Pure butter croissants, need I say more? The epitome of French cooking, these things are the real deal and a real challenge. Shatteringly crisp on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, it's hard to resist licking your fingers after the last bite. Croissants are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven and thus so you will never want another box of grocery store croissants again. They say not to expect perfect results on your first try; that it takes about three to four tries before you start to get a grasp of just what making croissants is all about. Well, I can vouch for both statements because that was the gist of my experience since the first time I attempted making them a couple of years back. I honestly can't remember if they even made it to the oven though at some point a batch of them did make it there but they came out tiny and quite dense. More recently, I gave up on a batch of croissant dough after just one turn. I might have been a bit hasty in tossing it but I think with my inexperience, it would have taken quite a bit of work to salvage it. Everything about it had felt wrong and looked wrong - I believe I was paying the price of impatience. They say that a dough can feel your mood and will respond in the same manner. I learned that valuable lesson the hard way.
The pleasure and satisfaction of having made these croissants from scratch doesn't simply lie in "I did it." I can say that the time spent learning from my mistakes made the experience that much sweeter. I didn't simply "do it" in order to add another recipe to my collection but instead so that I might look back knowing that having mastered this, I can do so much more now than I ever did before.
I am going to try to save you a little bit of heartache and hopefully a batch or two of dough by sharing some important tips that I have picked up in the process of making croissant dough:
- The dough and the butter block NEED to be of the SAME temperature = COLD
- Use European butter, don't skimp on this part. I have found that European butter is more malleable at colder temperatures than regular butter and this is due to the higher fat content. How does that effect you? When working with cold butter, it is less likely to snap or crack while being rolled out. Regular butter tends to snap under pressure if it is too cold to work with.
- The dough should be very cool and supple to the touch while you work with it. If at any point it starts to feel soft and warm, buttery or oily, (sticking to the counter is a good indicator that the dough is too warm) stop working it, wrap it up in plastic and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Be patient, cold dough and cold butter are keys to success here.
- When shaping croissants, use half of the dough at a time to prevent it from warming up too soon while working. Working with warm dough will not yield the same results as working with cold dough and allowing it to warm up during the rising period.
- I find that giving each coat of egg wash sufficient time to dry is the key to even coloring during baking.
- The directions say to start heating your oven 30 minutes prior to baking, click here to find out why this is a good idea.
- The dough can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for up to ten months.
- If you make your croissants and freeze them, you will need to thaw them overnight in order to bake them the next morning.
Wishing you much success in your attempt to make this delicious treat!
French Croissants from Scratch
Makes 2.5 lb of dough/16-20 croissants
- 1 cup warm water
- 4 tsp dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 tbs kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 7 Tbsp unsalted European butter, room temperature
the butter block
- 16 Tbsp unsalted European butter at room temperature for laminating.
- 1 egg, beaten
- pinch of salt
- The dough: combine the warm water and yeast in a bowl and set aside until the yeast bubbles, about 5 min.
- Combine the bread flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Pour in the yeast mixture and mix in the stand mixer using a dough hook until a rough dough starts to form.
- Add the butter and knead on low until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Knead for an additional 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm area until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- After the dough has risen, turn it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured countertop. Deflate the dough and press it into a rectangle. Fold the dough onto itself 2/3 of the way and finish with the last remaining 1/3 on top (like folding a letter). Turn the dough 90º and repeat the folding process once more. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The butter block: place the butter into a 7" x 8" plastic sandwich bag. Remove as much air as possible before spreading the butter throughout the bag using your hands. Once the butter is more or less distributed throughout the bag, use a rolling pin to smooth out the surface. Place the butter block into the fridge along with the dough until needed.
- The tourage: remove the dough from the refrigerator and place onto your floured surface. Roll it out into a 7" x 16" rectangle. Unwrap the butter block and place it onto the bottom half of the dough. Fold over the top half of the dough onto the butter block and gently pinch it close.
- Using your rolling pin, gently press on the dough starting in the middle and working your way out both ways. Roll out the dough into a 8" x 24" rectangle. Brush off any excess flour, fold one side of the dough 2/3 of the way and fold the opposite end in to meet it. Align the seams and use your rolling pin to readjust the thickness of the dough. Now fold the dough in half onto itself (like a book). This is a double turn.
- Roll the dough out once again into a 8" x 24" rectangle. Fold the dough onto itself 2/3 of the way and finish with the last remaining 1/3 on top (like folding a letter). This is a simple turn. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour. ** If at any time though starts to feel warm or you notice that your hands become buttery/oily, wrap the dough in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 min.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half, placing the other half back into the refrigerator. Roll the dough into a 9" x 18" (1/8 thickness) rectangle.
- Using a chef's knife, divide the dough into 6-8 large triangles for croissants.
- Starting at the widest edge, roll the dough into the familiar shape of the croissant leaving the tip tucked underneath. Place the croissants onto a parchment lined baking pan, spacing the croissants evenly apart.
- Combine the beaten egg with a pinch of salt and brush onto the croissants. Set the pan of croissants into a warm area to rise until doubled in size, about 3 hours.
- About 30 minutes before baking, heat your oven to 400℉ and give the croissants another coat of egg wash.
- Once risen, bake the croissants for 10-12 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375℉ and bake for another 10 minutes until the croissants are a caramel brown color.
- Allow the croissants to cool on the pan for 10 minutes and serve.