Late this week I tried my hand at pastry, using Weekend Bakery’s croissant dough recipe. It’s a multi-day process. Thursday night I mixed the dough, the standard flour-water-yeast-salt components that make up all yeast-leavened breads, plus some milk and butter.
Also Thursday, I created the butter sheet. The goal is to create a square of butter about a half cm thick and 17 cm on a side. You can actually buy these pre-made — see here or search for “butter sheets”. But they’re not hard to make. There are lots of blog posts and videos about how to do this. The trick is to work quickly while the butter is at an intermediate temperature between refrigerator and room temperatures — soft enough to roll but hard enough that it doesn’t melt and make a mess — flattening it between two pieces of wax paper or inside a large plastic zip top bag. For the butter I used Plugrá, a high butterfat “European style” butter that is readily available in my local market.
Friday night I did the “laminations”. The goal is to create a large number of alternating layers of dough and butter, achieved by the same exponential growth law behind folding paper to the moon. By folding the dough sheet over on itself three times, and repeating the process three times, you get 3^3 = 27 layers. This process, which looks pretty involved in the videos, is actually quite straightforward. The main tips are to use plenty of flour, use a measuring tape to achieve the specified dimensions, and put the dough back in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes between turns.
Finally, Saturday morning, the payoff. Rather than making croissants, I split the dough and used half for pain au chocolat, and half for morning buns. The former are shown below. On retrospect I should have oriented the pastry so that the seam was squarely underneath and they wouldn’t flap out. For the chocolate, not having any of the fancy “batons” readily available, I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips.
The end results were delicious, for both types of pastry. Not for every weekend though!
Sizing notes: The Weekend Bakery recipe (500g flour) produced enough dough for 6 morning buns (4cm x 15cm) and 8 pain au chocolat (7.5cm x 15cm).