Croissants are a labor of love and may be the ultimate home baking project. Though you may feel in over your head at times (I did, especially since I was making two batches simultaneously), victory is sweet. When you pull the impossibly flaky and gloriously golden crescents out of your oven, you’ll never appreciate your efforts more.
I’ve included in-process photos to help demystify the technique. A tapered wooden rolling pin and metal bench scraper are both incredibly helpful; you’ll also want to have a ruler on hand. Work in a cool kitchen and if the dough heats up at any point, let it rest in the freezer for 10 minutes. I splurged on Plugrá butter and recommend you do the same – if you’re taking the time to make croissants, you might as well use the best butter you can find!
From start to finish, croissants are at least a 10 hour commitment, so spread the process over two days for the sake of sanity. Buttery goodness awaits!
Make the dough:
Make the butter layer:
Laminate the dough:
Divide the dough:
Shape and proof the croissants:
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed (recommended: Plugrá)
- 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk
- 4 tsp Red Star PLATINUM Yeast
- 4 1/4 cups flour (21 1/4 ounces)
- 1/4 cup sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
- 2 tsp salt
- Butter Layer:
- 24 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold (recommended: Plugrá)
- Optional Fillings:
- apricot jam
- cinnamon sugar
- semisweet chocolate, chopped
- Egg Wash:
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp water
- pinch of salt
Make the dough
Combine butter and milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup and heat for about 1 1/2 minutes, until butter is melted and mixture is very warm (120-130°F). Transfer to a large mixer bowl and whisk in yeast. Add flour, sugar, and salt; use a dough hook to knead mixture for 2 to 3 minutes on low speed until a dough forms. Increase speed to medium-low (3 on a KitchenAid) and knead for 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to baking sheet and use lightly floured hands to shape into a 12 by 8-inch rectangle, 1 inch thick. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Make the butter layer
While dough chills, prepare butter layer. Fold a 24-inch length of parchment paper in half to create a 12-inch rectangle. Fold over the 3 open sides to form an 8-inch square with enclosed sides; crease edges firmly with a metal bench scraper. Unfold parchment envelope and grate butter into the center of parchment square. Fold up parchment, refolding at creases. Turn packet over so that the flaps are underneath; use a rolling pin to beat and roll the butter into an even thickness. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
Laminate the dough
Transfer chilled dough to the freezer for 30 minutes. Lightly flour a large board or counter; use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out dough to a 17 by 8-inch rectangle. Unwrap chilled butter and place in the center of the dough so that the edges of the butter and dough are flush at top and bottom. Fold sides of dough over butter layer so that they meet in the middle; press seam together with rolling pin. Use rolling pin to firmly seal each open end. Lightly dust dough with flour; roll dough out lengthwise to a 24 by 8-inch rectangle.
Fold the dough like a letter: Start at the bottom of dough and fold bottom third up, then fold upper third of dough over it, folding into an 8-inch square. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise, so the top flap faces right. Roll out dough again into a 24 by 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds. Place dough on baking sheet, wrap with plastic, and transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
Return dough to lightly floured board, with the top flap facing right. Roll out dough a third time into a 24 by 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds. Place dough on baking sheet, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
Divide the dough
Transfer dough to the freezer for 30 minutes. Return dough to lightly floured board with the top flap facing right. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll from the center of the dough out, working the rolling pin clockwise around dough to form an 18 by 16-inch rectangle. If dough retracts, carefully drape it over rolling pin, return to baking sheet, and freeze another 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife to trim edges; then divide dough into two 18 by 8-inch rectangles. Cut out 11 triangles of dough from each rectangle. If dough begins to soften, return to freezer for 10 minutes.
Shape the croissants
Place 1 triangle on lightly floured board with point facing toward you (keep remaining triangles covered with plastic while shaping). Use a sharp knife to cut a 1/2-inch slit in center of the short side of triangle. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to gently elongate each triangle to about 10 inches. (If desired, add about a teaspoon of filling to each triangle). Use lightly floured hands to fold both sides of slit down and roll toward point until pointed end of triangle is underneath croissant. Gently curve ends toward one another to form crescent shape. Repeat with remaining triangles.
Place shaped croissants on parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 croissants per sheet. Continue to next step (proof the croissants), or cover baking sheets with plastic and refrigerate for up to 18 hours. To freeze, place croissants 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Wrap with plastic and freeze for 2 hours, until solid. Transfer to freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 2 months. To bake, thaw overnight in fridge, then proof and bake as directed.
Proof the croissants
Spray plastic with nonstick spray and lightly cover shaped croissants. Let rise at room temperature in a draft-free spot until distinctly larger, about 3 hours (if shaped croissants were refrigerated, rise time will be 4 hours).
Bake the croissants
In the last 20 minutes of rising, position racks in the top and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk together egg, water, and salt; use a pastry brush to gently brush croissants with egg wash. Let stand for 10 minutes. Place croissants in oven and immediately lower temperature to 400°F. Bake for 8 minutes, then switch and rotate baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes more, then tent with foil to prevent overbrowning. Continue baking another 4 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer croissants to a wire rack and let cool until warm, about 15 minutes. Store leftovers overnight in an airtight container; reheat for 10 minutes at 350°F.
Adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook