If you’re to believe what you read on social media these days, everyone is becoming a baker during isolation. Of course, I have done a lot of baking in my life, so my interest was piqued when I happened across a link to an English baker, Adam Pagor, who’d posted what he labelled as a definitive making-croissants-at-home story. I hadn’t heard of him and was intrigued.
I’ve been making croissants at home for a very long time; more than 40 years, if truth be told. I thought my early attempts were wonderful at the time, but I doubt I would think them wonderful now. Until I happened across Adam’s post, I had slavishly followed Julia Child’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2. It is delightful on occasions to revisit Julia making croissants via a YouTube clip, but she uses some methods that would make the current crop of croissant experts shudder.
In recent years my croissants have not been a patch on the modern version that has been exemplified by a number of bakeries with a cult-like following. I read and researched and still couldn’t even come close using Julia’s recipe. And then along came endless Covid-19 weeks at home and Adam’s story. Now I have croissants that are well on the way to replicating the modern versions and, while they in no way rival those of Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne, they are incredibly easy to make at home. Give it a try, making the dough the night before. In your downtime look at Jules on YouTube and Adam’s Instagram page, @season_adam. Adam can even make croissants with a baby strapped to his back.
Thanks to Adam Pagor of Grain & Hearth for allowing me to use his recipe.
– 425g bread flour
– 10g salt
– 40g castor sugar
– 135ml milk
– 10g instant yeast
– 250g unsalted butter
– 1 egg
– extra pinch salt
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Combine the milk with an equal amount of water and warm to blood temperature. Mix lightly with the yeast and let sit to activate for five minutes. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix – with the paddle if using a stand mixer or your hands if doing manually – until it comes together into a smooth dough. Knead for about five minutes, then put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, remove the butter from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before you want to work with it. Take the dough out and flatten it into a rectangle to remove the gas. Place in the freezer while you shape the butter.
Cut a piece of baking paper, about 30 x 30 centimetres. Place the butter in the middle and whack it with a rolling pin until it is about 15 x 10 centimetres. Fold the paper around so you can force it into the corners to make a nice even rectangle. Freeze for about five minutes. Remove both the dough and the butter from the freezer and roll the dough out into a rectangle, about 30 x 15 centimetres. Unwrap the butter, place in the middle and bring the sides in to cover the butter. Pinch seal the edges. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again to 45 centimetres, fold in three (what’s known as a single fold), turn 90 degrees and roll out to 45 centimetres again, fold in three, then wrap and chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Each time you roll it out, you can trim the ends square and lay the scraps on the sheet to be reincorporated into the dough.
After resting the dough, remove from the freezer and repeat the process, rolling the block out to a 45-centimetre sheet and folding in three. Place back in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Now roll the sheet out to cut the croissants. Roll into a rectangle, about 45 x 20 centimetres. Trim the edges and cut into 12 triangles (or 11 and a dud I make into a little pain au chocolat), then dock the middle of the bottom of the triangle to facilitate rolling.
Line a couple of trays with baking paper. Stretch or roll the point out and roll the croissant up, then place on the tray point-side down. Repeat until all are rolled. Cover with a tea towel and prove in a warm spot until doubled in size (two to three hours).
Preheat the oven to 180ºC with a little baking dish of hot water in the bottom to create a bit of steam. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with a good pinch of salt and a dash of water. Brush the croissants gently with the egg wash (I like to give them two coats). Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove to a rack and rest for a few minutes before eating. They are also perfectly good reheated for a few minutes the next morning, or they can be frozen and reheated.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 9, 2020 as "Fertile crescents".
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