I started writing a meaningful post about hard work vs. instant gratification. But let’s cut to the chase. Croissants are hard work. About as much work as writing this recipe. Which has taken me days and left me wordless. Instant gratification sounds awfully nice at the moment.
Ignore me. That’s just the hard work, I’m tired talking.
Because cross my heart, hope to die, I don’t regret spending 1.5 days of my life making croissants, or learning how to make croissants for that matter. In fact, I’ll probably spend more days like this. Hard work, long hours, and a lot of elbow grease make my heart beat. Because sometimes there’s nothing better than enjoying the fruit of your labors. And it always tastes better than instant gratification. This is my kind of marathon.
“Overtime, however, things changed…and in general the quality of croissants fell dramatically due to mechanization, a widespread disregard for standards, and the use of cheaper ingredients, like margarine to replace butter. At Tartine, we make them the traditional way, marrying well-fermented, slightly sweet dough and the lamination process with a day’s forethought to yield what many consider the ideal breakfast pastry.”
—Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine
From start to finish, give yourself a good 15 hours or 1.5 days. Read through the recipe multiple times before beginning. It’sa doozy. I made steps 1-7 on day 1 and steps 8-11 early day 2. Questions? Let me know! I didn’t plan on posting this recipe, so I don’t have step-by-step pictures. Sorry! But after multiple requests, I decided to post the detailed recipe. If making croissants makes your heart go pitter patter, like it does mine, I highly recommend investing in the book Tartine.
- Preferment. In a small saucepan, heat milk until just warm, about 80-90 degrees. Milk should not simmer. Pour into a medium bowl (preferably glass to see rise) and stir in yeast until dissolved. Add the flour and stir together until evenly combined. Dough will be sticky. Cover and allow to rise for 2-3 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- Dough. Measure out ingredients and set aside. In a stand mixer with the dough hook, add the preferment mixture to the bowl as well as the yeast. Mix together on low speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down sides if necessary. Increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes, slowly adding half the milk until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add remaining milk, 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Mix until a loose shaggy dough forms, about 3 minutes. Allow dough to rest for 15 minutes. (A good rule of thumb, work the dough as little as possible. Overworking dough will result in a tough, glutenous, dense croissant. This same rule applies to biscuits, scones, and pie dough.) With the mixer speed on low, mix until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough should be neither sticky nor dry. Add remaining cup of flour 1/4 cup at a time until consistency is reached. You may not use all the flour. If your dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time. For added visibility, transfer dough to a glass bowl and cover. Allow to rise in a cool place for 1 1/2 hours. Dough should double in size.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface or a Roul'Pat. Press dough out into a rectangle, 2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for 4 hours.
- Roll-in butter. About 3 hours into the chill, prepare the butter. Add butter to stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat butter on medium until malleable, about 3 minutes. Wrap butter in plastic wrap and shape into a square, about 1 inch thick. Return to fridge to chill but not harden.
- Remove dough and butter from fridge to begin laminating. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface or a Roul'Pat. Roll out into a 28" x 12" rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle facing you, add the butter square the the left side and evenly spread over 2/3 of the rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, first folding the right, non-buttered portion over. Then fold the left, buttered portion over that as you would fold a letter. This is considered a plaque. Press the seams together to seal the butter into the plaque.
- Turn the plaque so that the long edge is facing you again. Roll out into a 28" x 12" rectangle. Fold dough into thirds once again and wrap in plastic wrap. Return dough to fridge to rest for 2 hours.
- Finally, transfer dough to a lightly floured surface or a Roul'Pat. Again, roll out into a 28" x 12" rectangle. Fold into thirds. The dough should measure 9" x 12", and about 2" thick. Wrap again, but this time place into the freezer to chill for 1 hour. If making croissants the next morning, retire dough from freezer to fridge overnight. (Dough can be kept in freezer for up to one week. Thaw in fridge overnight before using.)
- Remove dough from fridge to form, proof, and bake. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface or a Roul'Pat. Roll out into a 32" x 12" rectangle, 3/8" thick. This takes some muscle. Using a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or chef's knife, cut long triangles 4" wide at the base for croissants, or 6" x 4" rectangles for Pain au Chocolats.
- Line a baking sheet with a Silpain or parchment paper. To shape croissants, begin with the base facing you and tightly roll towards the point. The point should sit underneath the croissant. You should have 6-7 ridges. To roll Pain au Chocolats, add a chocolate baton or dark chocolate chips in a row and roll tightly placing the seam underneath. Place on lined baking sheet, at least 2" apart on all sides. In a warm, draft-free room, allow pastries to rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. The cooler the kitchen, the longer the rise. Pastries should be somewhat firm yet puffy.
- Egg wash. In a small bowl whisk together ingredients until pale yellow. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a pastry brush, carefully paint the pastries being sure to cover all sides. Wipe any drippings off the Silpain. Allow the egg wash to dry slightly before baking. Place croissants in oven and immediately turn heat down to 400 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to bake for another 6-10 minutes until deep golden. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
- Storage. Keep covered at room temperature once cooled for up to a day. Store up to one week in an airtight container in fridge. Reheat before serving in a 375 degree oven for 8 minutes.
• Make croissants in a cool, low-humidity kitchen, except for the final rise. • Give yourself at least 1 1/2 days to make from start to finish.
• Silpains are a great non-stick surface. They also aide in creating a nice crusty exterior for breads. They are a bit different than the Silpat in that they are breathable. It's not a solid sheet.
• I prefer to use instant yeast over active dry yeast. It doesn't need to be activated, it just needs to stay out of contact with chilled ingredients. To learn more about the different types of yeast, head over to The Kitchn.
Recipe lightly adapted from Tartine.