Now, don’t be frightened – making croissant dough is time-consuming (because the dough must be chilled several times to keep the butter firm), but not difficult if you follow the recipe and measurements closely. I used to be frightened of pastry-making, in particular, Puff pastry and Croissant pastry – but once I threw caution to the wind and attempted them, they became progressively easier and easier.
The following Croissant recipe was given to me by an Outback Australian housewife years ago, and tucked safely into one of my recipe books – where it remained until I gathered the courage to give it a go.
For the Starter Batter:
2 envelopes dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons fresh yeast)
3/4 cup (175 ml) warm water
3/4 cup (about 100 g) flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) warm milk
2 tablespoons sugar
For the Dough:
3 cups (390 g) flour
2 teaspoons salt
12 oz. (340 g) of cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2" (1.3 cm) pieces
additional flour for rolling out the dough
egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water
Make the Dough:
Mix the yeast in the warm water and stir until it is completely dissolved. Whisk in the 3/4 cup flour, the warm milk and the sugar to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the batter to “mature” in a warm place, free from wind for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I always stand my mixture on my back patio table which is guarded from the wind, and yet still receives a filtered sunlight. You'll notice that the mixture rises and becomes bubbly during this time.
While the batter is maturing, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter (make sure it's cold) and mix gently to coat the butter with flour. Press the butter pieces with your fingers to flatten them a bit, but don't try to incorporate them into the flour. Chill the flour and butter mixture until the batter has finished maturing.
Add the batter to the flour and butter, mixing with a rubber spatula just enough to moisten the flour and make a crumbly dough. The butter pieces should still be firm.
The croissant dough must be rolled out and folded a total of four times. The first time you fold the dough is a challenge, as the dough is crumbly, the butter chunky – and you’re probably approaching the peak of anxiety. Don’t stress – this is normal, and after the first folding the process becomes much easier.
Roll and Fold the Dough for the First Time:
Turn the crumbly dough out onto a floured surface. If the top of the dough is wet or sticky, sprinkle it with flour.
Press the dough with your hands or use a rolling pin to form an elongated rectangle about 30 cm x 45 cm. Use your hands to help shape the edges.
Sprinkle any exposed butter with flour, and then fold the dough into thirds like a letter. You may find it a bit difficult to lift the edges of the rough dough to fold it – I use two dough scrapers to do this. Don’t worry about the appearance of the dough – it’s not so pretty after the first folding. The dough will smooth out and the flour will be better incorporated after the next folding.
If the butter is still firm, continue on to the second folding. If the butter has softened and is starting to run, cover the dough in plastic and chill it in the freezer for 15 minutes (or in the fridge for one hour) before rolling out the second time.
Roll and Fold the Dough for the Second, Third and Fourth Times
Scrape your work surface to clean it and dust it with more flour. Place the folded dough so that a short, open edge faces you. Roll out the dough into another 30 cm x 45 cm rectangle. Sprinkle flour on any exposed butter, brush off the excess flour, and fold the dough into thirds again. This completes the second folding.
Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes, or in the fridge for an hour.
Repeat the rolling and folding two more times, chilling the dough between times to keep the butter firm. After the fourth and final folding, wrap the dough in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours.
Shape and Bake the Croissants:
Cut the prepared croissant dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out one portion of the dough into a large rectangle about 6 mm thick. Use a large, sharp knife or pizza cutter to trim straight edges on the rectangle, and then cut out 8 elongated triangles.
Roll up the triangles from the base to the tip, and transfer the croissants, tip side down, to ungreased baking sheets with rims. (Use parchment paper for easier cleanup.) Leave room between the croissants for expansion. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic and leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough is quite puffy.
Preheat an oven to 200°C. Make the egg wash by beating an entire egg with one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash gently over the croissants, and bake in the middle of the preheated oven until rich golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the croissants to a rack to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving. Frozen croissants can be reheated directly from the freezer in a 190°C oven for 10 minutes.