Quarantine Baking, Episode 1: Croissants

Captain’s log: Day 26 in Government Appointed Self-Captivity  

As the COVID-19 quarantine continues, I find myself desperately clinging on to whatever sanity I had in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, this time in lockdown has definitely been beneficial to me, my house, and those poor unfortunate souls who have to live with me and my various neuroses. So far I’ve occupied my time and faculties with little projects that have been patiently awaiting my attention since, like, the dawn of time. Therefore, having successfully cleaned out my kitchen cupboards, rearranged my closets, scrubbed the floors, painted the home office, washed the dog, finished my BA thesis AND driven my fiancé completely ‘crackers’ with various cleaning subtasks, I decided to occupy some of this excess time and energy by submerging myself in a long lost hobby: baking! 

Baking is something I love to do, and used to do quite a bit of. Until I had to stop, because I was becoming a little bit of a “chunky monkey”, if you know what I mean. However, if this really is the apocalypse, I figure a few extra pounds around my tush are the least of my worries. Therefore, digging out my copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2”, I came across a recipe that I have been dodging for years: the recipe for croissants.

Now, who doesn’t love a fresh croissant, eh? Hot from the oven with their flaky, buttery, sinful goodness. Slightly salty, yet slightly sweet, croissants can accommodate an array of different toppings, sweet and savoury alike. However, now that I’ve actually made croissants myself, I must say that the experience has left me scarred – possibly for life – and unable to look at a freshly baked croissant with the same amount of lust I used to. So without further ado, let me share my experience and offer a few friendly tips to those of you crazy enough to attempt this fool’s errand.

Now, before you decide to make croissants, there's one thing you need to remember: do not make croissants! I’m kidding of course, but this day has been an immense pain in my rectum and all because of a little puff pastry. What began as an innocent – if hormonally mediated – craving, evolved into an epic fail in the kitchen. That being said, I did manage to produce tasty pastry, even though my croissants looked something like what one could only presume to be the tentacles of a deep sea monster.


Tip 1. Read and Follow the Bloody Recipe! 

This tip is the most important one, however obvious it may seem. Knowing my way around a kitchen, I tend to just skim through recipes, which simply will not suffice when making croissants. If you do not already know the technique to DIY puff–pastry, please, do yourself a massive favour and do some research. I took one look at the recipe and said “sod it” after the first sentence. Because I have no patience. And I now have three more grey hairs. 


Tip 2. “Enveloping”

After you mix all of the ingredients together – in complete and unfaltering accordance with the recipe – the dough needs to be rested for a mo’, and then rolled out into a thick slab. And here comes the tricky part: incorporate the butter (yes, the whole block of it!) by enveloping it with the dough, like an envelope. Then you roll it out, fold it in on itself again, turn it, and roll it out. Repeat this process three times, resting the dough for half an hour in between, and by all logic the butter should “seep” into the dough and you should have a perfectly level slab of ready to shape ’n’ bake puff pastry. True?


First off, my dough was like cement; so hard I could barely roll it. Then when I went to incorporate the butter, my teeny-tiny brain thought it clever to let the butter soften before the enveloping phase. Suffice to say, there was butter everywhere. On the cabinets, in my hair, on the dog – EVERYWHERE, except for in the actual dough itself. To say this little experiment went awry would be a most grievous understatement. 


Tip 3. Don’t panic and completely lose your sh*t

Which is exactly what I did. Well peeved, I decided to start the whole painstaking process again from scratch. Going back to the recipe, I realised that I needed to add some butter to the dough mixture itself, which would make it way more malleable. Although batch no. 2 came out softer than the first, when I went in to do the envelope trick – only this time with cold butter – the same bloody mess happened again! Naturally, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to have a complete meltdown and throw the greasy pile of crap against the wall.

In hindsight, it’s possible I might have overreacted a little...

Swearing off baking forever, I scraped my sorry pastry off of the kitchen wall, wrapped it in clingfilm and threw it in the refrigerator, pissed off, but unwilling to waste yet more ingredients. A moment later, sobbing into my pillow over my own inadequacy as a home baker – man, PMS can be such a b***h – it seems the pastry Gods heard my snotty prayers, because thirty minutes later when I resurfaced from my misery to go and scowl at my pastry in disgust, to my surprise, it had morphed into a soft, luscious blob. I continued with the recipe, and against all odds, came out with perfectly edible croissants. Albeit nine hours later.

This is the agony and ecstasy of cheffing; one minute you're on the roof, ready to jump, and the next you're on culinary cloud nine. I’ll admit that my croissants were dense, doughy and served up with a hint of despair, but I’ll forever be proud of my slightly deranged effort. And silver lining: at least this experience has taken my mind of the all impending doom. So maybe, for all of you going stir crazy in isolation, try making something you normally wouldn’t have the time or patience to make. You might fail, you might succeed, but you will defiantly not think about the corona virus!