I tried this once before, many years ago, and the result was a less than satisfactory croissant flavored pastry with the texture of a dinner roll… As a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education’s pastry course I felt newly empowered to try again. And the results this time were much better. Actually it was pretty easy…
Croissant dough is made by repeatedly chilling, rolling, buttering and folding the dough, you land up with many thin layers of dough and butter (I calculated 82!) . When you bake the pastries the butter melts into the dough leaving little pockets of space where the air expands, this creates all those layers of flaky goodness.
I used this recipe from Epicurious — the recipe comes in two parts, the first for the dough which can be used for other pastries as well, like pain au chocolate, the second part details the final steps in making the crescent shaped confections and baking them. The recipe is very detailed so all I’ll add is the following few thoughts:
- leave yourself enough time: not so much for the actual work time, but to allow for all the refrigeration that is required between rollings and especially the last 8 hours or so in the fridge before shaping the croissants.
- use good ingredients (organic!) and for extra rich pastries take note: professional bakers use butter with a high butter fat content — this “european style” butter contains at least 85% butter fat instead of the 80% required in typical U.S. butter
- make sure the dough smells yeasty and is rising well otherwise you’ll be wasting your time.
- keep your board and rolling pin well floured — sprinkle the flour from up high with a quick flick of your fingers so you don’t get clumps of flour on the pastry
- They freeze well and taste great heated up (I believe they last a month frozen, but I didn’t keep mine around long enough to check on that!)
Finally: be prepared with some good coffee and a good book so you can enjoy one a few minutes out of the oven!