Ahhhhhh croissants. Those delightfully buttery, flaky, golden brown pastries that when done right, are pure bliss. They should be light as a feather, shatter as you take your first bite, and be bursting with flavor. Too often, purchased croissants are too doughy, not flaky, and well, maybe even stale after sitting out for a long time. So, why not give them a go them at home?
The process of making croissants is methodical, and requires some patience. You must start these croissants about 2 days before you want to bake them (the process that works well for me is about 36 hours; see timeline in post). Yes, this may seem like a long time, but trust me, it's worth it. The dough requires resting time in the refrigerator not only to strengthen, but also to gain enormous amounts of flavor.
As my friends and family will tell you, I like to hammer on a small number of recipes until I get things juuuuuuuust right. And these croissants are no exception. I've been trying to make at least one laminated dough treat per week; usually my bake day is Monday morning (my lucky, lucky coworkers!). I've figured out a dough schedule that works really well for me, and allows me to have plenty of time on to do Sunday things (this schedule works well for me during the week, too, with the timeline shifted up a few hours):
- Saturday night: mix dough, usually around 8:00pm (no more than 12 hours before I plan to get up and laminate the dough Sunday)
- Sunday morning: Plasticize Butter & Roll I around 8am; Roll II around10:00am
- Sunday evening: Roll II & Shape around 7:00pm; Proof until about 10:00pm (time depends on how warm/cool our house is)
- Monday morning: Bake!
- The goal when making laminated dough is to create many, many distinct butter and dough layers. See that lovely honeycomb looking structure above? That's what a cross-section of a croissant should look like. When placed in the oven, the water in the butter evaporates, creating steam that forces the layer to puff - into a flaky croissant! It's very important that your dough and butter block be of the same consistency, and that you press down firmly onto your dough with your rolling pin before actually rolling it out, to help maintain the layering. If during the process of rolling out your dough, you notice many large chunks of butter throughout your dough, your butter was likely too cold, and shattered. If your croissant bakes up dense and not very flaky, your butter may have been too warm and melded into the dough, or, you may have squashed your layers otherwise during rolling.
- When rolling/shaping your dough, try to keep your edges as square as possible. It'll make your layers nice and even, and it'll be much easier to fold and manipulate your dough.
- Have fun! Even if it takes you a few attempts to get the results you're after (it took me a few tries, too), it's pretty much guaranteed that every attempt will be delicious! The ingredients here aren't complicated; it's the technique that takes some time to hone.
CroissantsYield: 10 croissants
Start these croissants about 2 days before you want to bake them (the process that works well for me is about 36 hours; see timeline in post). Yes, this may seem like a long time, but trust me, it's worth it. The dough requires resting time in the refrigerator not only to strengthen, but also to gain enormous amounts of flavor.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (260 grams) milk, room temperature
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (100 grams) bread flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
- 2 sticks (228 grams) unsalted butter, cold
- 1 egg
- Prepare & refrigerate détrempe: 6 - 12 hours
- Plasticize Butter & Roll I: 15 minutes
- Refrigerate: 1 1/2 - 3 hours
- Roll II: 5 minutes
- Refrigerate: 4 - 16 hours
- Roll III & shape: 15 minutes
- Proof: 3 - 4 hours
- Bake: 30-40 minutes/sheet
- Combine milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk for 5-10 seconds to dissolve.
- Add remaining ingredients to bowl, through soft butter. Fit mixer with dough hook, and mix for 3-4 minutes, until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth.
- Place dough onto sheet of plastic wrap, and gently press into a square. Wrap loosely with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours. The dough will firm up, and the dough will puff up slightly.
Plasticize Butter & Roll I
- Sandwich 2 sticks cold butter between two sheets of plastic wrap.
- Pound butter with a rolling pin into a flat block. Measure a 6" square, trim sides, and spread trimmings on top of butter block.
- Repeat until you have a smooth slab of butter, 6" square. This is called plasticizing the butter. The butter should still be cold, and should flex without breaking when you bend it. Refrigerate until ready to use. Goal here is to have the butter and dough be at the same consistency.
- Put the détrempe on a well-floured work surface.
- Press down firmly on dough to create an 8" square. Rotate the square so that one of the points faces you, like a baseball diamond.
- Mark a 6" square in the middle of the diamond, creating triangular flaps at the corners.
