When I was in culinary school I took some really incredible classes. From learning the basics of breads to understanding the complexity of chocolate, I gained a really solid base for my career in pastry.
One of my absolute favorite classes was what is called viennoiserie, which is the study of laminated doughs (aka croissants, pain au chocolate, danishes, etc.). There is something so completely zen about folding massive amounts of butter into a silky smooth dough.
Viennoiserie is very complicated and time consuming and requires a lot of patience. Yet the result is so gratifying that it makes every painstaking minute worth it.
As some of you read in my post about Renaud’s patisserie, I decided to try to recreate what I believe to be the best croissants in Southern California. Unfortunately because I neither have the ovens, nor the professional kitchen equipment, mine did not come out quite as perfect, but they did come out pretty damn good! I used the recipe from my all time favorite book Baking Illustrated, which if you are passionate about baking I highly recommend you purchase it and use for your go-to baking book.
The key to making croissants is maintaining the proper temperature of the butter. If it is too cold, the butter won’t incorporate as it should and the result will be a dense, nasty croissant. It is is too hot, the butter will melt and also will not incorporate as it should, and the croissants won’t be flaky and airy. The butter has to be cold, yet pliable enough that it can successfully create layers between the dough to create a wonderful and beautiful croissant.
You also have to make sure that you let the croissants proof long enough so that it looks as if they have taken a deep breath of air. This allows for the yeast to create even more air in the croissants. Below is the recipe for the perfect croissants, let me know if you have any questions, I am always happy to help!
3 cups ap flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 whole milk, cold
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
24 tablespoons (3 sticks butter), cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, cold!!
2 tablespoons ap flour
For the dough:
Whisk 2 3/4 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Place the milk in a bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook. Add the flour mixture and knead at low speed until a dough forms. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the dough. Continue to mix until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the butter square:
Using a bench scraper, toss together the butter pieces and flour on a clean surface. Smear the butter and flour back and forth against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth mixture. Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap, form into an even 7 inch square. Refrigerate until firm.
To make croissants:
Roll the dough into an 11 inch square. Place the chilled butter diagonally onto the dough. Fold the corners of the dough up over the butter square so that they meet in the middle and pinch the ends on the dough together to seal them.
Using a rolling pin, tap the dough from the center outward until the butter begins to soften and become malleable. Gently roll dough into a 14 inch square. Fold one outside edge of the dough in toward the center and bring the opposite outside edge in over the top, like a business letter. Repeat the process but fold over each end to make a square. These are what are called “turns” which is what creates the layers of air between the butter and the flour. You have now done 2 turns. At this point you have to chill the wrapped dough for at least 2 hours before you can do your next two turns. If at any time your dough becomes sticky, put it back immediately into to the refrigerator.
Once you have chilled the dough for 2 hours repeat the process 2 more times to do a total of 4 turns.
To shape the croissants:
Roll the dough into a 20 inch square, use a pizza cutter to cur the dough into two equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle into thirds width wise and then into triangles to yield 12 triangles. Working one at a time, lift the triangle off the work surface, holding the base in one hand and the tip in the other. Gently stretch into an isosceles triangle with two sides equal in length. With the base closest to you, cut a 1-inch slit into the center of the base of each triangle. Fold the two sides of the slit outward. With both hands roll the triangle from the base, gently stretching the dough as you roll, leaving the lat 1/4 inch of the tip unrolled. Transfer the croissant to a parchment paper lined baking sheet, unrolled tip facing downward. Bring the ends of the croissant toward each other to form a crescent shape.
Cover the croissants loosely with plastic wrap. Let them rise at room temperature until puffy, 45-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush each croissant with egg to add more color and shine. Bake until they are golden brown about 18-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through.