It may seem like we have significantly upped the ante this month with our GBBO Challenge. But let me assure you, these are easier than you’d think. The dough comes together beautifully in a stand mixer and is a dream to work with — smooth, soft, and supple. There were several times during the process I was convinced I must be doing something wrong; it didn’t seem difficult enough to produce the insane goodness I’ve had at a pastry shop.
But it did.
What comes out of the oven is dangerously, out-of-this-world delicious: a thin caramelized shell that gives way to a chewy interior, something like croissants on steroids. I can only imagine how even better (!) they would taste with almond pastry filling dolloped into middle or maybe a square of chocolate.
Before I made these, I did some looking around. I knew I was going to use Paul Hollywood’s recipe, but I wasn’t going to begrudge myself a few other reference points. (I thought I was about to embark on a major challenge and wanted to be fully prepared.) From my “research”, I opted to use European style butter in lieu of American standard. If butter is the defining flavor, might as well go with the creamier, higher fat content, and more robust flavor, right?
Paul’s recipe says to use unsalted, but I used salted and halved the salt in the recipe. I wish, however, I had kept the original amount called for in addition to the salted butter. I think they would be all the more delicious. (I mean, David Lebovitz’s recipe generously sprinkles kosher (!) salt in between the layers of dough.)
Then, I didn’t see a recipe that said I could, but I decided to refrigerate my pastries after shaping. I like pastries with my morning cup of coffee, but not enough to wake up 4 hours early to make them. I’d much rather mix up the dough the night before, pop them in the fridge, then pull them out and bake the next day. Based on how good these turned out, I don’t see why I would ever do differently.
Some recipes also called for specific pastry rings, but my regular muffin tin worked just fine. One thing I’d do differently next time, though, is put a baking pan underneath right from the start. With all the butter, it’s too easy for some to melt and drip to the bottom of the oven where it will smoke like crazy.
Oh, and have you noticed the toasty tops on mine? While they look alarming, they didn’t detract from the flavor. But next time, I will actually tent some tin foil over them….You might have also noticed mine aren’t as alluringly beautifully shaped as ones from pastry shops. My dough squares were more like rectangles when I was at the shaping step. They look more like fans, but the taste is still unbelievable.
I tell you, these are so dang tasty but also easy enough that I’m definitely making them the next time I host a brunch and watch jaws drop.
Makes 12 small pastries
300g (10.5oz) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
7g (1/4oz or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast (or 5g fast acting yeast)
1 tsp salt (As I said above, I used 1/2tsp, but would go with 1tsp next time)
200ml (7oz) warm water
25g (1oz) salted European style butter, melted (regular butter would work fine)
250g (9oz) cold salted European style butter (again, regular butter would be fine)
100g (3.5oz) white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Measure flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Make sure to keep the yeast and salt on separate sides of the bowl as salt can kill yeast.)
Add the water and melted butter and mix on low speed for 2 min, then increase to medium speed for 6 min.
Gently slide the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Lightly grease the bowl, then return the dough ball to it, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour.
While dough is rising, sandwich the butter between two sheets of wax or parchment paper and bash with a rolling pin, softening it somewhat. Roll out to a 14cm/5½in square, then place in fridge to keep chilled.
Once dough has risen (it should double), turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 20cm/8in square. Take the butter from the fridge and place in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
Roll the dough and butter envelope into a 45x15cm/18x6in rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over, like folding a letter. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 min. This completes one turn.
Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 min between each turn.
Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the sugar. Fold the bottom third of the dough up over the middle, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of the sugar. Then fold the top third of the dough over. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40x30cm/16x12in rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with a dusting of additional sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.
Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place into the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the center of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with a dusting of additional sugar, cover with plastic wrap (or a clean tea towel), and leave to rise for 30 min, until slightly puffed. (Or, place in the fridge overnight and pick up right at the next step in the morning.)
Preheat oven to 425F. Bake pastries for 30-40 min, or until golden brown. If tops begin to color too darkly, cover with tented tin foil. Remove from oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long or the caramelized sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin. Tragic.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Following Paul Hollywood’s recipe.