Monday, July 10, 2006

A labour of love

It was a conscious decision when I decided that I was only allowed to eat croissants if:
1. I had made them myself, or
2. I was in France.

There are two main reasons for this:
1. The obvious health benefits (I was getting a bit obsessive).
2. The best ones I could find in Cambridge were from Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range.

I've taste tested as many croissants as I could possibly get my hands on:
1. Mark's and Spencer's
2. Waitrose
3. Tesco's
4. Donaldson's the local bakery
5. Co-op
6. Costa Coffee
7. Starbucks
8. Cafe` de Paris (very nice but putoff when served margarine in its own container)

and perhaps a few more that I can't remember now. (I would've made notes, but this post wasn't even a twinkle in my eye.)

Well, this weekend was THE weekend. I have been planning this weekend for about 10 months - ever since I read French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. I knew I had to get it right, because judging by the fat content in the recipe, I knew I would probably get enough calories to last me through the whole of the next year. Unfortunately, life has a habit of getting in the way, and I didn't actually get to start the recipe until mid-Saturday afternoon. But I managed.

Sunday morning came around and I was so nervous about the dough exploding in the fridge that I woke up (naturally) at 7am. Yes, I know! 7am on a Sunday morning! Unheard of. But it was oh, so worth it.

What resulted was a soft, flaky, rich pastry. An Oh, My God moment. My life will never be the same again.


Makes 12

260 ml milk
2 teaspoons dry yeast
250 grams sifted plain white flour
3 extra tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180 grams butter

For the glaze:
1 egg
3 tablespoons of milk

For ease of preparation, allow 3 days for the recipe. For a Sunday morning indulgence, start on Friday night.

Day 1:
Warm 65 ml of the milk to a lukewarm temperature. Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour and beat with a fork until no lumps are left. Cover with some plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until the mix has doubled in volume. The time may vary depending on the weather.

Mix the sugar and the salt into the rest of the flour. Warm the remaining 195 ml of milk to lukewarm temperature. Transfer the raised yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl and quickly mix in the warmed milk. With an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn the mixer as high as possible and start adding the flour, salt and sugar a little at a time (but be careful of splash backs). Gradually reduce the speed to a low-medium when the dough is sticky and soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:
Bring the butter to room temperature. Add the 3 additional tablespoons of flour to the dough and work it with hands, finally shape the dough into a smooth square.

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on a clean smooth surface. Flour the plastic wrap heavily. Shape the cold dough on the plastic into a 38x15 cm rectangle. Position the dough in the portrait position, like a letter. Spread the butter on the top two-thirds of the dough leaving a one centermetre border around the sides and top. Fold the dough into thirds, starting with the bottom third of the dough. Turn the dough 90 degrees and reshape into a 38 x 15 rectangle and repeat the fold. Place the dough into a baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 6 hours. Roll out the dough and fold as before twice more. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate over night.

Day 3:
About one and a half hours before baking time, place the cold dough on a floured working surface. Working as quickly as possible, roll the dough into a 40 cm circle. Cut the dough into quarters and each quarter into thirds. With both hands, roll the base of each triangle towards the centre to form the classic croissant shape. Place on a baking sheet covered in nonstick baking paper and brush with the milk. Let the croissants stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Add one egg to the remaining milk and beat together with a fork. Brush the croissants with the egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot. No additional butter is needed.

- Although unsalted butter was called for in the recipe, I used salted which worked fine, and I probably wouldn't change it.
- I felt there was perhaps a little too much butter and will probably use about 150 grams next time.
- This recipe makes what I would call 12 small croissants. I will probably cut the dough into 6ths or 8ths next time, rather than twelfths.
- I would invite some people over for breakfast, as they're at their absolute best straight out of the oven. And there were way too many for 2 people. Reheating wasn't quite as yummy.


Natalia said...

You made your own croissants? Wow! They have been on my list of things to bake myself for a while, but I'm very nervous about it. They look perfect! I better get going :)

Bonnie said...

It was definately worth it! Would recommend it highly - but be prepared, you will never look on a store bought croissant in the same way. Good luck, and let me know how you get on if you make them...

jenjen said...

You are my new hero! Making your own croissants is no small feat, and it looks like yours turned out perfectly!! Bravo!

This is my first time to your blog, its great, I am sure teturn!

keiko said...

Oh Bonnie, this looks absolutely wonderful! I had given up finding good croissants in the UK a long time ago and wasn't brave enough to make on my own either, but you've encouraged me - thank you!

Bonnie said...

I trully hope you try them! They were not as hard as I expected...

Let me know how you get on!

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