Croissants are surprisingly easy to make and create a deliciously irresistible, buttery flaky pastry.
I have always been curious about the art of making croissants. They are one of my go-to pastries whenever I find myself at a bakery but there are subtle differences in taste and texture depending on where you get them from. And I wanted to try my hand at them.
This was a large experimental experience for me. I tried to figure out how different ingredients and methods effected the result. From the type of butter or yeast being used to how to prep the butter for the tourrage (the French word used for part of this recipe; it means turning but I’m not exactly sure why it’s used).
There is a decent amount of ingredients used in this recipe but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I would imagine almost all these ingredients can be found in the average kitchen. The only ingredient that might not be there is some form of yeast.
For this recipe, I have discovered my love of fresh yeast. This is typically a block of paste that looks like a stick of butter from the outside. I find that fresh yeast gives me a better rise and creates an extremely flaky pastry. Yum! Active dry yeast is also a plausible option for this recipe but does not result in the monstrosities that the fresh yeast yields.
I also did some experiments between common butter and “fancy” butter. Common butter is the brands you can find at any grocery store while “fancy” butter is the higher end butter that is marketed not just for your common baking ingredient. Surprisingly, the common butter had a better taste for me. So, no need to splurge to get those perfect croissants!
The first step in this process is making the dough. And the first step in making the dough is mixing the milk, honey, and yeast. This mixture jumpstarts the yeast and allows it to start feeding. The honey is a major player in this process as it gives the yeast something to feed on.
While the yeast is having a feast, I whisked the flour, sugar, and salt. Just to get it properly incorporated. Then I rubbed in some of the cubed butter to become a breadcrumb like mix. I like doing this step my hand because I can really feel the butter incorporating into the dough and can avoid creating butter chunks.
Then, I added the water and yeast mixture into the dough and because to mix everything together. The dough kind of becomes a scraggly mess at this stage. But after some kneading. The dough becomes delightfully smooth. Honestly, it’s kind of fun to work with.
Then it was time to let the dough proof. TI like to let the dough site at least an hour or until it’s doubled in size. And this dough likes to grow!
Lastly, I shaped the dough into a rectangle and wrapped it a layer of parchment paper and plastic wrap before chucking it into the freezer. You can leave the dough in the freezer for a few hours or leave it overnight. I haven’t attempted to leave in there for days before but a part of me is considering it since I have made this recipe so much. Some time between batches might not be a bad thing…
The Butter Tourrage (or Butter Block)
The butter block was an interesting experiment. Originally, I followed what I saw online – cut the butter into relatively even chunks and do my best to fill out a 5-inch by 6.5-inch rectangle. But relatively even chunks are not my strong suit. I always ended up with a lopsided mess.
So, I decided to approach this process a little differently. Instead of working with cold butter, I waited for the butter to become room temperature. Then I stacked the two sticks on top of each other. Finally, I pressed the top stick down into the bottom stick and beat it into the rectangular shape.
I found this method created a more conjoined butter block instead of having pieces of butter that looked like they were in a block but had easily broken points. Of course, after creating the block, the butter had to go back into the fridge to reharden. Cold butter is needed for this recipe!
Enclosing and Folding
Enclosing the butter into the dough it the longest part of this whole recipe but it also is just a lot of repetition. It’s not a difficult process, just a boring one. Before anything can be done, the dough has to thaw. I also like pulling out the butter a little before I need it. I want it to be slightly soft but not so soft that bleed everywhere.
Then it’s time to encase the butter in the dough. I rolled out the dough to be slightly over double the size of the butter tourrage. I pinched the edges the dough around the butter to seal the butter into the dough entirely.
Then I rolled out the dough / butter block and folded it over itself like a book (so there are four layers). Then its back to the fridge for about thirty minutes before repeating the process of rolling and folding.
I always like to fold in the book fold style because it puts a lot of layers into the pastry. Also, whenever rolling out the pastry, the pastry’s long edge will technically be the short edge from the last fold. This creates a more complex structure for the pastry.
