Oh, croissants, how do I love thee? If there is one thing you should know about me it is that I love baking. Cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, bread... you name it, I love to bake it (and eat it). However, I have always been intimidated by the croissant. How is it possible to make such a beautiful, flaky, delicious treat at home? All those layers seem impossible to recreate in my own kitchen.
In addition to loving baking, I also love making lists, including a list of my New Year’s Resolutions. I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from crossing things off of my to-do list (this includes tasks that I have already done but add to my list just so that I can cross them off - and yes, I know that makes no sense) and in achieving a resolution that I have made. In 2010, one of my resolutions was to make homemade croissants! I enlisted my husband to help me make these one weekend (yes, it takes several days ) and the end result was surprisingly fabulous. After much internet and cookbook research and advice from a wonderful friend, Ali, who has an incredible cooking blog called Alexandra’s Kitchen, I settled on a recipe from Tartine, the famous San Francisco bakery. The recipe is contained in the Tartine Cookbook, but an intrepid blogger at The Way the Cook Crumbles has posted the entire recipe online as well.
The entire recipe is quite long and available at The Way the Cookie Crumbles, so I am not going to re-post it. However, I do have a few tips to share should you decide to make these.
First, the word "croissant" is, of course, French. The etymology is that croissant means "crescent" and is the present participle of croître (“to grow”). I thought this was interesting because it leads into a discussion of two key aspects of making croissants. First, the shape! It is tricky to perfect the shape and we definitely had a few funky-looking croissants (I've conveniently omitted those photos). However, the shape became easier to achieve and more uniform with practice and the oddly-shaped croissants were, of course, still delicious.
Second, the "to grow" aspect is indicative of the HUGE size of some of our croissants. The first few croissants we rolled were colossal, especially after they rose for the second time. The cookbook states that the yield of the recipe will be 16-18 croissants, but after seeing how large our first few were, we sized ours down considerably. As a result, our yield was closer to three dozen. The best part is that if you aren't making these for a specific event where they will all be consumed, you can freeze the leftovers! After baking all of the croissants, follow the easy instructions available here. We had homemade croissants that we heated in the oven for a few minutes before eating for two months. It was awesome!
Third, it is easy to turn these into pain au chocolat! We used Valrhona chocolate pieces (I purchase mine at Whole Foods but you can also order them online or use whatever you have on hand). You have to roll the croissants into a different shape to keep the chocolate inside (see the image at right) but they are easy to make and wow do they taste great!
Fourth, it really does a while to make croissants, so be sure to allow enough time. I started by making the preferment on Friday night and I finally baked off the croissants on Sunday. There isn't an overwhelming amount of active time, but there is a lot of chilling and rising time and rolling out the croissants takes quite a bit of muscle (I enlisted my husband's help for that step in particular). The nice thing about making these over the course of the weekend was that I was able to leave to do things in between steps -- it might be tricky to do this during the week.
Finally, enjoy! Never have I felt so satisfied at the end of baking and it was so fun to have croissants that I could pop in the oven when we had guests for brunch or when I wanted dessert or a treat. They were still delicious when re-heated and at all times SO much better than store-bought and most bakery-bought croissants.