JUMP TO RECIPE -
A croissant and black coffee - the best breakfast in the world (bar, of course, a full fry-up, or a bacon sarnie, or cheese on toast, which in my books can be eaten any time of day). Tastes incredibly indulgent but tell yourself if you have just one, and no jam with it (I’ve been known to have a croissant with BUTTER and JAM, horror or what?) it’s not so terribly bad, just very continental.
You can get them from supermarkets – rather meh. If you’re living in France you get them from your boulangerie, although I've seen crates of croissants being DELIVERED to boulangeries so what - industrially made? So actually there's nothing like the homemade thing in terms of flavour. Is it difficult?
YES IT IS. Double, double, toil and trouble.
The butter thing is a doddle – you bring it to sort of cool room temperature and roll it or bash it out to a desired thickness between two sheets of cling film. Then you try and encase it in quite a firm yeast dough – and the fun starts. Rolling it out initially seems okay – but after the first folding the butter clearly wants out and peeks merrily from inside the pastry, ignoring the flour you throw at it, sticking to the board, the work surface, anything but the dough. My croissants have come out a bit chunky because I just couldn’t roll the damn thing thin enough.
But worth it. Freeze the surplus and refresh them in very hot oven for 5 minutes, with another 5 minutes’ rest. The recipe comes from Dan Lepard’s ‘Baking with Passion’ book – passion all right, Dan, but hard work above all.
- 15g fresh or 2 tsp fast action yeast
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 110ml warm water
- 110ml cold milk
- 15g fine sea salt
- 70g caster sugar
- 250g unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
Prepare the sponge with the yeast, 100g of the flour and warm water. Mix it well and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours.
When it’s risen and bubbling, add the remaining flour, the milk, salt, sugar and beat in a mixer with a dough hook attachment, or just whisk together and then knead by hand until smooth and stretchy - the dough will be stiff and firm. Cover the bowl with cling film and keep in the fridge overnight.
The next day prepare the butter – cool but not straight from the fridge, place it between two sheets of cling film dusted with flour. Roll or bash it down to a thickness of about 1cm.
Roll out the dough, also to about 1 cm thick. Place the butter in the centre, fold all the sides over it so it’s completely enclosed.
Dust the dough with flour and roll out to a large rectangle (60 x 40 cm would be good but the dough springs back so much that as large as it gets will be fine). Now fold the two ends by a sixth each, then once again to make them meet in the middle. Fold the two together like a book.
Turn the dough with the fold to one side and roll out again, as large a rectangle as you can. Fold each end by a quarter so that they meet in the middle, and then together like closing a book again.
Chill in the fridge for up to 1 hour.
Prepare a triangular template about 15cm at the base and 15cm tall, or just trust your ability to cut even triangles with a knife or pastry cutter.
Roll out the chilled dough to about 4mm thickness, trim the edges and divide into strips 15cm high. Cut triangles then roll each one up from the base, finishing with the point in the middle and underneath. Place them on baking trays lined with parchment, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to prove for about 1 – 1 ½ hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Glaze the croissants with the egg yolk beaten with milk, then bake for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas 4 and bake for further 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.