Now I’ve moved to the UK, I’ve been hunting for croissants and I’ve noticed how hard it is to find a prefect example. I’m talking of the plain, butter croissant for breakfast, none of the fancy varieties stuffed with ham. Here is what I look out for:
Look in the window of the shop, usually one that specialises in pastry rather than bread. The smaller the size of the croissants, the better. Less is definitely more!
- Price: I usually pay is £2/$ 4.60 for a croissant, i.e. the middle market where croissants range from 95p to £3.
- Appearance: first impressions are very important, as follows:
- Colour: Is it tempting and golden? If pallid it will be soggy, if too dark and over baked it will be dry.
- Layering: can you see how the croissant has been constructed, a glimpse of the tale-tale layers which make up the structure of croissant is always reassuring.
- Shape: it is lop-sided in the structure/in the bake. Note that in France a straight rather than a crescent shape indicates the use of margarine (and a lower price).
- A good rise: if a croissant looks deflated, it has not been proved (i.e. left to rise) enough, or it has been over proved ? the latter problem is common in hot weather.
- Is the point well sealed and tucked under the rolled croissant before it is shaped as a crescent on the baking sheet? If not, the dough will unravel as it rises in the oven and the croissant will collapse.
Texture: this is that moment when you tear your croissant apart:
- Lightness: if sticky, the croissant is under baked.
- Aroma: when you break open the croissant can you smell the butter and heady, yeasty dough?
- Holes: big holes indicate dough that has risen too long before baking.
- Chewiness: a good baked croissant is chewy without being tough.
- Fluffiness: not a good sign, the dough was poorly kneaded.
- Flavor: should be buttery with only a whiff of yeast. Having the right, generous amount of butter is key. A true French croissant has a delicious taste which is hard to match outside France. The flour is different and so, above all, is the butter.
I hope this description has aids you all in this challenging search. All that is missing is a steaming café crème.