I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).
Hey guys, this week I made croissants. If you’ve been paying like weirdly close attention to my progress through GBBS, you’ll know this isn’t what I was supposed to be making, because for the first time ever, I skipped some stuff.
Please see my last blog post where I explain why things are a bit jumbled up at the moment – and why I’ll no longer be baking every single bake from every single episode. I give a lot of reasons for that in my last blog, but one of the main ones is because it is quite frankly, taking forever. And, well…
So instead, I’ve started to make just one of the challenges per episode. (Reminder: I’m going through the seasons as they appeared on Netflix in the U.S., which is so not the order in which they aired in the U.K.)
Or, that was what I had decided anyway, but then all of the bakes in Season One Episode 10 were so good, I decided to make almost all of them. I know, I know. I’m all over the place these days. It’s anarchy up in here.
But at least it’s chaos with pastry.
Anyway, on to the croissants.
I’ve always loved croissants, but I’ve never made them myself, much in the same way I love hand-knit sweaters, but I’ve never tried to make one of those either, because that looks hard and time-consuming, plus you can just buy them instead.
And it turns out, making croissants did take forever, but it wasn’t particularly hard.
What I’ve noticed going through this baking challenge is that, by and large, I much prefer making breads or pastry rather than cakes or desserts. Because, for the most part, the cakes or desserts on this show have about a million steps and as many ingredients.
With the breads and pastries, there are usually fewer steps (and ingredients) and though the process itself may take forever, most of your time is just spent doing a little something then abandoning the dough while it rises or chills. From there, it’s just a matter of killing time between small bursts of activity. And I’m pretty good at that.
At this point, I usually tell you which recipe I’m using. But, this time, I’m not going to do that because I had some issues with this recipe – in that some of it appeared to have mistakes and I don’t want to throw the cookbook under the bus.
So yeah, if you want a croissant recipe that’s more fool-proof, I recommend checking out Nancy’s recipe for Raspberry and Almond Croissants from this episode of GBBS. That woman can bake. I should have used that recipe too, but I didn’t. You live and you learn ya’ll.
For instance, I learned that I like making croissants, but I don’t like doing it with this recipe. Because this recipe got confusing right from the start. Like I said, there were very few ingredients listed in the recipe: just all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, one (1/4 oz.) package dried yeast, 18 tablespoons butter, 1 large egg and milk. But here’s the thing – the recipe’s instructions never told me to add the milk, it told me to add water instead. So I had to make a choice. I made an executive decision to add water instead of milk (in the same amount the recipe specified for milk).
This was likely the wrong decision as almost all of the other croissant recipes I saw called for milk. But I didn’t look at those recipes at the time, I just forged ahead with my water over milk choice. It seemed like the best idea at the time.
How was I supposed to know? This blog is called “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes” not “Always a Master Baker Who Does Everything Perfectly” which would be a totally braggy, jerkface name for a blog anyway.
Though I had some issues with the recipe’s instructions, I was very happy about its ingredients, because I had all of them on hand – including way more than 18 the tablespoons of butter needed for the recipe. (Sidenote: ever since I started doing this baking challenge, I’ve been stockpiling butter like nobody’s business.)
Anyway, to make the croissant dough, I combined flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Then using a knife, I mixed in enough warm water (that probably should have been warm milk) a little bit at a time until it formed a soft dough. Then I popped that soft dough back into the bowl and covered it with plastic wrap lightly-coated with cooking spray. From there, it was chill time, so I put the dough in the fridge for an hour.
Then after that, I rolled out the dough to a rectangle that was 10 by 17 inches, and it was time to add the butter. So much butter.
I got those 18 tablespoons of butter and smashed em up with a rolling pin until it was one cohesive butter block that was about a half inch thick. Then I put that butter into the middle of that dough rectangle and folded it up like a little butter package, folding the right third of the dough to the center and the folding the left third of the dough on top of that.
Then I chilled the dough again for an hour. When I took it out, I rolled it out again, this time to a lager 24 by 14 inch rectangle, which I again folded into a little dough bundle and chilled for another hour.
From this point on, there’s a lot of dough rolling, folding and chilling (including an overnight chill) but that’s pretty boring to talk about, so instead I’m going to skip ahead to when I brought the dough out of the fridge after its overnight chill.
At this point, I ran into a bit more confusion with the recipe, which called for me to roll my dough out into a larger rectangle, cut that rectangle in half and then cut each half into squares which I would then cut into triangles.
Now, I’m not going to say I’m a pro at math – because I’m not. But I do know that a square needs to have equal sides, so when the recipe told me to cut the dough into 1 by 5 inch squares, I was like seriously confused, because isn’t that a rectangle?
This was me:
It was so confusing, so instead I made the executive decision to ignore their recipe’s measurement instructions and instead just make squares that had, you know, equal sides. Guys, I literally just looked up a square to make sure I wasn’t the one messing up. Somewhere along the line, a geometry teacher seriously failed me, because I was only like 89 percent sure I was right. But then again, I’ve also never been great at percentages.
Anyway, back to the bake that had way too much math in it. From there, I took my dough triangles and rolled the long end toward me and curved the ends of it to give it a crescent shape – you know, like crescent rolls. Then I set them on parchment-lined baking sheets, covered them with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and let them rise again. There’s a lot of rising and chilling in this. Croissants are lazy apparently, just resting and chilling all damn day.
Once the croissants were successfully risen – they were supposed to double in size – I brushed them with one lightly-beaten egg and baked them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then I reduced the oven’s temperature to 375 degrees and baked them for another 10 minutes because the recipe said to bake them for another five to ten minutes and I always go for the higher number. I like my foods well baked, just to be safe, because:
Anyway… when I took the croissants out of the oven they looked a lot like croissants and they tasted a lot like croissants too. Though, in retrospect, they did taste sort of like something was missing and with the benefit of hindsight, I now know that something was milk. The milk was the missing thing.
FYI, It was not my fault, for once. It was totally the recipe’s fault.
The missing milk aside, the croissants were pretty good. After all, it’s hard for something to be bad if it has that much butter in it. Though they weren’t as flaky as I would have liked them to be or as nicely shaped.
Next time, I’ll try a different recipe and see if I can’t improve on my croissant-game, because this is one bake I definitely want to try again and again – until I get better at it and my croissants get better too.
Full disclosure, I’m not good at being bad at things. For most of my life, if I tried something, and it didn’t come naturally, if it didn’t come easily, I would simply never do that thing again. That’s something I’m trying to work on – hence this blog. Because it may have taken me 30-some years to figure it out, but I realized that failing things, being bad at things, is good for you. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.
And if right now you’re thinking, “Uh duh, everyone knows that,” well, good for you, pal. You obviously are more well-adjusted than me, though frankly, it’s rude to say “Uh duh” to people so it seems like you have room for improvement too.
So let’s grow, improve and learn together, ideally while we’re eating pastries.
Until next time, I’m wishing you better days and buttercream. –Ash