Saturday, 31 December 2011

croissant and pains au chocolat

Something I have wanted to make for years, but was put off by thinking it would be hard, was croissants. The shop bought ones can be OK but none ever quite hit perfection of sitting in a french cafe eating still warm from the oven croissants and pains au chocolat.  This year I vowed to make my own or at least try to do so. For some reason I kept putting it off then realised yesterday if I was going to keep the vow it needed to be started last night as the dough needed refrigerating overnight.  So I grabbed the last book I remembered seeing the recipe in The Primrose Bakery book I had recently bought.  Slight difference was the butter was cut into small cubes and not rolled out flat and inserted and folded between layers but this way worked out just as we. I learnt to make puff pastry at school so none of this was to alien to me. Thankfully it all worked.

This takes not a lot of time really BUT does need to be in fridge overnight and proving time after it comes to room temp the following day.  So although it takes a long time it is mostly resting and proving

To start with you will need
 300 ml hand hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
500g strong white bread flour, plus more for rolling
45g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
20 g skimmed milk powder
250g unsalted butter, preferably straight from fridge (I know this is a lot of butter and please use butter, but it's what makes these so good so don't skimp or wimp out please, butter or don't bother.  you have been warned)

For the pains au chocolat you will also need around 40 g of dark decent chocolate.

plus an egg for the egg wash

This will make you roughly 6 croissant and 4 pains au chocolat

So lets get started.  measure your water out and stir in the yeast, it should froth up sort of and go kind of foamy. If you do this first it should be ready by the time you have weighed out the other ingredients and mixed them up and look a little like this

Thrilling huh? next you will need to find yourself a largish bowl and sieve all the dry ingredients into the bowl. stir this together to mix a bit and take your glorious block of butter and cut it into smallish lumps.  and stir into your flour mixture, but do not beat just stir until coated and combined.  You should still see the lumps just coated in flour. 

Next is pretty easy is pour in your yeast water and stir with a spoon until combined all together.  I squished it a little and it became a rough shaggy lump that looked a bit dubious.
Then I wrapped it in cling film in both directions for good measure.  Not to tightly though as even though it was going in the fridge it will still expand slowly as the dough proves/rises so it went in looking like this

And came out the next morning probably looking no different to you but filled out the clingfilm to almost bursting proportions

Next stages involved a fair bit of rolling but nothing difficult. I rolled this out on a floured board to a rough big rectangle and folded it up like a letter would be to fit in an envelope 
last one very blurry sorry, then turn it round 90 degrees and roll out to another largish rectangle and repeat the process 3 times more.  I noticed the dough became smoother and silkier almost as I kept this up. This step is important as it forms the layers that make croissants flaky and delicate. 

Now I did something really stupid next and while I went off in hunt of a tape measure and concentrated on rolling out to the right dimensions and cut out the right shapes I forgot to take pictures :o( So will try to explain best I can. I needed to ditch my board and roll out straight on kitchen counter as board wasn't big enough.  I also found it was easier to cut the dough cleanly with a pizza wheel using my rolling pin as a guide to cut against for a straight even cut.

So roll out the dough on floured surface into a rectangle measuring 48X38 cm. with the long side facing you measure along to 30 cm and cut into 2 pieces.  The smaller piece can then be cut evenly into 4 small rectangles and filled with around 10g of chocolate and rolled from one short end to the other and placed on a baking try lined with baking paper.  

The bigger piece of dough that is left needs to be cut evenly into 3 long rectangles and then each rectangle cut diagonally ( made me think of Harry Potter there) to form 6 long thin triangles.   Roll these from wide end of triangle and place on baking tray with pain au chocolat. I covered 3 of the croissant and froze for another day at this point and was left with a tray of deliciousness like this 

I covered loosely with clingfilm and left to rise and double in size for about an hour and preheated oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark 6.
Gave them a simple egg wash with a beaten egg and cooked for 30 minutes.  The smell in last 10 minutes took me right back to that cafe in France. In last 10 minutes I dragged older son out of bed and made tea and real coffee to sit and enjoy these warm from the oven

They were amazing.  will leave you with a few pics of insides and close up.  It was an interesting dough when cooked, was sweet and savoury but wasn't either and  so crisp on outside but melting tender layers within. Definitely worth the effort and all those calories in butter.  I would rather have these once or twice a year than manufactured for supermarket ones. 

 First up inside of the first croissant.
can you see all those amazing layers? yummm
flash blurred this a bit I feel sorry but melted just warm chocolate in pain au chocolat