If you’ve followed my blog, you may or may not have noticed that I’ve never posted a recipe for homemade croissants. It seems odd as I share a lot of French recipes, but I assure you, it’s been for good reason. You see, classic croissants are a complete labor of love. They can take 2 to 3 days to make and require a serious arm workout, unless you work in a professional bakery and own a dough sheeter (if so, I envy you!). That said, that isn’t why I’ve held off on sharing this recipe. The truth is that croissant-making is a very visual thing. It’s got so many steps that simply writing it down in a recipe card to share with you would probably leave most of you scratching your heads. There’s a lot of repetition, measuring (and I mean literally measuring with a ruler), plus little details in the dividing and shaping of the dough that just make seeing the recipe, rather than reading it, much more helpful.
Now, if I haven’t scared you off yet, great! Yay for you still giving croissants a chance! I promise you, if you dedicate the time and effort to this recipe, you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous, flaky, butter-y croissants you’ve quite possibly ever had. At the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I must say that I honestly feel like these rival some of the best croissants I’ve had in Paris. Actually, I can tell you as a matter of fact that these croissants DO beat out some of the croissants I ate on my last trip to Paris. I mean it.
One question that family and friends always ask me is How do you get your croissants so light and airy? And the answer is not a matter of personal talent so much as it’s a matter of science, temperature, and time. The basic idea is that you want to make sure your croissants have fully proofed before you bake them. Proofing croissants just means you allow them to expand, or nearly double in size, until you can see all those layers and layers of buttery goodness. When you first start out with a freshly rolled croissant, all you can really see is the big layers made from the actual roll you just did to make the croissant shape. Once they’ve proofed, you see teeny tiny layers within each of those big layers, signifying they’re ready to be baked – this is about a 1 1/2 to 2 hour process, depending on how warm the environment is…which brings me to my next point: temperature. While you can most certainly let your croissants proof at room temperature, it’s even better if you can create a slightly warm atmosphere. What professional bakeries do is use a specialized proofing cabinet, but to create a similar atmosphere, you could turn on the warm/hold setting on your oven for 15 to 20 seconds, turn the oven off, then place your croissants in this slightly warm oven to proof. However, please do not do this if you are not an experienced baker, because if you accidentally create too warm of an atmosphere, it will melt all the butter out of your croissant dough and the croissants will be useless! If you’re feeling ambitious and craving some amazing, Parisian-worthy croissants, then give the video below a view and try the recipe for yourself!
for the dough
- 1 lb . 2 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling 4 c
- 5 oz . cold water 1/2 c + 2 Tbs.
- 5 oz . cold whole milk 1/2 c + 2 Tbs.
- 2 oz . granulated sugar 1/4 c + 2 Tbs.
- 1 1/2 oz . soft unsalted butter 3 Tbs.
- 1 Tbs . + scant 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 tsp . table salt
for the butter layer
- 10 oz . unsalted butter 1 1/4 c
for the egg wash
- 1 teaspoon egg + 1 water
Part 1 - Create Your Dough
In a large bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients together, including the flour, cold water, cold milk, granulated sugar, unsalted butter, yeast, and table salt. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon; then knead for a couple of minutes into a smooth ball.
Lightly flour a pie pan before transferring your dough ball into the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours).
Part 2 - Layer Your Dough
Take the cold unsalted butter appropriated for your butter layer and cut it into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange the slices, side-by-side, on a sheet of parchment paper to form a 6 inch square. Cut any butter slices in half or diagonally if needed to create this 6 inch size square. Place another sheet of
parchment paper on top of the butter and use your rolling pin to slightly pound out the butter. Use your pin to roll north-south and east-west to make the butter layer thinner while equally elongating all sides of the square. You’ll want to end up with a square that is about 7 1/2 inches long. Temporarily place your butter in the fridge to remain cold.
Dust your work surface with flour. Then, take out your dough that had been refrigerated overnight. Roll the dough out into a 10 inch square. Place your butter layer on top of this dough square so that the pointed ends of the butter face the sides of the dough square. The butter should look like a diamond shape on the dough. Now, fold the corners of the dough in towards the center
so that all the dough corners meet. Pinch the dough together along all its edges so that the butter is safely enveloped inside, with no chance of seeping out.
Use your rolling pin to create long strokes and elongate the dough. You’ll want to create a long strip of dough that is about 8 inches in width and 24 inches in length. The first time you’re rolling, your dough will probably be wider than 8 inches - thats OK. If you see your dough is beginning to widen too much, simply lift the dough from its center to shorten its width. If the dough is sticky, lightly dust with a bit of flour. Once your dough has achieved 24 inches in length, fold one end of the dough into the center (like a pamphlet or brochure). Use a pastry brush to dust off any residual flour from the dough. Place the folded dough onto a baking sheet that’s been dusted with flour and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Repeat the previous step 2 more times, always rolling the dough with the open ends of the folded dough facing you. You will notice it getting more difficult to roll the dough out to 24 inches long - again, this is OK; continue rolling it out as close to 24 inches as you can get. After the third time that you’ve rolled and folded the dough, instead of placing the dough in the freezer, place the plastic-wrapped dough in the fridge to chill overnight (or at least 8 hours).
Part 3 - Shape and Bake the Croissants
Dust your work surface with flour. Use your rolling pin to create light, quick strokes as you elongate your dough in a long rectangle. Make sure the open ends of the folded dough are facing you. This time, you’ll want to create a strip of dough that is about 8 inches wide and close to 44 inches long. Again, if you see your dough widening too much, pick up the dough from its center to shorten its width. Shape both ends of your rectangle into neat edges as best as possible.
Use a bench scraper, sharp knife, or pizza cutter to slice off the uneven ends of your rectangle (about 1/2” to 1” off each end). Use a ruler to go along the top length of your rectangle to measure and mark a point every 5 inches along the top. Then, take your ruler along the bottom length of the rectangle and position it 2 1/2 inches in. Mark this point. From this point, measure and mark every 5 inches on. Now, take your knife and position it at the first point along the top length of the dough. Slice diagonally, downwards to the right, to the closest point on the bottom length of the dough. Repeat this move for the rest of the points along the top length of the dough. Once you reach the end, repeat this step moving towards the left this time around. You should end up with 15 triangles.
Lift each triangle up from its base (the shortest side of the triangle), and use your other hand to gently pull its pointed end in the opposite direction. You want to essentially elongate and stretch the triangle just a bit. Now, place the triangle back down on your work surface, with its base sitting closest to you. Use your knife to make a 1/2 inch notch (or cut) right in the center of the base. Grab hold of each side of the notch and gently roll the triangle away from you, towards the pointed end, flaring your hands outward.
Place the shaped croissants on baking sheets fitted with parchment paper. Brush the croissants with egg wash before loosely covering the croissants with plastic wrap; place in a warm, draft-free area for 1 1/2 to 2 hours to proof. They’re ready to bake when the croissants have expanded in size and their many layers become apparent. Preheat the oven to 425°F, placing your top rack on the highest position in the oven, and your bottom rack on the lowest position in the oven. Very delicately brush the egg wash over all the croissants again. Place one of the baking sheets in the oven on the top rack for 10 minutes. Then move the sheet to the bottom rack and bake for another
5 to 6 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let croissants slightly cool on wire rack. Bake the remaining croissants in the same manner.