baking in bulk

baking 300 cupcakes & lessons learned while doing so

May 20, 2017

This has been an extremely busy week for me, as I was baking 300 cupcakes for a luncheon my coworker coordinates. Have you ever started a project and then wondered to yourself, hmm....am I in over my head right now? That is definitely how I felt at some points this week. It was the biggest baking project I've worked on by myself. Kyle is usually my second in command when I bake for large groups of people. He washes the dishes and runs to the store for forgotten items and does whatever I ask him to - aka he is a really supportive boyfriend. He was sick this week so he was supporting me from the couch instead of backing me up in the kitchen this time. 

Every time I take on another big baking project like this, I learn a little bit more. I learn about planning ahead and strategizing and juggling and how many cupcakes can fit in my freezer (the answer is about 200). I learn a little more each time, but I also come up with new questions to puzzle over.. which just inspires me to want to learn more. It's an endless cycle, really. I'm going to write about a few of the lessons I learned, but I'd like to say that I would love to get input from anyone reading this. Share your own stories about cupcakes or other baking lessons learned in the comments to spread the knowledge around.

chocolate cupcake/chocolate ganache/peanut butter frosting
Lesson #1 - How to keep the cupcake wrapper from peeling away while cooling
This is probably one of the most frustrating things that can happen when making cupcakes, in my opinion. You make a perfect recipe, they rise beautifully, you take them out of the oven...and the wrappers peel away while cooling, rendering them useless. I guess useless is a pretty strong word- if I were baking for fun I would definitely still use those imperfect cupcakes. But when I'm getting paid for the cupcakes, I don't feel comfortable presenting a subpar product. SO, the goal is to keep the cupcakes all in one piece. Here are a few tips to do so:

1. Use good quality cupcake wrappers. Personally, I prefer the foil wrappers. They look good with pretty much any color combination, they keep their shape well while baking, and they peel away easier when you are eating the cupcake. They may be slightly more expensive than the classic white, yellow and light pink paper wrappers sold at virtually any grocery store, but they are worth their weight in gold.

2. Use a recipe with less fat. The more oil or butter in your recipe, the more greasy the batter will be. This will make it slippery and less likely to 'grab' the wrapper and stick to it- thus making it more likely to pull away once they are out of the oven. Additionally, when creaming or mixing the fat and the sugar, do it for a longer period of time with the butter as close to room temperature as possible. When all of your ingredients start at the same temperature, they will mix together more thoroughly to create one cohesive mixture. This causes the grease to be better absorbed by the sugar, making the batter less greasy.

3. Make sure to put enough batter in the wrappers. I hate a cupcakes that spills over the sides of the wrapper as much as the next person, but an underfilled cupcake wrapper is another culprit of peeling. A good rule of thumb is to fill the wrappers approximately two-thirds full. The more cupcakes you make, the more comfortable you will be with how full to fill the wrappers. Additionally, I've found that different recipes behave very differently in terms of how much they rise in the oven. You kind of just need to know your recipes, your pans, and your oven. One common recommendation is to use an ice cream scoop so that you put an equal amount of batter in each wrapper. That will also promote even baking. I haven't actually tried this because I don't own an ice cream scoop (yikes!), but it's on my list of things to try!

funfetti batter
4. Bake the cupcakes long enough. I have a serious fear of overbaking. Dry cakes are my nightmare. However, underbaked cupcakes will ultimately cause shrinkage once they come out of the oven, which again leads to peeling. It's a fine line to walk, and my advice again is just to know your recipe and your oven. You can test the cupcakes to see if they are fully baked by lightly pressing the top (this also goes for normal cakes). The cupcake (or cake) shouldn't stick to your finger and it should spring back right away when you press on the top.

