A note on flour. Although you can produce excellent croissants from all-purpose flour, bread flour, or frozen packaged white dough, the high gluten content makes for hard and rubbery rolling out. A mixture of 2 parts unbleached pastry flour and 1 part unbleached all-purpose flour gives a dough that is much easier to handle. Croissants made from unbleached flour are more tender in texture than those made from bleached flour; oil added to the basic dough helps to tenderize bleached flours. Measure flour by scooping cup into bag; sweep off excess with the straight edge of a knife.
The Basic Yeast Dough
For 1 dozen 5½-inch croissants
- 1 package (¼ ounce) dry active yeast
- ¼ cup warm water (not over 110 degrees)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ Tb sugar
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, add the salt and sugar, and let yeast stand until it has dissolved and risen in a soft mass on top of the liquid. This will take 5 minutes or so; prepare rest of ingredients while waiting for yeast to prove itself.
- 2 cups white flour (about 9 ounces; see notes above)
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 Tb sugar
- A mixing bowl
- For bleached flour: 4 Tb tasteless cooking oil
- For unbleached flour: 2 Tb tasteless cooking oil
- ⅓ to ½ cup tepid milk
Place flour, salt, sugar, and oil in mixing bowl; add the dissolved yeast and ⅓ cup of tepid milk. Blend with a rubber spatula, pressing dough into a mass, then turn out onto a board. Begin lifting dough and throwing it roughly down on the board with one hand—it should be fairly soft and somewhat sticky at first; if it seems stiff, work in more milk by droplets. Continue lifting and throwing and, as dough becomes more elastic, folding and kneading it with the heel of your hand. Be rough, rapid, and energetic; in about 3 minutes dough should have enough body so it is smooth, elastic, and does not stick to your hand. (If still sticky at this point, knead in a bit more flour.)
Place dough in a clean bowl, set in a plastic bag, and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk; it should be light, and recede slightly to the pressure of your finger. At room temperature, rising time will be 1 to 1½ hours. If room is cold, place dough in a warming oven, on a pillow over a radiator, or on an electric pad or blanket: rising temperature should be no more than 85 degrees, or yeast will overferment, and either lose its strength or impart an unpleasant taste to the dough. You can retard rising time by placing bowl in refrigerator: cover with a plate and a weight, and leave overnight. In any case, dough must rise to double, but it must not overrise, or again the yeast will overferment.
Punching Down and Chilling
When dough has risen, remove from bowl and punch down into a flat circle. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for about 20 minutes; this will make the next step easier. (Dough may be frozen at this point.)
Basic Yeast Dough Becomes Croissant Dough
(You may use frozen packaged white dough: following the thaw-and-rise directions on the package, you will have arrived at this point. Half of a 1¼-pound frozen package equals the amount of homemade dough in this recipe.)
- 1 stick (¼ lb.) chilled butter
Work the butter into a smooth consistency by beating it with a rolling pin, then pushing it out rapidly by bits with the heel of your hand; it must be entirely free of lumps, cold, and malleable, so it will roll easily with the dough. Form butter into a 5-inch square.
With palms of hands, press cold dough into a flat 9-inch circle; set the butter square on top. Fold edges of dough up over butter, pinching edges together to seal in butter completely. Flour package lightly on both sides and place on board, enclosure side up.
Turns 1 and 2
With a lightly floured rolling pin, and pushing down and away from you, rapidly roll the package into a rectangle about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide. Keep sides of rectangle as straight as possible, and remember that your object is to spread the layer of butter evenly between the two layers of dough the length and width of the rectangle. Sprinkle board and top of dough lightly with flour as necessary, to prevent sticking.
Fold the dough in three, as though folding a business letter, by lifting bottom of rectangle up over half the dough, and bringing top of rectangle down, making 3 even layers. Turn dough so top flap is to your right; roll again into a 15x5-inch rectangle, and fold again into 3 layers. Flour lightly, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours; this chills the butter and relaxes the gluten or rubbery quality in the dough so that it may be rolled and folded again.
Turns 3 and 4
Repeat the process, with 2 more rollings and foldings into three. You now have 82 layers of dough and 81 layers of butter! Wrap and chill for 2 hours before forming the croissants. (Dough may be frozen at this point.)
Forming the Croissants
Lightly butter a 12x14-inch baking sheet. Roll the chilled dough into a rectangle about 20 inches by 5 inches; cut in half crosswise and chill one half.Roll reserved dough into a 12x5-inch rectangle and cut into thirds. Refrigerate two of the thirds. Roll one of the thirds into a 5½-inch square and cut in half on the bias. You now have two triangles; roll one triangle to extend its point, making triangle about 7 inches long. With your fingers, fold top over onto itself, and continue rolling up dough toward point of triangle with the palm of your hand. Bend the two ends to make the crescent shape, and place on baking sheet, point of triangle underneath. Continue with rest of dough, making 12 croissants in all. (Keep unformed dough chilled, for easy handling.)
Let croissants rise for an hour or more at room temperature, until almost doubled, and light in texture. (Risen croissants may be frozen, then baked while still frozen.)
Glazing and Baking
- 1 egg beaten with ½ tsp water
(Preheat oven to 475 degrees.)
Set rack in middle level. Paint croissants with the egg to glaze them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. (Cooled baked croissants may be frozen; to serve, reheat for a few minutes at 400 degrees.)
Excerpted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child. Copyright © 2002 by Julia Child. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.