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Eats & Drinks | Classic French Croissants

The one thing I will always remember about Paris is the croissants at a bakery a block away from our Airbnb. They were astounding and cost less than $1 US. When we returned I immediately tried to find an easy replacement. No grocery store or coffee shop croissant came close, so my daughters and I tried making them. I hit pay dirt on our first recipe! I have to give full credit to finecooking.com for this one, it is amazing. One thing I didn’t like about their recipe was pictures that wouldn’t open. It’s a difficult recipe to follow if you don’t have a video or pictures to explain the pastry origami that takes place. I’ve added my own tips.

Diamonds are made from one element. But it takes tons of time and pressure for their creation. It is the same with croissants. The ingredients are very simple. But there is no shortcut for the time and pressure they need. (Ok, maybe I have one shortcut. See the very bottom of the recipe for a time saver tip.)

Put away that canister and spoon, and kick the Pillsbury Dough Boy to the curb. But be forewarned, once you’ve had these croissants, your family will not allow you to serve instant croissants ever again.

Classic French Croissants

Necessary Tools:

  • Rolling pin
  • Tape measure
  • Large clean surface to roll out dough (I use my countertop.)

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon + ½ teaspoon yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons soft butter. (Very soft, like when left out on a warm day, but not melted.)
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons water
  • ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk

Ingredients for the Butter Layer:

  • 10 oz unsalted butter (1 ¼ cups unsalted butter)
  • Ingredients for Egg Wash:
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Dough:

Heat the water (no hotter than 120 degrees) and place into your mixing bowl with yeast and sugar. Wait 10 minutes until the mixtures is bubbly and creamy. (To ensure the yeast is good.) Then add all other dough ingredients and mix. Knead dough by hand a few times to make sure it is all combined. Press dough down slightly into a lightly floured pie tin or cake pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Butter Layer:

Make the butter layer just before you are ready to take the dough out of the refrigerator. Cut chilled butter sticks in half, lengthwise, creating ~1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place the pieces on a piece of plastic wrap to form a roughly 5-inch square. Don’t worry about it being perfect.

Top with another piece of plastic wrap. (The original recipe call for using wax paper or parchment. I found wax paper disintegrated easily with the pressure and parchment is expensive and precious to me.) Using a rolling pin, pound and then push the butter with light, even strokes. Work the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square. Cut the edges to form a square shape. Place your trimmings on top of the square and work them back into the block. Refrigerate the butter while you roll out the dough. It should be pliable but cold when you use it. Definitely do not freeze it.

Laminating the Dough:

Here is the first crazy step to making croissants. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 10-1/2-inch square. (My “square” is often very round in nature. It’s ok.)

Brush excess flour off the dough. (This is very important or the dough stops adhering to itself.) Place the butter on the dough so that the edges are 45 degrees apart, not parallel. Imagine placing a diamond shape was on top of the square. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter, creating an envelope shape. Stretch the dough slightly to cover the butter if necessary. (I find it easier when I flattened the center of the square out a little, to give the corners more dough.) Press the edges of the dough together to seal the butter inside. You shouldn’t be able to see the butter.

First rolling: (Here’s where things got really strange for me.) Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Press the dough down firmly with a rolling pin and elongate it. Continue rolling the dough until it is 8 by 24 inches long. I stop and measure often, especially the width. If it becomes wider than 8 inches, I push the sides in. Try to keep the edges as straight as possible. Brush off excess flour, very important.

Pick up one short end of the dough, and fold 1/3 of the way over the length. Again make sure to brush off any flour. You want the dough to adhere to itself as much as possible. Fold the other short end of the dough over the top of the first fold. Place the dough on a small tray, cover well with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes to relax the dough and re-chill the butter.

Second rolling: Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends until the dough is again 8 by 24 inches. Fold the dough in thirds again, brushing off excess flour. Try to cover any exposed butter. Cover and freeze for another 20 minutes.

Third rolling: Give the dough a third rolling and folding in the direction of the open ends. Put the folded dough on the tray. Cover completely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Dividing the Dough:

Now for the hard part. The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Press the dough firmly with the rolling pin along its length. At first, you don’t want to lengthen the dough too much, only warm it up. Then slowly roll the dough to be 8 inches by about 44 inches. (Yes, 44 inches. I lay a measure tape out to see my progress. I take lots of breaks.)

If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour. (The original recipe says that if the dough starts to resist or shrink back, after ½ way, fold the dough in thirds and refrigerate for about 10 minutes, then unfold and continue working. I always just keep pushing it.) I check the width of the dough often, and push in the sides to avoid going past 8 inches. The original recipe says to trim the dough to make perfect edges. I don’t think this is necessary.

Shaping the croissants:

Lay a yardstick or tape measure lengthwise along the top of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 7 marks in all). Position the yardstick along the bottom of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 8 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top. (I have exaggerated the marks in the picture to be seen.)

Using a knife or pizza cutter, make diagonal cuts to the dough, creating triangles. Use the marks are guides. Repeat along the entire length of dough. You’ll end up with 15 triangles and a small scrap of dough at each end.

Using a paring knife or a bench knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the center of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.

(I am very bad and lazy about this next step, but my croissants still end up better than a grocery store. So have confidence!) Hold a dough triangle so that the short notched side is elongated to about 10 inches. If you have a croissant that is thicker at your notched end, press the dough out a bit. Having too much dough in the center will make the croissants doughy. (If you want, you can add chocolate or ham and cheese at this point. I find mini-chocolate chips work best for rolling.)

Roll the dough away from the notched end, towards the pointed end.  Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the ends become longer. Press down on the dough with enough force to make the layers stick together, but avoid excess compression, which could smear the layers. Roll the dough all the way down its length until the pointed end of the triangle is directly underneath the croissant. Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape. Shape the remaining croissants in the same manner, arranging them on two large parchment-lined baking sheets. (I find that I don’t need parchment. But I try to use a baking stone, so I don’t have to worry about the bottoms.)

Proofing the croissants:

Make the egg wash by whisking the egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush it on each croissant. Refrigerate the remaining egg wash (you’ll need it again).

Proof the croissants in a draft-free spot at 75° to 80°F for 2 hours. Wherever you proof them, be sure the temperature is not so warm that the butter melts out of the dough. The croissants will be distinctly larger (though not doubled) than they were when first shaped.

Bake the croissants:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the croissants liberally with egg wash a second time. Put the baking sheets in the oven. After 10 minutes, rotate the sheets and swap their positions.

Continue baking until the bottoms are an even brown, the tops richly browned. (The instructions say 8 to 10 minutes. Do not go by this alone. Check the oven often. There is no worst feeling that going through all this and having these babies burn. But if they do burn, it is easy to remove the burn parts.) Let cool, especially the chocolate ones.

Enjoy and ignore the crumbs!

Time Saving Tip: The recipe calls for 3 days to make this. This may be the best way to do it. But, with a little planning, I make these in about 24 hours.  1) Mix dough early in the morning of the first day, and let rest in the refrigerator all day. 2) Laminate the dough later the first day, sometime after dinner or late evening, and put back in the refrigerator overnight. 3) Shape and bake croissants the next morning in time for brunch.

Source: Original recipe from www.finecooking.com

Leslie Gayle

Leslie is a one time CPA, wife and mom of twins. She’s an over thinker who loves karate, thunder, and travel. Her sweatpants are yoga pants and she takes her coffee with milk.

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