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How to make perfect croissants – every time

If you’ve ever sighed over a photo of croissants and wished you could make them at home – then read on…

Making croissants isn’t super easy, but it can be done and this step by step guide will result in deliciousness!

Makes 12–15 (1¼ lb./600 g dough)
Active time: 1 hour
Chilling time: 4–5 hours (preferably overnight)
Rising time: 4 hours
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Storage: Up to 2 months in the freezer in a sealed bag (see Chef’s Notes)

EQUIPMENT

Instant-read thermometer
Stand mixer fitted with the dough hook
2 silicone baking mats (or parchment paper)
Rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper

INGREDIENTS

Water dough

⅓ oz. (10 g) fresh yeast (see Chef’s Notes)
1 tbsp (15 ml) lukewarm water
2 tbsp (25 g) sugar
1½ tsp (7 g) fine salt
1 tbsp (20 g) butter
¼ cup (60 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk + 1 tbsp for the sugar and salt
2 cups (9 oz./250 g) bread flour

For laminating

1 stick + 1 tbsp (4½ oz./130 g) butter, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten

METHOD

To prepare the water dough, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the sugar and salt into the 1 tbsp milk until dissolved.

Heat the 1 tbsp (20 g) butter in a small saucepan with the water and milk, until the butter has melted and the temperature reaches 86°F (30°C).

Sift the flour into the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat in the sugar/salt/milk mixture on low speed, then the warm butter/milk mixture. Finally, mix in the dissolved yeast.

Continue kneading until the dough is smooth, comes away from the sides of the bowl, and is just warm to the touch (about 1 minute).

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature, ideally around 77°F/25°C, until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

Dust a shallow baking dish with flour and press out the dough over the base. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2–3 hours.

To laminate the dough, remove the butter from the refrigerator about 30 minutes ahead, so it will be easier to work with. Place between the two silicone baking mats or two sheets of parchment paper, then beat with a rolling pin to make the butter as malleable as the dough. Cut into 2 equal pieces, wrap 1 piece, and return it to the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide.

Cut the butter into small pieces. Dot these evenly over the bottom two-thirds of the dough: the butter should be slightly softer than the dough at this point. Fold the top third of the dough down over the butter and the bottom third up. Give the folded dough a quarter turn and roll into a rectangle again. Fold in thirds as before. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or, for best results, overnight.

When ready to proceed, remove the remaining butter from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Beat with a rolling pin until malleable, as described in step 7, and repeat the rolling and folding instructions (steps 8–9) with the chilled dough and butter. After giving the dough a quarter turn, in the same direction as before, roll it into a rectangle measuring about 8 × 10 in. (20 × 25 cm). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

To form the croissants, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 6 × 17½ in. (15 × 45 cm), with a thickness of about ⅛ in. (3 mm). Cut into 12–15 triangles with a narrower, 2–3-in. (6–7.5-cm) base.

Roll up each triangle from the base to the tip. Place on the baking sheet, leaving space between each one. The croissants can now be frozen, if desired (see Chef’s Notes).

Brush the croissants with beaten egg to prevent them drying out while rising. Let rise for about 2 hours in a warm place (about 82°F/28°C), until doubled in volume. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6).

Brush the croissants with the remaining beaten egg; brush lightly so as not to deflate them. Bake for 15 minutes until deep golden brown. If necessary, rotate the baking sheet toward the end of the baking time so they brown evenly. Cool on a wire rack.

Chef’s Notes

Croissants are traditionally made using fresh yeast, as it gives the best results. If fresh yeast is unavailable, you can substitute 2¼ tsp (7 g) active dry yeast or 1½ tsp (5 g) instant yeast. Instant yeast must be mixed directly into the flour before any liquid is added, rather than dissolved in the water, which can be omitted.

If freezing, place the unbaked croissants on the baking sheet in the freezer until solid, then place them in a freezer bag, seal, and return to the freezer. Let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then proceed with steps 13 and 14.

Extracted from French Pastries and Desserts by Lenôtre: 200 Classic Recipes Revised and Updated (Flammarion, 2021). Photo © Caroline Faccioli

Love French pastries – here’s a fabulous recipe for oranais, an apricot temptation!

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