Croissants. I’m not going to lie, these guys take a lot of time and patience. It also helps if you have some experience with croissants. Luckily I have quite a bit of experience with these little buttery delights. I worked in a bakery for over a year frequently making hundreds of them!
I’m going to start with some croissant history. Believe it or not croissants actually originated in Austria, not France. There was a crescent shaped sweet bread in Austria around the 13th century called the “kipferl” that the croissant is supposed to be based off of. There are many stories about how it was created but the one I like the most goes like this. In the late 1600’s the croissant was created in celebration when the Ottoman’s were defeated by the Christians. Supposedly a baker was up early making bread and heard the Ottomans tunneling under the city and rang the alarm. The croissant’s crescent shape comes from the crescent moon on the Ottoman flag. Croissants grew in popularity after World War 2 with the mass production of food. Now they’re everywhere from fast food joints to small bakeries in every town!
I also have some helpful tips about croissants. One of the most important things is to keep the dough and the butter at the relatively same temperature. If the butter is too cold when it is folded into the dough it will literally shatter. Baking at home can be hard since you don’t have access to the best tools, so shattered butter isn’t the end of the world. You will still end up with those layers! If the butter is too warm, it can basically dissolve into the dough and you won’t have defined layers. Also make sure you let the dough rest for the proper amount of time between folds. You don’t want to rush the folds. The dough will not cooperate if it’s rushed and it will be a pain in the butt to roll out. Remember, patience is super crucial for croissants.
My croissant recipe starts out with a poolish. Poolish is a mixture of basically equal parts flour and water with a little bit of yeast. Poolish adds the classic fermented flavor to croissants and increases the doughs extensibility.
- 3/4 cups + 1 1/2 teaspoons flour
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons water, 75 degrees
- pinch of instant active yeast
- Combine all ingredients in medium sized bowl. Mix together and let sit covered in the fridge for 12-18 hours.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 teaspoons instant active yeast
- 7 oz water, 75 degrees
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 sticks + 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook combine the flour, sugar and yeast. Mix until combined.
- Add 6 ounces of the warm water, the poolish and the softened butter. Mix until a dough forms. (if it looks dry add the other ounce of water)
- Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix for 10 minutes.
- Form a ball with dough and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour.
- While dough is rising, take out the butter for the butter block, 2 sheets of waxed paper (or parchment paper) and a rolling pin. Cut the sticks of butter in half and place in the center of the paper next to each other to form a large square. Hit the butter (yes hit it) with the rolling pin to soften it and roll over the butter to fill in the holes between the pieces. The final butter block should be 7×7 inches. Place in fridge until needed.
- After and hour cover a sheet tray with parchment and flatten the dough ball into a dough rectangle shape. Place tray in freezer for 20 minutes.
- *Make sure the butter block isn’t a solid brick, you can run the butter block along the edge of the counter and pull in down toward the ground to soften it or take it out 15 minutes before the dough is ready to be rolled* Roll the dough into a 15×15 inch square and place the butter on an angle so it looks like a diamond. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter so the butter is completely covered with dough.
- Roll the dough until it’s 22×9 inches long. Fold one third of the dough over the center then fold the other third over top. Freeze dough for 20 minutes.
- For the second turn, roll the dough until it’s 22×9 inches again and fold into thirds again. Freeze for 20 minutes.
- Repeat the previous step for turn 3.
- After the last 20 minute freeze, roll the dough until it’s 24×9 inches. Cut the dough in half and place parchment between the layers. Freeze for 20 more minutes.
- Pull the dough sheets from the freezer and keep one in the fridge while you work with the first dough sheet. Roll the dough until it’s 19×9 inches long. For regular croissants, mark 3 inches along the top and bottom of the rectangle. Cut into 3 inch triangles and shape into croissants. Place on sheet tray and cover with egg wash.
- Repeat step 12 with the other dough half. IF you want to make chocolate croissants mark 3 inches along the top and bottom of the dough. Measure half of the dough width and cut in half, then cut down the 3 inch marks. Place chocolate (you can use chips too) along the top of the dough and roll over, place more chocolate at the seam and roll again. For ham and cheese croissants mark 4 inches along top and bottom of dough. Measure half of the width and cut in half, then cut down the 4 inch marks. Place half a slice of ham and a slice of cheddar cheese at the top of the dough rectangle. Roll dough over the ham and cheese.
- Proof croissants for 2 hours (they will jiggle when you shake the sheet tray).
- Preheat oven to 365 degrees and egg wash all croissants again. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate trays and bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.
There ya have it, a traditional French croissant! You can wait for them to cool down or eat them warm from the oven (which I might have done)!