Food

Croissants – #LockdownDelights

Pictures & Baking By Nokuthula Khoabane-Mabuza

ON #Day12Lockdown I chose one of the most laborious undertakings in baking – well, for me as a newby to baking.

I decide to make croissants.

Firstly, pastry is an extremely challenging task, then of course it is summer here in South Africa at the moment and the technique of keeping the temperate of the dough low so that the butter doesnt melt in order to get the required layers in the dough is simply hectic. And then there’s the creme de la creme of pastry – the croissant. 

Producing the airy, buttery, fluffy, melt in your mouth pastry – was most exerting, requiring not only perfect execution but immense patience, at the end of which is sheer exhilaration. 

And here’s a recipe courtesy of https://buttermilkpantry.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/how-to-make-croissants/

The Equipment

You’ll need:

  • Long ruler (I use a 60cm ruler for ease)
  • Pizza cutter or knife
  • Rolling pin (regular/straight and not a tapered one), at least 25cm in length
  • Timer (I use my phone)
  • Baking paper
  • Cling wrap
  • Baking trays at least 2 large trays
  • Shorter ruler (30cm), optional for when you cut the triangles out
  • Room thermometer, optional (I find it useful but its not necessary)

How to make croissants

Makes 11 croissants
with enough trimmings to make a small loaf

What you’ll need

  • 500g bread flour
  • 55g white sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 150g luke warm milk
  • 150g luke warm water
  • 8g dry yeast
  • 250g unsalted butter, room temp

Before you begin, I strongly recommend watching the video that I’ve made.

There is only so much I can say to describe the actions and texture, but visuals always gives you a better idea of what to expect.

The day before

Make the dough

Ensure that your milk and water is luke warm, add your yeast to it and give the mixture a good stir and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the bread flour, sugar, salt and give it a quick mix, add the milk mixture and mix on low (speed no. 1) for 2 mins. Increase the speed (to speed no. 2) and knead for another 7 mins.

Transfer the dough to a tray lined with baking paper, press it down slightly with your hands to form a rectangle and cover with cling wrap.

Place the tray in the fridge overnight.

Make the butter block

At least a couple of hours before you are ready to shape the dough, remove it from the fridge. If it is summer where you are, you might not need as long for the butter to soften.

You’ll want the butter to be the consistency of being malleable where you can actually bend the butter but it doesn’t leave a melted oily buttery feeling on your finger tips when you work with it.

Now that the butter is at the right temperature, the next step is to create the butter block.

Most recipes call for the butter to be made into a thicker smaller block than what you will see in this recipe. I however ask for this to be bigger to make your initial first fold a lot easier and lower risk.

You’ll want to fold 2 baking paper to the size of 20cm by 40cm.

Slice the butter up and place them on one of the baking paper, lay the second baking paper on top and fold the edges of the baking paper until it’s back to being 20cm x 40cm and use a rolling pin to roll out the butter. I would usually press down on the dough or gently tap it to help with shaping it.

Ensure that you make this butter slab thickness as even as possible. If you remember my mention of the lamination, we are trying to create even layers of dough and butter when we begin the lamination process.

Place the butter on a baking tray and transfer to the fridge to rest overnight. You can make this butter a few days in advance if you wish and just leave it in the fridge until you are ready to use.

The next morning

Stretch the dough

Take the dough out of the fridge and you’ll notice that it would have puffed up slightly overnight.

Dust your bench and rolling pin with flour and place your dough on the bench.

Roll it out to 40cm x 40cm in size.

I usually try to stretch the dough out to being a square with my hands by gently tugging along the edges whilst I roll it out.

Cover and place the dough back in the fridge for 30mins to allow the gluten to relax.

During this time, remove the butter from the fridge to allow it to come back to being the malleable consistency.

If you are in a warm climate, you might only need to remove it 15 mins before you are ready to use it.

Why are we doing this?

This step is something you usually wouldn’t see in recipes, but this helps with keeping the dough cold. Because of how much we have worked the gluten structure in the dough, it tends to be a little harder to roll out and so we allow the dough to relax over the 30mins rest period to keep it cold and to help with the next step of stretching the dough out to 60cm.

Encasing the butter

The dough may have shrank over it’s time in the fridge so you want to roll it out to being slightly bigger than 40cm x 40cm so that you can encase the butter in the dough.

Peel of one side of the baking paper, and place the butter in the middle of the dough pressing it down into the dough lightly to let it stick to the dough and slowly peel off the second baking paper. Fold the left and right side of the dough to encase the butter and press it down gently with your rolling pin to seal it.

The first fold

Now that the dough is encase, extend it to be slightly longer than 60cm (around 62cm is fine).

The seam should still be facing up at you running down the middle of the dough as you are only extending the length from 40cm to 60cm.

Rolling technique

One technique that I love using is to press down on the dough with the rolling pin to help compress the layers and this also helps with stretching the dough out.

