This Grain Gathering (GG) 2016 workshop aimed to demystify the technique and formulation involved in creating whole-grain pastries that showcase the grain and stand out on their own.
It was taught jointly by Jeff Yankellow (who was a member of Bread Bakers Guild Team USA 2005, which won a gold medal at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie,) and Jonathan Bethony (who until recently was baker-in-residence at The Bread Lab).
In his intro to the class, Jeff said that while bread was headed in the right direction, the same couldn’t be said of pastry. In fact pastry had become a competition of looks. Bakers were achieving great looks with poor techniques: to get beautiful croissants, they had taken water out. The dough had become too dry and people had started to assume that croissants and brioches were made from low-hydration, stiff doughs.
But hydration is not a competition. It is based on how the dough feels. What made bread better was adding water. Why not do the same with croissants and sweet dough?
Also of paramount importance is the quality of the grain the baker uses. Jeff uses hard red spring wheat that is milled silky fine. The flour should still have its integrity and be able to stick together when squeezed. It is used unsifted.
Coarse flour makes bread or pastry very dense.
The technique and ingredients are simple. Baking is a personal journey. What’s your definition of what’s good? Being a baker is learning to fail. It can be frustrating because you don’t get a second chance right away but ultimately failing is your best learning tool.
The whole-grain croissant dough is 97% hydration.
Note: Butter for roll-in: 250 g (25% based on dough weight)
- Mix ingredients until incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 4 hours
- Mix flour and water 1 to 2 minutes to incorporate. Use warm water to compensate for cold milk.
- Autolyse 30 minutes.
- Add remaining dough ingredients. Mix at low speed to bring the dough together, 2-3 minutes.
- Ferment for 2 hours at room temp. Place in fridge for up to 12 hours.
- Fold dough at 1, 2, and 3 hours. The last fold is completed after the dough has been refrigerated for one hour.
- Roll out the dough three times as long as it is wide and complete a single fold, with no butter, to build strength.
- Let rest 60-90 minutes, covered, in refrigerator.
- Prepare butter block to 55-60% (cool but plastic, not creamy). It should be half the size of the dough block.
- Cut off the edges of the dough and put them in the middle.
- Lock in the butter.
- Laminate with two single (envelope) folds.
- Let the dough rest in the refrigerator, covered, for 30-45 minutes, keep the butter cold but plastic. Do not allow the butter to get cold or harden.
- Roll dough out to desired size.
- Cut as needed and shape for croissants.
- Proof for 90-120 minutes at room temperature. Egg wash.
- Bake at 375°F with steam in a convection oven or at 400°F in a static oven, about 15-18 minutes.
- Time and temperature will vary depending on oven and size of croissant.
- Why an autolyse? The idea of course is to hydrate the flour. The fiber absorbs a ton of water and it needs time to soak it up. Remember, you are not trying to make a white croissant. You want to taste the grain and you want the croissant to be flaky and light. The autolyse does part of the work for you. Consider the dough before and after the autolyse in these two pictures:
- Jeff advises adding a bit of diastatic malt, for color and also because the formula calls for only 9% sugar (although you can go as high as 11-12% sugar.)
- As for the levain, it brings out the flavor of the grain and gives a bit of acidity overnight. Any levain will do.
- By short levain, one means a high percentage of starter fermented for a short amount of time.
- Every fold must be a good strong fold.
- Retarding is really important for whole-grain (more flavor). Even for cookies and scones.
Whole-grain sweet dough
Eggs included, the whole-grain sweet dough formula calls for 95% hydration.
- You need 500 g of dough per loaf.
- Jeff uses the same flour as for the croissants.
- The autolyse should be at least 20-30 minutes.
- Very gentle mixing. We let the fermentation do the work.
- You don’t have to make a milk levain. You can use water
Mix ingredients until incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 4 hours.
DDT = 73-76°F
- Mix the flour, milk and eggs to incorporate.
- Autolyse for 30 minutes.
- Add the levain, sugar, salt, and yeast. Mix by hand or in first speed until dough comes together and shows signs of strength, 3-4 minutes.
- Let rest 15 minutes.
- Add soft butter and mix by hand or in first speed until dough comes back together, 3-4 minutes.
- Roll dough into tight ball. Place in bowl and cover.
- Let rest 60 minutes at room temperature. Stretch and fold the dough.
- Again let rest 60 minutes at room temperature. Stretch and fold the dough.
- Place the dough in the refrigerator.
- After 60 minutes in the refrigerator, stretch and fold the dough a third time. Return to the refrigerator for 12-18 hours.
This whole-grain dough is versatile and lends itself to many savory or sweet interpretations. Jeff and Jonathan provided two formulas, one for babka, the other for povetica (both available upon request in jpeg format). But my favorites were the two lovely breakfast pastries they made with this dough. I sure wouldn’t mind waking up to such virtuously sinful deliciousness.