Things have been positively toxic at work. I didn’t have any time at all to write and fix my process photos for this post on top of everything else. I’ve been wanting to write about my first experience with croissant-making for a long while, and between my first try and this writing, I’ve been able to repeat this recipe at least once more already. Never did I expect that I would be able to create such lovely and delicious croissants!
This particular recipe is taken from Sarabeth Levine’s book Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, which I talked about at length in this post because I was so impressed by it. I would honestly say the step-by-step photos in the book helped me a great deal in my success and in dispelling my croissant dough/puff pastry dough phobia. Just a warning though: As fun and as big of a learning experience making croissants are, it is most certainly time-consuming.
But my attitude with baking is that I really want to learn as much as I can about it. Whenever I attempt a recipe I feel is a bit complicated and I succeed with flying colours, it gives me one of my favourite feelings in the world. I can’t explain how happy and proud I was of myself when these beauties came out of the oven. I sliced one open in the centre and there it was, the gorgeous spirally crumb. I think I spent more time marveling than I did eating!
This recipe is excellent- and I feel is almost foolproof- as far as croissant recipes go. The only problem I encountered was with how soft and almost liquid my dough was. It would have been better if the book had provided some adjustment options according to the weather. Since I live in the tropics, too much liquid in the dough will make it too soft to handle; so during my second try, I reduced about 1/4 cup of the milk in the recipe and got a vastly more manageable dough. I also have an issue with how small the croissants I produced were. They were more mini-croissants than regular-sized ones, but none the less pretty and delicious.
I have plans on trying other croissant recipes as well, but I am very happy with how this one turned out. Another thing I really like about this is the fact that it doesn’t go overboard with the butter, which in truth is one of the things that turns me off from making puff pastry-based baked goods. Any croissant first-timers out there can give this one a try. I think you’ll be very pleased with the result. I know I was.
Sarabeth’s Flaky Croissants
adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours | Makes about 14 croissants
For the detrempe:
2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cold whole milk **
1 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/4 cups pastry or unbleached cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the beurrage:
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons bread flour, plus more for the work surface
For the croissants: (use only 1/2 of the prepared croissant dough)
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling
1 large egg, well-beaten
1. Make the detrempe: Warm 1/4 cup of the milk to 105° F to 115° F (40°C to 46°C). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let it rest until the yeast softens and begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer and then stir in the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the yeast mixture in the bowl. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding just enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix, as the dough will be worked and absorb more flour during the rolling and folding processes.
3. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead a few times to smooth the surface. Shape the dough into a ball. The ball will hold its shape but will spread slightly as it stands.
4. Place parchment paper on a half-sheet pan and dust with flour. Place the dough on the flour and use a small, sharp knife to cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top, marking it into quadrants. Sprinkle the top with a little flour and refrigerate.
5. Make the beurrage: Clean the mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more.
6. Transfer the beurrage to a lightly floured work surface and press any remaining lumps of butter out with the heel of your hand. Shape the beurrage into a 4-inch square, place it on the half-sheet pan with the detrempe, and refrigerate them for about 15 minutes. The detrempe and the beurrage should be the same consistency and temperature after this slight chilling.
7. Flour the work surface again. Place the detrempe on the work surface with the ends of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. You will notice 4 quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top with flour.
8. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 1/2 inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves.” Use a rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to mark the square.
9. Place the butter square in the center of the cloverleaf. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away any excess flour. (This dough is very extendable and will stretch easily, but don’t tear it.)
10. Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the packet so the open ends of the square face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the north- and south-facing flaps (originally the east and west flaps) to completely cover the butter square, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
11. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the packet over so the 4 folded flaps face down with the open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside.
12. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, brushing away any excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
13. Lightly flour the work surface. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Roll out the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough over 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side.
14. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn (also known as a book turn). Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Return to the half-sheet pan and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.
