How to Make Croissants
Sarabeth Levine's perfect croissants are made by creating layers of flaky dough.
Baking croissants at home can be a daunting task, but with Sarabeth Levine's recipes and these step-by-step instructions, you'll be baking them like a pro. They really need to be eaten the day they're baked, so plan ahead. The dough can be made four days ahead and frozen, so on the day of your get-together or brunch you'll just need time for shaping, proofing and baking.
I used Sarabeth's no-fail recipe from her cookbook, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.Start with Sarabeth's no-fail recipe for Croissant dough.
Mixing & Forming the Dough
Begin by making the detrempe, the sticky part of the dough. Bloom the yeast in warm water, then mix in milk and sugar. Add the flours to the wet ingredients and stir to create a "soft and sticky" dough. Form into a ball, cut an X in the top and put the dough in the refrigerator.
To make the beurrage, or flour and butter mixture, mix cold butter and flour and then shape into a four-inch square. Let it chill in the fridge with the dough for about 15 minutes. The dough and the butter should be at like temperatures before continuing.
Making the Cloverleaf
Place the dough on your floured work surface so the ends of the X are at the 2, 4, 7 and 10 o'clock positions. Roll out the four quadrants of dough between the X's, to create a cloverleaf shape. Then use your rolling pin to mark the raised square in the center.First press with your hands. Then roll out to make flaps of about 6-inches.
Add the Butter
Place the butter square onto the raised center of the dough. Fold over the top flap to cover the top and sides of the butter, then repeat with the bottom flap. Turn the dough so it once again faces you vertically, and once again fold over the top and bottom flaps.Place the butter in the center of the cloverleaf. Fold the top flap over the top and sides of the butter. Fold the bottom over. Turn so dough is vertical once more. Repeat folding, first the top flap and then the bottom.
Rolling and Folding: Single Turn
Turn the dough over so the four flaps are on the counter and the open seam is facing you. Use a large heavy rolling pin to gently pound the dough and help evenly distribute the butter. Then roll into a 17x9-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds like a business letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Put the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.Turn the dough over. Pound lightly to distribute the butter. Roll to 17x9 inches. Fold into thirds, brushing away excess flour.
Rolling and Folding: Double Turn (Book Turn)
Once again, roll the chilled dough out into a 17x9-inch rectangle. Next fold the right side of the dough over two inches to the left and fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Then close the "book" by folding the dough in half vertically from left to right; this is called a double turn. Put the dough in the refrigerator to chill for another 20 minutes.
Roll to a 17x9 inch rectangle. Fold two inches on right, and fold the left over to meet the right. Fold over vertically.
Rolling and Folding: The Final Single Turn
The last step is another single turn. Roll out the dough into a 17x9-inch rectangle and fold the dough over like a business letter. Then cut the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 24 hours and no more than four days.Roll to a 17x9 inch rectangle. Fold like a business letter. Divide in half and freeze the dough.
Making the Croissants
Defrost dough in the refrigerator for eight hours before you're going to use. A yardstick and pizza wheel will come in handy for making the croissants. Roll the dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle. Trim the dough up and cut in half horizontally with the pizza wheel, and then fold into thirds and chill for 15 minutes.Defrost dough for eight hours. Roll out to 16x12 inches. Trim and cut the dough in half. Fold the dough into thirds and chill.
Cut and Shape the Croissants
Unfold the dough, and start by cutting a half triangle on the end with a 2-inch base. Then cut the rest of the dough with 3 1/2-inch bases. Stretch the dough triangles slightly in your hands and then roll.Cut the half triangle 2 inches from end. Measure out 3 1/2 inch bases. Stretch the dough, and then roll.
The End Pieces
Cobble together the four end pieces to form two more croissants. You'll hardly be able to tell the difference after they proof and bake.
Proof and Bake
Place rolled croissants 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and curve into the shape of croissants. Proof for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in a plastic bag as Sarabeth does, or in a turned-off oven with a pan of steaming water as shown below. When done, the croissants should look puffy but they will not double in size. Lightly brush with egg wash and bake until golden brown.Place 1 1/2-inches apart. Proof in a bag or in a turned-off oven. After about 2 hours, then should be puffy looking. Brush lightly with egg wash. Bake until golden.
Eat As Soon As You Can
The croissants are best eaten straight out of the oven, all steaming, flaky and buttery. Serve with butter and jam for an impressive breakfast or brunch addition. Now start baking, with Sarabeth Levine's croissant recipe.