Most people see Paul Hollywood waxing lyrical about how easy baking is at home and how ‘you should really give this a go’ and think are you fucking serious I don’t have 12 hours to waste on my only day off this week thank you very much. I was the same. I had always considered baking anything other than a lopsided Victoria sponge very much a spectator sport. Like the skeleton bob at the winter Olympics watching is a thrill but partaking in it is mad, dangerous and potentially fatal.
Since starting this blog though I have realised that I am going to have to foray into the world of baking a little more than I am comfortable with. Rather than going in slowly and starting with a gentle hill and a tea tray I have thrown caution to the wind and jumped headfirst into the icy abyss. It was my belief that pastry came from the shop but after I saw the aforementioned silverback attempting it on the box I thought that I should attempt to make some, in the interests of investigative journalism (and eating nearly a pound of butter).
Croissants are the easiest of the French pastries because although the dough is fiddly to master they don’t require any filling and they don’t need to look perfect. I will be honest this requires an unbelievable amount of time however most this time is spent chilling or rising. I would suggest making them on a saturday afternoon and leaving them to chill over night, then they will be ready for Sunday breakfast. I would definitely advocate giving these a go because they are actually not that difficult, they taste amazing and they cost nothing compared to really nice ones from the bakery. The basic recipe here is one I stole from Paul Hollywood’s website but with a few of my tips added in.
Ingredients (makes 12)
- 500 grams or 4 cups of strong white bread flour.
- 10 grams (1 and a half sachets) of instant yeast.
- 10 grams of salt.
- 300 grams of cold butter.
- 80 grams of sugar.
- 300 ml of water.
- One egg.
How to Make it…
- Start by making your dough. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. On one side tip in the yeast. On the other add the sugar and salt. Pout in the water and slowly bring together with your fingers. Paul’s recipe advisers using a food processor but since most of us can’t spend a grand on a kitchen appliance I used my hands. This requires a bit of a work out! Start by just bringing all the dough together slowly. Once everything is incorporated start working a bit faster. I attempted to copy the movement of a dough hook, rotating the dough quickly and catching all the bits around the edge. Continue to work it like this for about five minutes or until the dough is stiff.
- Tip it the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Dust it with flour and place inside a clean plastic bag.
- CHILL FOR ONE HOUR.
- Just before taking the dough out, place the cold butter in between two sheets of cling film. with a rolling pin bash the butter into a rectangle around half a centimetre in thickness. Put the butter back in the fridge to harden while you roll out the dough.
- The dough needs to be rolled our to the same thickness as the butter. Paul’s recipe says a rectangle of 60 by 20 centimetres but mine was more like 40 buy 20. It doesn’t really matter as long as the dough is around a third bigger than the butter.
- Take the slab of butter out of the fridge, you have to work quite quickly before the butter melts. Cut it in half and place one half of the butter in the centre of the dough. Fold the right hand third of the dough over the butter. Place the other half of the butter on top it and then fold over the left hand third of dough. You should have a sandwich of dough, then butter, then dough, then butter, then dough. Pinch around the edges of the dough to seal in the butter and place in the fridge.
- CHILL FOR ONE HOUR.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out again into a large rectangle. Fold again into thirds. Now Place Back in the fridge.
- CHILL FOR ONE HOUR.
- Roll out again and fold into thirds. If you have time you can repeat this stage again, I did not so only did it twice which seemed sufficient.
- CHILL FOR EIGHT HOURS OR OVERNIGHT.
- Put the dough on a floured surface and cut it in half. You should be able to see all the little layers of dough and pastry. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle of 2/3 mm thick. Cut any excess from the outside so you are left with a clean rectangle, put the extras in the fridge so the butter doesn’t melt. Cut the dough into long thin triangles, I am sure there is a perfect size that these need to be but mine were all different sizes so do not worry!
- At the wide end of the triangle pinch each corner and pull slightly. Roll the dough upwards toward the thin end and pull the corners together until you get a crescent shape. I you have never seen this done it is a good idea to watch a video on youtube to get a better idea, there are hundreds.
- Leave the finished croissants on a floured baking tray and shape the other half of the dough. Bring any off cuts together to make the few last croissants. Equally you could save it in the fridge to use for puff pastry.
- Organise the croissants on to baking trays, leaving space in between from them to expand, and leave in a cool(ish) room to prove. This is supposed to take to hours but by this point I was too hungry so only left them an hour, this should be fine.
- PROVE FOR ONE HOUR.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Whisk the egg with a pinch of salt and brush liberally over the croissants to give them extra crunch. Now bake them in the oven for 15/20 minutes or until golden brown.