Making Croissants - Part 2: Shaping, Baking and Variations

So you've made your dough and it's chilling in the fridge while you work out what to do next, well done you! Or perhaps you've decided to buy the dough and just go from there, that's ok too.


In this post, I'm going to go through what you need to do next. And the first thing you want to do before you get everything else ready (unless you are freezing your croissants that is), is crack an egg and add a good pinch of salt. This is going to be used to glaze our croissants before we bake them. The salt breaks down the egg, making it easier to glaze, but it takes a little time to do this, so best get that out of the way before we continue.


Now this time I've stuck to a few firm favourites. I've made classic croissants; I've made pain aux chocolate (with some added hazelnuts); I've made cheats almond croissants and lastly, I made cinnamon croissants. I also made croissant-doughnut snippets which are a great bakers perk, I'd refuse to share them if I were you. There are lots of other variations that you could make and I'll add some more suggestions at the end.





The last types of croissants that I am going to make will be traditional almond croissants. The traditional ones are made with frangipane or almond cream and are made with day-old plain croissants traditionally.


So let's start, shall we?


Rolling Out The Dough


You'll need your rolling pin again now, a sharp knife, some more flour and a couple of lined or buttered and floured baking trays.



1. Take your premade dough out of the fridge, and place on a floured surface so that the book opens to the side. This time we're going to roll the dough out in both directions, not just forward and backwards. So start by rolling your dough out, forwards and backwards until it's as almost as long as your rolling pin, roughly 35cm is what you are going for. As before try and keep the square edges as you'll have to trim the dough later, and you don't want to waste too much (not that we will waste it, don't worry). Once it's looking around the right size, turn it 90 degrees and roll it the other way, this time you want to roll it till it reaches just shy of double the length of your rolling pin, about 75cm. Your dough is cold so this might take a bit of time, don't worry it gets easier to roll as you get towards the end.



2. You should now have a large rectangle of dough. But it probably looks messy. We don't want those edges in your delicious finished croissants. So the next step is to neaten everything up. Take a large sharp knife or if you have one a pizza cutter works great too, and trim the edges to leave a neat rectangle of dough. Put the offcuts to one side, for now, I have a use for those.




3. Next, you want to cut your dough in half lengthways, so that you have two long equal-sized strips of dough. Now you are ready to make croissants. Now is the point to decide what you would like to make as different pastries are different shapes. If you are just making traditional croissant shapes just head to that section now. If you want to make pan au chocolate or any other shapes you need to divide your dough accordingly. You can make 12-14 croissants or other pastries from your dough. For croissants you'll be making triangles, for pan aux chocolate you'll want 1/7th of a strip of dough in a rectangle shape. For Pan aux raisins and variations on that, you'll want to avoid cutting it up entirely and as you'll fill the entire sheet, or perhaps half or a quarter of it, as this one gets rolled up and filled and sliced the way you would for a cinnamon bun.




Croissants


4. For croissants begin by dividing your dough into triangles. You can get 7 out of each half of your dough. They should be about 9cm wide and 15cm long. Once you have done this take your first triangle, make a small cut into the narrowest side of your croissant, the side you will role from, this needs to be about 1cm deep. You can do with all of your triangles at the start if you like.



5. Next, take your triangle of dough and hold it up by the end with the cut. Place your fingers behind the dough and your thumb in front. Gently move your fingers and thumb down to the point of the triangle at the bottom to stretch it. You can now put it down again so that this point faces you.



6. Next stretch the top of the croissant a little, either side of the cut that you made, then fold over the top of the croissant as in the photo below. To get the smoothest finish, the best way to shape your croissants is to roll the croissant towards you with flat of your palm. Simply place your hand on top and roll it towards you. Place your finished croissant on your baking sheet with the tail tucked underneath to keep it all neat. Now you can move on to your next one.





Variations

The most common variations are almond or hazelnut croissants. Traditionally these are made with day-old croissants and almond or hazelnut cream. If you don't want to wait and want a cheat option, you can simply add some hazelnut or almond butter. Place a small dollop at the top of your croissants before you roll. To finish, scatter with flaked almonds or chopped hazelnuts just before baking. You can, of course, do this with any nut butter including pistachio or peanut butter, or even hazelnut chocolate spread. Yum!


Another good option is cinnamon croissants, scatter your unrolled croissant with a mix of cinnamon and brown sugar.


Pain Aux Chocolate


To make pain aux chocolate, cut each of your long strips of dough into 7 rectangle pieces. Place a couple of pieces of chocolate at the top, normally dark, but milk or white work too, and role up your dough from this end. Move to place them on your two baking trays to prove. Make sure to leave plenty of room for them to double in size. I like to sprinkle my pain aux chocolate with a few chopped nuts before I role.





