You know those mornings? When you’ve had a full week at work and then a Saturday class from 9am and then you still have to get up, even though it’s Sunday, because – through some fault of bad planning or maybe just because whoever’s in charge has something against you personally – it happens to be the third Sunday in the month which is the day you do volunteering for a charity an hour’s drive away? Well, these croissants will make it all better.
Yes, they’re a bit of a faff, but it’s totally worth it. They freeze well and can be baked from frozen for those emergency croissant moments. We all have them.
Recipe after the jump.
Recipe from Richard Bertinet, via delicious magazine. Disclaimer: you will need a free day for this. Do not attempt them if you don’t have one; that way madness lies. The croissants aren’t that involved to make, but they need quite a lot of resting time in between stages. You can spread it out over a couple of days if needed.
To freeze, put the unbaked croissants on a tray so they aren’t touching, and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. They can be baked from frozen at 180°C/fan160°C for 18-20 minutes. With most frozen breads, I’d defrost them overnight in the fridge and then bake, but this really doesn’t work for croissants. I speak from experience.
Makes 14 croissants.
500g strong white bread flour
20g fresh yeast (I asked at the counter of my local bakery for mine)
50g caster sugar
1 large egg
125g cold milk
125g cold water
200g chilled unsalted butter
1 egg, to glaze
First, get yourself ready. You’ll need a big bit of clear side, a tray or chopping board that fits in the fridge and enough room in the fridge to put it.
Put the flour in a large bowl and rub the yeast in with your fingers, then stir in the salt and sugar. Add the egg, milk and water and mix together, using a dough scraper if you have one (or your hands would be fine if you don’t). When the dough comes together, turn it out onto an unfloured work surface and knead for 4-5 minutes.
Make the dough into a ball, cut a deep cross in the top, and put it into a lightly floured bowl. Cover with clingfilm (leaving a bit of slack above the bowl for the air to move into as the dough expands) and rest in the fridge for at least two hours – the dough can be left overnight at this stage. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and roll it out into a 25cm square.
Take the butter out of the fridge, and sandwich between two pieces of baking paper or split freezer bags. Use a rolling pin to lightly tap the butter into a square about 1cm thick and 13cm wide, touching it as little as possible to avoid warming it up. Remove the top piece of baking paper and use the bottom one to lift the square of butter and put it neatly in the middle of the dough square.
Fold the four overhanging sides of the dough over the butter, then roll out in one direction only until your square has become a rectangle about 60-70cm long. Be gentle with the rolling, not too gung-ho, and keep your hands at the edge of the rolling pin to help distribute the pressure evenly. Keep gently lifting the dough and shuffling it around on the work surface to stop it sticking. Stop rolling before you reach the edge of the dough, so that the butter isn’t squeezed out of the end. You’re aiming to keep it neatly contained within the dough.
Once you have your rectangle, fold it into thirds like a letter: top third down and then bottom third on top of this. You can make a little dent in the top to remind yourself it’s the first stage of folding, if your memory is as bad as mine. Pop it onto your plastic tray, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Re-flour your work surface and put the dough on it with the short end towards you. Roll it out as before and then fold into thirds again, folding the top third down and the bottom third up. Make two dents in the top and go back through the tray/clingfilm/fridge rigamarole (30 minutes again, I’m afraid).
Repeat one more time (you guessed it: this time, three little dents)
Roll out your dough into a rectangle 30cm by 75cm (a hint: most kitchen sides in the UK are about 60cm deep. You may want to bear this in mind before you decide which direction your rectangle will face). It should be 4mm thick.
With a large, sharp knife, cut lengthways down the middle and trim the edges to make a neat rectangle; make sure you are pressing straight down with your knife and take care not to drag. You can either discard the trimmings or roll them up into little pinwheels and pop them in the oven. You can guess which I chose.
Cut a zigzag down each strip, so that you have 7 large triangles per side. The base of each triangle should be about 9cm. Make a 1cm cut from the middle of the bottom of each triangle straight up towards the point – this will help you curve them neatly into little crescents.
Gently roll each triangle up from the bottom, pulling slightly at the slit to curve. Roll backwards and forwards with your fingertips a couple of times to seal. Brush the tops with egg wash, taking care not to get any sticking the folds together, and put them on greased or lined baking trays, leaving space for them to expand. Prove in a warm place for 2 hours, and put your pot of egg wash in the fridge.
At this stage, you can cover your finished croissants loosely with a large freezer bag, and leave them in the fridge overnight to be baked the next day.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C.
Re-egg wash the proved croissants, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden, trying not to open the door of the oven too early in the process.