Our senses play an important role in baking and cooking. Taste is obviously a factor, but in order for a baked good, like a croissant, for example, to be classified as such, it needs to also be a croissant in appearance, a croissant in weight and texture, and a croissant in scent. This past week, I attempted to bake croissants from scratch for the first time (hence the example). It was a long process, that the recipe described as, “not difficult, so long as you use the right techniques.” Still, techniques aside, I found it to be difficult indeed and much more challenging than a simple drop cookie recipe. After two days and many techniques later, I had to “freeze the dough overnight” one more time. The next day, I was supposed to roll out the dough flat until it was 44″ in length. I couldn’t understand how the instructions didn’t even mention to thaw the dough first, so I allowed it to thaw, then rolled it out, and when it was still too frozen, I allowed it to thaw some more. By the time it was pliable enough, the dough was very moist, not like the pictures in the recipe displayed. It was also sticking to the counter top, and I was forced to use a spatula to lift it up, even though the recipe warned against any compressive force on the dough. I reviewed a YouTube video to see their techniques in action to try and figure out where I had gone wrong. Why was my dough moist and hard to work with but theirs was dry, cool, and easy to roll? Then, my mistake dawned on me. I double checked my recipe, and sure enough, I had misread one crucial instruction. It didn’t say freeze the dough overnight, it said refrigerate the dough. Merde! The reason croissants are light, fluffy, and plump is because the butter in the dough is cold before going into the oven, then it pops when baked, creating the air pockets that you see after you bit into a fresh croissant. Because my dough went from being frozen to completed thawed, the butter melted inside the dough and seeped out, which explains the sticky, wet texture. So, instead of getting croissants that looked like this:
I got ones that looked like this:
No flaky layers whatsoever.
I called my boyfriend over to be my moral support during this mishap. He still enjoyed the ham and cheese ones that I made for him, even if they were heavy and compressed and not crescent shaped. The next morning, I noticed a croissant was missing from my batch. I texted my pop asking if he had tried one for breakfast before heading to work. He just responded with all the reasons why it was NOT a croissant ending with “try again” — his way of saying, I believe in you.
The taste of my “croissant-inspired pastries” were still pretty delectable regardless. I mean, how can it not be with all of the butter that had melted into the sweet dough? I brought some of my butter pastries to my friends who were at work, explaining, “These were meant to be croissants, but I messed up the recipe, so now they’re just pastries.” My one friend tried to argue, “No, no! I can see it! It looks like a croissant!” It was like when I was five years old and I’d show my mom one of my paintings that was supposed to be a sailboat but really looked like a party hat, yet she would still take my word for it. Then, it got me thinking, So long as the taste of the croissant is in tact, who’s going to argue with you on what to call it? I guess my heavy croissants could just be my interpretation of the classic.