Here's the thing: croissants are nothing like what you are picturing or tasting in your mind. They are not the cardboard-y things you get your breakfast sandwiches on at Dunkin' Donuts, or anything you grab at the air port at Au Bon Pain - and don't get me started on the canned ones. I don't know what those things are exactly, because I highly doubt any of those places spend the crazy amount of time making croissants the right way... but I did this year on Easter. And let me tell you, it was worth it.
I have wanted to try these out for over a year, but they looked pretty intense and I knew if I was going to spend hours making a bread, it would need to be for a special occasion. When Kenzie took over making Easter dinner, I knew the time was right! I got up really early so that I could start the dough, which was a fairly simple pastry dough.
And then it was time to make the butter square. Yeah you read that correctly: I had to make a square out of butter. That would be three sticks of butter, cut into tablespoons, mashed together with a dough scraper until you form a lovely rectangle made solely out of butter. I admit that doing this made my arms hurt and my mother declare that she would not enjoy eating anything with so much butter in it, but they, it was Easter! A time to celebrate! A time to make a 7-inch square of butter!
Then comes the fun: you roll out the dough and place the butter square right in the middle, and then fold it up like a delicious buttery present. You gently tap the dough with your rolling pin until you have rolled it out flat and the butter has become one with the dough. Fold into thirds, chill, and repeat the process of rolling out and folding.
The shaping of the croissants was my least favorite part because I really sucked at folding them. I wasn't even that great at cutting the dough into triangles, which is probably why I was so bad at folding. Some of my croissants looked more like crabs than little crescents, but that's okay - they tasted the same.
Anyway these are definitely not a weeknight bread to try out... in total, I think it took me about 8 hours, even if most of it was waiting and chilling. But WOW were they worth it.
from Annie's Eats, originally adapted form Baking Illustrated
Yield: 12 croissants
For the dough:
3 cups (15 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1 tbsp. instant yeast
¼ cup (1¾ oz.) sugar
1¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups whole milk, cold
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
For the butter square:
24 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and kept cold
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1) To make the dough, combine 2¾ cups of the flour together with the yeast, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside. Add the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the dry ingredients and knead on low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the dough. Continue to knead until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. The dough should form a ball and begin to clear the sides of the bowl, about 5-6 minutes more. The dough should be sticky but if the dough sticks more to the bowl than itself, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour a small bit at a time as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
9) Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Brush the shaped croissants lightly with the egg wash. Bake until the croissants are golden brown, 18-22 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Allow to cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days or wrap well and freeze. Reheat in a 300˚ F oven for 5-10 minutes.