This weekend I decided to give homemade croissants a try. I've always been reluctant to make them because they take soooo long and it seemed like such an arduous process, but after writing my 2015 Food Resolutions, I knew that this was my chance. The croissants came out delicious, and I'm really glad that I followed through.
Some things to prepare yourself if you're going to make your own croissants:
- There is a ridiculous amount of butter that goes into the dough. I always knew that croissants were pretty heavy on the calories but it wasn't until I made them myself that I realized how much butter is actually required: 3.5 sticks!
- Because you have to let the dough rest about 3 or 4 times throughout the preparation process, it will take anywhere from 24-36 hours before the croissants are actually finished and ready to eat. Patience is a must, but it's all worth it in the end!
- It's actually NOT that hard to do. There is no complicated technique required, just a lot of waiting around. No need to be intimidated :)
Here's the recipe I used, slightly adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures:
from Baking, by James Peterson
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup barely warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter (3 1/2 sticks)
In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour with the water and yeast just until the lumps of flour are broken up. Set the bowl aside and let rise for 1 hour.
Add the remaining flour, the cream and salt and knead the mixture for 1 minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
Knead the mixture in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (on low speed) for about 20 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic by the time you finish kneading. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place the butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and using a rolling pin, pound the butter into an 8-inch square.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a 9 x 17-inch rectangle. Place the square of butter on the bottom half of the rectangle.
Fold the top half of the rectangle of dough down over the bottom half so the square of butter is now enclosed. Press together the edges of the square to seal in the butter. Use your hands to even out the square.
Gently pound the square with a rolling pin to stretch the dough and the butter in it. Roll the dough into a 9 x 18-inch rectangle. Next, you want to fold the rectangle into thirds like a letter – start with a narrow end facing you. Fold the bottom third up, and then the top third down. This completes one "turn."
Turn the dough so the single fold (like the spine of a book) is on your left. Complete one more "turn" by repeating the last step.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Once the dough has been refrigerated, remove it and complete two more “turns” – for a total of four turns in all. At this point, the dough is ready to be rolled out and used. Alternatively, you can wrap in plastic and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before you shape and proof. The longer you proof, the more flavor the dough will have. I didn't have time to complete the rest of the recipe before the end of the day, so I let mine rest in the fridge overnight.
Before you begin to shape the dough, line two large baking sheets with parchment. Also, make sure you have a ruler handy. Cut the dough in half.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of the dough into a 6 1/2 x 20-inch rectangle. Trim the edges of the dough if they’re ragged or uneven. The dough should be about 1/8 – 1/4-inch thick.
Transfer each large rectangle onto one of the prepared baking sheets and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. You want the dough firm, but not brittle.
When the first rectangle is ready to work with, transfer it back to your work surface with one of the long ends facing you. The next step is to cut the triangles from the dough that will be formed into individual croissants. Starting on the left side of the bottom edge of the rectangle, use the point of a knife to make a notch in the dough every 5 inches.
Turn the rectangle upside down so the notched side is facing away from you. Starting on the right side, make a notch 2.5 inches from the end. Move left and make a notch every 5 inches.
You’re ready to cut the triangles which will form the croissants now. Leave the rectangle as is – so the second side you notched is closest to you. The notches on the far side are for the bases of the triangles and the notches on the near side form the tips of the triangles. Use a large knife to cut the triangles by connecting the notches on the near and far sides. You should end up with 6 full triangles, each 5 by 6 1/2-inches, as well as some trimmings on the ends.
Repeat the process above with your second rectangle so you have a total of 12 triangles. Make a small slit in the base of the center of each triangle.
Begin to roll the triangles to form the croissants by curling the two sides of the triangle on each side of the slit away from each other. Roll as tightly as you can or the dough will separate when it bakes in the oven.
Using both hands, continue to roll the base of the triangle – one hand working with the dough on each side of the slit. Point your hands away from each other – at about 45 degree angles from center – as you roll. Rolling in this manner will help make the classic croissant shape.
Roll each triangle so the tip is underneath and then bend the 2 ends toward each other to form a shape like a little crab. Arrange the croissants on a sheet pan and cover them with plastic wrap to proof.
You can proof for 1 hour in a warm place, 3 hours in a cool place, or overnight in the fridge. I opted for 1 hour at room temperature and I could see a visible difference in the size of the dough. Again, the dough will develop more flavor if you decide to proof overnight in the fridge. If you do this, be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before baking.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Adjust your oven racks so one is in the top third and one is in the bottom third of the oven. Combine 1 egg with a splash of cream to form an egg wash and brush the proofed croissants. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the croissants are puffed and golden brown. Remove them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature before serving.