My mother loves croissants, so for every special occasion I get my mother croissants for breakfast. I always pop them in the toaster oven to warm them, always wrap them in a white linen napkin, and always put them in the same straw-woven basket. This year, for Mother’s Day, I wanted to do something a little more special, though. So, I decided to make her croissants.
Making croissants is a difficult process, but it’s even harder when you’re making them as a surprise for someone living under the same roof. For the three days it took to make them, I had to operate in complete secrecy. Luckily, we have two refrigerators, so I managed to hide the dough in the garage fridge. Unluckily, my mother is almost always in the kitchen, so I had to ask my trusty sidekick (my father) to get her out of the house. I started the croissants on Friday and kept rolling and folding all the way till 5:00am on Sunday morning. I highly recommend planning out any croissant-making well in advance, as it’s impossible to eat them the same day you start making them. Especially if it’s your first time making croissants (as this was for me); you’ll want to watch videos. A lot of videos.
JULIA CHILDS CROISSANTS:
Yields 4 large croissants, or 8 smaller (this recipe is halved from the original)
- 1/2 lb and 1 oz unsalted butter (cold)
- 1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/6 cup white sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid), add your flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Then add your milk and mix on low speed using the hook attachment until ingredients are mixed (if the dough looks too dry, add a little more milk. You’ll know when it’s enough when there’s no more dry flour at the bottom of the bowl. But, you don’t want your dough becoming too sticky and wet, so make sure to give the mixer some time to do its magic before you start pouring in more milk)
- When your dough is mixed, take it out of the bowl and either hold it or place it on a clean bit of counter. Turn your mixer back on and add your dough back into the bowl bit by bit. Increase the mixer’s speed (medium-high) every time you add in a piece of dough, and reduce a bit before adding in the next piece.
- When the dough is all in the mixer again and unified, take it out and show it who’s boss. Roll it into a ball and pound it a couple times on your counter (not too hard, you’re not trying to beat it to death), punch it, roll it with your hands, and knead it some. Do this a couple times (it helps gluten form to give your croissants structure and airiness).
- Shape your dough into a nice ball and wrap it in plastic. Put the wrapped dough into a large, sealed plastic bag. Let it rest at room temperature for half an hour or so.
- While your dough is resting, change your mixer’s attachment to the paddle and take out your butter.
- Toss your butter in the bowl with add 2 tablespoons of flour and beat on a high speed. Keep an eye on it, you don’t want to overwork your butter and turn it into oil. Beat it until just fluffy and malleable (it should still be chilled).
- Take the butter and squeeze it between your palms to push all the air out. Pack and shape it into a ball (it’s better if it’s more bar-of-soap shaped than perfectly spherical), being careful not to handle it too long. Wrap your butter in plastic and place it in the refrigerator until your dough is done resting.
- Then, put your butter and dough into the same large plastic bag and place them both in the refrigerator overnight.
- Flour your counter (or a marble slab) with flour for rolling (keep the flour nearby, you might need more as you get going)
- Take your dough out of the fridge (keep your butter in there though) and put it on your floured surface. Roll your dough out evenly and patiently. The key to rolling dough is never to force it, slow and steady keeps your dough from tearing and from rolling out crooked. But make sure you’re firm, otherwise your dough is not going to move. Try to keep your dough in a roughly rectangular shape. To make sure your dough is even, bend down to eye level with it and look across the surface to see if one side is higher or lower than another.
- When your dough has been rolled out, take your butter out of the fridge (if you have a very cold fridge, you may want to take the butter out a minute or two in advance so that it’s not rock solid).
- Unwrap your butter and place it in the middle of your dough. Fold one side of your dough over the butter, making sure the sides of the dough line up (pinch them to make the dough stay, instead of shrinking back towards the butter). Then, fold the other side over the butter to completely cover it (again, line up the sides and pinch to make the dough stay)
- With your rolling pin, beat the butter down, starting from the middle and working first to one side and then, when finished, the other. Continue beating firmly, but not aggressively, until your butter is evenly spread throughout the dough. If your dough tears and the butter peeks through, just patch it up with any spare bits of dough (I just tore off little bits that didn’t get the butter beaten into them) or pat a little flour on it.
- Now, roll evenly, making sure you’re not forcing the dough.
- After it’s been rolled out to a rectangular shape, place your dough on a lightly-floured shallow baking pan (or a high-sided cookie sheet) and cover it with plastic wrap. Stick the whole thing in the fridge for a couple hours (anywhere from 2-6 ought to do it)
- After it’s rested, take it out, and roll it out on a floured surface. Sprinkle some flour over the top of your dough so that your rolling pin doesn’t stick (press an extra bit to any spots where butter peeks out).
- Roll your dough out again, evenly, patiently, and firmly. Keep it in a rectangular shape.
- Fold into three (first bring one side to the middle, then the other, like folding a letter). Before folding, brush the flour off each surface of the dough with a pastry brush (even a clean paintbrush will do).
- Then, put back onto your pan/cookie sheet, cover it all up with plastic wrap, and stick it back in the fridge for 1-4 hours.
- When you take it out this time, repeat the rolling, flouring, etc. you just did. After you’ve folded it, roll it out a bit and fold it again, just the same way. Roll it to make it even and place it back on the pan/cookie sheet. Cover it and refrigerate for 1 hour (feel free to leave it in overnight, that’s what I did)