5. Take the cupcakes out of the pan RIGHT AWAY. This one is interesting to me, because I also see people advising to completely cool the cupcakes in the pan. However, if you leave them in-pan to cool, they will start to sweat while cooling and absorb the extra moisture, which leads to peeling. I try to take them out within two minutes of them coming out of the oven - basically as soon as I can without burning my fingers off.

funfetti, chocolate, and vanilla cupcakes
Lesson #2 - How to successfully freeze cupcakes (and still keep the wrapper from peeling away)
This was the first time I have ever made cupcakes ahead of time and froze them. When I've baked for large groups previously, I've had more time during the days prior to the event and have been able to do all the baking right before. That was not an option for me this week, so I spent a lot of time reading up on freezing cupcakes. Basically, there are three schools of thoughts when it comes to this: never freezing cupcakes, freezing plain cupcakes, or freezing completely filled and frosted cupcakes. I wasn't quite bold enough to try the frosting/filling/freezing option so I stuck with freezing the cupcakes plain. I was most worried about the cupcakes drying out in the freezer and/or the wrappers pulling away from cupcakes during the thawing process.

Since I was only freezing the cupcakes for about five days, I didn't bother to individually wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap before putting them in a ziploc bag, which was recommended by some sites I consulted. If I were freezing them for a longer period of time, I would probably do this in order to keep them from getting freezer burn or picking up weird smells in the freezer. When I put them in the ziploc bags, I tried to get as much air out of the bag as possible before closing it and then just stacked the bags on top of each other in the freezer. As soon as I pulled the bags from the freezer, I took each cupcakes out of the bag and set them out on the counter to thaw. Some people recommend leaving the cupcakes thawing in a sealed or airtight container, but this would cause moisture to be trapped in the bag and on the cupcakes, again leading to the wrappers peeling away. 

I froze about 250 cupcakes and was mostly pleased with the thawed cupcakes. I did have a few cupcakes (approximately nine) where the wrapper peeled away. I wasn't really sure if it was due to the thawing process or something during the baking process. One interesting solution I read was to use a bit of frosting to 'glue' the wrapper back to the side of the cupcake and then carry on with filling and frosting. I don't think this would work if the wrapper was completely peeling off, but it could be a lifesaver if just a small part was peeling away. I didn't try it because I had made some extra cupcakes which I just used instead, but it's certainly an intriguing idea. 

This is what my freezer looks like with 200 cupcakes in it.
Lesson #3 - Planning ahead
Since I was at work during the hours of 8-5 every day and the cupcakes needed be delivered at 7:30am on Friday, I had to do a lot of planning ahead to make sure that three things happened: 1) the cupcakes would be ready on time, 2) they would be fresh and yummy, and 3) I would not be tired and grouchy at work on Friday. Here's the timeline that I used:

One week out:
Saturday - Ingredient shopping
Sunday - Bake & freeze as many cupcakes as possible
Monday - Bake/freeze the rest of the cupcakes
Tuesday - Make the fillings & refrigerate 
Wednesday - Make all of the frostings & refrigerate
Thursday - Fill & frost

chocolate cupcakes with raspberry curd filling
I made two different kinds of cupcakes, two different fillings, and three different frosting for a total of four different cupcake combinations. This definitely called for making the components ahead. As a general rule, frostings can last in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer for at least a month if not two. Fillings, depending on what is in them, can also be refrigerated for about a week. I've often made frosting ahead of time, and in my opinion, the most annoying part is bringing it back to room temperature. If you don't have the chance to pull it out a few hours ahead of time, you actually have to put it over a double boiler to warm it and then whip it for a few minutes. This is such an annoying additional step in my opinion. This time around, I learned an extremely helpful make-ahead tip while perusing various baking websites. 

After making a batch of frosting, you take a piece of saran wrap and plop some frosting down the middle of the saran wrap. You then roll up the frosting in the saran wrap and twist the sides, so that it resembles a very large tootsie roll. Keep doing this until you have several logs of frosting. Once you're done, you can throw your frosting tootsie rolls in a ziploc bag and put them in the fridge until you are ready to use them. The day you want to frost your cupcakes, pull the bag out the fridge maybe 20 minutes ahead of time. Take your decorating bag with the decorating tip of your choice and just slide the roll of frosting, saran wrap and all, into the bag and BOOM -  you are ready to go! This technique keeps your decorating bag nice and clean which makes it much easier to switch out tips or different colors/flavors of frosting. It's also extremely helpful when trying to pipe striped frosting. I tried this for the first time during this baking project and it was probably one of my most successful and least frustrating frosting experiences ever. If you are more of a visual person, there is an awesome photo tutorial of how to do this on of my favorite cake forum websites, Cake Central.  

