It’s the first of the month and you know what that means: time to tackle another goal for the year. Kate of Food Babbles is joining me again in making a recipe that was meant to be. You see, Kate recently joined the Daring Bakers and just days after we selected this month’s challenge, they proved to be on the same wavelength. Yup, we all made croissants.
I have wanted to make croissants since I took French lessons in high school (and no, not the kind Lane Meyer took). But I had a lot on my mind in September, so it was easy to keep pushing off making the croissants, finding excuse after excuse to avoid taking on the task of laminated dough.
You may ask: Carrie, what the heck is laminated dough anyway? You know that wonderful flakiness that is the trademark of croissants? It comes from many, many layers of butter, which have to be folded in and rolled out by hand. It’s not especially difficult, per se, but it is time-consuming, if nothing more than you’re babysitting the dough for an afternoon or so. Patience, however, is something I lack when it comes to tasty treats. I had to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t take the dough out of the fridge too early to start the next round of rolling and folding. Slow-and-steady pays off handsomely in the end; this is not a race.
I followed the recipe posted on King Arthur Flour’s website, reading it three times before I started. Somehow, I never noticed that it does not indicate when to add the salt to the butter until I got to that point myself. Thinking quickly on my half-broken feet, I decided to add it in with the flour before mixing them together. Then when I arrived at the rolling and folding, one of the steps still befuddled me, despite the inclusion of photos. After folding in thirds like a business letter, they said to turn it 90 degrees, so it lies like a book waiting to be opened. But my brain couldn’t connect the dots, so I started improvising. I kept thinking “turn” in literal terms and it was messing me up.
I was a little loose after that with counting how many times I folded and rolled. I also was a little blase about how exactly I folded, interpreting the book to be a fold that was missing from the instructions. So I added it in myself. I just went about folding and rolling, confident that more layers would equal more flakiness anyway. It didn’t matter.
When it came to the final roll and cut, the kids were ecstatic. I usually don’t bake with them; baking is pretty much the only “me time” I get these days and I cherish it for that very reason. Even so, I rolled out the scraps and let them make their own croissants. Why not? Life is short and it made them happy.
Imagine my surprise when I had real croissants come out of my oven! Really! I ripped into one right away… and was disappointed. It had the airy layers inside, but the exterior varied dramatically from what I normally buy. Sure, it was pleasant enough, but it just wasn’t the same. The kids dragged me off for the bedtime routine, slightly crestfallen, but too busy to focus on it at the moment.
After they finally were nestled in their beds, I returned to the other half of the croissant I was so eager to try. Surprise number two: if you’re patient enough to actually let them cool, they will, in fact, be like the croissants you can buy. Honest!
It wasn’t my intention, but I ended up making mini croissants–which means I also have many, many, many of them. I froze half of the cut-and-formed pastries for future joy. Woohoo! Just the thing to banish midweek blahs!
Don’t forget to check out Kate’s croissants! Bon appetit!
- 2 large eggs plus enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 5½-6 cups all purpose flour
- 2¼ tsp instant yeast
- 1 scant Tbsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1⅞ cups (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cool to the touch
- ¾ tsp fine sea salt (omit if using salted butter)
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp water
- To make a sponge, crack eggs into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add to them enough warm water to equal 2 cups. Gently beat until blended, then pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Add 1 Tbsp of the sugar, 3 cups of the flour, and the yeast, mixing until well blended. Cover and set aside.
- While the yeast is starting, work on the butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter, salt, and flour until smooth. This may take some time. Don't turn up the speed; you don't want to incorporate air into the butter mixture.
- Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper. Scrape the butter mixture onto the middle of it and, using a butter knife, spread into a square about 8"x8". Wrap and lay flat in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Wash and dry the bowl for your stand mixer and transfer the sponge to it. Add to that the melted butter, turning on your mixer for a few rotations to blend it in.
- Whisk together the remaining 2½ cups of flour, 3 Tbsp of granulated sugar, and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix in the dry ingredients with the sponge until you have a soft, kneadable dough.
- Using the dough hook, or your well-floured hands and counter, knead the dough, adding flour from the remaining half cup, 1 Tbsp at a time, if it is too sticky.
- Once the dough is smooth and elastic, rip off a piece of parchment paper, put the dough ball on top, and pat it into a square. Wrap and put it into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour your work surface and place the chilled dough on top. Roll it out into a square about 12"x12".
- Unwrap the butter slab and place it in the middle of the dough square, off-set so it looks like a diamond inside.
- Fold the dough flaps over the edges of the butter until they meet in the middle, then pinch and seal the edges. You can use a little water on your fingers if necessary to get the dough to stick together.
- Dust with flour, flip the dough package over, and tap it gently with the rolling pin, forming it into a rectangular shape. Pick up the dough and check that it isn't sticking underneath; if it is, lightly flour the surface, then roll from the center out until you have a 10"x20" rectangle.
- Take a dry brush and sweep off any excess flour. Fold the bottom third of the dough into the center, then the top third over it, like it's a business letter. Be sure to line up the edges. This is the first "turn."
- Take the left side of the dough letter and fold it over to the right side, making a sort of book. This is the second "turn."
- If the dough is still cool enough, you can repeat the above. You have to be careful it doesn't get too warm or the butter will all squeeze out.
- Wrap the dough package and return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Repeat the above for turns 3 and 4.
- Wrap the dough well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. (I only lasted 1 hour.)
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Working with half the dough at a time, roll out to a 12"x18" rectangle.
- Using a pizza cutter, trim the edges of the rectangle, so they're all nice and sharp.
- Cut the dough in thirds lengthwise, then in half the other way, so you have 6 rectangles.
- Cut diagonally across each rectangle, so you have 12 triangles.
- On the short side of each triangle, cut a ½" notch in the center.
- Roll from the short side to the point, making sure you keep the point underneath when you place the croissant onto the baking sheet. (Trust me, this is important! You may not think it'll happen, but they can unroll while baking.) It's okay if you have to stretch the dough a little to roll them up properly.
- Bend the ends toward the middle to make crescent shapes.
- Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (You can also take the baking sheet and freeze them at this point. Once they're solid, transfer to a zip top freezer bag for longer storage.)
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove croissants from refrigerator.
- Beat together 1 egg with 1 Tbsp water for an egg wash. Brush the tops of each croissant with this.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Depending on the size of your croissants, the second stage of baking can take anywhere from 8-12 minutes. Just make sure they're golden when you remove them--you don't want underbaked middles.
- Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.