When Heavenly Housewife (of From Donuts to Delirium) and Stevie (of Weird Combinations) announced that their cooking challenge this month was croissants, I immediately knew I wanted to participate. Even though they’re time-consuming and more than a little intimidating (at least for me!), I’ve wanted to try my hand at making them for quite some time.
I think my croissants turned out pretty good for it being my first time. They weren’t quite as flaky as croissants that you’d get in a bakery, but with time and practice I think that will improve. Mike went crazy for them (especially the special flavors I made – scroll down to see what kinds!), and I have to say, I think Heavenly Housewife and Stevie are his new idols. Since I made a double batch they lasted him about a week (they keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature layered between parchment paper…if you find that they’re getting a bit stale after a while you can always cut them in half, butter them, and toast them buttered side down in a hot frying pan). Of course he had a little help from moi polishing them off. ;)
Sweet Croissants (above)
Everyone participating in this challenge started with Julia Child’s basic croissant recipe. (Gabi at Mamaliga has an incredible tutorial here. Also, Angie at Angie’s Recipes gives a great explanation of the method for making croissants.) My version of the recipe is below, but first I wanted to share a few of my tips and observations:
- Since you’re working with butter, don’t make these on a day that’s too hot/humid.
- Give yourself ample time to make these…it really is a full day affair.
- Try to measure flour by weight if possible. One cup of all-purpose flour (which is what I used for this recipe) weighs 4.5 ounces or 128 grams.
- A little bit of rough kneading (including Julia’s recommended lift-and-throw motion) really turn this into a very smooth dough with only a minimum sprinkling of flour on your hands and work surface for help.
- Rolling the butter out isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Keep the butter completely chilled until you’re reading to work with it. Place it between 2 long pieces of plastic wrap (parchment paper would probably work too, but I like to be able to see the butter). Beat it with a rolling pin until it’s soft enough to roll out, then roll it into a 5-inch square. Wrap it up in the plastic wrap that you rolled it out in, and transfer to the fridge to chill before incorporating it into the dough.
- When you’re rolling out the dough for the first time after you’ve added the butter, go easy so you don’t tear the dough and have the butter spurt out. If this does happen, just pinch the dough together as best you can to seal it up.
- While rolling out the dough, if at any point it becomes too difficult to work with, wrap it in parchment paper and put it in the fridge to chill a bit.
- Double the batch, because although croissant-making is a labor of love, really, who wants to do all that work for 12 measly croissants? (Ok, I didn’t mean to call croissants measly, I take that back…but still, it is a lot of work for just a few pastries if you don’t double the recipe!)
Savory Croissants (above)
Croissants (Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe, as seen on Mamaliga)
Yields 12 croissants
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups (9 oz/256 g) all-purpose flour, plus a little more for kneading and rolling out.
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus a little more to oil the bowl
1/3-1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1 (1/4 lb) stick of butter, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water (for eggwash)
1. In a small bowl, mix together the yeast, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 cup water; let it sit for a couple minutes until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture, then the oil, and then enough milk to form a dough.
3. Lightly flour your hands and work surface; turn the dough out and knead, being a bit rough with it (Julia’s lift-and-throw works well), until it is smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl; cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the weather.
5. Gently punch down the dough, wrap it in parchment paper, and chill 30 minutes.
6. Place 1 stick of butter between 2 long pieces of plastic wrap (parchment paper would probably work too, but I like to be able to see the butter). Beat it with a rolling pin until it’s soft enough to roll out, then roll it into a 5-inch square. Wrap it up in the plastic wrap that you rolled it out in, and transfer to the fridge to chill before incorporating it into the dough.
7. Lightly flour your rolling pin and work surface. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Place the butter in the center of the dough; wrap the opposite sides of dough over onto the center so they overlap, and then pinch them together to seal in the butter; it should look like a little parcel. With the seam side up, gently roll the dough out to a rectangle about 15 inches long by 5 inches wide. If the dough tears at all, pinch it together to seal it back up.
(Haha, do you like my *super cool* ruler? I think I’ve had it since the 7th grade! :) )
8. Turn #1 (simple fold): You’re basically folding the dough as you would fold a business letter; fold the bottom third of dough up over the center, then fold the top third down over the center. Wrap in parchment paper and chill 1 hour.
9. Turn #2 (simple fold): Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 15 inches long by 5 inches wide; fold the bottom third of dough up over the center, then fold the top third down over the center. Wrap in parchment paper and chill 1 hour.
10. Turn #3 (double fold): Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 15 inches long by 5 inches wide; fold the top and bottom in so they meet at the center and then fold the dough in half again (you will end up with 4 layers). Wrap in parchment paper and chill 1 hour.
Steps 10 & 11: Double Fold (above)
11. Turn #4 (double fold): Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 15 inches long by 5 inches wide; fold the top and bottom in so they meet at the center and then fold the dough in half again (you will end up with 4 layers). Wrap in parchment paper and chill 1 to 2 hours.
12. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 20 inches long by 8 inches wide. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces; wrap 1 in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
13. Roll 1 half out to a rectangle about 12 inches long by 7 inches wide; use a straightedge or ruler to trim the edges. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces, then cut each piece along the diagonal; you will end up with 6 triangles.
14. Place a piece of dough trimming at the base of each dough triangle. Start at the base and roll each triangle up, gently bending the 2 outer edges inward so you end up with a crescent shape.
15. Transfer the pastries to baking sheets (with the tip of the triangle on the bottom so it doesn’t come undone while baking) lined with parchment paper or silpat liners, leaving 2 to 3 inches between each pastry. Drape a piece of plastic wrap on top, and let them sit at room temperature 1 to 2 hours, or until about doubled in size.
16. Preheat oven to 425F; lightly brush the tops of the pastries with eggwash (you will not need all the eggwash). Before you put the pastries in the oven, spritz the oven with water; close the door and leave it for 1 minute.
17. Bake the pastries until golden, about 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through.
In addition to regular croissants, I made two special flavors: one sweet (marzipan-filled with orange blossom glaze and almonds) and one savory (cheese-filled topped with za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern thyme spice mix).
Each croissant needs 1 teaspoon of filling (yup, that’s all!); avoid the temptation to over-stuff…it will always backfire in the end. Roll the filling into a ball and then into a small rope. Instead of putting the dough trimming at the base of the triangle, place the filling “rope” at the base. I was worried about the filling leaking out as they bake, so I had the idea to put two small trimmings of dough on either end of the filling to help seal it in, which luckily worked like a charm. Then roll your croissants up as normal.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Marzipan filling for 1 batch of croissants (12 croissants total):
12 teaspoons (1/4 cup) marzipan
Orange Blossom Glaze for 1 batch of croissants (12 croissants total):
3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) flaked almonds
Fill the croissants with marzipan as described above (be sure to put a small piece of dough trimming on each side of the filling so it doesn’t leak out) and bake as normal; cool completely.
Whisk together all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl; drizzle over cooled croissants and immediately sprinkle almonds on top.
12 teaspoons (1/4 cup) cream cheese
2 teaspoons za’atar
Fill the croissants with cheese as described above (be sure to put a small piece of dough trimming on each side of the filling so it doesn’t leak out); continue with the recipe, but after brushing with eggwash sprinkle the za’atar on top. Bake as normal.
And here are the other lovelies who participated in this challenge: