About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Croissant 101
When the weather gets really hot, what cooking chores do you undertake? Something easy huh, like churn some icecream, now that would be a good idea. Prepare a salad for a light dinner, mmm, not bad. Anything really that is simple to do. So it was with some trepidation that I set off for my daughter P's house to make croissants on a day when the mercury hit 37 c (98.6 f). She had been asking for ages for me to help; there was that one false start when she put the yeast dough in a tight fitting plastic bag to rest in the fridge overnight and it had simply oozed out everywhere and another attempt went awry when without scales to weigh out the flour, P produced something apparently akin to glue. But on this day, the planets had aligned and her yeast dough was safely in a large bowl in the fridge.

It was not that she didn't have a recipe to follow, for I had faxed her a very good, detailed one from the Roux brothers excellent Patisserie book. But for all the time I have lived on this planet, I have not made croissants simply because the urge wasn't there. But P did have the urge and as a foodie I understood completely, empathetically.

As I drove over, the sun appeared as the orange, glowing end of a lit cigarette, through a haze of tarry, acrid smoke that a giant set of lungs had expelled, turning what should have been blue skies a dull grey. The smell of burning Australian bush was pervasive, a smell that can never be forgotten, containing as it does not only the scent of burnt eucalyptus, but a sense of fear and dread for what is to come. The smoke that had been blown down by the hot, northerly wind was so dense that fire alarms were going off in the city.

Not a good day for pastry making.

I heard Rick Stein say once that life was too short to make puff pastry and I suppose it is, if you have access to a quality product, but where I am no such quality exists. Sure, if I'm making homemade sausage rolls for a party, the supermarket puff is what I use, but for something special like a Beef Wellington, it has to be homemade. Really, it's not all that hard to do, but there is a lot of waiting for the butter to reharden in the fridge so it doesn't break through the layers of pastry. And croissants are simply puff pastry with the addition of yeast.

We set to, rolling out the yeast dough into that four ear shape, so that we could place the butter in the centre and fold each 'ear' back over the butter to fully enclose it, then embarked on rolling and turning and resting (chilling) that builds up the buttery layers giving that characteristic flakiness. It went well for a couple of turns too. Then the heat factor kicked in and butter started leaking through the pastry. More flour and extended resting helped a bit, but P ran out of time and went off to her singing lesson, leaving me to it.

Don't you hate it when you don't read a recipe properly?

Because I have made puff pastry before, I sort of missed the part where you need to rest the rolled up croissants for two hours prior to baking so that they double in size. So when I had finished the rolling and turning, rolled the pastry to the correct thinness, cut the triangle shape, carefully rolled each one up and gave them a distinctive crescent shape, I realized that I wouldn't be able to hang around and taste my first ever batch of croissants. Bloody hell!

So I have to tell you what my kids told me. They were damn good. The three of them said they were just like from the shop, only the shape was a little wonky.

I can live with that.
  posted at 7:54 am

At 9:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing like a good flaky croissant with butter and rasberry jam. Yum! Now you have me wanting one :)

At 10:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god! You're a brave man, to make pastry in that kind of weather! I'm glad to hear they turned out well...maybe next time you can make them at home so you can benefit from all the hard work ;)

At 5:10 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi amelita, that is exactly what I would put on....cup of good coffee, great breakfast.

Hi ellie, my daughter had been asking for ages, so when we made the date there was no choice but to go ahead.

At 8:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonky shape is A-OK.
I only did croissants once and I thought they were excellent. I'm not sure that my son and his 6 friends (14 y/o) had a lot of appreciation for them.
I can't imagine really pulling croissants off in those temps.

At 9:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok so now I am craving home made croissants, I never even contemplated making my own before. Only problem is I cant see when next I will have a whole day spare to make them - good work!

Maybe if I'm going crazy waiting for my baby girl to come along this will be a good way to kill some time

At 4:46 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, I think that this might be my only attempt. It is much more civilized to go to the bakery for them, after all the poor baker gets up so early just to make them for me!

Hi ange, it's a two part process, you need to start the day before to make the dough which doesn't take long. If unlike me, you knew what you were doing, maybe two hours the next day, plus two hours rising time. Doesn't the baker sound like the better option?

At 12:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now our next mission is to make fresh ravioli with our own mixture!! I have a ravioli cutter too!!
-P :)

At 4:12 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi darling, whenever you're ready! But this time I want some to take home, okay?

At 12:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems you did a great job on the croissant. Funny story too!
I love the header Ximena made for you, isn't she the best!

At 12:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers to you, Neil! And that's a great story. Glad to hear from a fellow survivor of the Croissants Wars!


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