Friday, January 15, 2016


Over the holiday break, I tackled my Mount Everest: homemade croissants. I can say with full confidence that there is no recipe that has ever intimidated as much or that I’ve wanted to try more than a batch of fresh from the oven croissants. The amount of time and precision they demand, the careful laminating process, and that insane butter block you have to create…those were just the reasons at the top of my list for always pushing them aside—"I’ll try them eventually,” I always said. Well, that moment came over the holidays when I found myself alone in my apartment, ready for some kind of project or week-long task to entertain myself with. I was debating whether to settle down on the couch with a new book or new TV show (which I’m now trying to figure out how to incorporate in my regular, real-world schedule), when the idea of climbing and conquering Mt. Everest came to me. It was the perfect opportunity—I was in my own kitchen and didn’t have to contend with anyone telling me that preparing a whole batch of croissants was a delicious, yet frivolous decision; I had all the time in the world; and I was bored out of my mind. And so, I set about planning my croissant adventure. 

A few weeks prior, I received an email from Sur La Table about signing up for their two-hour croissant workshop. I actually considered signing up for one of the classes over my break, thinking it would be a good use of my time. Of course, I ended up not signing up (it must have been a combination of my forgetfulness and lack of desire to actually spend $80 on a two-hour workshop). So it was a little funny that I was fully immersing myself in baking up a batch of croissants at home, as if I had any idea what I was doing, instead of a class. I mean, I had read about the process many, many times before, so I knew exactly what I was supposed to docreate a giant block of butter, encase it in a fluffy yeasted dough, pound it out to an even layer, fold it up like a letter, and repeat two more times. I felt like I was ready. I read Thomas Keller's recipe over and over the night before I was going to start, but when it was game time, I found myself so nervous about getting every little step just right. I referred back to the recipe dozens of times, even though I knew what to do. 

All I could do was reference the recipe, reassure myself that yes, I did roll the dough out enough and that yes, I folded it correctly, cross my fingers and hope for the best. By the time I got to the sentence, "the dough is now ready to be used," I was ecstatic—I was in the home stretch! I knew shaping the croissants wouldn't be difficult, and when I saw how many layers of dough and butter I had succeeded in making, I knew everything would be alright. My croissants were going to work out just fine. 

I know that this post doesn't sound too reassuring right now, and you're probably thinking, "why do I want to put myself through that much mental anguish," but trust me when I say that all the preparation and stress will be worth it. The second you pull the sheet pans of beautifully golden brown croissants out of the oven, you'll know that all the time you invested was worth it. Just dive into the recipe, work quickly, and keep your butter cold, and plan ahead. Buttery, flaky croissants baked in your own kitchen are totally within reach, I promise! 

Thomas Keller's croissant recipe starts off with a poolish, which is a type of preferment. It's made several hours in advance of mixing the final dough, and like all preferments strengthens the gluten structure in the dough, helps the dough develop a complex flavor, and ultimately shortens the time the dough needs to rise outside of the mixer. Equal amounts of flour and warm water and a pinch of yeast are mixed together and left to ripen for 12 to 15 hours. When the poolish is ready, it's added to flour, sugar, and more yeast that have been mixed in a stand mixer. Butter and warm water are added to help incorporate all the ingredients, and the dough is then mixed for 20 minutes. The dough is gets shaped into a rectangle and left to rise at room temperature for an hour. Nothing too complicated yet, right?

After that comes the scary laminating part...except that it's not so scary, I promise. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, and square block of butter is placed in the center of the dough, which is then folded over itself to fully conceal the butter. The process involves a floured, heavy rolling pin and a little elbow grease, but is relatively straight foward. Once the dough is rolled out into a long rectangle, it gets folded twice like a letter, and then goes into the freezer to chill. You want to keep the butter pretty cool; if the butter is too warm, it may begin to ooze out of a crack or one of the sides as you roll the dough. The rolling out and folding happens two more times, and then you're done laminating. You deserve a major pat on the back right about now. 

After a stint in the fridge, the croissant dough is ready to use. Simply roll it out into a large rectangle and cut it into triangles, which are then stretched and rolled up. A two-hour proof leaves the croissants beautifully puffed. Egg wash is brushed on, and the croissants are ready for baking. It's an exciting, exciting moment when they come out of the oven, so do whatever you need to do to celebrate your accomplishment. I let out a few squeals of excitement, a lot of ooooh's and ahhhh's, and did a little happy dance. 

That first bite of croissant was magical. That might be the corniest thing I've ever said in my life, but honestly, that's how it felt. When I pulled the croissant apart and saw all those little flakes crack off and fall onto my plate, I knew the laminating worked. The croissants were rich and flaky as can be, and I wished I had tried to make them sooner. The process may have taken a lot of preparation and planning and patience, but somehow, it was cathartic. I'm considering taking advantage of the long weekend to bake myself another batch of croissants, or maybe pain au chocolate...or maybe adding some ham and cheese to them. The possibilities are endless! If you've been dreaming of making a batch of croissants, I really, really hope you give them a shot. Use the best butter you can afford, work quickly, and be patient. Trust the recipe, and your croissants will come out. I promise!



For the Poolish

100 grams all purpose flour
pinch of yeast
100 grams 75 degree F water

300 grams European style butter, in one piece

For the Dough

500 grams all purpose flour
75 grams granulated sugar
10 grams instant yeast
200 grams 75 degree F water 
100 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
15 grams kosher salt


To make the poolish, combine the flour and yeast in a medium bowl and mix with your fingers. Pour in the water and stir to combine with a spatula until thoroughly combined—the mixture should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours. The mixture will look bubbly, and the center of the mixture should have lots of tin cracks. 

