Thursday, April 8, 2010

In praise of fresh, flaky, home made croissants

If you enjoy baking, and you enjoy eating croissants, then home made croissants are definitely worth the effort. Here are some I prepared earlier:

This croissant recipe comes from Tamara Milstein's "The House Book of Bread". As Milstein says, croissants are not really difficult to make, but getting the dough perfect takes time - so the first hint is: start making the dough the day before you want to eat your crispy crescents.

I've made this recipe with and without the recommended chilling periods. The chilling substantially increases the flakiness, but the un-chilled version is still delicious, and much quicker to make ... just not very flaky ... which probably defeats the whole purpose of croissants.

For any experienced bread bakers reading this: the recipe below is basically a slightly sweet, milky bread dough, laminated with layers of butter. If you have your own favourite bread dough recipe, you might prefer to use that instead (for example, I've seen croissant recipes that are based on mulitgrain dough, and sour dough).

INGREDIENTS (makes 8 croissants)

400g (2 2/3 cups) bread flour
30g (1 rounded Tbspn) brown sugar
2 tspn instant yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water
170g butter for laminating


Here are the basic steps, which I'll expand below:

1) Make dough as for bread
2) CHILL dough in fridge for 2 hours
3) LAMINATE dough with half of butter
4) Repeat step 2 -> CHILL
5) Repeat step 3 -> LAMINATE
6) Repeat step 2 -> CHILL
7) Form croissants
8) Allow croissants to rise for about an hour
9) Glaze croissants with milk
10) Bake for about 10 minutes at 220C (425F)

1) To make the dough: combine and knead first 5 ingredients. (If any bread-making beginners happen to be reading this, feel free to ask if you need help with making basic bread dough).

2), 4), 6) CHILL:
Allow the dough to chill in the fridge for 2 hours or longer (or cheat like I do and put it in the freezer for a shorter time). The idea is to keep the dough nice and cold so that it doesn't melt the butter, but you don't want the dough to dry out or become un-rollable, so keep it covered, and don't let it freeze solid.

3), 5) LAMINATE:
The idea with lamination is to get thin, alternating layers of dough and butter happening.
So: take the chilled dough, and roll it into a rectangle roughly 45cm x 20cm.
Cover two-thirds of the rectangle with half of the butter. (Milstein suggests slicing the butter very thinly with a vegetable peeler. I just ended up with melted butter all over my hands when I tried that, so instead I spread softened butter over the dough, and that worked fine - although I suspect the pastry purists would disapprove).
Fold the top (un-buttered) third of dough down onto the middle (buttered) third; then fold the bottom (buttered) third of dough up onto the folded-down third. (You should now have a square-ish bundle of alternating dough and butter layers).
If your dough and butter is still chilled, roll the bundle into a rectangle once again, and fold the dough into thirds again (without adding any more butter at this stage). If you used soft butter to laminate the dough, then return the lot to the fridge for its chilling period prior to rolling. (And if these instructions are completely incomprehensible, give me a shout and I'll put together an illustrated version ... or something).

Roll the thoroughly chilled and laminated dough into a rectangle roughly 60cm x 25cm (it should be about 5mm thick).
Slice the dough into four 15cm x 25cm strips.
Slice each strip in half diagonally, so that you get eight long triangles.
Firmly roll each triangle up, starting at the base.
Bend each roll into a crescent shape, and place them onto a baking tray.

I glaze the croissants immediately after step 7 by rolling them in a shallow bowl of cold milk. This works well for a cheat like me, but every recipe I've seen says to let the croissants rise for about an hour, and then brush with milk shortly before baking.

10) BAKE
Milstein's recipe says to bake the croissants for 10 minutes at 240C (465F), but my first batch burnt on the bottoms within 7 minutes at that temperature.
With our oven, I've found that 10 minutes at 220C (425F) works perfectly.


  1. That looks wonderful, and I even understand the steps!! I just had dinner but I still feel hungry now that I'm reading your recipe :P Damn. I know what I'll be dreaming about tonight.

  2. I can thoroughly recommend this recipe. The results were really good with raspberry jam and a cut of tea!

  3. That was delicious!!!!! I didn't have white flour so used the wholemeal I had, but they were still delicious! Now I have to make them again on Sunday for friends...