15. Repeat rolling and folding into a final single turn. With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days. (If freezing, the night before using the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted the dough will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.) You will only be using 1/2 of this dough for the croissants. You can use the other half to make other pastries based on croissant dough (but you can use all of them if you want)
16. Form the croissants: Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust your work surface with flour. Take 1/2 of the prepared croissant dough and place on the work surface with the open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press too hard; let the weight of the pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling it, keep track of which side contains the seam.
17. Turn the packet so the seam faces you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully at the sides of the dough, and you should be able to discern it, even though it’s faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick or rule, neatly trim the rough edges so you have a neat rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
18. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Working with one piece at a time and using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, start at the top left corner of the dough and make your way downward diagonally to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base. Measure 3 1/2-inches from the top left corner of the strip and mark this point with a notch from the wheel. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 1/2-inch base.
19. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch-wide base. Repeat with the second strip of dough to make 6 more large triangles and 2 half-triangles. You should have a total of 12 large triangles and 4 half-triangles.
20. Place a single “complete” triangle on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long.
21. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissants on the pan. Curve the croissants by bringing the 2 ends together and then cross one end over the other, and press together. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them 1 1/2-inches apart on the pan.
22. Overlap 2 of the half-triangles at their long sides, and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangles and add to the pan. Repeat with the remaining half-triangles.
23. Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. (For an easier process, you can also place the croissants on the top two racks of your turned-off oven, then place a pan of boiling water into the bottom area and close the door.) Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
24. Once puffy, remove the croissants from the oven for brushing. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C) for about 15 minutes. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes.
25. Reduce the heat to 350°F (176°C) and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Serve the croissants warm or cool to room temperature.
* This site has more detailed step-by-step pictures of this recipe. It helped me a lot on my first try, and I have no doubt it will be a great reference site for anyone who will attempt this recipe as well.
** Take note of the amount of liquid you use for this recipe. Use a smaller amount during hot, summery weather, and use more liquids when the weather is dry and cold.
Using this croissant recipe as the base, I managed to create two other pastries. You can use the other half of the croissant dough to make other things such as: Pains Au Chocolat, which is basically a differently-shaped croissant with chocolate inside! Remember to use good-quality chocolate to maximize the eating experience.
You simply cut the other half of your croissant dough into squares. And then just roll the dough to trap the chocolate inside, glaze and bake, and then voila! Chocolate-lovers will love this, and I can attest to that.
I really just love staring at the crumb of these things! I made mine into bite-sizes and they were easy enough to literally just pop into your mouth. These must’ve gone in approximately 10 minutes because we’re all chocolate fiends over here.
Another recipe I tried was the Pains Au Raisins, which as delicious as they were, did not look like the ones pictured on the book at all! They were supposed to be these nice, plump, round croissant with raisins and pastry cream in the centre, like this. Instead, mine which were flat, small and pitiful. They were so sad-looking I didn’t bother setting them up for a shoot. They looked nothing like what they’re supposed to!
Again, the persistent problem I have is with the sizing of my pastries. Mine were once again too small. This particular recipe is a little more time-consuming because it asks you to prepare some pastry cream as well. To be honest, I’m having second thoughts about repeating this just to get it right, but maybe if I can figure it out beforehand and make sure that I produce the correct pastry on my next try, I wouldn’t hesitate to make these yummy treats again.
The apricot glaze added such a nice sweet flavour to these pastries. It’s probably my favourite part about these. I loved eating them hot from the toaster too, because the glaze would be kind of melty and fantastic. I can’t begin to imagine how good these would be eaten directly from Sarabeth’s! Definitely on my list of to-do’s for when I visit New York.
My next targets are the danishes in Sarabeth’s book, though I have no idea when I’ll find the time to just stay in the kitchen to make them. I need a vacation. In any case, as a matter of my own personal opinion, I really think everyone should go and buy Sarabeth’s marvelous (and very clean and pretty) book. After you’ve done salivating over the photos, you can go on ahead and make the yumminess of Sarabeth’s right in your own kitchen! For people like me who don’t live close to any Sarabeth’s, that’s the best alternative.
PS. What a ridiculously image-heavy post this is. No wonder it took me forever to fix this post up! I only hope this encourages those who have been wanting to try making croissants but have been too nervous to do so.