Croissant Dough

Of course, croissant dough is used to bake the classic crescent-shaped breakfast icons, but it also makes other treats. Without butter and egg yolks mixed into the detrempe, croissant dough is "leaner" than Danish, but it is no less delicious. To give the flour the right amount of gluten for strength and flakiness, bread and pastry flours are combined. Croissants, Almond Croissants, Pains au Chocolat, Pains de Matin, and Pains aux Raisins all use this dough. Croissant dough has 3 turns: single, double, and single. Use 2 rolling pins: a tapered pin for creating the thin flaps to cover the beurrage, and a large, heavy pin for the rolling steps. For dry yeast, refer to the adjusted liquid measurements in the directions. Make, freeze, and defrost croissant dough at least 2 days before baking. This firms the butter and flour layers, and encourages them to bake into an extra-light texture. It also relaxes the dough better than refrigeration alone. Croissant dough can only be frozen for up to 4 days. After that time, the flour discolors and the yeast loses strength.

Recipe courtesy Sarabeth Levine, from Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 45 min
Prep: 45 min
Inactive Prep: 1 hr
Cook: --
YIELD: 28 croissants
LEVEL: Intermediate

ingredients

DETREMPE:
  • .75 ounce (1 packed tablespoon plus 1 1/2 packed teaspoons) compressed yeast or
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
  • 1 1/4 cups pastry or unbleached cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
BEURRAGE:
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons bread flour
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Directions

Make the dough at least 2 days before using.

To make the detrempe:
Finely crumble the yeast into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Add the sugar and let stand until the yeast gives off some moisture, about 3 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve the yeast. Stir in the milk. (If using dry yeast, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup warm, 105 degrees F to 115 degrees F, milk in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl, then add the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.)

Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the bowl. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding 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. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball. The ball will hold its shape but spread slightly during standing.

Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the flour and cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.

To 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. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and press any remaining lumps of butter out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan with the detrempe and refrigerate together for about 15 minutes. The detrempe and the beurrage should be the same consistency and temperature after this slight chilling.

Flour the work surface again. Place the dough 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 of the dough with flour. 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 tapered 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 demark the square.

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.) Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so the open ends of the square face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the north- and south-facing flaps of dough (originally the east and west flaps) to completely cover the butter square, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.

Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough over so the 4 folded flaps face down with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17 by 9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, brushing away 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.

Lightly flour the work surface. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough 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. 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.

Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn. With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.

The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough 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. Yield: Makes about 2 pounds, 6 ounces dough.

Making the Croissants

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