Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Croissant: Illusatory Magic
by McGonagirl & Hagrid

While attending a Hogwart's physics and chemistry demonstration -- normally, there are guest scientists of some note -- Hermione Granger realized there was something different about Joaquim Bullshot. For one thing, he was a chef, not a scientist. For another, not only was his name rather incongruous -- a combination of Spanish and English -- but he spoke with a thick French accent which was rather difficult to understand. Sometimes the only way you know he told a joke is he would start to laugh as he was talking, which was the students' signal to laugh, too. He was also a tyrant in the pastry kitchen, insisting that one cannot simply replace real time with magic -- the result simply didn't taste the same! But anyone who had tasted his confections would ever disagree that the efforts were well worth the long time and technique needed to prduce them. Though he was very strict in his use of old-fashioned technique, his pastries were magical and VERY highly regarded.

The secret truth actually went beyond being a stickler for old-fashioned methods. Chef Bullshot was a squib -- a child born of magic parents who had no magic abilities of his own. But he discovered in chemistry and pastrymaking that he'd be more than justified in not using time-saving magic spells, and he'd even be applauded for his efforts! As for his accent -- it was a fake. He deliberately spoke that way so that he could avoid having to clearly answer anyone about why he didn't use magic. The Two Fat Saxon Witches, who ran the Culinary Institute of Witchery and Cookery and where young Jack Cowsill attended, advised him to not only put on the accent, but to choose a flamboyant name, the better to create a mystique and to market himself!

What's more, he was famous in the Muggle world as well as in the Wizard realm -- a rare sample of a person who co-existed in both worlds. After the demonstration, Hermione studied him carefully, for she intended to reside in both universes as well. And in her research, she discovered the truth about Bullshot's origins, but she didn't blow the whistle on him. After all, she was the inverse of Bullshot's situation, where she was the only magic person born into a Muggle family, and she had a lot to learn from Chef Bullshot!

But in the meantime, Hermione and her friends sat with rapt attention at this so-called "science demo," following the pastry chef's hands as he magically manipulated common, cheap ingredients into something full of air, flavor, texture and beauty. Then he showed them how he used this one dough to make a variety of traditional French pastries -- called viennoiseries -- croissants, danishes, etc. He made it look so easy and made science look like so much fun, but they suspected that like Joaquim Bullshot, what you see is often merely a well-crafted illusion.

Croissant dough is not terribly difficult to make, but it takes a lot of time: knowing when to stop, when to refrigerate, recognizing problems as you go ... if you screw up, toss it out and start over. The ingredients are generally cheap ... it's all the waiting ... and waiting ... and proper handling. Read the recipe through completely before starting! It's broken down here in parts, and illustrated, too! This batch of dough makes a dozen large croissant, and can be used for making the other French-style pastries.

    Tips from Joaquim Bullshot:

  • The "leavan" is created and proofed in advance of the main dough, for flavor and used like a starter. Alternatively, you can save scraps from other batches of croissant or other bread, and add that to the main dough instead. Save the scraps in the freezer, very well-wrapped, till you need it and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before you need it. You do not use the whole batch as "leavan," or else it would create too many bubbles and too many odiferous flavor molecules. (Biology, Chemistry!)

  • You can also freeze the dough at any point, well-wrapped. When removing prepared dough from the freezer, don't leave it too long -- it will condense moisture and become sticky if you let it sit out and thaw for too long and thus need more flour to dry it out, which in turn will make the dough gluten-heavy and too stretchy. (Physics!)

  • Why use weights? Volume is very inexact -- depending on heat, humidity, milling, etc., the quantity of ingredient that can be packed into a cup varies from day to day, even hour to hour! So to make fine pastries, which are dependent on chemistry and physics, exact measures are required. Grams are smaller than ounces, thus tend to be more exact. Use weights whenever you can -- it will improve your baking! (Math, Chemistry, Physics!)

