I have wanted to make croissants for ages but it seemed like it might be too much mither. Well, last night I decided to take the bull by the horns and just give it a go. It was quite a bit of work, but actually not as much as I was expecting and the results are more than worth the effort. You just need to do a bit of preparation the night before, leave the dough to rest in the fridge and then finish off in the morning.
In fact I was quite excited this morning about it all and I was really pleased when they turned out to taste just as good as I hoped. I made some croissants and some pain au chocolat – what a treat!
I used Rachel Allen’s recipe from her book Bake (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725970 0) which if I could have found a link online I would have just pointed you in that direction as I am dreading writing all this down, but here goes. (Bake is well worth seeking out, I have used it a lot since I bought it and Rachel Allen’s recipes always work).
I got some early morning help from my two girls this morning so they appear in some of the pictures.
Makes 18 croissants
1 sachet of easy bake fast acting yeast
450g Strong white bread flour
275g salted butter, softened (but not too soft)
For the egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk
If you want to make pain au chocolat you will need a dessert spoonful of chopped chocolate for each pain au chocolat that you wish to make. I made 12 croissants and 6 pain au chocolat.
If you want them for breakfast then I suggest you start the night before with the following steps.
Heat the milk until warm. Rachel Allen suggests rubbing in 50g of the butter into the flour but I just put it into the warm milk so that it half melted. Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and bring the mixture into a soft dough. I used my KitchenAid freestanding mixer with the dough hook attached and mixed it for 5 minutes. If you haven’t got a freestanding mixer then this doughy is sticky and you will need lightly floured hands to knead it by hand for ten minutes until it is soft and elastic. Make it into a ball and place back in the bowl. Cover with a large plastic bag or clean tea towel. Rachel Allen suggests putting it in the fridge for two hours but I just left it in a cool place in the kitchen.
After two hours, place the remaining butter between two large sheets of clingfilm and, using a rolling pin, beat and roll it until it is about 8mm thick and measures roughly 10cm x 20cm.
Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a rectangle measuring 20 x 40 cm. Place the butter onto one half of the pastry.
Roll the dough out until it again measures about 20 x 40cm. Fold one third over, then fold that over and then fold again. Cover the dough with the large plastic bag and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Take the dough out of the fridge and place it with the open ends facing towards you. Roll out the pastry again to a similar size as before, then fold in three again. Place the dough back into the bag and put in the fridge overnight.
In the morning it will look something like this, having begun to rise:
Roll out the pastry until it is about ½ cm thick and measures about 35cm x 55cm. This takes quite a bit of effort as the dough is cold.
Now I wanted to make some pain au chocolat and some croissants, so I sliced off one third of the dough and then cut this into six pieces. On each piece I placed a spoonful of chopped good quality chocolate and then rolled up firmly like a swiss roll.
For the croissants I cut the remaining dough in half lengthways and then into thirds widthways and then each rectangle into a triangle. This resulted in 12 triangles. Starting from the widest edge roll the pastry tightly, then tuck the tip underneath and shape into a crescent shape.
When they have risen, brush gently with egg wash again and then place in a preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7, or the roasting oven of the Aga for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga for another 10 minutes until golden brown all over. Place them on a wire rack to cool just a little. They are best eaten warm, with lashings of butter and jam (or lemon curd, or marmalade) on the croissants.