I was impressed. They also tasted delicious. But I now wanted to experience legit homemade croissants. Enter Jacquy Pfeiffer 🙂

Croissants & Pain au chocolat

Difficulty: 4/5 It’s a little time consuming, but overall is surprisingly “simple” to make!

Taste: 5/5 I love love love croissants, and these were delicious. Especially the croissant that I added jam to!

Time it took me: 2 days

Any problems? My croissants were baked too long (by just a couple minutes!) and ended up being too brown on top. They also didn’t have the perfect lamination, and I didn’t roll all of them up very well, so some unrolled partly in the oven. Lastly, my butter cracked in the dough after the second turn even though it was pliable and had rested for 20 minutes…

I actually made a second batch and tried solving some of the issues from the first batch! Scroll to the bottom for those results!

Day 1:

Croissants start out by making a poolish, which is flour, water and dry yeast added together for about 15 minutes. Jacquy’s recipe is very particular about the temperature of the flour and water.

Once the yeast is activated, the dough is mixed. Bread flour, sugar, some butter, water, eggs, and salt are mixed together.

The dough is then left to rest until it doubles in volume.

After that, it is shaped into a ball and flattened into a rectangle, then placed in the fridge. Meanwhile, the remaining butter is rolled into a small rectangle and also refrigerated.

After about an hour, the dough is also rolled into a rectangle, and the butter is placed vertically on half of the dough. The dough is folded over and sealed on the sides to completely trap the butter.

Here is when the first turn is made. To start, the dough is rolled out to a specific measurement rectangularly. The butter has to be cold but pliable and can’t crack or become too warm. If it cracks, it’ll break into small lumps, and if it’s too warm, it’ll ooze out from the dough.

You can see my butter broke apart…womp womp. Jacquy said if it looks like a cracked desert floor, which mine did, to let it sit and warm up a bit; however, I did that for about 15-20 minutes, and it never looked better…so I kept going! The dough is then folded in thirds, like you’re folding a letter to be placed in an envelope 🙂

After being refrigerated for 30 minutes, this process happens again. The dough is then refrigerated overnight, dinner is made, and kitties are fed. But apparently still hungry.

Day 2

One more fold is made, then the dough is placed back in the fridge. Look at all that gas in the dough, pop those bubbles! You don’t want them in the final product!

I actually learned that from Claire Saffitz, in her amazing tutorial on YouTube! Jacquy doesn’t talk about air bubbles at all.

At this point, the folds are DONE! It’s now time to roll the dough out to 20×7 inches, then cut into the desired shape for the type of croissant you want.

Croissants are made into triangles. I had a heck of a time with these lol, I’m so terrible at math, I couldn’t figure out exactly the right spots to cut the croissants; however, they looked fine when I was done 🙂 Maybe someday I’ll get a croissant roller. For now, I’ll just deal with slightly strangely-shaped croissants haha!

Before rolling up, in a few I added hazelnut butter and chocolate as well as raspberry jam and orange marmalade 🙂 I also made a few squares with cream cheese and peach or raspberry jam…yum!

To make pain au chocolat, the dough is still rolled out to 20×7 inches, but it is then cut lengthwise into two 10×3.5 inch strips, unless you’re like me and you want to try both types of croissants, you cut it as shown above so you get just a few of each 🙂 2 bars of chocolate are placed on the left side, then rolled up from that side. Yes, I know there’s only one bar of chocolate in that photo above, I promise I added a second one 🙂

Both types of croissants are then brushed with egg wash and left to rise.

Once they’re doubled in volume, not size, they are brushed again with egg wash and placed into a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown…or super dark brown in my case.

Some you can see I didn’t roll up very well and so they unrolled. Well never fear, they still tasted DIVINE!

Super flaky crust, chewy, buttery hollow crumb. Even though these croissants were large, they felt very light weight, which is how they should.

This peach jam was made by my friend, Penny 🙂 It’s incredible!

Sooo….would I make these again?? Absolutely. I actually already have!

You can still see I had the “desert floor” with my butter. Plus, this time, the butter peaked through the dough that was raised overnight. I needed to tuck it in better!

My second batch turned out so much better though, but I still have quite a ways to go for perfection! I think if I do a few more batches, I’ll be onto something!

An up close shot because croissants are just so pretty 🖤

With this last batch, I experimented with some unique flavors.

The first had a caramel layer with caramelized bananas on the inside, then powdered sugar, caramel and toasted pecans on top.

Also, those two above pics are from my husband’s camera! He’s learning about photography/videography and is so much better than I am! I think I’m going to have him take my photos from here on out!

Let’s continue with the not as great looking photos below 🙂 It doesn’t help that caramelized bananas are NOT pretty haha!

I was absolutely thrilled with the taste of these!! The caramelized bananas, while they look disgusting, tasted incredible!

The second was a little more simple, chocolate with toasted hazelnuts.

What I love about croissants is that, yes, it is a time-consuming recipe, but you can freeze them for up to a month! Imagine being able to have fresh croissants quickly! Jacquy recommends defrosting for about 2 hours on a sheet pan, then baking them for 1 minute to crisp them up again. I think that’s very doable 🙂

So…what will I do differently in the future??

  1. The first time I thought I needed to lower the oven temp by 5-10 degrees and really watch the time (all ovens are different!). The second time I just watched the time, thinking that would be enough. I think the next time will be slightly less temp and less time, just like the second.
  2. I wouldn’t be particular on the flour and water temperature in the poolish.
  3. I still had a “cracked desert floor” looking laminate dough! Even after letting it sit for about 15-20 minutes and trying to warm it with my hands, it still cracked! Not sure what to do to fix this? Maybe not refrigerate the butter as long in the beginning? It was bendable though and didn’t break before the first fold, so I really don’t know. Time for some research!
  4. I’d use a French rolling pin. Compared to a normal rolling pin, it’s so much easier to avoid edges that are too thin. When you use a normal rolling pin, if you tilt it even in the slightest, the edges will become much thinner than the center.

Baking my way through “The Art of French Pastry” kind of stopped when I got to the croissant recipe because I’m such a perfectionist and wanted to get the perfect laminated croissant…I had quite a few “failed” batches and felt I couldn’t move on until I got it right. Lesson learned-it takes way longer than just a few batches to perfect croissants, and I’m not there; however, I’m giving myself permission to move on. I’ve learned more about butter, lamination, and rolling up croissants than I ever thought I would, thanks to all of my errors, and I’ll continue testing croissants on the side, but it won’t be my main project anymore.

Guess what? We’ve completed the French Pastry Classics chapter! Onward to chapter 2, all about…..tarts! YUM!!

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