The key to making good croissants is in the dough. Croissant dough (pâte à croissants or pâte levée feuilletée) is made by repeatedly rolling and folding a leavened puff pastry dough with a generous amount of chilled butter. The process, called laminating, isn't difficult, but it takes time because the dough must be chilled several times to keep the butter firm. See How to Make Croissants for a photo tutorial of this process.
The following croissant pastry recipe is one I adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe many years ago. Use it to make basic croissants or other pastries calling for croissant dough.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Rising and Chilling Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Yield: 16 croissants
- For the Starter Batter
- 2 envelopes dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons fresh yeast)
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) warm water
- 3/4 cup (about 100 g) flour
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- For the Dough
- 3 cups (390 g) flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 12 oz. (340 g) of cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2" (1.3 cm) pieces
- additional flour for rolling out the dough
- egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water
Make the Dough
Mix the yeast in the warm water warm, stirring until it's dissolved. Whisk in the 3/4 cup flour, the warm milk and the sugar to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave the batter to mature in a draft-free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You'll notice that the mixture rises and becomes bubbly during this time.
While the batter is maturing, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cut-up butter (make sure it's cold) and mix gently to coat the butter with flour. Press the butter pieces with your fingers to flatten them a bit, but don't try to incorporate them into the flour. Chill the flour and butter mixture until the batter has finished maturing.
Add the batter to the flour and butter, mixing with a rubber spatula just enough to moisten the flour and make a crumbly dough. The butter pieces should still be firm.
The croissant dough must be rolled out and folded a total of four times. The first folding is a little tricky because the dough is crumbly and the butter is chunky. After the first folding, the process becomes easier.
Roll and Fold the Dough for the First Time
Turn the crumbly dough out onto a floured surface. If the top of the dough is wet or sticky, sprinkle it with flour.
Press the dough with your hands or use a rolling pin to form an elongated rectangle about 12" x 18" (30 cm x 45 cm). Use a dough scraper or your hands to help shape the edges.
Sprinkle any exposed butter with flour, and then fold the dough into thirds like a letter. You may find it a bit difficult to lift the edges of the rough dough to fold it – I use two dough scrapers to do this – but don't worry about appearances at this point. The dough will smooth out and the flour will be better incorporated after the next folding.
If the butter is still firm, continue on to the second folding. If the butter has softened and is starting to run, cover the dough in plastic and chill it in the freezer for 15 minutes (or in the fridge for one hour) before rolling out the second time.
Roll and Fold the Dough for the Second, Third and Fourth Times
Scrape your work surface to clean it and dust it with more flour. Place the folded dough so that a short, open edge faces you. Roll out the dough into another 12" x 18" (30 cm x 45 cm) rectangle. Sprinkle flour on any exposed butter, brush off the excess flour, and fold the dough into thirds again. This completes the second folding.
Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes, or in the fridge for an hour.3>
Repeat the rolling and folding two more times, chilling the dough between times to keep the butter firm. After the fourth and final folding, wrap the dough in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours.
Shape and Bake the Croissants
Cut the prepared croissant dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out one portion of the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4" (6 mm) thick. Use a large, sharp knife or pizza cutter to trim straight edges on the rectangle, and then cut out 8 elongated triangles.
Roll up the triangles from the base to the tip, and transfer the croissants, tip side down, to ungreased baking sheets with rims. (Use parchment paper for easier cleanup.) Leave ample room between the croissants for expansion. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic and leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough is quite puffy.
Preheat an oven to 400° F (200° C). Make the egg wash by beating together one egg with one tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash gently over the croissants, and bake in the middle of the preheated oven until rich golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the croissants to a rack to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving. Frozen croissants can be reheated directly from the freezer in a 375° F (190° C) oven for 10 minutes.