chocolate cupcakes/raspberry curd/raspberry frosting
The final lesson that I wish to mention is simultaneously the most important and most difficult lesson to learn, not only when baking but in all things you do - accepting failure. Having a recipe come out differently than I expected or hoped is always really hard for me, and yet, it's bound to happen and to happen frequently. I love learning about baking science because it gives you the ability to control a recipe, but there's no way to control for everything going perfectly every time. You can put an oven thermometer in your oven, but you can't make the heating element work consistently every time. You can make a recipe exactly the same as you did the last time, but sometimes it might just bake up differently, and you won't know why. As a semi-perfectionist, I get so frustrated and angry every time I mess up a recipe. There have been so many experiences and recipes that left me in tears, or worse, silently simmering in anger and frustration, so mad at myself and the situation that all I can do is stand there and glare at the ruined cake in front of me. Kyle knows this well because he is often the one who is standing next to me, patting my back and telling me it will be okay, we will figure it out. 

It's very difficult for me to look through the frustration to find a solution- I default to blinking back tears of anger and wanting to throw something. But I'm working on it. Every time I bake something new or complicated I have to accept that the results may not come out how I wish, but ultimately, I will find a solution and finish the job. By anticipating and expecting something to go wrong, I can mentally prepare. It's like why every financial advisor will tell you to have an easily accessible emergency fund. It's not if you'll need to use it, it's when. Planning ahead for failure is my emotional emergency fund. That way, when something goes wrong, I can check it off the list (a big mess-up that makes you frustrated, check!) and move on to the next item on the list - finding the solution.

I'm not trying to be sappy or deep here, but to address something that is part of every baking experience. I don't want my blog to be a highlight reel of my successes. I want it to be an honest commentary on baking where you can learn some practical knowledge along the way. This baking project had the usual ups and downs, and I may or may not have laid down on the couch and watched five hours straight of New Girl the evening after finishing and delivering the cupcakes. But, the moral of the story is that I got it done, and that I learned something along the way. Hopefully you did as well- thanks for reading.

funfetti cupcakes/vanilla frosting


baking science

croissants, part two (science + recipe)

May 04, 2017

It's time to talk about the why. I think there is nothing more fascinating than understanding why you do something that you do. I've always heard people say they prefer cooking over baking because when cooking you can alter the recipe as you choose and just go where the spirit takes you. While this is true, if you have the proper knowledge and understanding backing up your alterations, you can apply this same technique to baking with excellent results. Since baking is so scientific, you can control very specifically for the results you want. I think that is so cool. 

Before we get much further into this recipe and/or this blog, I should probably tell you an important fact about myself. I am NOT trying to post quick, easy, 30-min-or-less recipes on this blog. I personally do not search out those recipes, and I am not going to start in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Though I don't want to post easy recipes, I do want to make it easier for readers to understand how to follow the more difficult recipes. I want to share the tips I wish I knew before trying the recipe. I want others to feel the same joy I feel during and after a particularly formidable recipe, the satisfaction of looking at an exquisite piece of food and thinking to yourself "I made that." Though these recipes may not be harried weeknight favorites, they will be delicious, and most definitely will be Instagram-worthy. So there's always that.

I think the best way to discuss croissant-making is to just break down the recipe. I'm going to post the recipe in its entirety at the bottom, but first I'm going to pull snippets and discuss them. Please don't bake off this discussion part because I'm not going to discuss every single step, just the ones that bear discussing.

Please don't get freaked out by how long the recipe is. Take a few minutes to read straight through the thing, from start to finish (which is really what I would recommend doing anytime you bake anything.. I like to read the recipe and visualize myself taking each step), and you'll see that the reason it is so long is because it's quite repetitive. Basically, if you know how to laminate dough, you're golden. And if you don't, you're about to become an expert! Also, heads up, this is a two day recipe. The dough has to rest in the fridge overnight before the final shaping. Please plan ahead.


