Last week for Sabbatical Bread week, Xak successfully produced (and I ate) three wonderful bakes: sandwich bread, fig scones, and povitica. Now, both Xak and I were ready to progress to Sabbatical Pastry Week!
The first challenge was tackling the delicate (and terrifying) art of buttery, flaky croissants.
Inspiration for Attempting Croissants
Introducing a Baker to Great British Bake Off
I am a gigantic Great British Bake Off fan. I have watched every episode with a meal. Normally I try not to watch tv and eat dinner simultaneously (mindfulness/intuitive eating and all that stuff wellness articles teach you), but I find that eating dinner while watching cooking shows is actually the responsible thing to do.
Particularly with GBBO, you will uncontrollably find yourself rummaging in the pantry and eating chocolate chips straight from the bag out of desperation. (or is that just me? 🤔)
When I first found out Xak enjoyed baking, I introduced him to this show.
I thought I was doing the right thing because
- Xak loves to bake
- The music is cute
- The drawings are superb
- The idyllic tent
- The contestants are great
- And, with the exception of bin-gate, the show is low stress and overall relaxing
Apparently, not everyone thinks so.
Xak, being a baker, finds the show extremely stressful. He watches in horror every time someone’s caramel crystallizes. He grips the arm of the couch when decorative elements are precariously transferred from fridge to the bake. He covers his face with a throw pillow when the baker realizes their oven wasn’t turned on.
The good news is that he has made it through most episodes and in fact finds it as inspiring as it is stressful (to him). I have benefited from this inspiration in the form of Paul Hollywood’s English muffins, Chetna’s povitica, and most recently croissants.
The perfect croissant comes from… costco?
Anyone who has seen pastry week on GBBO knows the drill. It’s all about lamination, your folds (book folds are superior, so I’ve heard?), and keeping your butter chilled. You also want to avoid soggy bottoms at all costs.
I love croissants and I love going to Costco to buy them in bulk (along with super sized Skinny Pop), because who in their right mind would want to attempt baking croissants at home???
Of course, this is the exact type of challenge that Xak wanted to try. He’s never made croissants before but has always wanted to try.
After stocking up on flour and tons of butter (as well as agreeing to stop at Costco for backup croissants if needed), Xak “rose” to the challenge (croissants rise, right?)
Making the Croissants
The life of Sous Chef Dani
As the resident sous chef in the house, I try my best to help whenever Xak bakes. I’m the type of person who likes to follow a recipe exactly as written. Even if the recipe is written to make 50 servings of something or calls for 1/8 tsp of some obscure expensive ingredient, I will follow it exactly.
Xak is very different from me and sees recipes the same way Captain Barbossa sees the pirate’s code (more like guidelines than actual rules).
So when I’m the sous chef during Xak’s baking time, I usually just stick to the following:
- Retrieve Ingredients (specified by Xak)
- Prep out measurements (specified by Xak)
- Tying the apron (always kindly requested by Xak)
- Taking photos of the process
- Stay out of the way
For croissant day, by the time I came downstairs, Xak had already gotten out all the ingredients, done the first roll out and fold, and put the dough to chill in the fridge… all while taking pictures the whole time.
Looks like Sous Chef Dani is out of her job 😞
(Side Note: I noticed there was no pic of the butter sheet placed on top of the dough, likely due to buttery hands. Looks like Sous Chef Dani is still needed after all 😏)
After the initial fold, Xak had to quickly place the dough in the fridge.
Unfortunately, after a closer read of the recipe, we realized our afternoon coffee time plans would have to change since Xak would have to fold another two times!
It turns out croissant dough needs to chill for a much longer time than what most GBBO contestants are allotted (perhaps that is why there are so many disasters during pastry week?)
The Great Dough Disaster
When Xak first began the croissant dough, things seemed to be going well. Unfortunately, just like almost everyone else in the country, we too were going through a heatwave. This is not ideal for creating buttery pastry. Soon, Xak started sounding just like the GBBO contestants:
- It’s too hot in here
- My butter is leaking out
- I can’t get enough folds
Oh my giddy aunt
With my limited baking skills, I had nothing to offer except reassurances that Costco was still open.
After following the remaining steps in the recipe, Xak sadly put the dough away in the fridge to chill over night for the final time and I mentally prepared myself for a Costco trip the next day. Perhaps some churros would cheer him up.
Baking the Croissants
The next day came and Xak was up early to retrieve the triple folded concoction from the fridge. This time, Sous Chef Dani was determined to document the process and reclaim her job of photo taker.
At this point, Xak’s GBBO contestant alter ego started to come out again, as did my anxiety. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this upset about a bake. 😞
Xak then rolled up the dough triangles similar to how I make crescent rolls around Thanksgiving and put them on 3 different trays. (Side note: those things are delicious!)
He then let the dough rise (again) and I wondered how much longer this process would take. After the rise, we were finally ready to put them in the oven and hope for the best.
Later that day, there was a comforting and inviting smell wafting from the kitchen. I’m used to the house smelling like a bakery or Yankee candles, but this smell was a little different. Did we buy a buttery and flaky scented candle?
Paul Hollywood might be critical about “internal crumb structure” , but as an experienced eater these looked and tasted amazing. They were delicious! No backup Costco croissants or consolation churros in our future any time soon. (Maybe the churros)
We had enough croissants to last us to the weekend making for a fantastic Coffee and Trek breakfast!
I am truly blessed to be married to a curious baker who loves challenges and doesn’t give up. Thank you Xak for all the wonderful food you feed me!
Next up: Raised Game Pie