Apart from the long evenings and sunny weather, June also unfortunately brought with it plenty of work and more hours than I care to think of spent in the library. We all know that brain food is essential for productive work – but I’m not talking about omega 3. In my opinion, there is no better library fuel than warm, buttery, flaky, golden croissants smothered in Jam. (I will corroborate this hypothesis on receipt of my results).
It is acknowledged among bakers that the secret to good croissants is keeping them very cold to keep the layers of butter distinct between the dough. A personal tip is that a hint of perfectionism also goes a long way – there is nothing more satisfying than seeing uniform isosceles triangles transform into neat rows of croissants ready to be baked. So, bearing this in mind, for my first croissant attempt, I decided to pick a nice hot afternoon (I like to live life on the edge…), although I was armed with lots of fridge space and my trusty WHSmith ruler…
1 good evening + 2 hours in the morning
- 500g plain flour
- 60g sugar
- 175ml milk
- 50g softened unsalted butter
- 11g yeast
- 10g salt
- 200g butter
- Egg for egg wash
- Freestanding mixer
- Pizza cutter/sharp knife
Put the ingredients in a freestanding mixer and combine on a medium speed for 4 minutes. You don’t want to over-knead the dough, otherwise the gluten will cause the dough to spring back when you are trying to roll to roll it out. Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for two hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
On the back of a piece of baking parchment, draw one square of 15 x 15cm and a second of 19×19 encompassing the first square. Cut the butter into 1.25cm slices, and arrange them so they fill the smaller square. Place a second piece of baking parchment over the top, and roll out until the butter fills the larger square. Place in the fridge until needed.
Take the dough and roll out into a 26 x 26 cm square, and place the butter in the middle, rotated so you have a diamond on top of a square. Fold in the triangles so the dough resembles a letter; you want to have the dough flaps overlapping a bit so there is no butter showing – once you have done this lightly press on the seams to seal them.
Roll the butter parcel out to a 20 x 60cm rectangle on a lightly floured surface, trying to keep the dough an even thickness. Fold the dough like you would a letter – fold the top third over the middle third, then the bottom third up over the top. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge (if you are really pressed for time, 10 minutes in the freezer will do the same trick). Repeat twice more, then leave the dough to chill overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, roll out the dough to 20 x 110 cm (you will need a reasonable size table for this; a corner of a work surface by the kettle won’t do…) Take out your ruler (this step seems a bit OTT, but I promise, if you want beautifully uniform croissants, this is the way forward) and make marks in 12.5cm intervals all the way up one of the sides. Up the other side, start 6.25cm up, then continue with 12.5cm intervals. Cut between these marks using the pizza cutter (you can also use the ruler as a guide so you get a nice straight edge). You should end up with identical isosceles triangles.
For each croissant, take a triangle, and stretch out the short edge gently until it’s about half as wide again. Then, starting from the short edge, roll the croissant up reasonably tightly. Egg wash, then place the croissants on an ungreased lined baking tray. Leave for 2 hours at room temperature before baking .
Bake in a preheated oven for 6mins at 195ᵒ, followed by 9 minutes at 160ᵒ (although as with any bake – this will vary depending on your oven). They are ready when they are beautifully golden brown. If you don’t get through several dozen croissants in one go (although they ARE delicious), you can freeze them after you’ve baked them. Pop them back in an oven straight from the freezer at 180ᵒ for about 8 minutes. PERFECT.