  • Croissant take about 24 hours to make, from start to finish. It seems long, but each step doesn't take a long time. There is no substitution for time -- that's how the flavor molecules and the protein strands develop properly, the slower the better. These molecules do not form instantly; there is always a "rate of reaction." Likewise, once a croissant is made, it will "age" as it cools and sits. This means the molecules of starch will start to crystallize, or go rigid, and create the sensation of "staleness." If you reheat the croissant, you can "melt" these crystals and restore some level of "freshness," but it's never the same as a fresh croisssant. That is why in France, shops will sell out of bread during the day -- they do not make so many that they have to sell stale croissant! (Chemistry!)

  • Croissant as made outside of France tend to be big, puffy things with little substance. They should be flakey, though light when you pick them up. In other words, they should be dense enough, not too low in density, and each flakey layer should have substance to it, not just collapse. (Chemistry, Physics, Math!)

Mix with paddle to make a dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap to proof 30 to 120 minutes. Can store overnight in refrigerator, if desired.

  • 200 g water (plus levan and any starter scraps)
  • 250 g milk
  • 30 g yeast
  • 900 g bread flour
  • 28 g salt
  • 130 g sugar
  • 15 g dead cell yeast or dough relaxer
  • 80 g butter, melted
Mix the water, milk, flour, salt, sugar, dead cell yeast together in a large bowl very well, use a stand mixer if you have one. With the dough hook installed and running, add the melted butter, and beat for another 5 minutes, or till the dough forms a clump that pulls away from the walls of the bowl. Make into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and let rise till doubled. If desired, roll out onto half-sheet pan and cover, then refrigerate. When taking out of the refrigerator or freezer, don't let it sit too long.

  • 1½ lb butter, cold (82% butterfat content)
Beat down the cold block of butter on a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper into a flat, squarish slab. Roll out the dough so it's 1/3 longer than the butter slab. Place the butter on the dough, then fold it up like a business letter, in thirds -- bring up the flap of dough over half the butter, then fold the other third over that. Roll out again and do a double turn. If the dough is still cool and not stretchy or has holes, do a final single turn. Cover in plastic and refrigerate overnight to ferment slowly.

Roll out the dough to about 3/16" depth. Cut into strips about 6 inches wide and as long as the dough. From there, cut into isosceles triangles approximately 30 OR 60g weight each. The batch should make about a dozen croissants in the bigger size, two dozen in the smaller. Save the scraps toward the leavan for the next batch -- wrap and plastic very well and store in the freezer.

Cut a notch in the center of the base of the triangle, about an inch deep. Pull on the dough in the corner directions to give a nice shape. Tuck down the notched corners and roll tightly, stretching the tail as you go to make many layers. Tuck the two "arms" in front of the croissant -- in the direction of the roll. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, about 2 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof till doubled in size.

Some words on proofing -- this happens best at high humidity and a temperature between 80°F to 90°F / 62°C to 72°C. A "proofing box" is an expensive piece of equipment which regulates humidity to about 90% (hot summer day) as well as controlling temperature. To proof at home, most cooks just cover their dough and let it sit in a draft-free, warm place. However, you will be waiting a long, long time for croissant if you do this. To jerry-rigg a proofing box, you can turn the light on (do not turn the oven on itself!) in your oven and put a heavy pan or cast-iron skillet on the floor of the oven and fill it with boiling water. Put the croissants on their baking trays in the oven to proof. Others have rigged a lightbulb in a styrofoam or metal box ... think "incubating chicks to help them hatch" -- that sort of temperature. You will want to put a reliable thermometer in there to make sure you don't exceed the upper range of temperature, or the butter will melt out and you won't get the flaky puffiness that croissant is so famous for.

Beat the egg and yolks together very well. Add milk in small bits till the texture has thinned out enough to paint the croissants. Brush with eggwash -- do this gently and lightly, using a sort of sideways dabbing/stroking motion. Do not deflate the pastries. For a brighter shine, let the first coat dry, then brush again. Repeat a third time if desired.

Heat oven to 450°F / 250°C. Place the racks of croissant in the oven, the lower the temperature to 380°F / 195°C. Bake till deeply browned and crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes, but watch them carefully. If you eat the croissant "hot out of the oven" it will always be damp and doughy in the middle. Let it sit for a few minutes to dry out. Once "just warm" to the touch, they can be covered in plastic wrap and frozen immediately.

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