- Roll out each triangular flap into a square-ish shape (approximately 3" squares). You'll have to tug a bit at the dough in order to achieve a square shape. They do not need to be perfect. At this point, the dough will be about 12" top to bottom, with a 6" square in the center that is about 1" deep. The squarish flaps will be about 1/4" thick.
- Place the butter block on top of the 6" dough square. Again, the butter should be approximately the same consistency of the dough.
- Fold one of the flaps up and stretch it over the butter square, so that the flap covers the butter entirely. Repeat with the remaining three flaps. Tug at the flaps to keep them in a square that covers the butter.
- Using your palms, press the dough packet into an 8" square.
- Switch to a rolling pin, and continue to flatten the dough by pressing up and down on the package in both directions. Roll out the dough into a 16 x 10" rectangle.
- Book fold: Position the dough so that a long side is facing you. Mark the dough in the center, to create two 10 x 8" rectangles. Fold up the right side of the dough, so that the edge meets the mark in the middle. Fold up the left side of the dough, to meet the middle mark and the right edge. Press the folds together, so that the two edges meet cleanly in the middle.
- Fold the right half of the dough on top of the left half. At this point, your dough will be 4 inches wide, 10 inches from top to bottom, and about 2 inches thick.
- Letter fold: Rotate the dough so that a long edge faces you. Roll out into a 18 x 8" rectangle. Mark the rectangle vertically into thirds. Fold the right third of the dough on top of the middle third. Then, fold the left third on top of the middle and right thirds. Your dough should now be about 6" wide, 8" top to bottom, and 2" thick.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 1 1/2 - 3 hours.
Roll out your dough, and book fold (see below)
Roll out your dough, and letter fold (see below)
- Place dough onto well-floured work surface, with a long edge facing you.
- Roll dough into a 18 x 12" rectangle. If dough resists rolling, let sit for up to 15 minutes to relax, and try again.
- Letter fold: Score vertically into thirds, and complete a letter fold, as described above.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 4 - 16 hours.
Roll III & Shape
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I like to bake my croissants in batches, to ensure that the croissants have adequate space to expand and rise. If they end up colliding while baking, the croissants won't brown evenly.
- Place dough onto well-floured work surface, with a long edge facing you.
- Roll into a 30 x 7" rectangle.
- Starting at the bottom left corner of the rectangle, make a mark along the edge of the rectangle every 5". Then, starting at the top of the rectangle, mark midway between each notch.
- Using a chef's knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into triangles, cutting on the diagonal from notch to notch. You'll end up with 10 triangles and a few scraps.
- Turn triangles so that the bases face you, and cut a 1" vertical slit into the base of each triangle. Pick up one triangle by its base, and gently pull it to elongate it to 10-12".
- Place lengthened triangle onto your work surface. Gently fan open the base at the slit, and roll the dough tightly down to the point. Place on prepared baking sheet, with the point side down (it should be underneath the croissant, so that it doesn't unravel when proofing/baking), and curl ends toward each other. Repeat with remaining triangles. Place five croissants on each baking sheet.
- Cover croissants loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof in a warm place for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until poufy.
- Allow to continue proofing for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until croissants are very poufy and jiggle slightly when you shake the pan.
- Approximately 30 minutes prior to baking, preheat oven to 400F. Whisk the egg in a small bowl.
- Brush croissants on one sheet pan with beaten egg. Keep the other sheet covered with plastic wrap.
- Bake in preheated oven on center rack for 5 minutes at 400F, then turn oven down to 350F and bake for 25 - 35 minutes more, until croissants are golden brown all over.
- Repeat egg wash and baking steps for second pan.
- Let croissants cool slightly on a wire rack, and serve warm.
NoteCroissants can be prepared through Step #1 in the "Proof" stage, and refrigerated overnight. I usually put all of the croissants on one baking sheet - I rarely have room for 2 sheets in my refrigerator - and then transfer half to a second baking sheet in the morning. To bake, line a second sheet pan with parchment paper. Remove half of the croissants from the refrigerator, place onto second prepared pan, and let sit at room temperature for 30 - 40 minutes. Egg wash and bake as directed above. When first pan goes into the oven, remove remaining croissants from refrigerator, and let sit at room temperature. Again, egg wash and bake as directed, when first sheet comes out of the oven.
Source: Adapted from Flour