Here is my croissant recipe and guide. French pastry is intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. I wrote about my first attempt and even without experience you can create amazingly delicious pastries as home. Go on, don’t be afraid of making these yourself! I’ve done my best to describe what I’m doing and why. Best of luck!
Quick notes on ingredients: I’ve found that it does matter what butter you use. I’ve tried several brands and right now, for croissants, I’m a Plugra girl. Also, instead of the brown sugar, 1/4 cup of malt syrup is great, although I can’t always find it. Lastly, I use King Arthur All-Purpose flour which has slightly higher protein than other brands. If you don’t use KA, please used bread flour.
Boozy Epicure’s Croissants
1 tbls yeast
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (makes it healthy, right?)
1 tbls kosher salt
12 oz unsalted butter (3/4 lb or 3 sticks)
Extra all-purpose flour for rolling
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp of water
First, make the yeast dough. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the yeast, sugar, and milk. I start with everything right out of the fridge since the dough is gonna have time to rest and get that yeast active. If you don’t bake often or are unsure about your yeast, you can warm the milk to body temp and bloom it first.
Next, add your flours and salt and, with the dough hook attachment, mix at a low speed. Once the dough is together, pick up the speed to medium and let it go for 2-3 minutes. If the dough seems to dry at first, you can add milk by spoonfuls, but be careful. You want the dough to come together and be nice and smooth.
Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap it in plastic (leaving some room for it to grow) and leave it at room temp for 30 minutes. That yeast should now be getting active and you’ll see a little lift. Then pop the dough in the fridge either for a couple of hours or overnight. If you want to get right to the folds and not wait overnight, you can work with the dough right away, but then I’d start with warm milk so that yeast gets going from the beginning. The flavor won’t be as complex, but they’ll still be good.
While the dough is resting, I make my butter block. Some recipes start by having you cut your butter into slices, others have you mixing it with a little flour in your mixer then shaping a square or rectangle. I put the butter in a heavy duty ziplock bag, and arm myself with a rolling pin. I just whack down and out to get the butter as a rectangle roughly 6 inches wide that is a uniform thickness. Pop your butter block back in the fridge to be pulled out when your dough is done resting.
When you’re ready to get folding, place the dough on a floured countertop. I like to have my pastry brush at the ready. I liberally flour the dough as I work it, but brush all the excess off so that it folds neatly and holds together. You are going to roll your dough into a rectangle roughly 10″ by 17″. Pop your butter block in the center. Fold over the excess from top, bottom, left and right, to completely encapsulate your butter, making sure you brush off any excess flour so the dough sticks together and doesn’t let the butter come through.
Roll this out (carefully keeping the butter inside and moving evenly between the 2 layers of dough) into a rectangle 18″ by 9″. If your butter is very cold, you may have to whack the dough with your rolling pin to get that butter moving and soft. Move quickly though so it doesn’t warm up.
Folding – there are two types of folds you need to learn for laminated dough. For both, I prefer to have the short edge facing me so I’m looking at a long rectangle. The single fold is where you fold your dough like a letter. Take the dough from the bottom (side nearest you) and fold it up two thirds of the way, the fold the top flap down. Your one layer has turned into 3. The double fold is where you take both the top and the bottom and fold them towards the center so they meet in the middle. You then fold in half at that mipoint seam. With the double, your one layer has turned into 4.
I use the double fold, so put the 9″ side facing you, brush of the excess flour, take both the top and the bottom and fold them towards the center so they meet in the middle, then fold in half at that mipoint seam. Cover in plastic and put in the fridge to rest (depending how fast you work and the temp of your kitchen, you’ll probably need about 45 minutes) before your next fold. Croissant dough freezes extremely well. You can freeze at this point, or at any point in the folding process. Once it is thawed, just finish where you left off.
You are going to do that double fold two more times, so each time, start by rolling the dough into a 18″ by 9″ rectanlge, move the short side towards you, do your folds, wrap and put in the fridge to rest.
Once you’ve completed all folds, you are done for the night. You can either leave it to rest in the fridge overnight (it will grow, so be aware!) or freeze whatever portion you don’t want to bake the next morning. If you want to move ahead and shape and bake now, I would give them at least a two hour rest. I often cut my dough into thirds. Leave one third to rest in the fridge over night and wrap the other two separately and put in the freezer. That way, next time I want croissants, I pull them out of the freezer the night before. Let them thaw over night, then shape and proof the next morning following my usual ritual. You can also freeze after shaping your croissants, but my sheet pan doesn’t fit so well in my freezer so I rarely do it.
In the morning, prepare two baking sheets (I prefer half sheet pans) with either parchment or silpat lining. I prefer silpats, but that could just be me.
If you’ve got the one big dough, roll it out to a 20 inch square. Cut that into three long rectangles (you can cut it into 4 long rectangles if you want to make smaller croissants). Keep one rectangle out and put the other two back in the fridge while you shape these first croissants. For standard crescents, you are going to cut a series of triangles out of these stripes. Grab the triangle and pull them gently but firmly to stretch them out. I like to put the wide end at the top with the point facing me, and roll the triangle towards me tightly. For pain au chocolat, you cut strips, stretch them, put the chocolate baton or chips or whatnot at the top, and just roll those straight down towards, you. One tip: use a little excess dough in a ball to plump the center of your crescents. It gives you prettier croissants. Also, if you keep the top of the triangle wide, it allows you to curve in the ends of your crescents. I often plump, but I don’t even really worry about curving my croissants.
Whatever shape you do, now is the time to place them on your prepared sheet pans for their final proof. I do one brush with egg wash at the point and like to proof these in my oven (turned off, of course). They’ll need to rise for 2 hours or more, until they are puffed up. At that point, I set them on my counter, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and do a second egg wash. I like to top my almond croissants with sliced almonds.
Once the oven is hot, bake the croissants for roughly 15 minutes until they are a dark golden brown. When you pick one up, it should feel firm, but light and airy.
I know it’s hard, but when they come out of the oven it is best to place the croissants on a rack to cool. Just wait 10 minutes so those layers you worked so hard for set (and you don’t burn your mouth on molten butter). I promise, when you take that first bite it will all be worth it!