My mission to make perfect Parisian croissants has been many years in the making, and I am happy to report that I have successfully done this in my own kitchen. This was no simple task. However, the recipe that I'm sharing yields flaky, buttery croissants that I think any French Boulangerie (Bakery) would gladly boast.
Croissants represent French pastry. It is always challenging to recreate something that has such a specific taste and texture--especially when it's the signature dish of a country thousands of miles away. To really perfectly re-create a dish, you would have to use the same ingredients, like butter from French cows and flour from French grain. Even if you transported these regional ingredients, they wouldn't be as fresh. So, that being said, I found an amazing recipe that uses good ole' American all-purpose flour, butter, and even the dried yeast sold in the packets at every grocery store.
I first attempted to make croissants in 2009. They weren't very pretty, but they tasted good. Plus, I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and the Foodie/Bakery Craze had not yet really begun. Basically, you couldn't find good croissants many places. New York City in 2015 is a completely different landscape. Amazing, delicious French croissants are everywhere. I still wanted to master them myself though.
I didn't try again until 2011, when I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Croissant-making workshop at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. This little workshop made my heart sing. I was completely in my element! It also made me think that I could make these at home. Well, I actually didn't try myself until Thanksgiving 2014. The croissants I made at Thanksgiving were pretty, but just wrong. They were dense and heavy, which caused them to not be cooked all the way through. I'm pretty sure they were awful because of the recipe I used.
I would not let this little mishap deter me. Plus, when I made them in November, I even impressed myself with my technique of rolling out the dough. I decided to make things easier on myself and I bought a croissant cutter. Thirteen dollars well worth it! Plus, I found a recipe in my very respectable, award-winning French Culinary Institute Pastry Cookbook. I tried again a month later at Christmas. These croissants were superb. There is nothing I would do differently (except make another batch for pain au chocolat! (chocolate croissants)
The recipe i'm sharing has so many different elements, that if you have never made croissants, it will be tough to follow.
Croissants are basically made my starting with the "detrampe"--a combination of flour, sugar, salt and butter, which you add yeast and milk to. You then make your "beurrage," a block of butter that you eventually roll into the dough, folding the dough over. The process of folding the dough is called "tournage," and it's this process that creates the many flaky layers of the dough. Finally, you roll the dough into crescent shapes and allow it to "proof," where it doubles in size before baking.
Now that I have a great recipe and much better technique, I think I can crank these things out in a matter of hours. In the words of my many piano teachers, practice makes perfect.
- 500g all-purpose flour
- 60g sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 60g + 300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 12 g dry, active yeast
- 125 g milk, at room temperature
- Prepare the "detrampe" (croissant dough) by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 60g butter and mix together until combined.
- Combine the yeast and 125g water in a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Add the milk, and whisk again until combined. Let sit for three minutes.
- Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and combine using the hook attachment. Do not overmix, or the dough will be difficult to roll and shape.
- Using a bowl scraper, and scrape the dough from the bowl into a large bowl and place plastic over the bowl. Place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Prepare the "beurrage" (butter block). Wrap the cold butter in plastic film, and using the rolling pin, pound on it to soften it until it is 8" by 12". Refrigerate it until ready to use.
- Remove the bowl from the refrigerator, and using a dough scraper, scrape the dough onto a clean, flat work surface.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, 12" by 18."
- Unwrap the beurrage. It should be 2/3 the size of the dough. Place it on the dough, leaving 1/3 uncovered.
- Fold the top third of the uncovered dough over the middle third of the butter. Fold the bottom third of the butter-covereddough up, over, and onto the top of the other two sections of folded dough (It should be folded in thirds like a letter.)
- Turn the dough so that it is vertical. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough to press it together. This is the end of the "first turn."
- Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on the work space so that it is vertical. Roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 12" by 18-24." Fold the dough like a letter. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This the "second turn."
- Repeat this process two more times, for a total of four turns.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and roll it into a rectangle, 12" by 24." Using a knife or a croissant cutter, cut the dough into 24 triangles.
- Make a small, one-half inch slit in the center of the base of each triangle. Fold the two tabs that are formed by the slit up and toward the outside edges. Roll the bottom up towards the top of the triangle, and continue rolling. Carefully bend the finished croissant into a crescent shape. Work quickly to keep the dough from getting too warm.
- Place the finished croissants on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with plastic and place in a warm, draft-free spot for one hour. They should double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the croissants for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Serve them immediately.