I must admit that I love all things French. I know that is not very original, but I do. I love the language, the food, the wine and the people. I most of all love Paris. I actually blame this on my parents because I took French classes from kindergarten through the end of high school. I did not learn a single word of the language… but I did find my love of all things French.
A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to spend my 30th birthday in Paris. If I had to welcome in 30…I was going to spend it in the best place in the world. (i.e. less chance of a “I can’t believe I am 30″ breakdown when you have a bottle of wine in one hand and a pastry in the other)
Luke and I went for Thanksgiving and had the best time. We rented an apartment in the 6th which was amazing. (If you are ever looking here is the apartment - it is seriously the best location) We spent the week roaming the city and eating and drinking anything we could get our hands on.
So in an attempt to re-create the amazingness of that week (or just get that much closer to being a real life French person) I decided to tackle a homemade croissant. Silly I know when I can get amazing ones at Tartine Bakery here in San Francisco- but I guess it was the challenge that was calling me.
In the process, I found out that making croissants are not that difficult, instead they just take forever. Literally forever. I started making these suckers on a Saturday at 2pm and did not finish until 3pm on Sunday. So don’t start croissants thinking you will have a buttery flacky one in an hour or so. You got to put in the time to reap that reward.
The trick with croissants are the layers of butter (see above). When the butter is layered between the dough and it hits the heat of the oven, that is when you get the flaky deliciousness that we all love in croissants.
I also cut up some bittersweet chocolate and added it to some of the croissants – but you can keep it all butter, or add any filling you can dream of.
Be warned there is a ton (literally just about a ton) of butter in this recipe but don’t think about it, just eat and enjoy!
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2000
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
- 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter
Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.
Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.
Prepare and shape butter:
After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and then put it between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, while rolling out dough.
Roll out dough:
Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.
Roll out dough:
Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.
Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.
Make remaining “folds”:
Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).
Roll out and cut dough:
Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.
Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.
Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.
Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)
Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired.)
Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough.
Let croissants rise:
Slide each baking sheet into a garbage bag, propping up top of bag with inverted glasses to keep it from touching croissants, and tuck open end under baking sheet.
Let croissants rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 2 to 2‚ hours.
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°F.
Remove baking sheets from bags. Put croissants in oven and reduce temperature to 400°F and bake 10 minutes without opening door.
Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180°, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.