Laminating the dough, which basically means rolling it out and folding it and rolling it out and folding it many, many times to create layers of alternating dough and butter (YUM), is the defining technique of croissants. Without the lamination of the dough, your end product would not be a croissant - though it may resemble a kipferl. Each time you roll out and fold the dough, it's called a turn. Most modern croissant recipes call for three or four turns, which create 27 or 81 layers respectively. However, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child calls for 6 turns of the croissant dough aka 729 layers in total. HOLY SHEET. 

If you are a perfectionist or you aspire to be like Julia (don't we all?) or for some reason you just want to laminate your dough 6 times...don't. What?! Well, here's the deal. Unless you're making giant croissants (like, for example, the amazing croissants at Dan the Baker in Columbus, OH), laminating the dough so many times for a smaller croissant will likely result in a less open crumb. And more importantly for the newer croissant bakers out there, more layers = more opportunities to accidentally tear the dough and cause ***leaky butter***. And no one likes leaky butter. Especially when it completely messes up what would have been perfectly lovely layers of croissants. So for now, lets just stick with a still impressive 27-81 layers of dough and butter.

Alright, with that said, let's dig into the recipe! I'm not going to explain EVERY step, just the more confusing ones. If you don't want/need this tutorial please feel free to skip down to the recipe! Here goes:

Ingredients:
4 1/4 cups (21 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour ( King Arthur Flour is recommended)
12 oz (24 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold
4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast 

Obviously, flour, butter, and yeast are not the only ingredients. Most of the ingredients are quite straightforward, but these three are more specific and I wanted to explain why. The reason that King Arthur flour (KAF) is specified over other flour brands is because of its protein content. As you may or may not know, the variation in protein content is the main distinguisher between cake flour, all-purpose (AP) flour, bread flour, and high-gluten flour. I'm definitely going to do a post on this later because it is fascinating, but for now, suffice it to say, KAF's AP flour has a higher protein content than most AP flours (it's 11.7 percent if you were curious) which is perfect for croissants. It's strong enough to support the many layers but not too strong that you'll break your arms trying to roll it out. 

The other specified ingredient, European-style butter, is also very important in order to get those distinct layers that we so crave and admire in a croissant. Though European-style is definitely a splurge, it's worth it. European-style butter (I often purchase the Kerrygold brand because that's the only unsalted European-style butter I can find at my local grocery. It must, I repeat, MUST be unsalted.) differs from American-style butter in the fat to water ratio. For butter to be considered butter in the US, by law it must be at least 80 percent butterfat. For European-style, it must be at least 82 percent (some go up to about 86 percent, average is 83 percent). You don't think two percent is worth the extra $3? Flip it around and look at the water content. That's 20 percent vs. 14-18 percent water, a 10-30 percent difference in the total amount of water in the butter. As you may know from pie-dough-making-struggles, too much water = tough pastry. The extra water acts as a binding agent in the dough, which stops the layers from rising as well or becoming as distinct as you may like. More butterfat also means it will remain solid longer in the oven, again leading to more layers in your croissant.

Lastly, the yeast. Please, please, please use instant/rapid-rise yeast (they're basically the same thing). It is SO MUCH EASIER than active dry yeast. This is a topic that I cover in great (probably way too much) detail in a two part series on yeast (part one here and part two here). I don't think anyone should be using active dry anymore. If my generous use of the word 'please' isn't convincing you, consider this: subbing one for the other does not occur at a simple 1:1 ratio so you will A) have to know the ratio or risk messing up your beautiful croissants, and B) have to do MATH to sub in active dry. There- did that sway you?!


2. Whisk in yeast and transfer milk mixture to bowl of a stand mixer. 
3.  Add the flour, sugar, and salt  to the bowl with milk mixture. Using dough hook, knead on low speed until a cohesive dough forms, which should take about 2 to 3 minutes. 
4. Increase mixer speed to medium-low and knead for 1 more minute. 