Pain Aux Raisin


To make pain aux raisin, you first need to make a creme patissiere. Now, this may seem a little daunting, but really it's just a thick vanilla custard. Half of the croissant dough will make 14 or so pain aux raisins.


Creme Patissiere

3 Large egg yolks

35g Caster sugar

25g Plain flour


In a milk pan:-

35g caster sugar

250g full-fat milk.

1 vanilla pod cut in half and seeds scraped out and added or 1tsp vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla.


Start by heating the milk gently until it starts to bubble. Next whisk half of this into your egg mixture, keep it moving as you pour. You can then whisk in the remaining milk. Pour everything back into your pan and place it back on the heat. Bring it back to the boil, stirring constantly, you want to avoid it burning and the eggs scrambling. At this point turn down the heat and continue to cook for a few minutes to cook off the flour and thicken. You can then pour it into a bowl to cool.



To make your pan aux raisins spread the cooled creme patissiere over the half dough that you are using, leaving a couple of centimetres along one long side, so you can roll it. Sprinkle with raisings (150g should do). Roll your dough like a swiss roll, and cut the roll into 14 slices, place these on your baking sheet.


Proving Your Croissants


7. If you are planning to freeze your croissants so that you can bake them at a later stage, pop your baking trays into a freezer for a couple of hours until the croissants are firm. Then move them to a freezer bag or tub. Take them out before you go to bed the night before you want to bake them and continue the as below. Don't forget to give them a glaze with your eggwash before you go to bed, and pop them somewhere draft-free overnight, such as a turned-off oven.


8. If you plan to bake them straight away the place all of your croissants on two lined or buttered and floured baking trays, make sure you leave plenty of space for your croissants to rise and double in size. Give each of your croissants an egg wash with a pastry brush (if you don't have one use your fingers). Leave them to prove until doubled in size, avoid trying to speed up the process by putting them somewhere too warm just an oven that's been on, this will make your butter melt, and ruin your croissants. It's best to leave them somewhere without a draft, such as a cupboard. Don't cover them, it'll just get stuck to the egg wash. If you don't have anywhere to prove them, don't glaze them yet, cover them with a tea towel. It should take about 2hrs to prove.


9. Preheat your oven to 200-220 degrees C.


In the meantime head to using up those off-cuts below


Baking Your Croissants


10. Start by giving your croissants another wash of egg. If you've made croissants with almonds or any other nuts, give them a sprinkle of nuts on top.





11. Place your croissants in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden.


Cool on a baking rack. Finish almond or hazelnut croissants with a dusting of icing sugar if you like once cooled. Breakfast time me thinks!





Using Up Those off-Cuts


1. One of the best perks of making croissants at home is the off-cuts. The best thing to do with them is to cut them up into small pieces and make croissant-doughnuts. Take a pan and pour in around 1cm of veg or sunflower oil. Pop this on a medium heat, give this a few minutes to get to temperature. In the meantime sprinkle caster sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl, this is for dusting once they are cooked.



2. Test the oil with one piece of your off-cuts. Be careful not to get any water into the oil, don't forget water causes oil fires, don't leave it unattended. When it's hot enough cook them in batches, they should only take a minute or so on each side until they are golden. Transfer your off-cuts into your bowl of sugar & cinnamon with a slotted spoon, shaking off the excess oil. Cover all of your doughnuts in cinnamon sugar, and enjoy. You can share these, but you'd be crazy if you do. I suggest scoffing them all yourself while you wait for your croissants to prove!





Traditional Almond Croissants (photos to follow)


Traditional almond croissants that you find in french bakeries are made using day-old croissants and almond cream/frangipane. So this is great if you make a full batch of croissants and have leftovers.


Frangipane - enough for 6-7 croissants

85g softened salted butter

85g caster sugar

1 large egg

85g ground almonds

20g plain flour

1 tbsp rum, amaretto or brandy


1. Beat your butter & sugar until light and fluffy, a stand mixer or electric hand whisk works best for this. Next, add your ground almonds and combine, before adding your egg and beating till smooth. Finally, fold in your plain flour and rum. You can add some almond extract too if you like, a 1/4 tsp should be enough for a batch of this size.


2. Taking your day-old croissants, slice them in half, spoon some frangipane onto each croissant, making sure to reserve just under half. Put the tops back on your croissants, and spread the remaining frangipane over your croissants and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees c for 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer them to a cooling rack once baked, and sprinkle with icing sugar once cooled.


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