Right, having never attempted these in my life before I really didn’t know where to start. So where better than google? I spent a couple of hours researching which was the best way to go about making them, asking myself, do I want a high gluten content in the flour or low? Getting conflicting answers all over the place. Julia Childs popped into my head, she is the queen of french cooking made accessible right? So not owning any of her books (yet) I started searching online for one of her recipes and eventually I came across these two fantastic videos below, with Esther McManus featuring Julia Childs.
This is the recipe and methodology which I’ve followed throughout making my croissants and yes it is technical, but really it’s all about taking your time and being confident with how you work the dough. Esther and Julia use a stand mixer, now I, and I’m sure many of you reading this, don’t own a stand mixer, so I used a hand mixer with the dough hooks and just had to do a bit more hand work than they did. But I’ll get to that a little bit later.
310g (11oz) very strong bread flour
255g (9oz) plain flour
250ml (9floz) milk
1 teaspoon salt
75g (2 1/2oz) caster sugar
500g (1lb 2oz) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
It’s quite an in depth process making croissants, well making the dough at least, so I really recommend watching a video on youtube before starting out, may make it easier to visualise than my photos.
- In searching the internet for what type of flour to use as I mentioned I came across so many conflicting reports. So I decided just to go for it, some said low gluten some said high, so I’ve made my own mixture of plain and very strong to get a middle of the range gluten content. So mix the flours together and the yeast, ensuring it’s well combined, add the sugar and then the salt.
- Now I almost made a huge mistake here, well in fact I did. In the video Esther says just to pour the milk in, no mention about temperature, but that is because she would have been using live yeast whereas I was using dry yeast and I didn’t activate it before use! I thought I’d have to start again….but luckily I have quite warm hands I was able to knead it and make sure the dough was warm before I’d done with it. Gently heat the milk up to around 25˚C before pouring it into the flour mix. Pour 1 cup in first, using dough hooks on your mixture mix the mixture until it almost all combined, then slowly add more until all the flour is within the mixture.
- Tip the dough out onto the surface and knead it now until smooth and elastic, not all that different from a bread dough. You’re looking for a nice smooth texture.
- Cover the dough in cling film, not too tightly, then place into a plastic bag and leave on the side for 30 minutes.
- Onto the butter now cut your butter into small pieces and add two tablespoons of flour to the bowl. I made another boo boo here…the butter was very cold as required by the mixture, but the butter was too hard and I may have slightly broken (another!) mixer…so sorry Kirsty, but I’ll replace it like for like this week, promise! So mid way through i had to change my tack, but working fast and as my hands were hot I really didn’t want to melt the butter, so I ran my hands under cold water and then massaged it all together as quickly as I could. I probably could have used a stand mixer at this point, but nevertheless I still managed it.
- Mould the butter into a rectangular block and wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge along with the dough (after 30 mins) I love how Esther puts it in that video “they want to spend the night together in the fridge” haha!
- Roll the dough out to a size of 60cm by 30cm and place the butter in third of the dough and fold the dough over it, it’ll be kind of stretchy. Seal it gently.
- Now for the fun part! Grab your rolling pin and whack the butter along the dough to one half of it. Then spin it around and do the other half. Gently roll the butter to the edges of the dough.
- Take the dough out of the fridge, flour the surface and roll out to a size of 70cm by 30cm.
- Fold one third of the dough over and brush off the flour with a pastry brush. Fold the second third over ontop and again brush the flour off. Roll gently but firmly (does that make sense? I mean with a little conviction) to join the layers together slightly. And place in the fridge again.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to a size of approx. 50cm by 50cm.
- Fold one quarter over toward to middle and then the other quarter from the other edge leaving a slight gap in the middle then fold in half. This is our double fold.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and cut in half length ways. Roll out to a size of 60cm by 70cm.
- Fold in half longways and get a pizza cutter. Cut into triangles, unfold and cut in half.
- Next to stretch the triangles, pick up in one hand, and in one fluid motion pull the dough down to the tip until it’s approx. twice as long.
- To roll, at arms length fold the top edge over and in another fluid motion roll down along the work surface. Bend into a crescent shape and put the tip on the underside so they don’t unfold when baking.
- Egg wash and place in the oven for with a bowl of boiling water for THREE HOURS! This is killing me! I just want a croissant!
- Take them out of the oven, egg wash them once more and sprinkle chocolate over the chocolate ones.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and put the trays in, rotate them half way through, moving the bottom one to the top and visa versa.
- Don’t go anywhere, they take 10 – 20 mins to cook, you want a nice golden brown colour, but they’ll burn very quickly!
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Make a cup of tea and enjoy.
Place in the fridge for 2hrs…
Another 1hr later (I’ve been using this time to clean my house, hah!)…
Three hours later….
Well they are my first batch ever, and I don’t think they went too badly wrong, they tasted good, but aside from breaking a mixer and messing my kitchen and ending up (in my opinion) a little small they have been a success! It’s a new skill that I’ve taught myself and hopefully enlightened others about too…I’ve still got half the dough in the fridge, so I’m going to roll it out and make some pain au choclat for breakfast tomorrow by rolling it differently…I’ll post a photo once I’ve done it.