10 February 2018

Croissant-making with Bakerz@Work Academy

Back in October last year, I attended a Basic Croissant Workshop at Bakerz@Work Academy. I've always been curious about croissant making; heard that the process is very difficult and tedious. Since my family loves croissant especially the kiddo, I decided to go for the one-day hands-on workshop to experience the art of making hand-rolled croissants.

The workshop started at 10am and ended at 5pm with an hour lunch break. Class size was small with six students and the "classroom" is a comfortable commercial bakery kitchen. The Chef-Instructor was Chef Kel who is very friendly, patient and very willing to share his experience and tips about making croissants in home kitchen.

During the workshop, we learnt about dough composition and lamination techniques, yeast fermentation, gluten development and flavour formation. Chef Kel would go through each topic with theory, followed by demo and then we proceeded to hands-on with supervision and guidance.

Tadah, proudly presenting my first-ever hand-rolled or hand-laminated croissants! They were certainly a far cry from being perfect, but I was already very happy and satisfied with the results. I mean, I could actually make my own croissants now!

That was me, super excited to have finally reached the stage of proofing for my hand-laminated croissants.

Although it's a little daunting at first, trying the grasp the techniques of folding and rolling, but as we proceeded, we began to get the hang of it. It was helpful that we worked in a buddy system where we reminded each other the steps; and Chef Kel was around to render assistance whenever we were stuck and unsure.

Some might feel that all the work that took one whole day just for what? Eight Croissants? Is it worth it? To me, totally! It felt satisfying being able to churn out homemade artisan croissants using the best quality ingredients and serving them to family members. Freshly baked croissants made with love tasted extra yummy :)

Actually the whole day process can be separated into two or even three days so that it's not so tedious. With careful planning and time management, it's not difficult after all. Patience is the key to croissant making as a lot of time is spent waiting between the proofing, folds, rolling and especially if our home kitchen is hot without air-con, the dough has to be put back to the fridge/freezer more times as it turns soft very quickly.

Chef Kel also showed us the process of making Pain Au Chocolat using a laminate machine. Wow, using a machine makes the rolling job a breeze and the layers are more uniform and neat! See how nicely the layers of the Pain Au Chocolat turned out? Beautiful!

I'm afraid it would be almost impossible to achieve such uniform and distinct layers using hand-rolled method, but it's not possible to buy a commercial machine at home lah.

When making croissants, there will be leftover dough after cutting and shaping the croissants but they don't go to waste at all. We can either keep the dough as old dough for making sweet breads/buns, or add on to the next batch of croissants or make them into Monkey Bread, by cutting the dough into small pieces and toss them with sugar, chocolate chips, dried fruits, nuts, cheese etc. These were really yummy!

Here were the works of the six students who attend this workshop. Mine's forth from the left. All in a day's work.

All in all, I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone who wish to learn how to hand-roll croissants and make their own croissants at home. It's advisable to attend a hands-on workshop to learn the technique and get a feel of the entire process. I can confidently say that the recipe and techniques taught here is foolproof. And after practising croissant making a few times and familiar with the technique, it became easier and manageable, and being patient and meticulous is more crucial in ensuring success in croissant making.

Here's sharing my practices so far :)

Practice I

My first practice one week after the workshop. For this very first practice, I must say it was not easy at all since I was working in a hot kitchen without air-con, unlike the workshop where the classroom is fully air-conditioned. There were some frustrations as the dough got soft very quickly and had to go in and out of the fridge and freezer many more times than expected.

Nevertheless, managed to complete the croissant making. The croissants didn't turn out great but hey I was just happy to be able to try it at home. And must keep reminding myself PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE.

Practice II

A batch I thought cannot make it and wanted to give up halfway as I didn't thaw the butter properly and parts of it broke during lamination resulting in many butter patches. Proceeded half-heartedly anyway, and the croissants were poorly cut, shaped and rolled.

They still looked like croissants and tasted ok, but the crumbs look terrible. A reminder to self, every step in the croissant making is important.

Practice III

My third practice before my kitchen was closed for my relocation.

Took the time to ensure that each step was followed through meticulously and exercise more patience when it came to resting the dough in the freezer/fridge in between folds and rolls.

Was quite happy with the results, the crumbs turned out nicely, although the shaping and sizing still needed improvement.

Practice IV

My first practice after shifting to Thailand. Glad that I managed to find pastry butter and T45 flour for making croissants at a baking supplies shop in BKK.

A good chance for me to test my oven for baking croissants as well, as this oven at my rental house is an analog one instead of digital which I'm used to.

Tried my best to be patient and rest the dough well between the folds and rolls; the croissants didn't turn out as well as Practice III. Could probably proof 10-15 mins longer, but I was rushing to go out to pick up my kiddo from school ("rushing" is a no-no in croissant making! Could have placed the croissants in the fridge for low temperature proofing while I was out).

Although not totally satisfied, was happy that I could continue to practise on my croissant making here.

Practice V

My latest practice which was just last week; this batch I really took the time to rest the dough well in the freezer/fridge each time, and took extra care to roll properly.

Just when I thought it's going to be THE perfect batch, alas, life is not perfect.

Crumbs turned out beautiful I believe. But somehow all the shapes came out different, some lopsided and some plain ugly, only the shapes of one or two could make it.

Not sure what went wrong? Was it the weather which was really hot and humid and I over-proofed croissants, was it because I didn't rest the dough enough between the folds and rolls? I think during the final rolling, although I rolled the dough to about 3-4mm thickness, somehow after cutting, it became 5-6mm thick, resulting in bigger croissants. Probably due to the size, it affected the proofing?

Oh well, all I can say is, every croissant making is a new learning experience, and I shall continue to strive for the best possible homemade croissants!

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