How to Make Flaky and Buttery Croissants at Home
A Go-To Breakfast
Years ago, when I was a student in Italy, my go-to breakfast was a freshly baked Nutella croissant and a cappuccino. I loved the combination so much, I ended up having it almost every day. Each morning, I looked forward to a buttery, flaky crescent-shaped marvel with its warm chocolate-hazelnut filling.
National Croissant Day
For years I had wanted to try making croissants at home, but I always hesitated because the process of making these artisanal pastries is so notoriously complicated and time-consuming. However, the most recent National Croissant Day (celebrated every year in the United States on January 30) motivated me to finally give it a shot—and guess what? I nailed it on my first attempt. My husband and I both loved the flaky pastry on the outside and the thin, buttery layers on the inside.
Preparing the Dough
First, we need to learn a few important French baking terms:
- Détrempe: Basic pastry dough
- Beurrage: Butter
- Pâton: The package of dough that is formed by combining the détrempe with the beurrage.
The process of baking homemade croissants is challenging—but it's a doable challenge. The best advice I can give you is to make sure to follow the directions exactly. Please don't skip any steps just because you want your pastries to come out of the oven sooner. Good croissants cannot be rushed!
I decided to prepare the détrempe and beurrage the night before because they both require refrigeration for at least eight hours. The next morning, all I had to do was take them out of the fridge and continue with the next steps in the recipe.
I would recommend using instant dry yeast because it can be mixed straight into the dough. However, you can also use active dry yeast. The difference is that active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in lukewarm water or milk. My guess is that the results would be the same, regardless of which kind of yeast you use.
Don't forget to brush the top of the croissants with egg wash before putting them in the oven. This is what helps give that lovely golden color when they finish baking.
By the way, you can freeze unbaked croissants in an airtight container. When you're ready to enjoy them, fully thaw the pastries, allow them to proof (rise) for about 3 hours, and then bake as usual.
Plain vs. Nutella
I love croissants that have Nutella inside. You can decide if you'd like to make croissants that are plain or that have a filling. It's easy to make both kinds at once, however, which is exactly what I did. All you have to do is to divide the recipe into two batches. When I took the finished pastries out of the oven, I was able to eat one of each kind right away. So delicious!
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons white granulated sugar
- 1 packet instant dry yeast or active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- Egg wash, for brushing (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
- Nutella (or chocolate chips), for filling
- Make the détrempe (pastry dough): In a stand mixer with the hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, water, and milk. Beat on a lower speed to blend, then add the salt.
- Increase to a higher speed and knead for about 5 minutes, adding 2 tablespoons butter druing the kneading process.
- Once the dough is formed, transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined pan or baking tray. Cover the dough with a towel and let it sit out for 1 hour. Then transfer the tray to the refrigerator for 8 hours (I did this overnight).
- Make the beurrage (butter): Loosely wrap 1 cup butter with plastic wrap and press it down with a rolling pin to form a thin sheet. Place the thin butter sheet on a pan or tray and transfer it to the fridge to chill.
- After 8 hours (or in the morning), turn out the chilled dough on a baking mat or floured surface. Roll out the dough to form a rectangle or square.
- Place the chilled beurrage in the center of the dough and fold it to create the pâton (see photo below). Roll out the butter/dough package with a rolling pin and place it in the fridge for 1 hour or more.
- Take chilled dough out of the fridge and turn it out on a baking mat or floured surface. Again, fold the dough and roll it out. Place it back in the fridge for 1 more hour.
- Now it's time to shape the croissants. Take the chilled dough from the fridge and turn it out on a baking mat or floured surface. Cut the dough in half horizontally and then cut triangles (see photo below).
- For plain croissants: Roll up the croissant gently with your fingers until you reach the top. Shape the croissant so that it curves and forms a crescent.
- For filled croissants: Before rolling, place 1 teaspoon of filling at the bottom of the triangle. Roll as per instructions above.
- Place the croissants on a parchment-lined baking tray and let them rise for 1 hour or more.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Brush the croissants with egg wash and bake for 17 minutes or until rich golden brown.
- Enjoy your warm homemade croissants with a cup of coffee or tea.
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© 2019 Liza