In this initial fold, you may not see the benefit of this action much, but you will notice it in the subsequent folds.

Through the pressing action you will stretch it slightly, the next thing to do after pressing down on it is to roll it out like you usually would roll the dough and you’ll notice that it might roll slightly more evenly.

Don’t forget to dust the dough if you notice parts sticking to the bench. As you continue the lamination process and create more layers. The layers of dough holding the butter in will be thinner and you don’t want to tear it by having it stick to the bench.

Another action that I use is the fluffing action.

This will help to relax and release the dough from the table to ensure it doesn’t stick and helps with the rolling process. I basically tuck my hands under the dough and fluff it gently like you would fluff a piece of cloth. (refer to video for action reference)

Whatever you do, be sure the thickness of your dough is always as even as possible. If you notice that one side thicker than just roll it out to make it even with the other side.

Folding it

Dust off excess flour that is on the dough prior to folding it.

To fold the dough, simply take the top part of the dough and fold it downwards by a slightly lesser than a third of the length.

Then take the bottom of the dough and fold over that initial fold with the dough overlapping at the edge just so it doesn’t sit directly above the dough but rather goes around the spine. This is your first fold.

I find that by overlapping the edge of the fold it helps with keeping the dough layers/shape when you roll it out it out in the second fold.

Take note of which side the overlapping edge sits on the dough, I usually rotate the dough clockwise so that its on my right.

Wrap tightly with cling wrap and freeze for 20mins (15mins if its cooler where you are or 25mins if it’s warmer where you are).

Wrap it tightly in cling wrap to lock in the moisture in the dough so it doesn’t dry out whilst it’s in the fridge.

Second fold

The process of rolling it out is the same but you will notice that it will be tougher to roll it out. That’s okay, the dough shouldn’t tear.

Just remember to flour the surface as need be to prevent it from sticking. If the dough gets too warm (dough feels really soft), just place it back into the freezer. And if it’s too cold (butter cracks), just let it rest on the bench.

To roll out the dough, ensure that the overlapping edge is on your right side of your body and that the overlap is on the top and you didn’t somehow manage to flip it over whilst you were wrapping the dough so that it is now on the bottom.

You’ll want to roll the out to be slightly longer than 60cm (around 62cm). Fold it in thirds again just like the first fold you did above, rotate the dough ensuring that the overlapping edge is on your right once more.

Wrap it tightly and place it back in the freezer for 20mins.

Third fold

Repeat with rolling it out and folding it in thirds.

Wrap it and place it back in the freezer for another 20mins.

Prepping the dough for slicing

You’re almost past all that pain.

Take your dough out of the freezer and roll it to be at least 60cm by 28cm.

This might take awhile. The dough will fight you, the dough will shrink, but just keep at it, just be sure not to rip the dough. If you feel that it is getting too soft, place it back in the freezer for 5-10mins.

Keeping with the pressing and rolling, keep with the fluffing, keep with the dusting of flour to prevent it from sticking. You will get there and you will be happy when that happens. In this stage, it’s absolutely fine if you rotate the dough as you roll it out, the seam doesn’t have to remain on your right.

The key is to ensure your dough is of even thickness. This is always key.

Just when you think the dough is around the right size, you’ll start to realise that it will shrink slightly as it sits which is why I usually roll it to be larger than 60cm x 28cm (64cm x 30cm)

Take your ruler and pizza cutter (or knife), slice off a little of the top and bottom of the dough along it’s length. This will help with the dough as it puffs up to ensure the middle is able to expand as the layer have now been released from you slicing off those seams.

Check the length of your dough to ensure it still has a nice 60cm area that you can work with. Trim off the left side of your dough.

You should now only have one edge not trimmed off (on your right)

Gently mark the base along the length of the dough at 10cm intervals until you reach 60cm. (e.g. 10cm, 20cm, 30cm…60cm). You just want it marked enough to visually see the indicators but not cut through it nor compress your layers.

Slice off the right side at the 60cm mark to make that perfect 60cm x 28cm rectangle.

Keep all of your trimming because we can still make something with it.

On the top of the dough, mark the dough at 10cm increments offset by 5cm. (e.g. 5cm, 15cm, 25cm… 55cm)

mark

Now to the fun part…

Slice your triangles

Using a ruler, place the ruler along the breath connecting the markings on the top to the bottom and slice it. You should get 11 beautiful triangles with 2 halves on each end.

cut

If you feel that the triangles are getting warm, place on a tray and wrap it in cling wrap and place it back into the freezer for 5-10mins until cool again.

Shaping the croissant

Take a piece of dough triangle with your right hand hold it by the base with your left hand.

I am right handed so I hold it with my left but you can do whichever hand works best for you.

Using your thumb and index finger, gently stretch the dough along the middle to elongate it slightly and relax the dough. The dough should extend slightly. If you are worried about over handling the dough you can skip this step but I like doing this to help with the shaping process.