The I rolled it out one more time. But instead of folding the pastry, I cut the pastry into large triangles. They should look like thin pizza slices. Then I rolled each slice into the classic croissant shape. I placed the croissants on a sheet tray and covered them with a towel and allowed them to prove.
Depending on the yeast, the croissants might turn into giant monstrosities. But they are delicious either way. Then all that’s left is to bake them!
This was one of my favorite projects to explore. I really liked finding out how changing up the ingredients changed the final result. And also changed different thing during the process.
Like how the fresh yeast would cause the dough to be more puffy and potentially more difficult to work with. Or easier. Honestly, it just depending on the batch.
I was actually surprised that the less expensive butter worked better to create those flaky layers. I didn’t expect to see any major difference, but I don’t think I would ever use the expensive butter again. It was difficult to work with since it was creamier. Probably not meant for baking.
The biggest take away I’ve had from this experience is that which ingredients are used matter. This is not something I have explored a lot with before but it’s definitely something I want to consider going into the future. Especially since there were some major impacts on the croissants. These big and flakey croissants really come from the fresh yeast.
- ⅔ Cup Whole Milk
- ½ Cup Water lukewarm
- 30 g Fresh Yeast or 12g Active-Dry Yeast
- 2 Teaspoon Honey
- 3 Tablespoon Butter softened and cubed
- 3 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
- 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Teaspoon Salt
Butter Block (Tourrage)
- 1 Cup Butter
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 4 Tablespoon Whole Milk
- Dissolve the honey in the milk and then whisk in the yeast. Set aside for the yeast to activate (about 10-20 minutes)
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt.
- Rub in butter until the mixture reached a crumb like texture.
- Add water and yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix until it becomes a scraggly dough.
- Knead dough on a lightly floured worksurface until smooth (about 4 minutes)
- Place dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until dough has doubled in size (approximately one hour).
- Turn out dough only a lightly floured surface and knock it back. Shape the dough into a 7 inch by 10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper.
- Wrap the dough in a layer of parchment paper and then in a layer of plastic wrap. Freeze dough for a few hours or overnight.
Butter Block (Tourrage)
- Slice the butter in thin slices are arranged on a piece of parchment inside a 5 inch by 6.5-inch block.
- Cover the top with a piece of parchment paper and then, using a rolling pin, firmly hit the butter to make it more pliable. Roll out butter to spread inside the parchment paper.
- Wrap block in plastic and allow to chill in the fridge.
Enclose and Fold
- Allow the dough to thaw until it becomes pliable. Beat the butter block until pliable (but it should still be cold)
- Place the dough on a smooth surface (very lightly floured or no flour).
- Place butter block onto on half of the dough and gently press the butter block into the dough.
- Fold the uncovered half of the dough over the top of the butter. Press the edges to seal the butter inside of the dough.
- Gently roll out the dough, keeping the width but increasing the length. Roll the dough out to be approximately 16 inches.
- Fold ¼ of the dough toward the middle from both sides. The ends should meet in the middle
- Fold the entirety of the dough in half (enclosing the ends inside). Firmly tap the dough to keep its shape.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allowthe dough to chill in the fridge for an hour.Repeat previous three steps
Shaping and Baking
- Roll out the dough (keeping the width) to about 1 cm thickness. Wrap the dough and let rest for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Roll out the rested dough to a 4-5mm thickness. (Width approx. 10 inches, length approx. 20 inches)
- Cut into about 12 triangles (should look like pizza slices)
- Roll up each triangle into the croissant shape and place with the tip going under the croissant on a sheet tray
- Cover in plastic wrap and let the dough rest until the croissants have proofed until they have doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F at least 30 minutes before baking
- In a small bowl, combine egg yolks and milk as a egg wash. Brush Croissants with the egg wash.
- Bake for about 20 – 30minutes or until golden brown. (Turn tray once halfway through baking time if needed)