A warm croissant from a French bakery, early in the morning, is one of the simple pleasures of life. Making croissants yourself takes some time, but you will be so proud of yourself when you pull your freshly baked croissants from the oven. This is a dough that is best prepared in cold weather, as you don’t want to have the butter melt. The butter is what will keep the layers of dough apart, and creates that signature flaky croissant that we all love.
- 500gr strong bread flour
- 8gr dry yeast
- 10gr salt
- 50gr sugar
- 1 large egg
- 125ml cold milk
- 125ml cold water
- 250gr unsalted butter
Makes 12 croissants
Mix the yeast with the flour. Add the egg, milk and water, mix quickly, then add the salt and sugar (adding salt directly to yeast will kill the yeast, which is a living organism, making bread dense and flat).
Knead the dough for a few minutes, 3-4 should do, until it becomes more elastic. You do not want to get the gluten developed much, as the rolling out later would overdevelop the gluten, making it rise less as the gluten strands will break quicker. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and leave on a cold spot (or in the fridge) for 2 hours or overnight. Make sure the dough does not ferment, as this would cause your croissants to become doughy.
In the meantime, Place the butter between two sheets of cling film and roll it into a rectangular block that is about 1cm thick. You may want to peel off the plastic a few times and re-position it, or the plastic might rip and you could get little pieces of plastic stuck on the butter (speaking from experience). Set the butter in the fridge on a straight surface to keep it cold.
For the technique on rolling, folding and shaping croissants, more can be found in HOW TO MAKE PERFECT CROISSANTS.
Roll the cold dough out on a cold surface. In winter, I always have a window open, which works well, but you can also use a marble surface when temperatures are higher. If you do not have a stone or marble kitchen countertop, you can use a chocolate tempering block.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out – preferably with a French style, tapered rolling pin, which assists in creating a uniform thickness – into a rectangle that is the same width of the butter slab and half longer. See the sketch below. Click on the image for a larger size.
Start with an English fold: Place the butter on the bottom part, peel off the plastic and fold the empty part of the dough over the butter, coming halfway of the butter slab. Now fold the bottom half over, with the butter. Seal the edges well to avoid butter leaking out later.
Now roll the dough out in one direction, not back and forth but only one way, then pick up the roller and start from the beginning again. Away from you tends to work best. Roll gently to form a rectangle. Too much pressure at once may cause the butter to melt into the dough, so don’t be too enthusiastic. However, don’t take forever either, especially in summer, as warmth from the outside can also make the butter melt.
Now do a book fold: When you made a rectangle, cut the edges off the top and bottom. Only a little, just to free the layers and to stop the dough from retarding the rise. Fold both cut ends to the middle, then folding one half over the other. You will have folded in 4 like this. Make two dents in the top of the dough, to remind you this was your second fold (the first was the English fold above). Place the dough on a plate or cutting board, slide it into a plastic bag and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough out again lengthwise. Do another book turn, bringing the amount of butter layers to 2x4x4=32 (see the Techniques section on how to make croissants for details on the amount of layers), dent three times and then leave to rest again for 30 minutes.
Now your dough is ready to make croissants, or filled croissant-inspired treats (see other recipes). If you cut the dough in half (don’t do this unless you make several different fillings, as leftover dough that has been rolled out cannot be re-rolled) you can see the lamination.
With a French style rolling pin, roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 3-4mm thickness. Cut long triangles from the dough, with a base having a length of approximately 2/3rd-3/4th of the height. You can get about 12 regular sized croissants from this dough, or 18-20 small croissants. Think well about how you cut as leftovers are for the trash, you can not knead it together and re-roll the dough (although you can cut cute figures from the dough and bake them separately, only for a shorter time, 10min). Make a cut in the middle of the base, which will help rolling. Spread the base out and place a little triangle of the leftover dough in the gap that is created, which will make your croissant higher.
Roll the dough lightly to allow for expansion while rising, starting from the base. Place the croissant on a baking paper lined baking tray, with the tip pointing down in the middle – this will avoid it unrolling – and pull the sides out a bit, so you can shape a crescent.
Egg-wash the croissants by brushing from the middle to the sides. This avoids getting egg wash over the sides, which would stick the layers together and prevent the croissants from puffing up well while baking. Cover with a plastic bag that does not touch the croissants, else the bag will end up sticking to the dough.
Leave to prove until doubled in size. This can take a while, 2 hours is normal, especially because you do not want to prove them in a very warm environment because of the butter. A slow prove will yield better croissants.
Underproofed croissants will not rise much, because the butter will leak out and cannot create the steam to puff the layers up. The croissants should be very soft, puffed up and jiggly. In a relatively cool spot they will not easily overproof.
Egg-wash again (not over the cut sides), then slide the croissants into an oven that has been pre-heated to 210°C. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 190°C and bake for 10 more minutes, or until dark brown and crisp.