If you’re looking for an extra special touch to a Mother’s Day brunch this weekend, nothing can top a batch of homemade croissants. Buttery, ultra-thin layers of yeasted dough create these delicate French pastries, which are crisp and flaky on the edges but soft and moist on the inside. The process takes some time and patience, but the reward of a freshly baked homemade croissant is unparalleled. You’re in for a treat — and so is Mom.
For the croissant dough:
1/2 oz. (15 g.) fresh cake yeast or 2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. warm water (105-115 degrees F/40-46 degrees C)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) cold whole milk
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz./390 g.) all-purpose flour
For the butter package:
1 cup (8 oz./250 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbs. whole milk
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
To mix the dough by hand: In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, the salt, melted butter, milk, the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups (10 oz./315 g.) flour 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) at a time and mix just until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.
To mix the dough by stand mixer: In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, the salt, melted butter, milk and the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed until combined. Gradually add the flour 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) at a time and mix just until the dough comes together in a stick mass.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch (12 mm.) thick. Transfer to a half-sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 40 minutes.
To make the butter package, using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60 degrees F (16 degrees C). Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into a 6-by-8-inch (15-by-20-cm.) rectangle. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable (60 degrees F/16 degrees C).
To laminate the dough (that is, to roll and fold it with butter to create layers), on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm.) rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1/2-inch (12-mm.) border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then, with a folded side to your left, roll out the dough into a 10-by-24–inch (25-by-60-cm.) rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Return the chilled dough to the lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding and chill the dough eat time, for a total of 4 turns. After the final turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or for up to overnight.
To form the croissants, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a 9-by-18-inch (23-by-45-cm.) rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, and then cut each half crosswise into 4 squares, for a total of 8 squares. Cut each square in half on the diagonal.
Lightly butter 2 half-sheet pans. Working with 1 triangle at a time, gently stretch each triangle to about twice its original length. Then, gently stretch the wide end of the triangle. Lay the triangle on the work surface with the point facing you. Place your hands at the top on the wide end and gently roll the pastry toward you. Just before you get to the end, smear the tip against the work surface with your thumb. Continue to roll until the tip is on the underside. Place, tip side down, on a prepared pan. For the classic shape, turn the ends in slightly toward the center. Repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them about 3 inches (7.5 cm.) apart. Place in a warm, draft-free spot, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the pastries rise until they double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Lightly brush the tops of the pastries with the egg mixture. Bake the pastries, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Makes 16 croissants.
Don’t have time to make them from scratch? Try our award-winning croissants from Galaxy Desserts, made by hand in the traditional French technique.