I’ve been spoilt, so spoilt that I’ve tasted fresh croissants in France. And once you’ve tasted the real deal in France, nothing will ever come close in comparison. So, if you ever happen to be visiting France, do NOT, I repeat do NOT try their fresh croissants. Otherwise, you’ll suffer a life-long torment in searching for the perfect croissant again.
Most people are daunted by making croissants, but not I – the more challenging something is supposed to be, the more motivated I become. It’s true that making croissants at home can take a little time, but apart from the initial mixing of the dough, it’s not that labor intensive. That is, unless you physically wait 45 minutes between each pastry fold. If you have things to do around the house, set a timer for when you need to tend to the folding – the folding takes around 1-2 minutes.
To make really good croissants at home, you would need to use the best European unsalted butter you can find/afford. European butter is richer in butterfat (up to 84 %), and will give you a richer and puffier finished product.
I was pretty impressed with my first batch of croissants – they were crisp on the outside, meltingly soft and tender on the inside, and was made up of beautiful buttery layers of pastry. Just writing about them, makes me want to get into the kitchen and start a batch right now! Of course, they’re still no comparison to the fresh croissants in France, but they are however, the best croissants I’ve eaten whilst in the US – I’ll just have to visit France on my next trip to Europe.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s – “Essentials of Baking”
For the dough
- 8 g (2 t) dry active yeast
- 30 g (2 T) sugar
- 45 ml (3 T) warm water, 40-45°C (105-115°F)
- 1 t salt
- 30 g (2 T) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 240 ml (1 c) cold milk
- 375 g (2 ½ c) plain (all-purpose) flour
For the butter package
- 227 g (1 c) unsalted butter
- 15 g (2 T) plain (all-purpose) flour
For the egg-wash
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 T milk
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the sugar, yeast and warm water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes or until it becomes frothy.
2. Add the salt, melted butter, milk and flour. With the dough hook attachment, mix and knead until you get a sticky/tacky dough (around 5-10 minutes). Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle of about 1.25 cm (½ inch) thick. Transfer to a baking tray and cover with cling-film (plastic wrap) and chill for 40-45 minutes.
3. To make the butter package, use a rolling pin and flour to flatten to a 15-20 cm (6 x 8 inch) rectangle. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and chill until firm but still pliable (16°C/60°F).
4. To laminate the dough, place it onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 23 x 33 cm (9 x 13 inch) rectangle. With the short end facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving about 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) border on all sides. Fold over the top half to cover the butter package, overlap and press the edges together to form a good seal between the dough so that butter will not ooze out*.
5. Rotate the dough parcel 90° counter-clockwise, so that the fold is now on your left, roll the dough into a 25 x 61 cm (10 x 24 inch) rectangle. Fold along the length into thirds, as if folding a letter. This is the first turn. Return the dough to the tray, cover with cling-film (plastic-wrap) and chill for 45 minutes.
6. Return the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With a folded each to your left, repeat the process to make 4 more turns, for a total of 5 turns. Wrap and chill for 4 hours or overnight.
7. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 23 x 46 cm (9 x 18 inch) rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 4 squares, giving a total of 8 squares. Cut each square diagonally to form 16 triangles.
8. Prepare 2 baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.
9. Gently stretch each triangle until twice its original length, ensuring you do not split or overstretch the dough. Lay the triangle on a surface with the point facing you. Place your hands at the top on the wide end and gently roll the pastry towards you. Just before you get to the end, sneer the tip against the work surface with your thumb, continue to roll until the tip is on the underside. Turn the ends in slightly to form the typical crescent shape. Place the tip down on to the prepared pan and repeat, allowing 7.5 cm (3 inch) spacing between them^.
10. Cover loosely with a tea towel (kitchen towel) and allow to prove in a warm spot for 1.5-2 hours or until double in size.
11. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F. Brush the croissants with egg-wash, then pop one tray at a time into the middle of the oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the whole tray onto a wire rack, allowing the croissants to cool in the tray. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
* Ensure the dough always stays cool. If the butter does start to ooze, chill the dough immediately. This will help to keep the butter layers intact.
^ You can freeze the croissants before their final prove. To do so, place the baking tray into the freezer until frozen. You can then store them in an air-tight container until needed. To bake from frozen, take the pastries out and thaw on a baking tray in the refrigerator overnight. Brush with egg-wash and bake in the morning.