Fanny Cradock has a canny knack of convincing us that almost everything is perfectly French, even when it clearly isn't, including her own questionable heritage. Just by saying it, or writing it, it becomes true, n'est-ce pas? I mean, who could possibly cross-check these things back in the day? However for once Ma Chérie Fanny takes something which we all (possibly) would imagine to be so utterly French through and through and lets us know in no uncertain terms that it is not. We are wrong. Bien sûr. Croissants are most definitely NOT French. Non madam.
How silly of us to not know our history. Especially when it comes to cold yeasted dough. Especially when the true story is 'such a pretty one', according to Fanny. Croissants were of course created by the bakers of Budapest in 1686. During a siege on the city by the Turks when their forces surrounded the city walls, the guards on the parapets fell asleep one night. Fanny doesn't bother to explain why. The bakers were of course still awake and baking, as usual. The bakers heard strange noises and awoke the guards, thereby driving back the Turks. The next day it was hailed that as a reward for the bakers saving the city a new bread was to be created. Inspiration was taken from the crecents on the sleeves of the Turks' ottomans, and hence Croissants were born. Naturellement.
Fanny wants to continue on her myth busting way by convincing us that croissants are also easy to make, real croissants that is. Fanny says that is 'nonsense' that they take 8 hours to make and can be easily made even in cold environments. Even when there is a draught in the kitchen, or a door is left open it makes not a halfpenny of a difference. They need no proving. Yes, that's what Fanny says. Just whip up the dough, which can then be left in the fridge for up to 7 days, prepare the croissants, slip them into the oven for 13 or 14 minutes while you make tea or coffee and do the rest of your breakfast chores if you have guests. Remember Fanny is not too keen on weekend guests. Ou quelqu'un.
Fanny gets going by cutting some flour into butter with two knives, sharing it into an oblong and chilling it in the fridge. Fresh yeast (which I love) is mixed with some sugar to liquefy and then a beaten egg while you make a mound of flour on your work surface. Fanny doesn't specify which kind of flour to use, but she always says to use self raising for everything, so I do. The liquid is poured into the mound and gently mixed to a dough, without breaking the flour rim until it is thick enough. Fanny them simply slaps it from side to side until its smooth and picks up all the remaining flour. Sounds like her treatment of the poor assistants. Quelle surprise.
With the chilled butter in the centre, the dough is folded over, spun round, rolled out gently (Fanny notices you should see small bubbles on the surface, I do, meaning the yeast is waking up, springy and light), turned and folded again, and again, and again until a lovely parcel is created. I decide to store it in the fridge until weekend guests arrive. Fanny rolls out her dough to a quarter inch thick and uses a complicated triangular wooden template to cut out shapes to be rolled as croissants. I go more freehand with a pizza cutter. Look, it's Sunday morning and I am still asleep. Curled, egg washed and in the oven. Once baked they are golden and crisp, a little bobbly but maybe that's because I stored the dough for a few days. They don't look all that French, but do look a little like croissants, but a little more like little crabs - luckily I can tell my guests I am trying out an old authentic 17th century Budapest pastry recipe to distract them... Je suis si vilain.