Duchess Bake Shop - Book Review (Part 2 - Pastry)

Well, I would like to think that Giselle Courteau, the author and owner of The Duchess Bake Shop and I are now best friends though we have never met. Why? Because I am falling in love with her book and her recipes!


As you'll have seen in Part 1 of my review for The Duchess Bake Shop - French-Inspired Recipes from our Bakery to Your Home, I was already very satisfied with this recipe book after trying only 2 recipes which were both cookies. Taking on pastry though was going to be a whole other ballgame.


I have made croissants before. I actually started off the 2020 pandemic by challenging myself to master croissants. Many recipes and YouTube videos later, I thought I had pretty much got it down. Although my lamination could still use some work - but I was blaming this issue on ingredients and not technique (and I think I was right). All that to say, I was excited to try out The Duchess' version of croissants because after reading the recipe, I could see there were some pointers and tips that I thought would lead to better results.


In Part 1 of my review for this book, I noted how the more complex recipes in this book include much more detail and step-by-step tutorials (in images) (see example below) to make sure your recipe is successful. With something like croissant dough, I think this is crucial! If you are trying to learn how to make this dough without visuals, you are likely going to fail. Stay away from any book that doesn't provide this level of information.


Selecting the right butter....


I appreciated that Giselle went into detail about the appropriate butter to use for this recipe. Although I was aware that choosing the right butter could make a huge difference, I didn't know exactly what I was searching for. Giselle mentions how you want butter that has at least 82% fat content. In Canada, the fat content isn't usually declared on butter labelling, but I am sensing this will change as more and more people are searching out those higher quality ingredients for at home baking. I was fortunate enough to find that my local grocery store carries Lactancia European Style butter ("extra creamy") which actually states 82% fat on the label - SUCCESS! I have also used President's butter in the past as, seeing how it is imported straight from France, I figure the high fat content was a given.

I will fully admit that I have used "no name" butter in previous croissant attempts - especially at the beginning when I was only trying out the lamination process for the first time. Although '"no name" butter did work, you can tell the results weren't the same. In the lamination process, I could tell that the butter wasn't holding in one smooth "sheet" within my dough. Uneven butter distribution means you don't get those nice layers in your croissants because essentially, those layers occur thanks to the butter melting and releasing it's water content as the dough bakes.


A quick note on yeast...


All professional bakers will swear by fresh yeast. And I completely get it. But I have not had the balls to walk into a local bakery and ask them to sell me a chunk of their fresh yeast (why, I do not know). So instead, I continue to work with dry yeast. This will require that the yeast quantity be adapted to fit your selection. Luckily, Giselle does comment on this indicating you can use half the weight of dry yeast as a replacement for the weight of fresh yeast and ensuring you let it bloom in whatever liquid will be used in the recipes. FINALLY! A straightforward conversion of fresh yeast to dry yeast! P.S. It worked just fine for me and I got a great rise.


So on to the croissants!


I prepared this dough on Saturday morning and let is rise during the afternoon. Later that evening I was ready to add-in the butter slab and start the lamination. The process was exactly like that I had followed in the past with the exception that they only did 1 x book-fold and 1 x letter fold. I didn't do any additional folds but I think next time I would do one additional letter fold at the end to get those additional layers.


N.B. 3 folds would be in-line with the technique from "Autour du Petrin" who has a great croissant tutorial on YouTube: How to make croissants at home


After leaving the rolled croissants in the fridge overnight, I got up early on Sunday to take them out and let them proof before baking. I have had trouble with this step in the past as I always worry that my house is too cold to get a good proofing temperature, but if I try to use any heat at all they always over-proof. Luckily, Giselle had a great recommendation: fill a large baking pan with hot water from the tap, as hot as it will go, and put that in your oven, just below your proofing croissants. Close the door and leave them in there for 1.5 - 2 hours. I had every intention of waking up after 2 hours to put these bad boys in the oven. Sadly, I was also depending on my little dog to wake me up for her walk, thus ensuring I would be up on time - of all the mornings! this did not happen. So the croissants proofed for about 2.5 hours (maybe a little more) before they went into the oven. They were very soft and I was convinced a little over-proofed (to be honest they probably were). But they looked great so after a quick egg wash into the oven they went. TA-DA!




I was beyond pleased with these croissants. The dough was oh-so flaky and buttery. The house smelled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They were the perfect treat for a Sunday morning breakfast. Add a little raspberry jam and I was in heaven.

Conclusions...


This croissant recipe helped me elevate my croissant-game and for that I am extremely grateful. I don't think I will continue searching out other croissant recipes or tweaking this one (other than the extra fold during lamination) as I think it is just right. I will make sure to proof correctly next time which should mean 100% PERFECT croissants. I also appreciate that this recipe is well adapted to Canadian ingredients so unless we move to a different country, this is my go to!


If you have questions about how to make croissants or have additional suggestions, comments or thoughts please share. And don't be intimidated by croissants! All you need is a little patience and you'll have these beautiful delicacies baking in your oven before you know it. Happy baking!

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