Tribute a Julia Child – Croissants! Part I. Basic Dough

When I started watching Julia Child’s shows and reading her books, the first thing I really wanted to make was croissants…not boeuf bourgignon, not souffles, croissants! Finally I had the time (and believe you me, you need a LOT of it!) so off I went! I think I will separate this recipe into a few different entries, just to make things slightly less complex. I had my laptop next to me with the Croissant episode of the French Chef alongside me the whole time and was constantly making notes in my Mastering the Art of French Cooking book. How cool to have two forms of Julia by my side during the whole process!

Read on for photos and the first phase (and first two rises) of the croissants…

I. Basic Dough

2 1/4 tsp dry-active yeast

3 tbsp warm water (around 100 – 105F)

1 tsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour (measure exactly…Julia Child uses a mixture of cake flour and all-purpose unbleached flour. It would probably be even better)

2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 tbsp tasteless oil (2 tbsp using Julia’s special mix)

2/3 cup tepid milk (warm to the finger)

  • Mix the yeast in warm water with the sugar and salt. The yeast needs to prove itself (foam up) over the next 10 – 15 minutes so leave it be while you mix the flour part.
  • Dissolve the additional sugar and salt in the tepid milk.
  • Measure out flour into a mixing bowl (about 3 – 4 quarts). Add oil and tepid milk mixture.
  • Once the yeast has foamed up quite a bit, add to the flour mixture.
  • Blend all ingredients with a rubber spatula. Turn out onto a kneading surface (like my awesome marble board!). Let rest for a few minutes while you wash your bowl (do it. You’ll need it to put the dough in while it rises).

  • Start kneading by lifting the dough with a pastry scraper. Pick up the dough and throw it down on the board (awesome for aggression!!). At this point, you’re activating the gluten.
  • Once it is no longer sticking too much to your hand, push it sharply a few times with the heal of your hand.

  • DO NOT OVER KNEAD! When it is just sticking to your hands, place in the clean mixing bowl and cover in plastic wrap. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl.
  • The dough now needs 1 1/2 hours to rest in a 75F environment. It should more than triple in size.

  • (The best way to measure this is to fill the mixing bowl with 7 cups of water and mark where that line is. The dough should reach this line before you turn it out again).

  • Once it has reached the 7 cup mark on your bowl, punch the dough down, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn it out onto the marble board which should be lightly floured.
  • Gently push the dough out with the heals of your hands into a rectangle about 8″ x 20″.
  • Fold in three like a business letter. Place back in the bowl (cover again with plastic and a kitchen towel) and let rise again for another 1 1/2 hours until it again reaches the 7 cup mark.
  • Stay tuned for the next entry for the rest of this long process!
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