Nestled down by the wharfs off Commercial Street, Standard Baking Co couldn’t be farther from standard. Open the door and you’re greeted by the warm smell of yeast and the soft undertones of baked sugar. A covered counter, piled high with French pain au chocolat, brioche bursting out of it’s cup, individual fruit tartlets with raw sugar crystals glistening on top; this is my happy place. Take your time checking out their impressive display of freshly baked pastries, pies, and breads. How do you pick just one? With their affordable prices, do you need to just pick one?
When I stopped in a few days ago, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the tiny details that went into creating their almond macaroons and delighted by the sight of their sticky, morning cinnamon buns. There was one baked good, however, that stood above all others for me. It is so delicious in its purest form that it does not need frosting, decorations, or accessories of any kind: the croissant. The French were inspired by the Austrian Kipferl, a plainer version of the croissant, and named it after its familiar crescent shape.
Feared and avoided by many bakers, it isn’t the ingredients or equipment necessary that makes homemade croissants difficult. One only needs to learn the correct technique and have a lot of time! All you need for the dough is an electric stand mixer and some flour, water, milk, sugar, butter, yeast, and salt. All things that most novice bakers will have at home. The dough is then refrigerated over night.
The next day, you need only to sandwich your cold butter between two sheets of parchment paper and beat it with a rolling pin into a 7.5 inch square. The dough then needs to be rolled out on a lightly floured surface into a 10.5 inch square. Then your slab of butter should be placed on top and wrapped in the dough in the style of an envelope. The next step is what tends to intimidate most bakers. If you’ve read anything about making croissants, you’re familiar with the phrase “laminating the dough.” For this step, you need to roll your dough and butter into an 8 by 24 inch rectangle which then gets folded into thirds and frozen for 20 minutes. It’s important to freeze the dough to insure that the butter stays firm. You do not want melted butter seeping out of your dough. You then repeat this process two more times, rotating the dough so that you are rolling in the direction of the two open ends. The dough (and maybe your arms) needs to rest after all of this so it gets another overnight refrigeration. Make sure that you are wrapping your dough securely in plastic wrap each time you put it in the fridge. You do not want your dough to dry out.
The following day, you start by rolling your rested dough into an 8 by 40 inch rectangle. Next, you cut the dough into 15 even triangles and roll them into their signature crescent shape. You get to take a break after you brush your croissants with egg wash and set them in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. You know your croissants are ready to be baked when you can see the layers in dough and they wiggle if you shake the pan. They will also be considerably larger, although not quite doubled. Make sure your oven is preheated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush on a second layer of egg wash and they are ready to go. Bake them first for 10 minutes, rotate the pans, and then bake them for another 8-10 minutes. A richly browned exterior means your croissants are done!
I tear a chunk off of the one I’ve just bought, checking to see if they’ve been able to achieve that desired flaky exterior and the soft web of dough on the inside – and they’ve done it.
Check out this link to watch Julia Child and Esther McManus make homemade croissants: