How I made the croissants
First we need to get that yeast activating. 5 oz of water into a microwavable jug, 20 seconds at full power should be enough to make it body temperature. I test this by sticking my finger (clean) in to the water and should feel nothing, or just a touch of heat. This could be dangerous if it's boiling hot so be careful. Tip the dried yeast in to the jug and give it a good stir to dissolve. Put aside and start weighing your other ingredients and tip the straight into the mixing bowl (assuming you're using a mixer). Once the yeast and water has a good head on it (a good centimetre) give a quick whirl with the spoon, set the mixer going slowly and pour in. Once the dough starts to form you can increase the speed a little, but not past halfway. It will take a good 6+ minutes of mixing before it's ready to check so just leave it running. Have a look if to see if it's too slack (sticking to the sides), if so add a tiny bit more flour. If it looks too tight stop the machine and stick a finger in, if it's hard to press in and not sticky at all you'll need a tiny bit of water mixing in. Once the dough is correct, not sticking to the bowl but still tacky, take out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form the dough in to a nice round ball shape and pop in either a bowl with a lid or the mixing bowl with cling over it. Leave for a good couple of hours until it has at least doubled in size.
Whilst that's doing its thing lets prepare the butter slab. Now, unless you've ordered your butter from a bakery, it will be in the form of a block. We need a slab. So get the block and slice it into 16. Get some greaseproof paper and arrange the slices into a four by four pattern as close together as possible. Pop another bit of greaseproof paper over the top and work the butter with a rolling pin, in effect joining the slices of butter together. Once joined pop in the fridge and wait for the dough... or sensibly go and do something else.
Time to laminate the dough...
Once your dough has at least doubled tip it out on to your lightly floured work surface and roll out a rough square to accommodate the butter slab plus 3-4 inches each side. Butter slab in the middle, bring together the excess into the middle to wrap it like a present. Roll the top a bit to join the dough, then fold a third over, then the other third over the top. Wrap in cling, put in the freezer for a good 20 minutes or so to cool the dough.
Take out the chilled dough and begin rolling the along the length, you won't need to widen it, just lengthen it. It will need to be stretched to about 20-22 inches(56cm). Then fold a third over, the other third on top, wrap and freezer for 10-15 mins. Do this twice more. You've now laminated the dough.
Rolling out your dough
This is where you need some room. It'll be just short of four feet long. Roll in long strokes until you get to around 43-44 inches(112cm). If it starts to feel warm and elastic it will need to be folded again and put in the freezer for longer. Once you've rolled it out, you'll want it about 8 inches(20cm) by 43-44 inches. Square off the ends with your fingers.
Forming the croissants
Measure out and put a nick in the dough every 5 inches (12cm) along the top. Then on the bottom 2.5(6cm)/7.5(18cm)/12.5(30cm) etc (ie in between the top marks). Get the pizza cutter and go from the first left bottom mark to the top left corner. Then first left bottom mark to the 5 inch mark (top). You'll see you've made a triangle, so join the other nicks up to do the rest.
Take one of the triangles and stretch it a bit, so from 8 inches(20cm) to around 10 inches(25cm) long. Make a cut on the centre-bottom of the triangle and begin to roll the croissant up, rolling you hands in a sort out outward direction to get the shape. You should see the croissant forming as you do it, pinch the ends together and pop onto the greaseproof paper on the baking tray, egg wash. Repeat allowing room for them to double in size.
If you have a suitable cover for the tray use this now. Leave to prove, mine take around 2-2.5 hours or until just under double.
This is probably the hardest part. Egg-wash again and bake at 200-210 degrees Celsius for around 8-10 mins. I say around because different ovens are quicker than others. Watch, you may need to turn the baking tray. Make sure the bottoms don't bake too quickly/slowly. I'm afraid this is the part you'll have to try yourself and find the best position in the oven, timings etc. DO NOT use a timer, to be honest I say this for all types of baking. Use a clock and that's it. If there's no alarm you'll be thinking about the baking, and less likely to make mistakes.
Once golden all over, remove from oven and allow to cool. Then... enjoy :)
Hope you get on well with the recipe and my instructions. I'll post how to roll the pain au chocolat soon.
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- Written by Stuart Edge
- Category: Baking
- Published: 26 November 2012