Pain Au Chocolat/Homemade Croissants

Croissants are one of those Intimidating Baking Projects. For a lot of amateur bakers, they go straight into the Too Hard basket and are deemed not worth the effort / better store-bought / both. I’m here to tell you not to panic. Yes, they are a bit finicky. Yes, it’s a long process. And yes, I have ruined an oven-full of croissants before, quite spectacularly, with very little effort. But I have used the recipe I’m going to share with you five times now, and only once have I had a bona fide baking disaster – the time I made the insane rookie mistake of leaving the house during the final, crucial proofing stage only to come home to two full trays of fat, buttery globs. Which I baked and served to general approval, but which were not really croissants.

That was last Easter. This Christmas, I tried again, opting for smaller, chocolate-filled croissants instead. A French girl told me they tasted Parisian, which as far as I’m concerned locks these solidly into my own personal baking Hall of Fame. And honestly? They’re not actually that hard to make.

aerial

They are, however, a big time commitment. You’ll need somewhere in the realm of 4-6 hours for pounding butter and rolling dough, then at least 12 hours of refrigeration, and then a couple hours the following morning before they’re ready to bake. For Christmas, I started at around 3 pm Christmas Eve and had the baby pain au chocolat out of the oven around 9:30 Christmas morning. Just to give you a general idea.

Homemade Croissants
(Adapted from Sweet E Bakes)

1 1/2 cups whole milk,
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more for kneading and rolling)
1 tablespoon salt
340 grams (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
1 teaspoon cream or milk, for egg wash
150-200 grams quality dark chocolate (optional)

Note: below I’ve got a step-by-step, photo-heavy walk-through, because I found that helpful when I was learning how to do this. If you’d rather just look at a text recipe, I have one below.

1. Heat milk to 43 Celsius (110 Fahrenheit). If, like me, you don’t own a candy thermometer, you want it warm but not hot. I always check it against my wrist, like you do for a baby bottle. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill your yeast. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture stand until foamed (about 5-10 minutes). If it doesn’t foam, start over. You don’t want to go through this whole process and have your croissants not rise.

2. Mix in the flour and salt either by hand or with a mixer with a dough hook until dough is smooth and soft (about 7 minutes).

3. Knead by hand for about 2 more minutes, adding flour as necessary. You can do this on a clean, lightly floured surface, or you can do what I do and just do it in/over your mixing bowl. You should end up with a soft and slightly sticky dough.

dough

4. Form the dough into a rough rectangle about 1 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate.

5. When your dough has been chilling for about 40-50 minutes, start pounding your butter. Wrap your butter in cling film so it is completely covered. If you’re using sticks of butter, stack them horizontally with their sides touching.

6. Pound the butter with a rolling pin to soften. Pound and roll for about 10 minutes, flipping butter over frequently, until it forms an 8×5 inch rectangle.

7. Put butter in the fridge. Your dough should be good and cold by now, so lightly flour your work surface and roll it out, dusting with flour as necessary. Make sure you lift the dough frequently to prevent sticking. Roll and stretch into a 10×16 inch rectangle.

8. Get out and unwrap your butter. With the short side of the dough facing you, lay the flattened butter on the bottom half of the rectangle of dough. The long sides of the butter should be aligned with the short side of the dough.

9. Fold the dough over, crimping the edges so the butter stays inside.

crimped

10. Gently pound, roll, and stretch the dough and butter into a 6×10-inch rectangle. If butter starts to ooze out, sprinkle it with some flour or put the whole thing back into the fridge for a couple minutes before continuing.

11. With the short end of the rectangle facing you, fold it in thirds like a letter: bottom third up, top third over bottom third. This is your first turn.

folding

12. Turn two: turn the dough so the short side is facing you, and start again: roll the dough out into a 6×10 rectangle and fold it like a letter. Then wrap the whole thing in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

envelope

13. Come back after an hour and repeat steps 10-12.

14. You have now done four turns. Some people will call this enough. I have never looked at croissant dough after four turns and thought it was finished; I always do six just to get that butter a little better integrated. So now you can either refrigerate your dough for another hour and repeat steps 10-12 again (bringing you to six turns) or you can call it a day. Up to you. Either way, when you’re done with your turns just leave the dough (in the fridge, wrapped loosely in cling film) to rise overnight. You want it to sit for at least 12 and up to 20 hours.

15. The next morning, take your dough out of the fridge. Cut it in half – you’ll want to work with the dough in halves so it doesn’t get too warm. It should look like this:

foldedTake one half out and put the other one back in the fridge. Prepare a clean, lightly floured surface, and get a good sharp knife and/or a pizza cutter handy. Line a couple baking sheets with baking parchment.

16a. For traditional croissants:you want to roll dough into a 6.5×20 inch rectangle. The dough should be about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. You’ll then cut it into isosceles triangles with 5-inch bases. There’s a good diagram and breakdown here. This is what it looked like when I did it:

cutting

Make a small cut in the center of the base of each triangle. Stretch the dough out a little on the corners, and then roll the base toward the tip, curling a little to create the classic crescent shape. Any leftover scraps you can roll up however you like and bake as mini croissants. Place the croissants on the parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

rolled

16b. For little chocolate croissants, which is what I did, you just need little rectangles, each about 1 1/2 inch by 4 inches. Roll your dough out into an 8×15-inch rectangle, cut in half length-wise (into two 4×15-inch rectangles) and then divide each into 1 1/2-inch wide slices.
Place a generous chunk of chocolate or a few chocolate chips at the base of each rectangle. It’s okay if you use a couple overlapping chunks or if it looks a bit messy – it’s all going to melt together anyway. Roll the base up, trapping the chocolate inside. Press the loose end in a bit to keep it in place. Arrange on baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

prebake

17. Beat your egg lightly. Beat in the teaspoon of cream or milk. Using a pastry brush, lightly and evenly coat croissants.