If you don't own a Kitchenaid or some kind of stand mixer, you're not alone. I spent years baking all sorts of things (including a wedding cake for 200 people) with just a hand mixer and sheer determination. Luckily, making this recipe by hand is a snap. As my grandma always says: "people who knead their own bread and hang their own laundry are more emotionally healthy." Even if you do have a stand mixer, maybe you should knead out some of your stress with this dough. Just go ahead and knead it by hand until it feels smooth and satiny. If that's not specific enough for you, I'd say to knead it for about 7-10 minutes.

BUTTER BLOCK
1. While the dough chills, fold a 24-inch length of parchment paper in half to make a 12-inch rectangle. Fold over the 3 open sides of the rectangle to form an 8-inch square with enclosed sides. Crease folds firmly. Set aside.

I'm going to be honest, the butter block directions seem a little confusing at first. Some recipes take a simpler approach by mixing the dough together, cutting in large chunks of butter, and quickly blitzing it so that the dough is still dotted with large pieces of butter. They will then proceed straight to laminating. While this approach definitely addresses the butter part of the butter block, it does not translate to the same lovely layers in your finished product. Other recipes are not as precise with the measurements of the butter block. However, I find this technique to be quite simple once you actually start doing it, and perfect for matching up the dough/butter ratio correctly. I mean, if you're going to the trouble of spending hours making these things, might as well be precise about it, right?

2. Place 24 tablespoons (12 oz) very cold butter directly on counter and beat with rolling pin for about 60 seconds (or so) until butter is just pliable but not warm. You can then fold butter on itself using a bench scraper and form it roughly into a 6 inch square.

Beating the butter is actually very fun! You literally just set out the butter and start whacking it with the rolling pin. (Would not recommend doing this late at night if you share a wall with your neighbors- it's quite loud.) The whole point is to make the butter pliable enough so that you can get it into an 8x8 square and incorporate it into your dough without it melting from being too hot OR cracking from being too cold.

3. Unfold parchment envelope you set aside earlier. Using bench scraper, transfer butter to center of the parchment paper, refolding at creases to enclose. 
4. Turn packet over, with flaps underneath, and using a rolling pin on top of the parchment paper, gently roll until butter fills the parchment square. Make sure you have an even thickness. 

Rolling the butter evenly into every corner of the parchment paper is oddly satisfying. Just trust me.. and let me know if you disagree after you've tried it.

(Don't forget, I'm not covering every step here - just the interesting/confusing ones)


LAMINATE: 
1. After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 2 hours (the original recipe calls for putting the dough in the freezer for 30 min as well, which I would say is optional), transfer dough to lightly floured counter and roll into 17 x 8-inch rectangle with the long side parallel to edge of counter. 

Use a ruler. No, I'm not kidding. Of course you don't have to, but I've found it very helpful, especially since at this point you are trying to perfectly match up the butter block to the dough. I have a special "baking ruler" which is just a 99c ruler I only use for baking and keep in the kitchen. I've also found the ruler helpful for knocking the sides of the dough so that your sides are straighter and edges are not rounded.


2. Unwrap butter packet and place the butter in center of dough. 
3. Fold both sides of dough over butter so they meet in center. Press seam together with fingertips. 
4. With rolling pin, press firmly on each open end of the dough and butter packet (top and bottom) to seal edges. 

Thanks to your RULER, the sides should match up perfectly over the dough! You then want to make sure to seal the edges (by pressing with the rolling pin) so the butter doesn't seep out during the next part. If the butter begins to seep out and get all over the sides of the dough, this will inhibit the rise and distinction of your layers.

5. Roll out lengthwise into a 24 x 8-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds like a business letter, so you get an 8-inch square. 

You are now beginning your first turn. As I mentioned earlier, a 'turn' is a term used when laminating dough (which is what you are doing now). To complete a turn you will roll out the dough to the prescribed length and width (24 x 8 in this recipe) and then fold it in thirds. That's all there is to it - that's a turn. Easy peasy. This recipe calls for three turns. Again, I use a ruler for this- literally roll the dough out to be 24x8 and then all you have to is measure 8 inches in and it will be folded in perfect thirds. While you may choose not to use a ruler, you should still do your darndest to make sure it's folded in even thirds. If you don't, some parts of your dough will not have as many layers as other parts do and the butter will not be as evenly distributed. When you fold the sides of the dough in, letter-style, make sure to brush off any extra flour as you go. We floured the countertop earlier so that the dough wouldn't stick to it, but we want to incorporate as little extra flour as possible into the dough itself - extra flour sitting on top of the dough will mess up those layers!

6. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise. Roll the dough out lengthwise again into 24 x 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds, again like a business letter. 

Now you are going to do your second turn. Exactly the same as what we just did. Now there are 9 layers of dough and butter...mmm! You should expect the dough to be more difficult to roll out with each turn because the strands of gluten within the dough are connecting with each other and becoming stronger as you work with the dough. Just count it as your daily strength training. And you are almost done for the day- you're just going to put the dough in the freezer for a quick 30 minutes because at this point it is probably getting dangerously close to room temperature after those two turns. The last thing we want is a room temp dough, because that means the butter in it is room temp, and that means it's getting ready to melt into the dough and become a cohesive buttery dough, instead of alternating layers of butter and dough. If at any point during this part of the recipe you become concerned your dough is getting too warm, throw it in the fridge or freezer for 20-30 minutes.

After your dough has chilled in the freezer, you'll do your last turn- just repeat exactly what you did in the above steps.

Starting below, we are on day 2 of this recipe:

2. Generously dust half of the dough with flour. Fold upper half of dough over lower floured half. 
3. Using ruler, mark dough at 3-inch intervals along bottom edge with bench scraper (you should have 5 marks). 
4. Move ruler to top edge of dough, measure in 1 1/2 inches from left, then use this mark to measure out 3-inch intervals (you should have 6 marks). 

Alright. This is the part of the recipe where it gets extremely wordy describing a process that won't take more than five minutes. I thought about making it more concise but I find the thorough explanation to be useful. Just read it over before you start and you'll find it's quite simple. Here I will again recommend a ruler.. that is if you want to have uniformly shaped croissants that bake up evenly rather than ending up with some overdone and some underdone. If you don't have a bench scraper to mark the dough with (I highly recommend purchasing one, they are about $5 and useful in many recipes), just use a small knife or pizza wheel. Try to work quickly so the dough stays as cold as possible - you'll thank me in step 6.
I filled these particular croissants with prosciutto and gruyere. Mmm.
5. Starting at lower left corner, use sharp pizza wheel, bench scraper, or knife to cut dough from mark to mark. You will have 12 triangles and 5 diamonds. Either discard scraps or place scraps next to each other in a small tart pan to rise.
6. Unfold diamonds and cut in half to make 10 triangles (you will have 22 equal-size triangles in total).

I never discard my scraps- I prefer to save them and do whatever I want with with them, such as pressing them into a small tart pan, layering with fillings of choice, and topping with more scraps (and baking up into a deliciously ugly blob). Of course you are welcome to discard them, but it hurts me to think about that expensive European butter and hours of hard work and love being tossed in the trash.

When you get to step 6, hopefully you don't have difficulty unfolding the diamonds as I did the first time I made these. If you've been working quickly and you floured the dough well before folding, it should still be cool enough to be fairly differentiated and will separate easily. If not, just work carefully and repeat "I can do this I can do this I can do this" over and over in your head. Or put the dough in the fridge (cover loosely with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes and then try again.


8. Cut 1/2-inch slit in center of short side of triangle. Grasp triangle by 2 corners on either side of slit and stretch gently, then stretch bottom point, again gently. Brush any extra flour off the dough.
9. Place triangle on counter so point is facing you. Fold down both sides of slit. Roll top of triangle partway toward point. Gently grasp point with 1 hand and stretch again. Resume rolling, tucking point underneath. 
10. Curve ends gently toward each other to create crescent. Repeat with remaining triangles.

For step 8, you want a cut a small slit at the base of the triangle so that you can fold out from your slit and roll up the croissant in that fashion. This serves to elongate the croissant so that it can take the shape of a classic croissant, with the edges slightly tucked in. If you are more of a visual person, this video is only one minute long and illustrates exactly what I am trying to say. The person in the video places a small piece of dough at the base of the croissant before rolling up - I am not sure why. So you don't need to do that part. However, it is a great visual of where/how you would put fillings such as chocolate or cheese (hopefully cheese) if you were choosing to make filled croissants.


