How to make croissants: the perfect pastry, perfected

Want to take your holiday baking to new heights? The Holiday 2018 issue of Sift magazine features lots of special-occasion recipes. And no baking adventure is more impressive than creating the light, shatteringly delicate layers found in buttery croissants.

If you’ve ever wondered how to make croissants, we’re happy to share our step-by-step sequence for assembling this dough. Croissants are made from puff pastry, which isn’t difficult; it needs only a bit of patience. Paying attention to small details makes a big difference when you pull the fragrant, buttery results from the oven. These are the key points for executing amazing puff pastry from scratch.

If you want to know how to make croissants, you need to begin with lamination. That’s the technique of enclosing a pliable slab of butter inside dough, then rolling and folding it to create pastry’s layered texture.

How to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

1. Neatness counts

First, let’s pick our recipe. We’re going use the classic Baker’s Croissants. The dough is made with yeast and, once mixed, is patted into a 12″ square. No kneading is necessary, since the rolling and folding you’re about to do takes its place.

After mixing the butter with a little flour to soften and stabilize it, it too is shaped into a square and placed “on point” in the center of the dough, like a diamond in a square. Take care with neat corners and straight lines; it will make a big difference in the finished product.

Bring the corners of the dough to the center over the butter, and pinch the seams together to completely surround it. Dust the top with flour and turn the packet over.

How to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

2. The first roll and first fold

Tap the dough lightly with a rolling pin, encouraging it into a rectangular shape. Roll it into a 20″ x 10″ rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough to the center of the rectangle, and the top third over that. Take care to line the edges up over one another.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

3. Second fold

Turn the dough 90°, so it looks like a book ready to be opened. Tack down the corners with a little water if the layers slide around. Roll and fold the dough once more, same as you did the first time.

At this point, the dough will be ready to cover and rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This timeout will allow the butter to firm up, and the gluten in the dough to relax. The last fold will be much easier afterward.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

4. One more fold, then ready to shape

After resting the dough, give it one more rollout and fold. See how nicely the dough is shaping up? Once the last fold is executed, chill the dough for 20 to 30 minutes before dividing it in half.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

Cut the dough in half, and wrap and chill the remainder (you can freeze it for later for up to a month if you like). The cross-section above shows off the many distinct layers of dough and butter, ready to be rolled, cut, shaped, and baked.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

5. Cut and shape

Roll your half batch of dough into a 13″ x 18″ rectangle. Use a pastry wheel to trim 1/4″ to 1/2″ of the dough’s outer edges before cutting into portions. Trimming the edges allows the dough to rise higher during baking. Save the trimmings and roll with sugar to make a quick morning bun.

Now cut the dough in thirds top to bottom, and in half across the center. Then cut each rectangle into two triangles, as shown above.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

6. Notch and roll

Cut a 3/4″ notch in the base of the croissant’s dough triangle; this allows you to curve it as you roll it up. Make sure the point of the dough ends up underneath each croissant. Hint: It’s OK to stretch the point of the triangle a little to make the end land where you want it.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

Make square croissants

For square-shaped filled croissants, roll and cut the dough as described above, but leave the dough in six rectangles.

Place the filling in the center of the rectangle with the long side facing you; we’re using pain au chocolat sticks in the photo above. Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then roll the croissant over to put the seam on the bottom. Press it down gently to flatten it before transferring it to the baking sheet.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

After letting croissants rise and brushing with egg wash, they’ll bake up into something as lovely as these Spinach Croissants.

Learning how to make croissant dough is immensely satisfying; once the dough is done, you have the chance to make all sorts of pastry magic. Whether plain, savory, or chocolate-filled, warm, fresh croissants are not to be missed.

Tender and sweet morning buns are the a wonderful of treat, and any pastry tray is made more intriguing with some Tahini Chocolate Bear Claws.

how to make croissants via @kingarthurflour

A little time, care, and technique can turn flour and butter into the best kind of occasion. We hope you’ll make use of this tutorial on how to make croissants to turn out your own brilliant pastries for your lucky family and friends.

For more recipes, techniques, and pastry perfection, check out the Holiday 2018 issue of Sift magazine.

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Margaret

    I’m and experienced baker but have only attempted laminated dough many years ago as a naive young cook making Beef Wellington. Even professional bakers say this is a tough go without a sheeter, but I wanted to “conquer” this last baking frontier.
    I made these this weekend and despite the fact that my butter kept trying to escape and my edges were not nearly as neat as the photos, they came out better than expected. I made plain croissants, ham and cheese, chocolate and almond…so good, family loved them.
    My issue was that the bottoms got very brown. Next time I am going to use a light colored pan.
    So appreciative of this blog!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Way to go Margaret! So glad you had success. And yes, light colored baking pans are our preference in almost every instance. Congratulations! Susan

  2. sandy

    This post is so helpful and the photos are great. I cannot wait to try making these on a long cold afternoon. I do have a couple of questions. The recipe says to put the shaped pastries in the fridge for 30 mins before baking. Is it possible to keep them shaped and in the fridge for a longer time and still have good results? It would be nice to shape them earlier in the day and then bake in the evening for dinner with friends. Also what about shaping and freezing the shaped but unbaked rolls. Would that work?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sandy! As far as keeping them in the fridge for a few hours, that should be fine. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t getting too puffy too fast, otherwise, you’ll need to bake them pronto so they don’t overproof and collapse. Wrap them loosely but well so they don’t try out — a trash bag is perfect for this. As for freezing, it’s not ideal, but you can try freezing them shaped, let them thaw in the fridge overnight, then on the counter until they’re puffy. Because activated yeast always dies in the freezer, they won’t rise as much, but if they’re frozen for a week or less they should still be wonderful! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Jess

    Thanks for this great tutorial! When I have made Bakers’ Croissants in the past, I have had the problem of the butter pushing through the dough when I roll it. How thick is the dough supposed to be before you place the initial butter square? How rigid is the butter square supposed to be? Other thoughts on how to keep the dough and butter layers separate? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Jess. This dough is a little on the floppy side, and it’s a bit of a dance for it to be firm enough to hold itself together and soft enough to extend as you ask it to take on the longer dimensions. The best advice I can give you it to have the butter be pretty pliable; you should be able to dent it with your finger with very little effort. The other thing to do is to do only one roll and fold, then put the dough in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Set a timer! You don’t want the butter to get hard, only for the whole package to firm up a little bit and the dough to rest. Spacing things out with more time outs than less should get you where you want to go. Susan

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