Croissants – ooh, la la!

Santa’s FAVORITE snack!

I’ve put off posting a blog about my favorite pastry of all time, because I keep telling you that baking is easy–that rules are meant to be broken. Please don’t look at this recipe and bail on me. Croissants aren’t what I would consider difficult, but they are time consuming and no matter how I tried to condense my instructions, the recipe seems to go on forever!

Believe me when I tell you that the time spent mixing, rolling, aging, and baking these rolls is totally worth it. Learn to make them, and you will be known as the person who bakes the most heavenly croissants!

Buttery, flaky, delicate, decadent…how could you resist?

There are more complicated recipes (I’ve tried them) but I think this recipe makes a very nice croissant with the least effort. For the best flavor, start them at least a day before you want to serve them. Two days is even better! When the dough is kept chilled for a day or two before baking, it acquires a better flavor. It also makes sense to get the hard work out of the way before your special meal, to leave you time for other things.

This is a fairly large recipe, making 28 jumbo croissants. The beauty of this is you can bake some now and freeze the rest for later. When you get to the final step of rolling up the pastries, pop some on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. When they’re hard, move them to a freezer bag or airtight container. To use them, simply put them on a cookie sheet, cover lightly, and allow them to thaw and rise until doubled in size, (this can take a while – at least 6 hours) then bake. If you bring them out before you go to bed and leave them on the counter they should be ready to bake for breakfast!

Things I’ve learned about baking croissants:

  • Each time you roll and fold the dough it gets harder to do. The dough gets a little tougher and more elastic. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to stretch and shape the dough a little.
  • If your dough isn’t exactly 8-inches by 12-inches, the world won’t end. Get it as close as you can, but don’t lose any sleep over it!
  • When you’ve rolled each piece into a crescent shape and are letting them rise, don’t keep them in a really warm spot. Room temperature is fine, but if your house is toasty, try to find a cooler spot or the butter might melt out of the pastry, which doesn’t make for a very pretty finished product.
  • These rolls are best when freshly baked, so pig out on them immediately! They’re fine the next day (especially for turkey sandwiches!) but not quite as light and tender, so seize the moment. When I bake croissants with a turkey dinner, I try to time it so they can go in the oven when the turkey comes out, so they are hot and crispy. Sometimes I even manage to do this!
  • A good way to serve them the next day is to split them toast them lightly under a broiler. Do NOT get distracted. Stand right there by the oven and watch them closely. Otherwise, you will end up with this:

    Yeah. You really don’t want to do this to your beautiful creations!

Here’s the printable recipe. Look below for lots of helpful photos.

Croissants - ooh, la la!
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Ingredients
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2¾ cups warm milk (about 110 degrees)
  • 6½ cups bread flour
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I use Kosher)
  • 2 cups cold butter, unsalted
  • egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten well)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (a stand mixer works best), mix the yeast and warm milk together. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Using a dough hook, mix in 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, and the salt. Stir well and add the remaining flour gradually. It should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with a dishtowel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for about an hour.
  3. Split the dough in half and on a floured surface, form each half into a ball. Put each half into a heavy plastic bag and put in the refrigerator.
  4. Bring one stick of butter out of the refrigerator at a time, and cut lengthwise into 4 equal slices. Place them snugly together with two pieces end to end on top, and two pieces end to end directly below the first two on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper, forming a rectangle approximately 6-1/2 inches by 3 inches. Cover with plastic wrap and roll gently to make a solid rectangle, 6-1/2 by 4 inches. (If your butter comes in the long, skinny sticks, you'll have to improvise!) Place it back in the refrigerator, and repeat with the other 3 sticks of butter. Let everything rest in the refrigerator for 15 more minutes while you grab a cup of coffee!
  5. Working with one piece of dough (leave the other one in the fridge), roll it out on a floured surface until it is approximately 12 inches by 8 inches, with the long side facing you. You may have to do a little stretching to get a nice rectangular shape.
  6. Bring out two rectangles of butter and put one directly in the middle of the dough, with the short side facing you. Fold the right side over the butter and press all around it gently to seal the butter in. Put the other piece of butter on top, and fold the left side over it, pinching well to seal. So...your layers at this point are: dough, butter, dough, butter, dough.
  7. The short side should be facing you, and it should be like a book - with the open edge to the right. Now roll it gently, being careful not to squeeze butter out of the dough, until it again measures 12 inches by 8 inches. Fold it in thirds again (you now have 15 layers!) and put it back in the plastic bag in the refrigerator. Repeat with the other bag of dough.
  8. Let them both rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then bring them out, roll each one to 12 inches by 8 inches, fold, and return to the refrigerator for 30 more minutes.
  9. Do this one more time! (I'm not counting layers anymore) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but at this point you can let the dough sit in the refrigerator for several days if you wish. The flavor just gets better.
  10. To form the croissants, work with one piece of dough at a time. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to about 12 inches wide and 20 inches long, trimming the edges to make them neat and tidy. Cut in half, lengthwise, using a sharp knife or (my favorite) pizza cutter. Working with one half, mark the edges every 5 inches on one long side. Cut into triangles. This will give you 4 triangles on one side, and 3 full-size ones on the other, plus 2 halves. Repeat with the other half. You should have 14 triangles, and 4 half triangles.
  11. Roll each piece up, starting at the wide end, and stretching lightly as you go. I find it helps to lightly roll each triangle with a rolling pin so it is thinner and sticks to the counter a bit. It helps with the rolling process. Place each croissant on the baking sheet, tip down, curving the ends to the middle. You can make them "hold hands" if you want. They'll come apart when they rise, but it helps them retain their crescent shape. Repeat with the other piece of dough, or save it for later.
  12. Allow the croissants to rise at room temperature. Depending on the temperature of your home, this can be anywhere from 1-1/2 hours to 3 hours. They're ready to bake when they're plump and feel like marshmallows when you poke them.
  13. Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Brush the croissants lightly with the egg wash, and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
  14. Ta DA!

If you’re scratching your head over some of my instructions, hopefully these pictures will help:

Slice the butter lengthwise in 4 equal pieces.

Put the 4 slices of butter together snugly.

Roll the butter a little to make a 4″x6-1/2″ rectangle.

Peel off the plastic wrap (in this case, I used the butter wrapper)

Put the butter in the middle and fold the right side over.

Put another rectangle of butter on top, and fold left over right.

Cutting out triangles. No, they don’t have to be perfect. (Press the half pieces together or just make little croissants!)

Formed and ready to rise.

Brush on the egg wash. You can use a pastry brush, but I prefer a paper towel. It’s more gentle.

Bake ’em and just TRY to wait until they cool down a bit.

Since my budget doesn’t allow me a quick jaunt to Paris, where I’m certain the pastry is far superior to anything I can make, I’ll just make some super-strong coffee, nibble on a warm croissant, close my eyes, and dream.

And by the way, I happen to know that THIS is what Santa prefers:

Croissants – absolutely worth the effort!

3 thoughts on “Croissants – ooh, la la!

  1. I learned to make croissants in a small bakery in the Isles of Scilly (UK), in the “authentic” French way. Well, your way looks almost the same and seems very easy with your step-by-step photos. I applaud you! And I hope readers will give this a try. Totally worth it to have fresh croissants for breakfast! (And I believe Santa would leave something extra special if you gave him these.)

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