Croissants. Oh, that light and airy, crescent-shaped pastry with a crisp exterior, flaky texture, and rich buttery flavor.
The aroma of freshly baked croissants is enough to make anyone's mouth water, it's no wonder that they are quickly becoming increasingly popular, not just in France but in Malaysia too.
So, how are these delicious pastries made?
Croissants are made using laminated dough - yeast leavened dough that is layered with butter, in multiple layers.
A laminated dough is made by rolling and folding butter or other fats, known as the beurrage, into the dough to create layers of flaky pastry.
There are three basic steps to a laminated dough that include:
- preparing the yeast leavened dough
- enclosing butter or other fat in it
- rolling and folding the dough multiple times
The process of folding and turning of the croissant dough with the butter block is important because it laminates the dough, forming alternating butter and dough layers.
When croissants are baked, the heat melts the butter layers and produces steam. This steam causes the layers of dough to separate and puff up, creating the many flaky layers that are the signature of good croissants.
From the folding of the dough to the melting of the butter, each step is essential to creating this delicious pastry.
WHY DO THE FOLDS MATTER?
The unique characteristics of croissants, such as their rich buttery aroma, crispy crust, fluffy crumbs, and honeycomb-shaped cross section, are all created by folding the butter-filled dough into layers.
It is the folds during the lamination process that impacts the final texture and structure of croissants.
There are several methods used by bakers to produce different structures and textures.
Amongst the most commonly used methods are the 3x3 and 4x3 folding method. Both these methods will produce different structures and will determine either a more or less airy texture in the end product.
Did you know that the number of folds will also not only affect its appearance and structure, but the aroma and texture is also very much determined by the number of layers in a croissant dough? Read on to find out more below.
COMPARING 3x3 vs 4x3 FOLDING METHOD
Using the exact same dough, we will compare two folding methods to explore how the number of folds affect the final product.
To start, we used the French lock-in method to enclose the butter in the dough.
We then rolled out the dough, and divided the dough into two to try out the 3x3 and 4x3 folding method.
For the 3x3 folding method, we did two single folds. What’s a single fold you might ask? The dough is essentially folded in thirds. The left third is folded in and covers the middle third, and then the right third is folded over, covering that same section. We did this twice.
As for the 4x3 folding method, we did a double fold first, followed by a single fold. In a double fold, we fold a smaller portion approximately 1/6 of the dough from the left inwards. The right edge of the dough is then also folded inward to meet the other folded edge. The dough is then folded in half down the middle as if closing a book. This creates more layers.
Essentially, the 3x3 method has lesser folds = lesser layers and the 4x3 method with more folds = more layers.
THE EFFECT OF THE NUMBER OF FOLDS
Now let's compare the dough before baking and how the croissants look after baking.
LAYER STRUCTURE: The 3x3 croissant on the left with fewer folds reveals layers that are more distinct and defined. It is also apparent that before and after baking, the 4x3 with more folds, had more layers, but the layers were a lot thinner and more compressed.
FLAVOUR: As the 3x3 has thicker butter layers, this translated to richer buttery flavour too. We found that the 3x3 was more a lot more buttery than the 4x3, and aroma was simply out of the world especially when eaten fresh. The 4x3 croissant on the other hand, required some rest time, to enjoy the buttery aroma.
Now let's look at the TEXTURE and structure from the cross-section comparison. The 3x3 croissant on the left with fewer folds has a gorgeous open texture with more clearly defined layers. It is also apparent that the 3x3 croissant is puffier and airier.
With lesser folds, the butter layers have enough moisture to create the steam that helps make the dough layers separate and puff. Hence why the 3x3 croissant can have a more beautiful, honeycomb-like open crumb structure.
With the 4x3 dough, the dough was stretched finer that it resists the puffing motion hence why it is slightly denser as the layers are more compressed. This may most likely be the main factor as to why the 4x3 was also more bready in texture.
As you can see above, the 3x3 croissant has more defined layers whereas the 4x3 croissant has many, fine layers, creating a tighter structure, and thus a tighter spiral. As the butter is compressed into thinner layers however, the 4x3 croissant has a crispier texture.
In terms of the VOLUME, it is apparent in the comparison above that the 4x3 croissant with more folds and more layers, had much bigger volume.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CROISSANT?
To some, a crispier, more flaky croissant is the ideal. Others prefer a croissant that is light and airy, yet rich in buttery flavor. Ultimately, the perfect croissant is a matter of personal preference.
LESS FOLDS OR MORE FOLDS?
What we have learnt is that there are a few factors that can affect the texture and flavor of a croissant. Using high quality ingredients definitely plays a role, but the number of folds in the dough also determines the number of layers in the croissant, which ultimately affects the texture and flavor.
So, how many turns does it take to make a good croissant? There is no right or wrong answer as everyone's taste buds are different. This is very subjective depending on the baker and what they wish to achieve.
Regardless of the folding method, we cannot deny that freshly baked croissants are *chef's kiss* such an indulgence!
WHAT FLOUR TO USE FOR CROISSANT?
For croissant dough, we will need to use a strong flour to create volume, structure and flavour. Strong flour gives the croissant a more robust structure and greater stability during proofing and baking.
Minoterie Bourseau takes pride in producing their products with 100% flour. Yes, this means there are no additives, no improvers, and no other ingredients added. This T45 Farine De Mon Pere flour that we used for the croissants is no different.
With the right skills, paired with proper fermentation and rest, this T45 flour yields amazing pastries. If you would like to find out more about this additives-free T45 flour, feel free to CONTACT US for more info!