I recommend getting a cup of coffee and a snack before you sit down to read this post - it's lengthy and it's guaranteed to make you hungry.
Okay, now that you're ready, let me tell you about my first experience with homemade croissants. I first came across a recipe for croissants in the January issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I've never actually attempted homemade croissants because quite honestly - I was intimidated by this delicate pastry. After reading through 3 full pages of instructions, I came to the conclusion that mastering croissants was not going to be easy. It took a couple of months for me to work up the courage to conquer this recipe but I dreamed of the satisfaction that it would bring if I could pull it off.
The recipe warns that it takes a minimum of 10 hours to prepare the croissants (not including my trip to the store) so I set aside plenty of time. It was a lengthy process but it was fun, and at times even stress revealing.
3 Tablespoons butter
24 Tablespoons European-style butter
1 3/4 cups whole milk
4 teaspoons yeast
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
Place dough on baking sheet, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Transfer dough to freezer for 30 minutes. Transfer dough to counter and roll into an 18 by 16 inch rectangle.
Holding triangle by the 2 corners on either side of the slit, start to roll up the croissants. Gently tuck the end of the croissant underneath and bring the two ends together.
Place croissants on a baking sheet at least 2 1/2 inches apart. Lightly warp with plastic wrap and let rise 2 1/2 - 3 hours. You can also refrigerate formed croissants for up to 18 hours or freeze them for up to 2 months. (Refrigerated croissants take an extra 30 minutes to rise and frozen croissants take an extra 1-2 hours to rise.) I put mine in the freezer because I didn't want to bake my croissants at 10:00 at night. The next morning I set out 4 croissants to rise. (I only planned to make 4 croissants because I wanted to save the others for a special occasion.)
Heat oven to 425. Whisk together egg, water and a pinch of salt. Brush croissants with egg wash and place in oven.
Reduce heat to 400 and bake 12 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake another 8-12 minutes.
After 10 hours of croissant preparation, to say that my expectations of these pastries was high, is an understatement. As I pulled the tray out of the oven, the overwhelming smell of buttery dough was captivating. I quickly slid them to a cooling rack so I could take a quick picture of the warm pastries.
There was no need to add butter to these croissants. They were a perfect balance of rich and buttery goodness with light, flaky, delicate layers of dough. This was by far the best croissant that I have ever had - it was CRAZY good! It took less than 2 minutes to eat the entire croissant and then the picture taking resumed.
I was so glad that I had only defrosted 4 croissants because I don't think I could have stopped myself from eating a whole lot more of these. I managed to find the will power to save the other 3 croissants for my family. (Mostly because I had already promised them a sampling.)
I have 18 croissants left in my freezer to save for another day. I'm not quite sure what occasion I will deem special enough for these labor intensive pastries but you can be sure that it will be soon. These would be a perfect compliment to any brunch menu.
Hungry yet? Don't say that I didn't warn you. I was so proud of my very first batch of homemade croissants. I think I found a new favorite recipe to add to my collection.
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