Croissants may look complicated, but making them is just a series of steps.
Well, lots of steps, to be honest. But just steps, spread over several hours.
Yet the results are worth it: flaky, buttery rolls more scrumptious than the pillowy breadballs that are all too common.
Even better, you make them yourself. The process may not quite be voilà, but the outcome is definitely tres bien.
The first step is choosing the butter. It’s the main source of flavor, so use high-quality, unsalted and, most of all, fresh. That means local, a slam-dunk here in dairy country. Consider butters from Hope Creamery, Land O’Lakes, Rochdale Farms or any other favorite you’ve discovered.
The price per pound may startle you, but you’re only using half at a time and, at 16 croissants per batch, that works out to about 30 cents each. A bargain!
This dough requires little kneading, so it’s possible to mix it by hand, but a stand mixer is easier. You also can make the dough the night before; it shaves a step off baking day, and the dough benefits from a long, slow rise in the refrigerator.
Next step: Melding the butter and dough to create dozens of layers that, while baking, steam and create a crucial flakiness.
Begin by mashing butter and a bit of flour into a square. This makes the butter more malleable, so that it will move better once enclosed within the dough.
Next step: After sealing the butter square inside a larger square of dough, pummel this dough package for a few minutes to soften the butter. This is a crucial step for success in the steps to come, so take your time. The pounding makes it less likely for the butter to crack into large chunks, which then could break through the dough.
Small chunks are OK; you’ll see a scattering of dime-sized pieces within the dough once you start rolling it out. The idea is to have small bits of butter, evenly dispersed.
Once rolled into the proper rectangle, the dough is folded into thirds, like a letter. Over the next hour, you’ll repeat this step three times which will create 81 layers. Yes, 81!
After the fourth fold, chill the dough for at least two hours. This step relaxes the dough, enabling you to roll it quite thin for the final shaping.
Next step: Working with half the dough at a time, roll it into a long rectangle, then cut triangle shapes, matching up marks you’ve made in 5-inch increments.
After each triangle is rolled into a croissant, brush each with an egg wash, which keeps the dough soft while it rises, and contributes to a golden color.
Next step: Let the croissants rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in a cool place (you don’t want the butter melting and leaking out), then brush once more with egg wash and bake for 16-18 minutes in a hot oven.
See? Step by step by step leads to homemade croissants that are guaranteed to impress, but also to delight.
And isn’t that why we bake?
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185