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Oct 30, 2006 05:42 PM

Tips on making croissants?

I don't usually bake much, but have a craving for croissants and thought I'd give it a shot (yikes!) Anyone with more expertise have any tips on how to make them come out light and flaky? Also thought I might try to fill some w/a good dark chocolate (yum)

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  1. The most important thing is to keep everything as cold as possible -- ideally, you should work on a marble surface and work the dough as quickly as possible so the butter does not melt and your delicate layers are not destroyed. Obviously, your butter cannot be totally stiff and hard or it will break, rather than stretch, as you're rolling and folding the dough. Also, do be patient and chill the dough for as long as needed between each time that you handle it.

    1. ssusu makes a great point about keeping ingredients cold. I went to France on a cooking vacation and got a major lesson in croissant making. Laborious as all get out, but so satisfying. I'd say get some French yeast, for one thing - World Market has it sometimes - and follow a recipe that measures ingredients by weight. Also, take your time and keep it neat. It's important that the rectangles you roll out are even. Use unsalted butter. One mistake I made a couple of times was using chocolate that had too much going on. You want a semi-sweet chocolate that's mellow instead of acidy. Don't get all wound up in the "I only like the 70%" mentality. As hard is it is to make croissants, you don't want them to taste like medicine. Guittard chocolate chips, for instance, taste delicious in chocolate croissants, but stay away from products like Scharffenberger.

      The "Baking with Julia" book has a recipe that works.

      Oh, yeah. The egg wash, which you want for that laquer-y look and shattering bite: paint it on twice, letting it dry in between applications--15 minutes or so.

      The technique for making croissants, like puff pastry, is called "lamination". Easy to see why. I like a marble rolling pin, too. Keeps the dough cold and takes a little of the work out of what is a major job. I mean, you roll and you roll. It's a great upper body workout. There's nothing quite as satisfying as pulling your own croissants out of the oven.

      1. Give yourself more time than you think for all the chilling, rolling, resting, etc. I used a recipe that called for adding the butter in three parts. I added it all equally (1/3, 1/3, 1/3) but I think I should have added more at the beginning and less at the last stage to have more equal butter layers in the resulting dough.

        Also, make sure your oven is hot enough when you put the croissants in. I think mine was a touch off and I ended up with some butter pooling out instead of incorporating into the dough. They were still good, though.

        I've made croissants from sratch twice and, while they were phenomenal, I now buy the little 4-pack of choc. croissants from Trader Joe's. I just proof them overnight and I get a flaky, light choc croissant after baking with much less work on my part.

        1. Here's a good essay on Laminated Doughs:

          In addition to allowing yourself more time than you think you need, allow yourself more space than you think need to roll the dough. Also allow for more patience than you think you need, especially if this is your first time laminating dough.

          Get the dough out and back into the fridge as soon as possible between lamination steps.

          I like to use salted butter, but I like the flavor that salt adds to the pastry. Regardless of using salted or unsalted butter, make sure to taste your butter before you lock it in to assure the quality and flavor of the butter. It would be so disappointing to pull out your finished croissants and find that they taste like bad butter.

          I like the traditional "pain au chocolat" shape for chocolate croissants. It just seems like you can get more chocolate in there. I've tried putting chocolate chips into the traditional rolled triangle shape, but it messes with the rise of the the dough and you end up with less chocolate impact.

          Good luck!

          1. I have a question on croissant making concerning oven temperature. I've used the CookIllustrated recipe before and, while they tasted really nice, I found I had a lot of grease left over on the bottom of the baking pan. CI's recipe has the oven set to 400....could this be too hot? cold? They were baked straight outta the fridge, so it's not as if it got too warm. Anyone have any suggestions?

            4 Replies
            1. re: sixelagogo

              I'm not familiar with the CI recipes, but I have 2 guesses:

              1) Were the ingredients measured in cups rather than weighed? This could mess with the ratio of butter/lock in to dough and cause seepage.

              2) As you suspect, baking right out of the fridge may cause the butter to seep out of the dough, as butter melts at a significantly lower temp than the dough will rise. I suggest taking the croissants out of the fridge and letting them temper for about 10-20 minutes (depending on room temp) before popping them in the oven. 400 degrees F does seem a bit high to me. You may want to preheat the oven to 400, then drop it to 375 when you put them in the oven (which will keep the oven cycle from kicking back on to recover the lost temp from opening the door). Also make sure you oven is properly calibrated, and/or use an oven thermometer.

              1. re: sixelagogo


                butter running can come from a couple of reasons: not enough proofing, or proofing too hot.

                Prooging croissant takes much longer than normal bread...2 to 2.5 hours until they are poofed up and jiggle when your done. You should be able to see the laminations on the sides of the dough.

                Try throttling back the oven temp. If you have a regular home oven, try 375 to give them a chance to bake fully without burning the bottoms...with convection, maybe even 360.

                If you rolled the croissant and refrigerated them without proofing, try giving them a chance to proof fully.

                Here is what we usually do if we want croissant on Wednesday:

                Make the dough on Monday
                Make the butter block right after.
                The dough bulk ferments for one hour...roll out to approximately twice the size of your butter block then refrigerate overight covered in plastic.

                On Tuesday, the dough goes in the freezer for 30 minutes.
                The butter block is tapped and made pliable again without warming whatsoever!!!!
                Incorporate the butter block in the dough and give it two single turns right off the bat making sure to trim the sides that have no exposed laminations.
                Back in the fridge to relax 90 minutes, then in the freezer for 30.
                Out of the freezer and one more single turn.
                Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

                Wednesday...into the freezer for 30 minutes
                Rollout 10 inches by whatever length by 3mm or 1/8 inch.
                Trim the parts that do not expose laminations.
                cut triangles, roll, proof 80 degrees with high humidity.
                If you can't get the high humidity, egg wash immediately, then again just before baking.

                See if that goes better!

                If you would like a recipe and you have micorsoft me.

                Good baking!
                Adagio Bakery & Cafe

                1. re: Adagio

                  "..Prooging croissant takes much longer than normal bread...2 to 2.5 hours until they are poofed up and jiggle when your done. .."

                  Ralph, this tip alone helped validate my croissant baking progress by leaps and bounds. Thank you!
                  What happened was I had gotten a successful batch once by accidentally leaving the shaped croissants to proof for too long. They looked exactly as you'd described, or, as my sister said, like "Jabba the Hut". They were so airy and hollow feeling that I was thinking for sure they will just flop once I put them in the oven. This was also the time I wanted to experiment with cold oven start. So, I turned on the oven and put them in only 5 mins after. And right about now is when i should also confess that I used less than usual amount of butter in the dough because I'd ran out of it...and also, I've used only 1/4 tsp of yeast for 3 cups of flour....

                  So, when they came out the best croissants I've ever made, I wasn't sure which of the elements contributed to the success. Now, I have a one less thing to investigate. Thanks again!

                  1. re: HLing


                    Remember, change only one thing at a time in your practice. Keep that butter cold yet pliable.

                    You're doing great. Once you have the process down you will own it forever!