I’ve been plagued by a seriously nasty throat infection since last week, which has since developed into a terrible ongoing cough. It’s times like this where your body forces you to slow down, take rest and cherish the good moments. October has long passed now but I’ve yet to post up my final and most memorable Baketober post yet. So here we are. Finally!
I’m here today to recount my experience in making croissants from scratch! That’s right, the oh so frenchy and chic classic croissant.
So why croissants? Well, apart from simply wanting to create this French staple because it is pure gold, I wanted to try to conjure up the smell and memories of my time spent in France several years ago. Eating £1.40 croissants most days of the week from the university canteen (and even they were delicious), to savouring mouthfuls of freshly baked ones from the local bakery near where I was living at the time… croissants in its native country not only smelled divine, but they also impressed like no other.
And really, I can’t be the only one that has always been curious about how the layers of the croissant were made. Given I hadn’t dabbled in bread or pastry making up until now, this was a massive roller coaster ride in terms of baking and complexity. My recipe here has been adapted from that heavy book I ordered on Amazon and lugged back from San Francisco: Bouchon Bakery (it’s so comprehensive, very glad I did lug it back after all)!
Poolish prep time: 10 mins + 15 hours rest
Croissant dough & butter block prep time: 1/2 day
Baking time: 35-40 mins
Makes 2 sheets, with 10 small croissants per sheet
For the poolish:
- 100g plain flour
- A pinch of instant yeast
- 100g water (room temperature)
For the butter block:
- 330g quality unsalted butter (in one block)
For the croissant dough:
- 75g caster sugar
- 10g instant yeast
- 200g water (room temperature)
- 100g quality unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 15g salt
For the egg wash:
- 1 well beaten egg
Begin the night before with the poolish…
To begin, you first need to make and set the poolish (fermentation starter) the night before:
1. Combine flour and yeast in a medium bowl and mix together.
2. Pour in water and mix until combined, should be pancake batter-like.
3. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 hours.
The next day, you’ll notice that the mixture has firmed up, risen slightly and formed tiny specks of air bubbles on the surface. This means it is ready to be used.
The butter block…
Now you’re ready to prepare the butter block. Get ready for a whole lotta butter - what else would make croissants so delicately delicious?
1. Place some baking paper on the bench top and place the butter in the centre.
2. Top with a second piece of baking paper and start to pound the top of the butter from left to right using a rolling pin, in order to begin flattening the butter.
3. Continue to do this and with each roll, flip it over and turn it 90 degrees.
4. Repeat this flattening process until you have a flat piece of butter measuring 17 x 19 cm. Wrap this tightly in baking paper and keep in fridge.
Make the dough…
Now with the butter prepped, let’s begin the real doughy business:
1.. Combine flour, sugar and yeast into this bowl and mix together well. I began with a spatula and then switched to my hands. If you’re one of the lucky ones and have a stand mixer, then use a dough hook at a low setting.
2. Pour half of the water around the edges of the bowl of poolish to help release it. Add the poolish to the bowl mixture, along with rest of the water and mix together - but keep 50g of water to the side.
3. Add the butter and continue to mix together, making sure all flour has been mixed in.
4. Sprinkle in the salt and continue mixing. If the mixture feels dry at this point, add in the remaining water you set aside earlier. Continue to mix for 20 minutes or if you’re doing the manual way, until your hands feel sore and everything is really well mixed in.
5. Now scrape off all the dough from the bowl and transfer it to your workbench. Stretch the left side of the dough outward and fold it over the centre of the dough. Then do the same for the other side, like as if you were folding a letter.
6. Repeat this for the top and bottom of the dough. Turn the dough over and place it in a suitably sized bowl or tray, sprayed with some oil. I used a square baking tin. Cover it with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1hr.
7. Once an hour has passed, uncover the dough and remove it from the bowl/tray, transferring it to a lightly floured workbench. Be careful not to disturb its shape.
