February 24, 2013

Classic Croissants Recipe | How to Make Croissants & Pain Au Chocolat

For someone like me who prefers quick and easy baking recipes, the Classic Croissant was a colossal undertaking. Baking croissants has been on my mind for a while but each time I go through the detailed recipe, the layering, proofing, freezing, etc, I decide to postpone doing it to another day when I felt ready for it.

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Classis Croissants, Pain au Chocolat

If it hadn't been for Aparna and her We Knead to Bake group, I'd still be researching the easiest croissant recipe and then simply postponing the task once I read through it. Her detailed descriptions, pictures, and tips were brilliant and it always helps to bake along with fellow cooks and bakers who were mostly new to this like I was.

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Croissants, Pain au Chocolat

So let me come out say first things first. Baking croissants is not easy, easy to me being mixing a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, transferring it to a baking tray and ending up with a gorgeous tasting cake. Croissants are special, they need longer preparation time and some precise techniques. I followed the recipe very thoroughly and yet a lot of things went wrong. I have added my trials and tribulations during the croissant making process at the end of this post. I think the lesson I learnt is that no matter how many things go wrong, you can still end up with a pretty great-tasting croissant because really, with all that butter, there're no complete flops.

Pain au Chocolat Recipe
Pain au Chocolat or Chocolate-Filled Croissants
I made Pain Au Chocolate or Chocolate Croissants with the leftover dough and it came out brilliantly. They are much easier to shape and handle than croissants and taste fabulous so I highly recommend trying them if you go through the steps of making the croissant dough anyway. I have added the instructions for making Pain Au Chocolate at the end of this post too. I halved the original recipe and got 6 croissants and 6 pain au chocolat. This dough is such that a little goes a long way.

Deep Breath.

Let's get started.

Classic Croissants Recipe

Preparation time: 2 hours / 3 days
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Recipe source: Fine Cooking

Ingredients:
2 cups of all-purpose flour or maida + more for dusting
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp of cold milk
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp of cold water
1/8 cup of sugar
20 gm of unsalted butter at room tem
1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp of instant yeast (I use and recommend Fleischmann's Yeast)
1 tsp of salt
125 gm of cold, unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp of cold milk (or 1 egg, slightly beaten) to brush the dough

How to Make Croissants:

DAY ONE - Making the dough

On day one, all you need to do is make the dough and stick it in the refrigerator. I did this in the night around 8pm.

Combine all ingredients (except the 125gm butter and the brushing milk or egg) in the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook. Combine on low speed for 3 mins, scrape down the sides, and mix on medium speed for another 3 mins. Transfer the dough shaped into a rough ball to an oiled dinner plate, cover with cling-wrap completely, and refrigerate.

You can also do the kneading by hand or food processor. Don't over do it since for croissants we don't want too much gluten to form in the dough.

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Croissants, Pain au Chocolate

DAY TWO

Making the Butter Layer

I set out taking step by step pictures but soon gave up on it since I needed all the concentration I had to get the lamination process going. This is an important day so set aside all other distractions and focus on the croissant-making.
How to Make Croissants

First, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or butter paper into 10” squares each. Cut the cold butter into small slabs and arrange them into a rough square. Place these on one piece of the butter paper and cover with the other piece. Using a rolling pin, gently smack the butter until it levels out into a square of about 7.5". The square will not be even so remove the top butter paper, gently cut the overlapping pieces of butter, add it to the top of the square, add back the butter paper layer, and continue to smack it into shape. Move quickly since you don't want the butter to start melting.

Cover completely with one piece of butter paper and refrigerate while you work on the dough.

Laminating the Dough

Bring out the dough you made the previous day and unwrap. On a lightly floured surface, roll this out into a 10.5" square. Bring out the butter layer and place it in the dough square so the edges of the butter are pointing along the sides of the dough square. Basically, don't align them exactly but keep them rhombus-shaped on each other. The video explains it well.

Bring the edges of the dough over the butter layer, stretching the edges a bit to completely cover it. Do not let the butter leak. You can refrigerate for a few mins if required or if you feel the butter is too soft.

Lightly flour this square piece of dough-butter layer and roll into an 8x12" rectangle, keeping the edges are straight as possible. Fold this into thirds, bring one side over a third of the length, and bring the other over to cover it completely (like a letter to be placed in an envelope). Plate on a baking tray, cover completely with cling wrap, and freeze for about 30 mins.

Repeat this step two more times. After the last folding, do not freeze but refrigerate the laminated dough overnight.

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Croissants, Pain au Chocolate

DAY THREE

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and lightly flour both sides. Gently roll it length-wise to about 22" inches. I didn't get this length with my piece of dough so just focus on lengthening until it's about 1/2" thick. Trim along the edges and ends.

Using a ruler and knife, With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length. Now, position the yardstick along the bottom of the dough. Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough.

Place the ruler at the first mark on top and first mark on bottom of the dough and draw it along to cut the dough into triangles.

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Croissants, Pain au Chocolate

Mark a slit on the wider side of the triangle and gently start rolling into the narrow side. Shape into crescents and place on a lined baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the triangles and place them on the baking tray with 3-4 inches space around them.

Proofing the Croissants

Croissant Recipe-How to Make Croissants

Once you have shaped all the croissants (you can reserve some dough for pain au chocolate), brush gently with the milk or beaten egg and let it rise in a cool place (not refrigerator) for a good 3-4 hours. I only proofed my first batch for 2 hours and they didn't rise as much as my second batch that were proofed longer.

Baking the Croissants

Pre-heat the oven to 400F/200C and place the proofed croissants inside. Mine were done in about 20 mins and after I took them out once to turn during baking, they turned brown very quickly so keep an eye on them as they are baking. If your oven has uneven heat, I'd recommend starting at a lower temperature, like 180C.

You can brush them again with milk as soon as they are out of the oven. I did this since I felt they seemed a bit dry after baking.

To Make Pain au Chocolat

On day 3, cut dough into long strips, place pieces of chocolate in the centre and roll into longs. Proof and brush with milk the same way and bake in similar temperatures. Beautiful chocolate croissants are ready.

Useful Resources:

- Fine Cooking has step by step pictures for making croissant.
- The video below on making croissants was immensely useful, a must-watch before you attempt the recipe



Good luck!

Croissants are number 2 on the list of 12 things the We Knead to Bake Group, conceptualised by Aparna, will be baking this year. Check out the Eggless Pull-Apart Bread I baked in January as part of the group.