Homemade Croissants

There are some foods which seem hard, like sourdough bread, but which really just require a lot of patience. Yet others, like soufflés, are quick but require some dexterity. Unfortunately, croissants kind of need both patience and precision. I found that it can be helpful to remember the following tidbits:

  • Use awesome-quality ingredients. No joke, this is going to take a lot of time, so you might as well make your croissants the best they can be. That means high-gluten bread flour and European-style butter (like Lurpak), which has less water than American-style butter.
  • You literally have to bang out the cold butter to form it into a rectangle. Kind of fun, but not actually easy! Next time I might grate the frozen butter as they suggest here.
  • You can ensure that your beautiful layers stay intact by making sure that the dough and butter are as close to the same thickness as you can get them.
  • Keep your timing in mind–you need to make all your “turns,” put your unbaked croissants into the fridge to rise overnight, and THEN you get to shape them. Oh, and then they need to rise again. So beginning at something like 4 PM on a Saturday for a Sunday brunch would work well.

Making one’s own croissants may seem beyond abstruse when you can buy a couple for under $2. But if you’re curious, you should try making them–it’s fun and satisfying and, um, you can eat your efforts! After two days you will have the most beautiful croissants in the world, and some very serious bragging rights. As you will see, even a very human, mistake-making, not-all-that-fussed sort of cook (moi) can make these.

As a kind of aside, Montreal’s own Adam Gopnik wrote a lovely piece in the New Yorker the other day about baking bread with his mum. It was very sweet, and I recommend you search it out, even if it appears to be subscription-only.

Croissants (adapted from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, with a lot of help from Cook’s Illustrated and Top with Cinnamon)

  • 500g bread flour
  • 10g salt, plus a bit more for your egg wash
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 300ml cool water
  • 300g chilled, unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg for your glaze

Normally I wouldn’t bother, but this requires numbered instructions:

1) In a large bowl or your stand mixer, put salt and sugar in one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. Add the water and mix on slow for two minutes, then on medium for another six minutes. It should be a pretty stiff dough. You can do this without a stand mixer…I guess. But having one makes your life so much easier!

2) Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball. Dust it with flour, put it in a clean plastic bag, and let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

3) OK, now it gets a little tricky: Roll out your dough into a rectangle about 60 x 20 cm and about 1 cm thick.

4) Flatten your butter to a rectangle about 40 x 19 cm by banging it all to hell with a rolling pin. You could also, as I suggest above, grate your frozen butter and form it into a rectangle. Now put the butter on your dough so it neatly covers the bottom two-thirds of your dough.

5) Now fold the extra dough over one-third of butter. Cut off the exposed bit of butter and put it on the dough you just folded over. Still with me? Fold the bottom half of the dough up until you have, like, a dough sandwich: two butter layers, three dough layers. Pinch the dough together on all sides and put it all back into the bag. Let it chill in the freezer for half an hour.

6) Take the dough out of the freezer (and out of the bag) and put it on the lightly floured work surface with the short end towards you. Roll it into a rectangle about 60 x 20 cm, as before. So now, fold up a third of the dough and fold the top third, so you again have a little square. Congratulations, you have made a single turn! Put the dough back into the plastic bag, back into the freezer, and let it chill for another hour. Repeat this stage twice more, putting the dough back into the freezer for another 30 minutes between turns. After turn two this is going to get really hard on your biceps, so try to coax a willing friend/family member into helping you.

7) Let it rest in the fridge (in its plastic bag) for 8 hours or overnight. I left mine about 12 hours with no problems.

8) When you are ready to shape (!!) line a couple of baking trays with your Silpat or parchment paper.

9) Put your dough onto a floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle a little more than 42 cm long and 30 cm wide. It should be about 7mm thick. Trim the edges to make them as neat as possible.

10) Cut the rectangle into two long rectangles, then cut triangles along the length of each strip. They should be about 15 cm high (from top to bottom) and 12 cm (at their widest point). You should have twelve triangles total.

11) Gently pull on the triangles to lengthen them, then cut a little slit in the base. This will help them become extra-crescenty. Now roll them up, base to end, and turn the ends towards each other slightly.

12) Put your croissants onto the baking trays, allowing space for them to expand. Put them inside a clean plastic bag (like a garbage bag) and let them sit in a cool room temperature spot for around 2 hours. My bread almost never “doubles in size,” but just leave them for two hours and you’ll be fine.

13) Preheat your oven to 200°C/390°F. Lightly whisk the egg with the pinch of salt. Brush it over the prepared croissants and bake for around 20 minutes until they’re golden. Don’t be alarmed if they come out of the oven swimming in a pile of melted butter. Just remove them to some cooling racks, and you’ll be A-OK.

And now that you know the drill, you can turn these into chocolate croissants, almond croissants, jam-filled croissants! Just put your filling of choice in before you shape. And enjoy.

Into the oven you go!

Into the oven you go!


One Comment on “Homemade Croissants”

  1. Anne Arnott says:

    I can attest that they were really, really delicious – but for my own baking, I’ll stick to something easier.

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