Or, as we called them at my house, Never-Ending Croissants. If instant gratification is your thing, then croissants are not for you. These were not difficult to make, but they took a loooooong time. Luckily, I am a patient woman. (Stop laughing, Kevin!)
The key to this recipe is planning and understanding that you can take a break at almost any time. Just stash the dough in freezer and come back to it later. The recipe can be divided into three phases: (1)mixing the dough, (2)incorporating the butter into the dough, and (3)shaping/proofing/baking the individual croissants. You can find the text of the recipe here. Thank you to Amanda at Girl + Food = Love. I encourage you to watch the video with Julia and Esther McManus. In her no-nonsense French way, Ms. McManus makes it clear that although this isn't easy, it is worth doing. Also, it takes practice to make the perfect pastry, so cut yourself some slack.
1. Mixing the dough was the easy part: dump all of the ingredients in a KA bowl and mix. (BTW, I substituted 1.5 Tablespoons of instant yeast for the fresh yeast. I also microwaved the milk just to take the chill off of it.) I used most of the reserved milk. My kitchen is very dry in the winter. Since my bowl was dirty anyway, I mixed the butter and the flour, too. Both the dough and the butter were wrapped in plastic and stashed in the fridge.
2. The next step required a rolling pin, flour and lots of patience. I also used my (ridiculously heavy) marble pastry slab. I envy those of you with shiny granite countertops. You roll out the dough, put the butter slab in it, and fold the dough over top. You roll that out and then make three turns. You have to refrigerate the dough between each turn, both because the dough must stay cold AND because it needs to relax. After too much rolling, the dough just snaps back. Again, I encourage you to watch the video. I thought the directions in the book were okay, but the video is so much better. After the third "wallet" fold, you wrap it up and refrigerate it again.
3. Finally, it's baking day! But wait, after you roll, cut, fill, shape and brush your croissants; then you have to wait for them to rise for three hours! So much for a morning treat, unless I want to get up at 5:00am on a Sunday morning. (Just for the record, no, I do not.) So we had them for dessert after lunch.
But finally, the payoff! They are the best croissants I've ever made, bar none. Don't be afraid to really brown these. The ones that I initially thought were too dark tasted much better than the blonder almond-filled ones. I only made half the batch. The other half of the finished dough is waiting for me in the freezer. I will definitely have to try the chocolate version. I might even order the little semisweet batons. King Arthur's website sells them. Aren't they cute? Ms. McManus put two batons in each pain au chocolat. But maybe three would work... Or four.
Look at those layers! According to what I've read, the steam from the water in the butter raises these things as much as the yeast. I guess all of that rolling and folding was worth it. What did you guys think? Did you have croissant success?