It started with a trip to the allotment a few weeks ago - when the Ewing had upended a plastic barrel, and called me over to see what she knew was underneath; a small clump of rhubarb, glowing pink in the pale winter sun - and ended last weekend in our kitchen, with me asking for danish pastries that became a whole weekend's work for my wife. But worth it.
While I have no patience for anything in the kitchen, the Ewing is a careful and methodical baker and so I delegated the latest #cookbookchallenge to her (my challenge, my rules). The recipe was taken from the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook, from the Sydney-based mini bakery chain of the same name that I first visited nearly a decade ago for their signature chocolate, lemon and creme brulee-topped tarts. It's a beautiful tome for a baker, of which I am certainly not. That being said, I did make their chicken and lime pickle pies. and I still think about them now.
Lamination is a laborious, if not strangely relaxing process (at least when I wasn't shoving my phone in the way to take pictures) that involved a whole block of Lescure dry butter and much folding and resting to get the signature layers of good viennoiserie.
As if all the dairy products and roasted rhubarb wasn't enough, the Ewing also made bear claws filled with homemade frangipane with Cointreau that she also whipped up from a recipe in the book. And we finally used a jar of jam bought on our last trip to Paris. Which is lucky, as we're going back there next week and will certainly return laden down with more confitures.
The piece de resistance were a couple of off-cuts she rolled into traditional croissant shapes and that I stuffed with mortadella and sheep cheese studded with pistachios that we picked up in Sicily. A very tasty petit dejeuner.
Their recipe is for basic croissant dough, which can then be adapted into different shapes and filled or topped with whatever you would like. The pictures above show the croissant/pain au chocolat rolling instructions from the book. There are lots of danish designs, we Googled a few YouTube videos for inspiration. Ones that cut and 'twist' the dough show off the layers better than ones that are just folded over, although they are a little trickier to make. Bear claws are probably the easiest and probably my favourites. Probably because they remind me of the Ewing's toes.
Bourke Street Bakery croissant dough
(we halved the recipe below and made 8 rhubarb danishes, 4 bear claws and 2 croissants)
For the ferment
100g strong white bread flour, chilled
50ml whole milk, chilled
1 tsp soft brown sugar
5g fresh yeast
20g unsalted butter, softened
For the croissants
935g strong white flour, chilled
500ml whole milk
60g soft brown sugar
35g fresh yeast, chilled
500g unsalted butter, chilled
Ideas for the fillings
Jam, cooked fruit, chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, frangipane or creme patisserie
Make the Ferment (the ferment is a small amount of dough that needs to be made first and will help your croissant dough develop and rise)
Mix all ferment ingredients together in a bowl until it becomes a ball. Knead it for about 10 minutes until becomes elastic and smooth.
Put the ferment in a bowl covered with plastic and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to ferment. After, store the ferment in the fridge overnight (this can be kept for few days in the fridge).
Make the dough
Divide the ferment into 8-10 small pieces, mix it together with all other ingredients, except butter, in a mixing bowl until a dough ball is formed.
Transfer the dough ball to a bench and knead for 10 – 15 minutes (by hand) until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, and doesn’t tear when stretched gently.
Put the dough in a bowl covered with plastic bag or cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Laminate the dough
Remove the butter from the fridge. gently pound the butter with a rolling pin between two sheets of baking paper into 20 cm flat square. If the butter becomes too soft, put it back in the fridge for 15 minutes before using.
Take the dough out of the fridge, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 20 x 40 cm. Place the butter in the centre of the dough and fold the dough over the top. Seal the edges of the dough together to ensure the butter is completely enclosed in the dough.
Carefully roll the butter-filled dough into a rectangle, about 20 x 90 cm (approximately 3 times longer than the piece you started with). Fold the rectangle from one long end by one-third, then fold the other third over the top so your dough is now 20 x 30 cm – the same as you would fold a letter three ways to fit it into an envelope. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Repeat this folding and resting process twice more, each time rotating the dough 90 degrees. After the final roll, place in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest, then remove and roll into a rectangle approx. 25 x 100 cm and 5 – 8 mm thick, trimming the edges if needed.
Cut the dough into squares/triangles/rectangles depending on what pastries you are making, then place the pastry shapes on lined baking sheets and chill for 10 minutes, covered with a damp tea towel.
Take the pieces of dough from the fridge and shape as required, adding fruit, chocolate, fruit, jam, frangipane or creme patisserie as you wish. Place the shaped pastries back on the lined baking sheets and cover again with damp tea towels.
Let the pastries stand at warm room temperature for 2 hours, or until they are almost doubled in size.
To bake the pastries
Preheat the oven to 240 C
Whisk the egg wash ingredients together and brush the surface of pastries with the wash before baking. Put the croissants into the oven, then immediately reduce oven temperature to 190 C and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until deeply golden brown.