18. Repeat steps 16 and 17 with the remaining dough.

19. Turn your oven on at its lowest temperature. After a few minutes, turn it off again (you may want to leave the light on, though). When oven is just warm, put in the trays of croissants and close the door. Leave in warm oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the croissants have grown to about 1 1/2 their original size. They should look fluffy and have the texture of a marshmallow.

20. Remove croissants from the oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Fill an oven-proof dish with water and place it on the bottom rack.

21. Bake croissants one pan at a time. For each pan: place the croissants in the middle of the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400 Fahrenheit. Bake for 8 minutes (just 5 minutes for minis) without opening the door.

22. Rotate the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 375. Continue baking until the croissants are golden brown, about 8-10 more minutes for full-size ones or 5-8 for the small ones. Don’t underbake these! They should really be golden all over.

baked1

23. Repeat with remaining croissants. Let cool slightly, then eat and enjoy!

Text-Only Instructions:

1. Heat milk to 43 Celsius (110 Fahrenheit). In a large mixing bowl, stir together the warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture stand until foamed (about 5-10 minutes).

2. Mix in the flour and salt either by hand or with a dough hook until dough is smooth and soft (about 7 minutes).

3. Knead by hand for about 2 more minutes, adding flour as necessary. You should end up with a soft and slightly sticky dough.

4. Form the dough into a rough rectangle about 1 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate.

5. When your dough has been chilling for about 40-50 minutes, start pounding your butter. Wrap your butter in cling film so it is completely covered. If you’re using sticks of butter, stack them horizontally with their sides touching.

6. Pound the butter with a rolling pin to soften. Pound and roll for about 10 minutes, flipping butter over frequently, until it forms an 8×5 inch rectangle.

7. Put butter in the fridge. Your dough should be good and cold by now, so lightly flour your work surface and roll it out, dusting with flour as necessary. Make sure you lift the dough frequently to prevent sticking. Roll and stretch into a 10×16 inch rectangle.

8. Get out and unwrap your butter. With the short side of the dough facing you, lay the flattened butter on the bottom half of the rectangle of dough. The long sides of the butter should be aligned with the short side of the dough.

9. Fold the dough over, crimping the edges so the butter stays inside.

10. Gently pound and stretch the dough and butter into a 6×10-inch rectangle. If butter starts to ooze out, sprinkle it with some flour or put the whole thing back into the fridge for a couple minutes before continuing.

11. With the short end of the rectangle facing you, fold it in thirds like a letter: bottom third up, top third over bottom third. This is your first turn.

12. Turn two: turn the dough so the short side is facing you, and start again: roll the dough out into a 6×10 rectangle and fold it like a letter. Then wrap the whole thing in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

13. Come back after an hour and repeat steps 10-12.

14. You have now done four turns. Some people will call this enough. I have never looked at croissant dough after four turns and thought it was finished; I always do six just to get that butter a little better integrated. So now you can either refrigerate your dough for another hour and repeat steps 10-12 again (bringing you to six turns) or you can call it a day. Up to you. Either way, when you’re done with your turns just leave the dough to rise overnight. You want it to sit for at least 12 and up to 20 hours.

15. The next morning, take your dough out of the fridge. Cut it in half – you’ll want to work with the dough in halves so it doesn’t get too warm. Take one half out and put the other one back in the fridge. Prepare a clean, lightly floured surface, and get a good sharp knife and/or a pizza cutter handy. Line a couple baking sheets with baking parchment.

16a. For traditional croissants:you want to roll dough into a 6.5×20 inch rectangle. The dough should be about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. You’ll then cut it into isosceles triangles with 5-inch bases. There’s a good diagram and breakdown here. Make a small cut in the center of the base of each triangle. Stretch the dough out a little on the corners, and then roll the base toward the tip, curling a little to create the classic crescent shape. Any leftover scraps you can roll up however you like and bake as mini croissants. Place the croissants on the parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

16b. For little chocolate croissants, which is what I did, you just need little rectangles, each about 1 1/2 inch by 4 inches. Roll your dough out into an 8×15-inch rectangle, cut in half length-wise (into two 4×15-inch rectangles) and then divide each into 1 1/2-inch wide slices.
Place a generous chunk of chocolate or a few chocolate chips at the base of each rectangle. It’s okay if you use a couple overlapping chunks or if it looks a bit messy – it’s all going to melt together anyway. Roll the base up, trapping the chocolate inside. Press the loose end in a bit to keep it in place. Arrange on baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

17. Beat your egg lightly. Beat in the teaspoon of cream or milk. Using a pastry brush, lightly and evenly coat croissants.

18. Repeat steps 15-18 with the remaining dough.

19. Turn your oven on at its lowest temperature. After a few minutes, turn it off again (you may want to leave the light on, though). When oven is just warm, put in the trays of croissants and close the door. Leave in warm oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the croissants have grown to about 1 1/2 their original size. They should look fluffy and have the texture of a marshmallow.

20. Remove croissants from the oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Fill an oven-proof dish with water and place on the bottom rack.

21. Bake croissants one pan at a time. For each pan: place the croissants in the middle of the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400 Fahrenheit. Bake for 8 minutes (just 5 minutes for minis) without opening the door.

22. Rotate the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 375. Continue baking until the croissants are golden brown, about 8-10 more minutes for full-size ones or 5-8 for the small ones. Don’t underbake these! They should really be golden all over.

23. Repeat with remaining croissants. Let cool slightly, then eat and enjoy!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Pain Au Chocolat/Homemade Croissants

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s