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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


We love croissants, and would like to have then for breakfast on Christmas morning. As the chances of finding a boulangerie open on Christmas morning in Devil's Bridge are slim, to say the least, this means learning to make them myself.

A few days ago, with a view to practicing this recipe, I dug out the Larousse Gastronomique that I inherited from my mother.

This cookery book is not for the faint hearted

I had owned this book for several years before I plucked up the courage to open it and discovered that it is not, in fact, written in French (yes, I know it says so on the cover, but I hadn't actually looked at it that closely). This helps, but not all that much. The entry for croissants informed me that they could either be made from puff pastry or using the yeast-based recipe below. I tried that one first, as best I could. Croissants have a lot of butter, but it didn't specify salted or unsalted butter. Since I associate unsalted butter with France, I guessed at that option. At three points in the recipe, I was instructed to leave the dough to rise. No mention of how long, or until what point, so I had to guess. Finally, the cooking instruction was, Cook in a hot oven. Exactly how hot and for how long was left to the cook's discretion.

The result was approximately croissantish, but very bland. That would be salted butter, then. The texture wasn't quite right, either - too bready.

For the second attempt, I tried puff pastry, the recipe for which I eventually found under Dough. This recipe takes a lot of attention. First a simple flour-and-water dough is made, then left to stand for ten minutes. Then it's rolled out and butter added in a layer end enclosed in the dough, then left to stand for ten minutes. Next it's turned which means roll into a long rectangle then fold into three, then leave to stand for ten minutes.

Puff pastry after one turn.
You can just about see the yellow of the butter showing through.

Repeat another five times, which means pandering to this piece of dough for over an hour. Luckily, I had other kitcheny things to do, so I could fold the dough then do something else in between without too much inconvenience. I took enough dough for a couple of croissants - two egg sized pieces - and rolled them out into thin oval sheets as instructed (well, it didn't say thin, but the first ones didn't seem quite right when I rolled them thicker) before rolling up and curving the ends round into crescents.

Second attempt at croissants

These were much better, but as you can see from the picture, the outside was almost burnt whilst the inside (not visible, obviously) was still doughy. By this time I'd concluded that the hot oven instruction was wrong.

For the third attempt, I rolled out a couple of pieces and shaped the croissants before going to bed, then cooked them this morning, this time on gas mark 4. I also remembered to brush them with milk before cooking, which I'd forgotten for the second attempt. These didn't fluff up so much, but did cook through without burning on the outside. Maybe it should be gas mark 5. I'll find out tomorrow - if all goes to plan, we'll be having fresh squeezed orange juice (we have oranges) and fresh baked croissant for breakfast on Christmas morning. And tea, of course.

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