Once you learn how to bake croissants, you'll never go back to the store-bought variety. These French pastries are a bit of a time commitment, but biting into a made-from-scratch croissant that's fresh from the oven makes every minute well worth it.
Croissants are made with a yeasted, laminated dough.
The dough for croissants is similar to puff pastry in terms of the technique used to make it. Laminated doughs begin with a butter block that's wrapped in a thin sheet of pastry, then folded over repeatedly to create layers.
When baked, laminated doughs puff up dramatically and yield tender, flaky pastries. Unlike puff pastry, though, croissant dough has yeast to give it a lighter texture and an even higher rise.
Making croissant dough
I like making the dough in my food processor or a stand mixer because it's much faster and requires minimal kneading by hand. That said, you can follow the recipe below without any special tools — you can get by with a large bowl, wooden spoon and a little muscle.
The dough should be soft and smooth after kneading, and it will need to rest before you can continue with the recipe.
The butter block
The next major component of the recipe is the butter block: a large block of butter that's wrapped in dough. There are a couple of ways to make the block, but you'll want to let your butter soften very slightly so that the chunks adhere to each other as you shape it.
One option is to push two sticks of butter together and use a rolling pin to flatten them into a thinner block. This is effective but can be time-consuming. Another option is to cut your sticks of butter in half lengthwise — or even into thirds — and smash them together in a flat block.
There's no wrong way to do it as long as the finished block forms a roughly 5" x 8" rectangle. If your butter gets too soft while shaping it, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the edges.
Once your dough is ready and your butter block has been prepared, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle (approximately 10" x 16") or circle and place the butter block in the center. Bring the corners of the dough in toward the center of the butter block and pinch to seal.
You're now ready to laminate! Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, then fold the flattened pastry into thirds. Once folded, turn the long side of the pastry to you and repeat the rolling and folding process, folding the short sides in thirds. Rest the dough in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 30-45 minutes between "turns."
Repeat this turning process a total of four times, creating a large number of thin layers of butter within the pastry.
After your final lamination, wrap the dough completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This very long rest will give the dough time to relax and ensure that you get a good rise when you're ready to bake.
To shape the croissants, unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry in half and roll out one piece into a large rectangle that is about ¼" high and about three times as long as it is tall.
Cut it into seven triangles as pictured above. Starting with the short end of the triangle, roll the pastry toward the tip to create a croissant shape, then transfer to a parchment-lined or silicone-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining triangles.
Once all your croissants are shaped, the dough needs to proof before baking. This is when the croissants rise before going into the oven. I very loosely cover my entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and place it in a warm area near the oven to proof. It will take 2-2½ hours for the dough to rise before it's ready to bake.
Makes 14 croissants
- ¾ cups whole milk, warm (100–110 F)
- ¾ cup water, warm (100–110 F)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 4½ tablespoons active dry yeast (0.5 ounces/2 envelopes)
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ cups unsalted butter, cold
In the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor fitted with a dough hook, combine milk, water, sugar and yeast. Stir to combine. Add in 2 cups flour and stir to combine. Add in remaining flour and salt and mix until a thick dough forms and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Mix 4-5 minutes, until dough is smooth and supple. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to ensure it is uniform, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While dough chills, make a butter block. Place sticks of butter next to each other forming a rectangle on a piece of wax paper. Place a second sheet of wax paper on top of the butter. Using a rolling pin, firmly hit the butter to soften and spread it into a rectangle that is about 5" x 8".
Press the sticks of butter together if they break apart (due to being so cold) as you work. Chill butter block, wrapped in wax paper, for 45 minutes.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a large rectangle that is approximately 10" x 16". Place the butter block in the center of the dough and pull the sides in to cover the butter block. Pinch seams to close.
Roll out dough into a thinner rectangle that is about twice the size of the original. Fold into thirds - left side in, then the right side on top of that.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes, then remove from the fridge and repeat the process three more times (for a total of four turns). Wrap dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or overnight.
Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half and, working with one half at a time, roll dough into a large rectangle that is about ¼" thick and about three times as long as it is tall. Cut into seven triangles.
Starting with the flat side of a triangle, roll the dough towards the tip to create a croissant shape. Place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining triangles, then repeat the process with the rest of the dough.
Very loosely cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for 2 to 2½ hours, or until about doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Bake the croissants for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. If baking two sheet pans at different levels in the same oven, open the door halfway through to rotate the pans. Transfer croissants to a wire rack to cool before serving.
All the dimensions given above are approximate. If your dough rolls out to a slightly different-sized rectangle, that's absolutely fine. If you want to make your croissants slightly larger, that's fine too — just adjust the baking time by a couple minutes to ensure they're cooked through/
There's a lot of hands-off time in this recipe, waiting for the dough to rise and rest. Do your lamination the day before you plan to bake, let the dough rest overnight, then shape the next morning. A good timeline is to start the lamination on a Saturday afternoon, then plan to bake on Sunday morning.
- If you place a small chunk of chocolate in the croissants as you shape them, you'll be making chocolate croissants!
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