14. In small bowl, whisk together egg, water, and a pinch of salt.
15. Brush croissants with egg wash. Place croissants in hot oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees F. 

To be honest, I often forget about the egg wash when making pastries. In some recipes it makes a big difference in browning, but there is so much butter in this recipe that the croissants have no trouble browning up nicely without any egg wash. However, the egg wash does give the finished product that particular shininess that one associates with the top of pastries, so if that is particularly important to you, by all means, do not forget the egg wash!

16.  Bake for 10 minutes, then switch and rotate baking sheets if making 12 croissants. If making only 9 you don't have to worry about rotating pans. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Watch carefully so they do not burn.

The first few times I made croissants, I struggled not to burn them. I found that they browned within 10 or so minutes but was never quite sure if I should pull them out of the oven because I was concerned they weren't baked all the way through. To this day, I don't think I've ever kept croissants in the oven for more than 15 minutes or 20 at the most. If your croissants are browning too quickly, try covering them loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking.

And that's pretty much all there is to it for croissants! There is a note at the end of the recipe about freezing some of them prior to proofing and baking, which I usually do because, as much as I'd like to, I can't eat 22 croissants in two days. Sadly, I've always felt like there is a pretty fair difference in quality between the croissants baked immediately and those that are frozen, thawed, proofed, and baked. If you have success with the frozen ones, please share your secrets with me!


The recipe I outlined above and am sharing below is actually the first croissant recipe I ever made. It's adapted from a recipe created by America's Test Kitchen. I really appreciate how clearly they spell out the directions and really walk you through the recipe. Though I enjoy experimenting with croissant recipes from some of my other most trusted baking websites (Serious Eats, The Kitchn, King Arthur Flour), this is the one I always come back to - it feels familiar, comfortable. Hopefully it can be that for you as well.

Basic Croissants
Makes 22 (freeze some for later!) (or eat all 22 in the same afternoon!)
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Dough:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups whole milk 
4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast 
4 1/4 cups (21 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour ( King Arthur is recommended)
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

Butter Block:
12 oz (24 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold

Egg Wash:
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon cold water
pinch of salt

Directions:

DOUGH:
1. Over low heat, melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Remove pan from heat and immediately stir in milk (the temperature should be lower than 90 degrees F ). 
2. Whisk in yeast and transfer milk mixture to bowl of a stand mixer. 
3. Add the flour, sugar, and salt  to the bowl with milk mixture. Using dough hook, knead on low speed until a cohesive dough forms, which should take about 2 to 3 minutes. 
4. Increase mixer speed to medium-low and knead for 1 more minute. 
5. Remove bowl from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. 
6. Let dough rest at room temperature 30 minutes.
7. Transfer dough to parchment paper–lined baking sheet
8. Pat the dough (using your fingertips) into 10 x 7-inch rectangle about 1 inch thick.
9. Wrap dough tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

BUTTER BLOCK: 
1. While the dough chills, fold a 24-inch length of parchment paper in half to make a 12-inch rectangle. Fold over the 3 open sides of the rectangle to form an 8-inch square with enclosed sides. Crease folds firmly. Set aside.
2. Place 24 tablespoons (12 oz) very cold butter directly on counter and beat with rolling pin for about 60 seconds (or so) until butter is just pliable but not warm. You can then fold butter on itself using a bench scraper and form it roughly into a 6 inch square.
3. Unfold parchment envelope you set aside earlier. Using bench scraper, transfer butter to center of the parchment paper, refolding at creases to enclose. 
4. Turn packet over, with flaps underneath, and using a rolling pin on top of the parchment paper, gently roll until butter fills the parchment square. Make sure you have an even thickness. 
5. Refrigerate butter packet at least 45 minutes.

LAMINATE: 
1. After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 2 hours (the original recipe calls for putting the dough in the freezer for 30 min as well, which I would say is optional), transfer dough to lightly floured counter and roll into 17 x 8-inch rectangle with the long side parallel to edge of counter. 
2. Unwrap butter packet and place the butter in center of dough. 
3. Fold both sides of dough over butter so they meet in center. Press seam together with fingertips. 
4. With rolling pin, press firmly on each open end of the dough and butter packet (top and bottom) to seal edges. 
5. Roll out lengthwise into a 24 x 8-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds like a business letter, so you get an 8-inch square. 
6. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise. Roll the dough out lengthwise again into 24 x 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds, again like a business letter. 
7. Place dough on a parchment paper (or cookie sheet), and wrap it tightly with plastic. 
8. Place dough in freezer for 30 minutes. 
9. After 30 minutes, transfer dough from freezer to a lightly floured counter, so that top flap opens on right. 
10. Roll out dough lengthwise into 24 x 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds. 
11. Place dough on sheet, wrap tightly with plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours, preferably overnight.

30 minutes before you are ready to begin shaping, throw the dough in the freezer. This will keep the dough from reaching room temperature as quickly during the shaping process.

SHAPE: 
1. After 30 minutes in the freezer, remove and transfer dough to a lightly floured counter. Roll into 18 x 16-inch rectangle with long side of rectangle parallel to edge of counter. Go all around the rectangle and cut off just the very edges.
2. Generously dust half of the dough with flour. Fold upper half of dough over lower floured half. 
3. Using ruler, mark dough at 3-inch intervals along bottom edge with bench scraper (you should have 5 marks). 
4. Move ruler to top edge of dough, measure in 1 1/2 inches from left, then use this mark to measure out 3-inch intervals (you should have 6 marks). 
5. Starting at lower left corner, use sharp pizza wheel, bench scraper, or knife to cut dough from mark to mark. You will have 12 triangles and 5 diamonds. Either discard scraps or place scraps next to each other in a small tart pan to rise.
6. Unfold diamonds and cut in half to make 10 triangles (you will have 22 equal-size triangles in total).
7. Position 1 triangle on counter. (Keep remaining triangles covered with plastic.) 
8. Cut 1/2-inch slit in center of short side of triangle. Grasp triangle by 2 corners on either side of slit and stretch gently, then stretch bottom point, again gently. Brush any extra flour off the dough.
9. Place triangle on counter so point is facing you. Fold down both sides of slit. Roll top of triangle partway toward point. Gently grasp point with 1 hand and stretch again. Resume rolling, tucking point underneath. 
10. Curve ends gently toward each other to create a crescent shape. Repeat with remaining triangles.
11. Place 9 shaped croissants on a parchment lined sheet (or 12 croissants on 2 parchment-lined sheets) at least 2 1/2 inches apart.
12. Lightly wrap with plastic. Let stand at room temperature (70 degrees F is ideal) until nearly doubled in size, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
The rest of the shaped croissants can be refrigerated for up to 18 hours. Remove from refrigerator to rise and add at least 30 minutes to rising time. You can also freeze the rest of the shaped croissants (see make ahead note at the end of the recipe).
13. After croissants have been rising for about 2 1/2 hours (or until croissants have almost doubled), preheat oven to 400 and adjust oven rack to be in the middle if making only 9 croissants and using 1 sheet. If making 12 croissants and using 2 sheets, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
14. In small bowl, whisk together egg, water, and a pinch of salt.
15. Brush croissants with egg wash. Place croissants in hot oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees F. 
16.  Bake for 10 minutes, then switch and rotate baking sheets if making 12 croissants. If making only 9 you don't have to worry about rotating pans. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Watch carefully so they do not burn.
17. Transfer croissants to wire rack and cool about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

TO MAKE AHEAD: see step 12 above. 
1. Directly after shaping, place the croissants you wish to freeze on parchment-lined sheet 1 inch apart. 
2. Wrap with plastic and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. 
3. Transfer to zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 2 months. 
4. Bake frozen croissants as directed from step 11, increasing rising time by to 2 hours, or as needed to double in size.



**Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. I am in no way affiliated with any of the baking websites mentioned in this post. 

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