After you make the poolish, make the butter block. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the work surface, and center the butter on the paper. Place another large sheet of paper on top of the butter. Using a heavy rolling pin, begin to pound out the butter. Work from left to right, rotating and flipping the butter until you have an even block that’s 6-3/4 by 7-1/2 inches. Wrap the block tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

When the polish is ready, spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Give the ingredients a quick mix on low speed to incorporate them together. Pour about half of the water to the poolish to help release it from the bowl. Add the contents of the bowl to the mixer, along with about half of the remaining water (you should have about 50 grams left at this point). Add the butter and mix on low speed for two minutes to moisten the ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and make sure all of the flour has been incorporated. 

Sprinkle the salt on top of the the mixture and mix on low speed for 2 minutes to dissolve the salt. If the mixture feels dry, add the remaining 50 grams of water. Continue to mix on low speed for 20 minutes. 

Using a bench scraper, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Stretch the left side of the dough out and then fold in towards the center. Repeat with the right side of the dough, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the top and bottom. Flip the dough over, and gently place it into the prepared bowl, seam side down. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. 

Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper. Uncover the bowl, run a bench scraper along the sides, and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface—try to disturb the dough as little as possible. Gently but firmly pat the dough into a rectangle about 10 by 7-1/2 inches. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes. 

To encase the butter in the dough, begin by gently turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and with a floured rolling pin, roll it outward from the center. Flip, rotate, and fluff the dough as needed, rolling the dough until you have a rectangle that measures 16 by 7-1/2 inches and is 1/2-inch thick. Lay the block of butter in the center of the dough. Stretch and fold over the longer sides of the dough towards the center, pinching them to seal the edges. There should be no exposed butter at the top, but you will see butter along the sides. 

For the first turn, use a floured heavy rolling pin to firmly to expand the dough (along the seam edge). Flip, rotate, and fluff the dough as needed until you have a rectangle approximately 22 by 9 inches and 3/8 inch thick. Fold the bottom third of the dough up as if you were folding a letter. Fold the top third down to cover the bottom third. Turn the block of dough 90 degrees so that the open edge is on the right. This is the end of the first turn. Place the block of dough on the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes. 

For the second turn, place the dough on a lightly floured surface with the opening on the right. Work quickly, but do not expose the butter. Roll out the dough as before, until you have a rectangle approximately 22 by 9 inches and 3/8 inch thick, and repeat the folding. Turn the block of dough 90 degrees so that the opening is on the right. This is the end of the second turn. Place the dough on the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes. 

For the third turn, repeat the steps from the second turn. Freeze the dough for 20 minutes.

To finish the dough, line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly flour the work surface.  Place the dough on the surface with the opening on the right. It is important that the dough remain cold, so work quickly. Roll out the dough, flipping, rotating, and fluffing as necessary, until it is 24 by 9 inches. Cut the dough crosswise so that you have two 12 by 9 inch rectangles. Stack the rectangles on the prepared sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper in between. Wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes or until the dough has stiffed but is not hard. The dough is now ready to be used. 

Line two half sheet pans with silicone liners. 

Lightly flour the work surface. Remove one of the rectangles of dough from freezer and place it on the work surface with the short end facing you, and place the second rectangle in the fridge. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 19 by 9 inches. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the long end is facing you, and use a sharp knife to trim it to 18 inches long. Trim the remaining sides only as needed to get straight edges. 

Beginning on the left side, measure 3 3/4 inches across the top and cut from that point to the bottom left corner, creating a triangle. For the second triangle, measure 3 3/4 inches across from the bottom left corner, and cut straight up.  Continue cutting in this pattern until you have 8 triangles.***

Lift one triangle off the work surface and gently stretch it until it’s about 12 inches long. Place the dough back on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Fold the corners in towards the center of the base, and then ill the dough up from the wide end to the tip. Place on the prepared sheet pan, making sure the tip of the croissant is tucked down (this will prevent the croissant from unrolling as it bakes). Repeat with the remaining triangles, and space them evenly on the prepared sheet pan. 

Remove the second piece of dough from the fridge and repeat the rolling and cutting process to create 8 more croissants. 

Brush the croissants with egg wash. Cover the sheet pans with plastic tubs or cardboard boxes (the top of a Wilton cupcake carrier or a plastic under the bed bin work great for this) and let the croissants proof for 2 hours at room temperature. 

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Brush the croissants with egg wash, and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway, until the tops are a rich golden brown color. Let the croissants cool completely on a wire rack, but enjoy at least one while it’s still warm. Croissants are best the day they are baked, but they can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month…but eat them all the day they’re baked. You won’t regret it. 

Makes 16 croissants

***you'll have some scraps of dough left after cutting it into triangles. Cut the dough into strips, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake the scraps on a silicone-lined baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until golden brownyou'll have a delicious snack to enjoy as you wait for the croissants to proof!


  1. The croissants look beautiful, and I loved reading about your journey in making them. I'm not ready for all that labour yet, but I'll remember this post when I am!

  2. These look so perfect; I applaud you. I don't know if I'll ever have what it takes to attempt making these. You should feel very proud of yourself!

    1. Thank you so much! I say give them a shot, and if they don't come out quite right, try again! It's the only way to get better at something, right? Good luck!


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