Place it on the table and roll it from the base to the tip as evenly as possible keeping the roll tight. Don’t worry about working really fast, just try to keep it balance if possible but even if it’s not perfect it’ll still taste fine.

Ensure the tip of the croissant is tuck under the dough, they will ensure it doesn’t unroll when it bakes/proof. I usually tap/throw the dough gently against the workbench to help “lock it in” under the croissant. But you can just gently tuck it under and press it down just to “lock” it in.

Transfer them to a tray with a good amount of space between them as when they bake they will increase in size by at least 3 times. I usually place them on a 45 degree angle on the tray to fit more on.

Proofing

Proof your dough in a warm area until it looks puffy and wobbles when you give your pan a shake. It should increase in size by around 70% and if your lamination was done correctly, some of the layers will start to show. At 25-27C it takes around 3-4hrs for me before it’s ready for the egg wash.

There are a few things to note with this step. You’ll want to ensure that the dough doesn’t dry out, but more importantly to ensure that the temperature of where you are proofing your dough doesn’t go higher than 27C.

If the temperature gets higher than 27C, the butter will start to melt and you will lose those lovely layers and your croissant will turn into a brioche instead. Still delicious, but not a croissant.

The best way to proof your dough if where you live is cold, would be to put it in an oven with a mug of hot water to heat up the oven. Just be sure not to place it directly under the tray. Ideally to the side of the tray or above it just so you do not accidentally overheat the dough by overheating the tray. Replace with boiling water as need be if the oven starts to get too cold again.

The hot water does 2 things – it increases the humidity in the oven and allows the dough to proof without the layers cracking due to the dough having dried out and it also heats the oven to make it a warm environment conducive for the dough to proof.

If you do want to go down the path of using your oven’s pilot light to proof the dough, be sure to keep the dough away from the light as the lights tend to get too warm and may melt the butter of those croissants closest to the light. To keep the dough “moist” use a hand water spritzer to spray a light mist of water on the croissants.

If you don’t have a water spritzer, you can place a mug of hot water in the oven without the pilot light just until it’s humid and steamy after which you can turn on the pilot light to proof.

One of the toughest part about making croissants is the proofing time, too short and butter will leak out of your croissants. Too long and it might deflate. Due to the lower amount of yeast in this recipe, overproofing is going to be less of an issue than underproofing. You want to be sure that you let it go for the 3-4hrs and it looks all puffy and pillowy before you bake it 🙂

Egg wash and preheat your oven

Mix 1 large egg, 20g of milk (or water) with a light pinch of salt until smooth. This is your egg wash.

Brush a light coat of egg wash on the croissants. Try your best to be gentle so you do not knock the air out of your beautifully proofed croissants.

You want to try and avoid brushing the sides of the croissants if possible as you don’t want to “seal” the layers together when it bakes.

Preheat the oven to 200C for 30 mins or until it comes up to temperature.

Before placing the croissants in the oven, brush it with another layer of egg wash.

Baking it

Bake your croissants on the middle rack for 7mins at 200C, reduce the heat to 180C and bake for another 13mins.

Remove from oven and immediately gently transfer the croissants to a wire rack.

Let cool fully before slicing into it to maintain the layers (but I personally can never resist biting into a warm flaky buttery croissant.)

You’re done and ready to enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and do give it a try.

I’ve done my best to be as detailed as possible but I will definitely update it as time passes with any new tips/knowledge that I gain.

Enjoy and happy baking! Do tag me on Instagram @buttermilkpantry if you try out the recipes.

Got scraps?

I like slicing up my scrap edges into 1″ squarish pieces and toss them in a mixture of 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon powder.

I then layer the pieces in a mini loaf tin with a sprinkle of the sugar mixture between each layers to get a nice swirl of sugary sweetness. I repeat the layering until all the scraps have been used up and added a final sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Let it proof alongside the croissants and bake them off. They’ll need to bake for around 30 mins-35mins at 180C. If they get too dark, just cover it with aluminium foil midway through baking.

Can I freeze the dough for later?

I usually wouldn’t do so only because I don’t trust the yeast activity being able to revive itself after a prolonged period of being frozen.

That said, the yeast is meant to be resilient enough such that you can freeze your croissants before baking them.

What I do suggest is shaping your croissant before freezing to allow you to simply let it thaw and proof overnight before baking.

Do not proof them before freezing them as it will affect the final outcome.

If you do decide to freeze the sheets of dough, do take care to bring the dough up to the right malleable temperature before shaping to ensure you do not lose those precious layers.

Can I halve the recipe?

Technically yes, but I don’t have the measurements for that at this stage.

You are basically going for half the weight for all the ingredients (yeast included)

Measurements wise you will want to go by surface area and not divide all the measurements by 2. I.e. half the surface area of 40×20 is 20×20 not 20×10.

Hope this helps and all the best!

POST LAST UPDATED: 8TH APRIL 2019
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