I made croissants. I grappled over what clever story to seamlessly infuse into this post, but ultimately landed on a straightforward introduction. There’s no motive, no purpose. I just love croissants and wanted to trying making them from scratch, so I did.
And let me be clear: baking croissants is a PROCESS. It’s a process that requires fastidiousness and tenacity. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but it is time-consuming and demands attention to detail. It takes an entire day before you’re able to bask in the flaky, buttery goodness that is this French specialty. If they weren’t so tasty, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. However, if you love croissants and love baking, it’s a worthwhile process.
These layered wonders are labor-intensive and involve many steps, most of which are rolling out dough, folding, and refrigerating. The first step, though, is to mix the dough and chill overnight, a quick beginning in stark contrast to the subsequent steps.
The next day of baking begins by cutting butter into 1/2 inch pieces, arranging them into a square, and rolling, and rolling, and rolling. Rolling butter is tough. The pats are sandwiched between two pieces of parchment paper, and parchment paper is incredibly slippery. Rolling and beating down butter is exponentially harder when it’s slipping and sliding like a wet bar of soap. I tried holding the parchment paper in place with various items on my counter, but all attempts were futile. Flattening a butter square to its proper size is achievable, but not without significant effort. I’ll be nursing rolling pin blisters for the foreseeable future.
Once the butter is flattened, it goes back into the fridge to chill while the dough is rolled out. Thankfully the difficultly of rolling out the butter was offset by the ease of rolling out the dough. Once the dough is wide enough, the butter is laid in the center and the outlying flaps are folded around the butter, rolled out, folded again, and chilled. These steps are repeated a few more times, each with a nuanced fold. This results in those flaky, buttery layers. After folding the dough more times than you’d fold paper to make an origami bird, the dough’s chilled for an additional two hours.
Two hours later the time comes to roll out the dough a once more. This takes about as much time as rolling out the butter as the dough needs to span nearly three feet before it’s thin enough to be cut into triangles and rolled up to proof. The dough yields twelve rolls with ends left over.
I tasted the leftover dough out of pure curiosity, and no dough, no batter, no mix of any kind has ever been so delicious. The only explanation is the butter center that seamlessly spread throughout the entire dough with every fold. Butter really does make everything better.
I left to run to the grocery store while my dough proofed, and came home to dough that was exactly the same size, just a bit puffier. I concluded the baking sheets weren’t in a warm enough spot for the dough to rise, so I moved them under a light and turned up the heat. After rereading the recipe I discovered that the dough doesn’t need to get much bigger, just swell a bit, and decided that, twenty-seven hours after starting, my croissants were ready to be baked.
Although they didn’t turn out picturesque, the croissants tasted delicious. These little wonders are everything: buttery, flaky, savory and sweet. The layers are worth every second I spent pounding the butter into oblivion. I’m not sure who first baked croissants, but I owe him or her my sincerest thanks and praise. What an invention. On par with microwaves, if you ask me.
One Thanksgiving, maybe 6 years ago, my mom made store-bought crescent rolls. The little pop-open roll yielded about eight rolls, and I am the only person at the table who ate one. And by one, I mean all eight. I ate every single roll before my mom could even suggest passing them around the table. I absolutely love crescent rolls, but homemade croissants are better. Mom, I think next Thanksgiving you can skip the crescent rolls. I’ll bring these instead.