Croissants Made Easy
I have made croissants at home for years. Not very often, mind you, but I make them. The reason for my reluctance to make them more often is because I become frustrated with inconsistent results. Sometimes they are light, airy and buttery. Sometimes the butter seems to just drip from them and they take on that wet-dough look that wasn’t very appetizing. Like many people I end up buying them from my local bakery and sometimes even the super market.
Then on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while watching my local PBS station I caught an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) making croissants and crepes. As I watched the croissant portion of the episode, I realized the recipe they were using was simpler than the one I regularly use, and the results looked amazing. The ATK recipe is now my go-to croissant recipe. I have made the recipe a couple dozen times and it always turns out perfect!
I reached out to our friends over at Cook’s Country, apart of the ATK family, and asked them for permission to re-post their recipe. They were happy to share.
For Valentine’s Day this year, why don’t you make your sweetie some fresh, hot, buttery croissants. I know purists like just the plain croissant with some butter maybe a little jam. I like variation! Try adding a piece of chocolate in the heart of the croissant when rolling them into their final shape. Or tuck in a piece of cheese or ham, or ham and cheese—another variation popular at my house.
From America’s Test Kitchen. Watch the episode: Season 12: Crepes and Croissants
Makes 22 croissants
Twelve croissants are baked first; the remaining 10 can be frozen. The croissants take at least 10 hours to make from start to finish, but the process can be spread over two days. We strongly encourage using high-protein all-purpose flour, such as King Arthur, and European-style butter (we like Plugrá). If the dough retracts or softens at any point, fold it into thirds, wrap it in plastic, and freeze it for 15 minutes. Do not make these in a room that is warmer than 80 degrees.
Why This Recipe Works
We wanted to create an approachable croissant recipe for home bakers—one that would deliver authentic flavor. The layered structure that characterizes croissants is formed through a process called lamination. First, a basic dough of flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and a small amount of butter is made. Then a larger amount of butter is formed into a block and encased in the relatively lean dough. This dough and butter package is rolled out and folded multiple times (each is called a “turn”) to form paper-thin layers of dough separated by even thinner layers of butter. Once baked, it’s these layers that make croissants so flaky and decadent. To start, we found that more turns didn’t necessarily produce more layers—we stopped at three turns, as any more produced a homogeneous bready texture. As for the star ingredient, butter, we found that great croissants demanded higher-fat European-style butter. And one essential tip we discovered during our recipe development was to give the dough a 30-minute super-chill in the freezer to firm it to the consistency of the butter, thus ensuring perfectly distinct layers.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted European-style-butter, very cold
1-3/4 cups whole milk
4teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
4-1/4 cups (21-1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1-3/4 ounces) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and immediately stir in milk (temperature should be lower than 90 degrees). Whisk in yeast; transfer milk mixture to bowl of stand mixer. Add flour, sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt. Using dough hook, knead on low speed until cohesive dough forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead for 1 minute. Remove bowl from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature 30 minutes.
Transfer dough to parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet and shape into 10 by 7-inch rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
While dough chills, fold 24-inch length of parchment in half to create 12-inch rectangle. Fold over 3 open sides of rectangle to form 8-inch square with enclosed sides. Crease folds firmly. Place 24 tablespoons cold butter directly on counter and beat with rolling pin for about 60 seconds until butter is just pliable but not warm, then fold butter in on itself using bench scraper. Beat into rough 6-inch square. Unfold parchment envelope. Using bench scraper, transfer butter to center of parchment, refolding at creases to enclose.
Turn packet over so that flaps are underneath and gently roll until butter fills parchment square, taking care to achieve even thickness. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes.
Transfer dough to freezer. After 30 minutes, transfer to lightly floured counter and roll into 17 by 8-inch rectangle with long side parallel to edge of counter. Unwrap butter and place in center of dough. Fold sides of dough over butter so they meet in center. Press seam together with fingertips. With rolling pin, press firmly on each open end of packet. Roll out lengthwise into 24 by 8-inch rectangle. Starting at bottom of dough, fold into thirds like business letter into 8-inch square. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise. Roll out lengthwise again into 24 by 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds. Place dough on sheet, wrap tightly with plastic, and return to freezer for 30 minutes.
Transfer dough to lightly floured counter so that top flap opens on right. Roll out dough lengthwise into 24 by 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds. Place dough on sheet, wrap tightly with plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Transfer dough to freezer. After 30 minutes, transfer to lightly floured counter and roll into 18 by 16-inch rectangle with long side of rectangle parallel to edge of counter. Fold upper half of dough over lower half. Using ruler, mark dough at 3-inch intervals along bottom edge with bench scraper (you should have 5 marks). Move ruler to top edge of dough, measure in 1 ½ inches from left, then use this mark to measure out 3-inch intervals (you should have 6 marks). Starting at lower left corner, use sharp pizza wheel or knife to cut dough from mark to mark. You will have 12 triangles and 5 diamonds; discard scraps. Unfold diamonds and cut into 10 triangles (making 22 equal-size triangles in total).
Position 1 triangle on counter. (Keep remaining triangles covered with plastic.) Cut 1/2-inch slit in center of short side of triangle. Grasp triangle by 2 corners on either side of slit and stretch gently, then stretch bottom point. Place triangle on counter so point is facing you. Fold down both sides of slit. Roll top of triangle partway toward point. Gently grasp point with 1 hand and stretch again. Resume rolling, tucking point underneath. Curve ends gently toward each other to create crescent. Repeat with remaining triangles.
Place 12 croissants on 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets at least 2 ½ inches apart. Lightly wrap with plastic. Let stand at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 2 ½ to 3 hours. (Shaped croissants can be refrigerated for up to 18 hours. Remove from refrigerator to rise and add at least 30 minutes to rising time.)
After croissants have been rising for 2 hours, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 425 degrees. In small bowl, whisk together egg, water, and pinch salt. Brush croissants with egg wash. Place croissants in oven and reduce temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes, then switch and rotate baking sheets. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack and cool about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To Make Ahead
After shaping, place 10 croissants 1 inch apart on parchment-lined sheet. Wrap with plastic and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Transfer to zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Bake frozen croissants as directed from step 8, increasing rising time by to 2 hours.
Recipe and plated croissant image courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen is filmed in a real, working test kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Cook’s Country TV, and the Monday-to-Friday destination for more than three dozen test cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware specialists. CHEFS Catalog is a proud sponser of Cook’s Country, a part of the America’s Test Kitchen family. For more information about Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen visit their website: www.americastestkitchen.com, www.cookscountry.com
Your Turn: What will you be making for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day?