The main technique used in the making of croissants is called laminating, so before we get into the recipe, I figured I would outline it for you. When you laminate in baking, you are folding a flat sheet of butter into a dough, to create alternating layers of dough and butter. In doing so, the butter melts while baking to create the classic flaky texture of the croissants you know and love. It’s a time-consuming process, specifically on a warmer day, which it was when I tried it on Saturday. It makes sense, the warmer your environment, the quicker the butter starts to soften and/or melt. So, you fold a few times, roll out a few times, then the dough goes back into the fridge until the butter is chilled enough to continue, and the gluten is relaxed enough to keep rolling. It’s a delicate balance- if the butter is colder than the dough, it can break into pieces and distribute unevenly. If vice versa, the butter will start to seep out of the dough as you roll.
After learning all this, you can imagine my surprise that my first attempt went so well. As a matter of fact, I popped them into the oven (which doesn’t have a window in the door), and said a quick prayer because I was so nervous. When I opened the oven ten minutes later as the suspense was killing me, I promptly burst into tears upon seeing them. My sister happened to arrive home from dinner and, seeing my tears out of context thought everything had gone wrong, sorry for the mini heart attack Kathleen!!
Anyway, this is quite a project, but I’m here to tell you it’s doable! The dough can be prepped and laminated in one day and then assembled into croissants the next, as well as frozen for the next time you need a croissant fix. The recipe, originally from King Arthur Flour, makes 24 and since I live with only 1 person, I put half the laminated dough in the freezer for the next rainy day. Trust me, the feeling of knowing you can make a croissant from scratch is remarkable, I’m basically a french pastry chef now you guys. Except for, you know, the culinary degree, the accent, and the ability to make any other kind of fancy french pastry.
Before we start, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. A productive weekend.
TWO. A Sunday afternoon stroll with a late lunch.
THREE. Re-watching old Disney movies on a gloomy day.
FOUR. Heavy fountain pens for handwritten notes.
FIVE. Organizing your drawers and finding a piece of clothing you forgot about.
Let’s do this!!!
2 eggs + plus enough warm water to make 2 cups
¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
5 ½ to 6 cups all purpose flour, I recommend using King Arthur brand
2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, I recommend using Kerrygold
1 scant Tablespoon salt
1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch, I recommend using Kerrygold
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup all purpose flour, I recommend using King Arthur brand
For the Dough
Add the eggs and water to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until there are no dry spots and the mixture is blended. Set aside.
For the Butter
Cut the cold butter in 1 inch pieces and add one at a time to the bowl of a stand mixer, combining with salt and flour. Beat on low speed until just smooth, without whipping air into the butter. Make sure all the butter is incorporated evenly.
Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and shape into an 8 inch square. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Finishing the dough
Pour the melted butter onto the yeast and flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, 2½ cups flour, and the salt. Mix the dough until a dough forms, and knead for 5 minutes. If it’s too sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat/ roll it into a 9 inch square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Laminating the dough
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll into a 12 inch square. Unwrap the butter square and place it on the dough at a 45 degree angle, so that the butter looks like a diamond shape in a square shape. Gently pull the corners of the dough over the butter block into the center, pinching the seams with a little water so that they’re secure. Once the butter is totally enclosed, dust the top lightly with flour, then flip the whole packet over.
Tap the dough with the rolling pin, gently encouraging it into a rectangular shape, with the long sides vertical to you. Once it’s pliable, roll this dough packet into a 20 inch x 10 inch rectangle. If the dough starts to stick, dust with a little flour. If any butter looks like its about to start leaking, seal the edge with a little water.
Sweep the excess flour off the dough and fold the whole thing into thirds like a letter. It’s very important that all the sides line up exactly, since the more folding you do, the more unaligned they would become if a fold was off. This is your first “turn”.
Rotate the dough so that it looks like a book about to be opened. Once again roll the dough into a 20 inch x 10 inch rectangle and fold like a letter, aligning all the edges. This is your second “turn”. At this point, wrap the dough and return it to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, to firm the butter and relax the gluten.
After this resting period, repeat the rolling and folding for two more turns, then wrap tightly and refrigerate the dough for another hour. At this point you can also leave it overnight and then shape the croissants tomorrow, or freeze the dough for later use.
Shaping the croissants
Cut the dough in half and return one half to the fridge or freezer. Roll the other half into a 13 inch x 18 inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or long sharp knife, trim the edges of the dough a ¼ inch all the way around to expose the laminated insides. This will allow the dough to rise fully.
Cut the dough into thirds lengthwise and then in half crosswise to give you six roughly 4 inch by 9 inch rectangles. Cut these pieces in half diagonally and arrange them so that the points face away from you. Stretch the dough of each triangle slightly and then cut a 1 inch notch at the base of the triangle.
Roll the two inside corners of the notch up towards you, then roll the dough towards the tip, building the classic, curved croissant shape. It’s important that the tip of the triangle ends up underneath the croissant so that it doesn’t puff up. Place the shaped pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining triangles. If you’d like, curve the ends of the croissant inwards to make a half circle shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove the shaped croissants from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for at least 1 hour. You should notice them rise noticeably over this hour long period.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush each croissant with egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water). Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until deep golden with no raw dough visible in the overlapping layers.
Allow to cool on a baking rack for 20 minutes before eating. Serve with lots of jam and a cup of coffee please!!
Congratulations, you just made croissants!!! xoxoxo