8. Gently but firmly pat the dough into a rectangular shape measuring 25cm x 19cm. Press out any air bubbles that form. Transfer this shape to a baking tray/pan of suitable size, lined with baking paper - see below. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20mins.
Now you need to lock the butter into the dough:
9. Lightly flour the workbench again and a rolling pin. Turn the dough out onto this surface and dust lightly with flour.
10. Roll the dough outward from the centre, lightly flipping and fluffing up the edges by hand as you do this. Continue doing this until the dough measures 40cm x 19cm.
11. Lay the block of butter across the centre of the dough (see pic 1 above).
12. Stretch and fold over the two longer sides so they meet in the centre and pinch by hand to seal it. There should be no exposed butter up top (pic 2).
13. Using the rolling pin, press down firmly on the dough across the seam from one side to the other. Continue rolling it like this to lengthen the dough, add flour when needed to prevent sticking. Stop rolling once you have it measuring 56cm x 24cm (pic 3).
14. Fold one third of the dough over like as if you were folding a letter. Then fold the other third over on top. Turn the block so that the dough looks like a book, with the opening to the right side (pic 4). In steps 15 and 16, you need to make sure it’s in this same position before you begin rolling. You’ve just completed your first turn process, make a note of this. Now transfer this back to the pan, cover with plastic wrap and let freeze for 20mins.
15. Now it’s your second turn process: basically repeat step 13, until the dough measures 56cm x 24cm. If pressing on the dough cracks it, it means that the dough is too cold, so wait for it to warm a little. Again, repeat step 14 for folding, cover up and freeze for 20mins.
16. Now it’s your third turn process: repeat step 15.
17. Hoorah, you’re nearly there with all the folding and rolling! Place the dough on the surface with the opening to the right again. Make sure the dough remains cold and roll it out again until it measures 60cm x 24cm.
18. Cut the dough in half, making two rectangles of 30cm x 12cm. Stack them on top of each other with some baking paper between them and transfer back onto the tray. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20mins.
Guess what? Do a happy dance now, because the dough’s ready!!
Turning the dough into croissants…
Folding the croissants:
19. Flour the work surface, remove one rectangle piece of dough from the freeze and place on workbench.
20. Roll out this dough until it measures 48cm x 23cm. Now trim it so it’s 46cm long. Slightly trim the other sides only to neaten up (see pic 1 above).
21. Starting on one side, measure about 9.5cm along the bottom edge and cut up to the top corner, making a triangle. I used a pizza cutter but you could also use a knife. For the adjacent triangle, measure 9.5cm along the top edge and cut straight downwards. Continue doing this until you reach the end of the dough. I ended up with having more or less 10 similar sized triangles (pic 2).
22. Hold one triangle up with a hand and use the other to stretch out the dough gently until it measures about 30cm (pic 3).
23. Place the dough flat onto the surface. Use your cutter to do a small slice in the centre of the base (pic 4). Once sliced, pull both edges away a little. It kind of looks like t-shirt sleeves now.
24. Now you begin rolling, starting from the cut sleeve-like edge, turn it in towards the pointy end and roll it all the way to the tip. Place on a baking tin lined with baking paper. They should look something like this:
25. Brush the croissant surface with the egg wash.
26. Preheat oven to 160 degrees and use the upper and lower third racks of the oven. Bake for 35-40mins, making sure to rotate the trays on the racks half way through. Once the tops are a golden brown, you’ll know it’s ready! And you can start smelling it too.
They’re best eaten immediately after. Or on the same day. I only ended up using one sheet of dough and have kept the other in the freezer. Can’t wait to take the second sheet to my family’s place and make the rest there, baked fresh!
And there you have it. A mammoth post to wrap up Baketober 2013!
Thanks to those that took part and for those that cheered me along the way, I really appreciate the love and interest. I learned a whole heap and found my baking abilities highly challenged this year - and have definitely grown. Bring on Baketober 2014 I say!
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