Is there anything about baking that rivals a fresh croissant, the way its browned shell shatters and then gives in to the silky, shiny, layered interior?
Simply put, the answer is no.
A pastry as miraculous as a croissant is, as you might expect, difficult to make at home. There’s rolling – the process of rolling and flattening butter into thin sheets between layers of dough – and rolling and folding that dough into layers of butter, a technique called ‘turning’. In professional environments, machines called slab rollers in temperature-controlled rooms laminate dough quickly and efficiently, producing light, flaky and even croissants. Home bakers, however, have to perform these tasks by hand, making them harder, slower, and much more variable.
It’s a lot to face, but none of it should deter you from trying. Anyone with even a passing interest in baking will experience sheer exhilaration when pulling a baking sheet of puffed and browned croissants from the oven. Once you have mastered the basic dough, you can develop your skills, adding toppings like chocolate or ham and cheese, or even reusing leftover plain croissants into almond croissants. Getting to this point requires following a tight script, but many of the factors that determine success can be controlled in a home kitchen through certain key techniques. And below you’ll find even more tips to guide you smoothly and confidently through the process.
Choose flour rich in protein: A flour with a protein content of 11 to 13 percent (usually listed on the bag) is needed for a strong, gluten-rich dough that can withstand many layers of butter and resist the rolling and folding required to create those layers. . If you can find it, King Arthur All Purpose Flour is ideal for two reasons: it has a relatively high protein content of 11.7%, and it contains a small amount of malted barley flour, which professional bakers add to it. their croissant dough to produce a crispier and tastier exterior.
Pay attention to your yeast: Experienced bakers generally prefer to use fresh yeast – sometimes referred to as cake yeast or baker’s yeast – when making croissants because it is more reliable than active dry yeast. However, active dry yeast is by far the easiest to find for home bakers. You want to be sure your yeast is alive, so store it in the refrigerator and make sure it’s used well before the expiration date. (If you have any doubts you might want to prove it: Heat ¼ cup / 120 grams of the total milk in the accompanying basic recipe to around 105 degrees, then combine it in a small bowl with the 2¼ teaspoons / 7 grams of active dry yeast. And stir until dissolved. Let stand until mixture is frothy, about 5 minutes, then continue.)
Spring for good butter: European or European style butters contain at least 82 percent fat by weight. (Most American butters hit 82 percent.) Often, this increased fat content makes these butters richer in flavor and more “plastic,” or able to cold-fold without breaking. This relative flexibility will help the butter to roll more easily, which ultimately results in lighter, taller croissants with defined layers. Of all the butters I have tested, I have preferred Kerrygold because it retains a waxy, malleable texture even when cold, so the block of butter is resistant to cracking and separating inside the dough for rolling.
Prepare for success
Clear your schedule and prepare your space …: Be sure to allow two days for this project, with most of the active work taking place on the first day. Do all you can to work in a cool kitchen environment (68-72 degrees), which will make it easier to unwind the butter-laden dough and control fermentation. Clear several feet of counter space. Make room in the refrigerator, as well as room in the freezer for the dough. It is important that the dough stays as cold as possible throughout the process, to minimize opening and closing of the refrigerator and freezer doors.
… And your ingredients: Weigh all of your ingredients for the dough (also called the tempera), especially the flour, water, and milk. The specific ratio of liquid to flour in the accompanying basic recipe, called “hydration,” produces a dough that has the right texture for croissants – soft enough to be spread by hand, but firm enough to keep the. enclosed butter.
Nail the process
Keep your edges sharp …: One of the most important factors in making bakery-quality croissants at home is also the trickiest – maintaining the square edges and straight sides of the dough throughout the rolling process. What may seem like a minor problem at first – an imbalanced block of butter, for example – can get worse down the line, so it’s important to pay attention to the details. The sharp corners and straight sides help the dough to line up on itself as it is folded with each turn, ensuring the croissants have the same number of layers and are a similar size. This is a skill that takes practice, so understand that you might have difficulty on your first few tries, but as long as you follow the other principles outlined here, a little unevenness or misalignment won’t ruin your crescents.
… Your cold dough …: How you control fermentation also largely determines your success. You’ll want to keep the dough as cold as possible to prevent the yeast from producing gas during layering, but not so cold that the butter becomes too difficult to roll smoothly between layers. Whenever the dough is used up, try to work quickly to prevent it from heating up and fermenting.
… And your clean cuts: For more defined croissants, use a wheel cutter (either a pastry wheel or pizza cutter) when cutting your dough. It cuts cleanly, with minimal streaking or tearing. If you don’t have a wheel cutter, a sharp knife will suffice or you can use a clean box cutter.
Look for proof: It takes patience and practice to spread croissants enough to achieve maximum lightness. It’s easy to undervalue. Pitting the dough, the normal test a baker would use, is not an option as the leavened dough is too delicate and will tear, disrupting the layers. The best indicators are visual: the dough will be filled with yeast gas so much that the layers along the cut sides will have separated, and the surfaces will be rounded and very swollen – like little crescent-shaped Michelin men. When you gently shake the baking sheet, a proven croissant will have a slight wobble.
Carefully apply egg wash: A combination of egg yolk and heavy cream produces a shiny, tan exterior. When applying it, be careful not to smear the exposed layers on the cut sides of the paste, as this will merge them together. If you have a lot of egg drops on the baking sheet, wipe them off, as they may scorch during baking. Cooling uncovered croissants while the oven is heating helps firm them up, so it’s easier to apply the egg wash and dry the surface of the dough, resulting in a well-developed exterior.
How easy is making croissants at home? Not the least. But is it a fascinating and fun project? Definitely, even if you run into hiccups along the way. Be aware that the more you prepare them, the better your croissants will be, but even a first attempt – provided you follow the suggestions and principles outlined here – will likely produce a delicious and jaw-dropping result.
Recipes: Some croissants | Chocolate bread | Ham and cheese croissants | Almonds croissant