Begin your lesson in homemade croissants by understanding what sets croissant dough and croissant bread apart from other pastries and loaves. Once you understand what makes a croissant the airy treat that it is, the process laid out in a croissant recipe will make much more sense.
Croissants can be considered a difficult pastry to prepare, but those flakes are simply the product of patience, so do not shy away from making homemade croissants. You can even attempt to make a gluten-free croissant or a chocolate or cheese croissant.
Characteristics of Croissant Bread
At the most basic level, croissants are defined by folds from the croissant dough to the final shape of the baked croissant bread. Croissant dough, or pâte à croissants, is a leavened puff pastry dough that contains a lot of cold butter folded in.
Lamination, or the layering created by the cold slabs of butter, is what creates the flaky layers inside a croissant. This means that the more layers there are in a croissant, the more folds of butter there were in the dough. The process is not difficult, but it is time consuming, as the butter must be kept cold by placing the dough in the fridge between the addition of each layer.
How to Make Homemade Croissants
Serve these classic croissants to guests for an impressive homemade touch to a breakfast or brunch.
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes | Prep Time: 60 minutes | Serves: 16 croissants
- 2 envelopes dry active yeast or 2 tablespoons fresh yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk, warm
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon for rolling out the dough
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 12 ounces butter or 3 sticks, room temperature
- 1/4 cup rosemary
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten and combined with 1 tablespoon water)
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yeast and warm water until dissolved.
- Whisk the flour, warm milk and sugar into the yeast and water mixture to form a batter that is free of lumps.
- Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and leave it in a warm place for an hour and a half to two hours to develop. The mixture should foam or bubble as the yeast is activated and grows.
- In a large mixing bowl, prepare the croissant dough while the starter develops by combining the flour and salt.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the butter, rosemary and garlic and then place it in the freezer to cool and completely harden. Once cold and hard, scoop half-inch-thick pieces of butter.
- Add the pieces of cold butter, which should be as firm and cold as possible, and carefully sift to coat in the flour and salt.
- Using your fingers, press the cold butter to flatten without incorporating it into the dough.
- Chill the flour and butter in the fridge until the starter has completed its maturing process.
- Once the starter is bubbling and ready, add it to the chilled flour and butter mixture.
- Use a rubber spatula to combine the starter into the flour, keeping the butter firm and in chunky pieces, to form a crumbling dough.
- Turn the crumbling dough out onto a clean, floured surface to shape the dough, roll it out and begin the lamination process.
- Press the dough with your hands until it forms a packed 12-by-18-inch rectangle with defined edges.
- Fold the dough into thirds. If the edges are difficult to lift at first, use a dough or bench scraper or even a spatula to make the first fold.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes or place it in the fridge for one hour.
- Once the butter is chilled again, roll out the dough to the same size and fold it into thirds again. Repeat this process until the dough has been chilled and folded at least four times.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the prepared and chilled croissant dough in half.
- On a floured surface, roll out one half into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick.
- Using a sharp knife, trim the edges to be perfectly straight and then cut 8 triangles.
- Roll the triangles from the base to the tip and place them tip-side down on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Cover the shaped croissants with a towel and leave them in a warm place to rise for one and a half hours, until they are puffed up.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Brush the croissants with the egg wash and bake them until they are golden brown, between 15 and 20 minutes.
- Allow the croissants to cool for up to 10 minutes.
How to Make Gluten-Free Croissants
To make alternative takes on croissants such as gluten free-croissants or chocolate croissants, follow the same recipe with a few extra steps.
For example, make a gluten-free pastry flour in addition to the starter batter to make the laminated dough for gluten-free croissants. To do so, blitz 3 tablespoons of dry milk into a fine powder without any lumps. Once the dry milk is a fine powder, combine with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups Better Batter all-purpose gluten-free flour. From this point, the normal steps for the starter batter and croissant dough formation can be followed.
How to Make Cheese or Chocolate Croissants
Make cheese or chocolate croissants by placing a rectangle of either along the longest side of the triangle before rolling into the croissant shape. The cheese or chocolate should be at least 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch shorter than the longest side of the triangle.
For best results, use a hard cheese like Parmesan or dark chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa. The rolled and shaped croissant can be brushed with egg wash for a golden-brown exterior that will keep the added ingredients inside the croissant dough. To properly seal with an egg wash, brush the inside edges of the croissant dough with the egg wash as well and then press the edges together.
Using Croissant Fillings
To fill croissants with more ingredients like cheese and deli meats, chocolate and walnuts or pesto and sun-dried cherry tomatoes, cut the croissant shapes larger from the croissant dough.
Keep in mind that softer cheeses like cheddar and cream cheese will spread more than hard cheeses, so allow more room around the edges and seal them well with an egg wash. Added moisture from these ingredients, like moisture in meats or spreads like pesto, will cause the croissants to puff up more in the oven. Therefore, provide enough space between each croissant to allow them to expand while baking in the oven.