One of the popular staples in Austria and France, Croissant (meaning, a crescent) surely makes a great accompaniment with beverages. Croissant is a great continental breakfast staple too!
It is believed that Croissant originated in Vienna, Austria. Croissant evolved from the Austrian bread called Kipferl. It is a buttery, flaky, super-light pastry that is now popular all over the world. In cities like Mumbai, croissants are available at many places, although not cheap (and not always light). Baking croissants is fun, and when these come out of the oven, it is definitely difficult to restrict yourself to eating just one, unless you are a saint!
Baking a croissant needs a lot of patience and technique, but at the same time, it is not rocket science.The flakiness of a croissant is extremely important. This flakiness makes the croissant light. A croissant is made up of layers or sheets of yeast-treated dough, and each of these sheets have to be rolled super-thin. If the sheets are thicker, the resulting croissant is denser. To make the croissant flaky, the dough should be layered with butter and this should be rolled, folded and re-rolled several times. A croissant can have different kinds of fillings, such as custard, cream, chocolate or jam. It can also have toppings like a sprinkling of powdered sugar, crushed peanuts, chocolate sauce or any sweet glaze. However, people do like eating croissants plain and buttery, and they often like eating it with an extra mop of good-quality butter!
Making good croissants is a challenge. It is for those who can follow the recipe strictly and do their work with precision. To make things easier, you can divide the process over three days, as refrigerating is needed frequently. So on the first day, make the dough, prepare the butter and chill separately overnight. On the second day, carry out the “lamination” and refrigerate overnight. On the third day, shape the dough into croissants and bake. This makes things easier and workable even for people with a hectic work schedule.
Right kinds of flour and butter
Making croissants requires practice and attention to detail. So don’t be deterred if your first set of croissants don’t come out as expected. Try, till you succeed! Even if you are following the same recipe, but using a different brand of flour and/or butter, your croissant can be of different texture, flakiness and lightness than that of mine. So use the best quality products, please! Soft butter or homemade butter doesn’t work for this recipe. Butter that has good amount of butterfat, works well. So use butter and stay away from low-fat versions and margarine, atleast for this recipe. Butter makes the difference, and hence goes the saying, “Anything is better with butter!”
Right temperature of butter
In Indian climate, it is best if you use chilled butter. Your butter must be firm and in no circumstance, soft. If your butter has softened, getting a flaky croissant will be a distant dream.
And yes, while you roll the dough for making croissants, don’t use too much flour for dusting.
This is a very important step. This is the process of incorporating solid butter into the dough in such a way that you get thin layers of the dough at the end. Proper laminating ensures that you get good, light and flaky croissants. The process of laminating is simple, but time-consuming. The dough has to be rolled and chilled several times. The rolling has to be fast, or the butter incorporated would start softening.
The Perfect Croissant
- Unbleached all-purpose flour: 500 g (plus extra for dusting)
- Cold water: 1 cup
- Cold milk: 1 cup
- Powdered sugar: 60 g
- Soft, unsalted butter: 40 g
- Instant yeast: 10 g
Ingredients for laminating:
- Chilled, unsalted butter: 300 g
- 1 egg + 1 tbsp milk for the egg wash
- Knead the dough with the dough ingredients, but adding cold water in batches, until the dough comes together nicely. Discard the rest of the water, if any. Don’t overknead. Make a big ball of the dough, put it in a deep bowl and cover with a cling film. Leave in the fridge for atleast 8 h (or overnight).
- Cut the chilled butter into slabs of thickness around 1.25 cm. Arrange these pieces on a wax paper to form a square, with each side measuring around 15 cm. Put a butter paper over the square and with a rolling pin, roll, until the square is longer by 4 cm on each side. Trim the edjes of the butter and place the edjes on the top of the butter square. Roll gently, until you get a square with each side measuring around 17 cm. Wrap the butter slab and refrigerate.
- Take out the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Roll out a square with sides approximately of 26 cm. Ensure that while doing this, you dust with as little flour as possible. Now place the butter square over the rolled dough square, in such a way that the sides of the butter square face the corners of the dough square and vice versa. So, the butter square should be at 45 degree angle to the dough square.
- Laminating the dough: Fold the dough from all sides, so that all the edjes of the dough come to the centre and the butter gets fully enclosed. Now put the flattened dough on a lightly dusted surface. Roll the dough from centre to the edjes, until you get a rectangle of around 25 x 65 cm. Make sure that the dough is rolled out evenly and fast. Cover with a cling film.
- Refrigerate for 25 min. Take the dough out and remove the cling film. Now, with the folded sides on top, turn the dough at 90 degrees. Fold the corners again, in the way an envelope is folded. Roll out again to a rectangle of 25 x 65 cm. Cover with a cling film and refrigerate for 30 min.
- Repeat the process two more times, rotating the dough to 90 degrees each time you take the dough out of the refrigerator. Finally, cover the rolled dough with a cling film and refrigerate for atleast 3 h or overnight.
- Now, roll out the dough into a long rectangle (about 30 x 115 cm). Lift the rectangle off the surface. This is done so that all the shrinking happens at this stage, so that when you start cutting triangles later, it doen’t shrink at that stage.
- Cut the big rectangle into equal-sized smaller rectangles. Now cut each of the small rectangles from corner to corner. So from each small rectangle, you should get two similar triangles.
- Elongate each triangle to about 20 cm. This should be done very gently and carefully using a rolling pin, otherwise the triangle has chances to tear off.
- With the smaller side of the triangle towards you, roll the triangle moderately tightly until you get the shape of a straightened croissant. Bend the roll to a croissant shape. Repeat for all the triangles.
- Line a baking tray with baking sheet. Arrange the croissants on the sheet, not too close to each other. Brush the croissants with whisked egg wash. If you enjoy a warm climate (around 25 degree C, as in India), keep (proof) the croissants at room temperature for 2 h. Otherwise, proof in an oven. After proofing, you should be able to see the layers of the croissant, clearly.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degree C. Just before baking, apply the egg wash to the croissants once again. Bake at 180 degree C for 20 min. If the croissants start browning more, reduce the temperature a bit and bake a little longer. (Note: The temperature and the baking time vary from oven to oven.)