Flaky French Croissants

Croissants are definitely my favourite pastry, but it’s hard to find really, really good ones.

When I lived in Toronto, I used to work across the street from this fabulous French bakery called Patachou. They had the best croissants I’ve had outside of France. Ever since I moved, I have been looking for croissants that could rival theirs.

I have always wanted to try my hand at making homemade croissants, but considered it an extreme culinary challenge.

Recently I bought some frozen croissants from the grocery store that you thaw overnight and then bake in the morning. While they weren’t bad, they were made with margarine in place of butter. We all know a true croissant must be made with real butter  – and lots of it.

After my disappointment with the ingredients in those store-bought croissants. I found a similar all-butter alternative from Williams Sonoma. They will send frozen croissants to your door for you to bake and serve fresh out of the oven. But while I am sure their croissants are delicious, they come with a hefty price-tag.

I realized though that if these companies could freeze their croissant dough before baking, so could I. Perhaps the hard work involved would be worth it for a freezer stocked with homemade ready-to-bake croissants.

I did some research and found two great bloggers who had tried their hands at croissant making. I used a slightly adjusted recipe from Butcher Baker Blog, converted it into my confused Canadian measurements, and combined it with some of the technique from Weekend Bakery.

While it did take an entire weekend to make these croissants, it really wasn’t all that difficult and now I have two-dozen 20 delicious croissants in my freezer ready to be baked and served fresh from the oven.

Croissants are so versatile. They are delicious with a coffee, as a savoury snack with brie and pâté, or with homemade jams. For a sweeter treat, roll your dough around some semi-sweet chocolate when shaping your croissants to make chocolatines/pain au chocolat.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 4  2/3 cups of pastry flour
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp caster sugar

For rolling:

  • 1 pound of butter
  • dusting flour

I did this challenge over a weekend, starting the dough on Friday night.

After mixing the dough with the bread-hook on your mixer, leave it in the fridge overnight covered with plastic wrap.

The next morning (Saturday) take out your butter and let it rest on the counter for about an hour. Note: if you make these in the summer make sure your butter does not get too soft. You want your butter to be workable, yet still firm.

Cut the pound of butter into eight 1/4 cup sections and then cut two of those sections into thirds. Arrange the butter in a neat square on plastic wrap, cover with plastic, and then use your rolling pin to pound the butter slightly so the squares blend together and roll it to 1 cm thick, keeping the square shape. butter!

Put your butter in the fridge while you roll out your dough – for the first time.

Take your dough from the fridge, dust it with flour and, on lightly floured surface, roll out into a rectangle slightly larger than twice that of your butter, leaving a border.

fold in the butter

Place your butter on the bottom half of the dough rectangle, fold top-half over butter and then pinch all the edges together. You want to seal the butter in.

Now, using your rolling pin, roll the dough to twice it’s original length. Turn your dough by 180 degrees to get an even pressure. Fold both ends of the dough in to meet in the middle then fold bottom half over top half. Wrap your dough and let it rest for a while in the fridge. I let mine rest for two hours. If you don’t give your dough time to rest between rollings, it will become too glutenous and stubborn.

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folded

After about two-hours (work around your schedule, more time doesn’t hurt), take your dough out and turn it 90 degrees from how it was last folded. Roll the dough out so it is double in length, then fold the same way as before and return it to the fridge (covered).

Let it rest for another two-hours or so and repeat the last step, turning the dough 90 degrees from the last fold, before rolling. Return to the fridge again and let it rest until tomorrow morning.

On the third and final day, remove your dough from the fridge in the morning and roll it out to a giant rectangle slightly larger than 140 cm x 50 cm. Then, using a pizza cutter, cut your dough to this size, keeping your lines as straight as possible. Now, cut your rectangle in half lengthwise -giving you two 25 / 140 cm strips.

Now you can either make a isosceles triangle template template that is 25 centimetres high by 20 centimetres wide, or you can make notches every 20 centimeters on both sides of your dough strip, attach the notches to cut into 7 rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half from opposite corners, to make 14 triangles.

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Note:Traditionally, pain au chocolat keeps rectangle, as opposed to crescent shape. So if you are adding chocolate before rolling these up, you can adjust your cutting to make rectangles instead of crescents.

Roll up your triangles from the 20 cm base. Take each end and pinch them together to make the crescent shape, or leave straight if you prefer. Now either freeze your croissants to bake at another time, or leave them to double in size (a few of hours).

To Freeze: If you want to freeze some of your croissants, now is the time to do so. Lie them flat on a baking  and freeze flat. Once frozen, put them in an airtight container. To bake, remove from freezer, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet with a damp towel overtop. Let defrost and rise for 6-8 hours (overnight).

To bake: When the croissants are ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F. Make an egg wash with one egg yolk and one Tbsp of milk, brush over the croissants that you are going to bake.

Bake croissants for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until perfectly golden. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for a minute and then enjoy while still warm!

These turned out so great! I hope yours do too!

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