Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. – Lewis Carroll
One of my most favorite things to eat is the ever so flaky croissant. It was one of my favorite things to bake when I did the pastry chef thing. Laminating was a craft that I wanted to perfect. I wanted to get a feel for the dough that was innate. Well, I’m not sure I ever did make it to that point, but I sure do still love making croissant dough. Now, it’s definitely a lot more difficult to do this at home with a rolling pin compared to doing it with a commercial sheeter, but it’s still very possible. Why not give it a go and perfect the craft?
Laminating refers to the technique in which you fold layers of butter in with layers of dough. This process is pretty simple to do, but hard to master. If the butter is too cold when the dough is rolled out you won’t get those nice flakey layers. Conversely, if the butter is too warm when the dough is rolled out you also won’t get those nice flaky layers. I want to say that I have a fool-proof method of knowing when the right time is, but it’s really about getting a feel for it. It’s easiest to feel along the “spine” of the croissant dough to tell if it’s ready to go. I will say this…even if you don’t get this perfect, you’ll still get a tasty pastry so don’t stress and have fun!
The recipe I use comes from an old school textbook from my French Culinary Institute days (now the International Culinary Center) so it’s in baker’s percentages, but THIS LINK from Epicurious is in cups and is a pretty straightforward recipe. I do have a few method changes I’d like to point out, however. You can use regular unsalted butter, but European style butter such as Plugra will give you a better croissant. The fat content in European butter is higher which means there is less moisture. It’ll give you a softer croissant and also shatter less easily if it’s too cold during the roll out. One of the other things I’d do differently is utilize parchment paper for the butter before locking it into the dough rather than using kitchen towels. The best way to check to see if the butter is too cold to lock is by holding the butter over the table’s edge and try to bend it. If it cracks, it’s too cold. The best way to check to see if the butter is too warm is by trying to peel the parchment off the butter. If it sticks and pulls butter away as you peel it, it’s too warm. Easy, right?
You got this!
So you’ve got croissant dough. Now what? Well, a plain croissant would be a great litmus test for how you’ve done with the lamination. If you cut the croissant in half and look at its cross section, you should see a pronounced spiral pattern. This means the butter layered properly giving the layers of dough a nice mechanical boost during the bake. But you know what I love doing with croissant dough? Going crazy!
Here are a few fun things I’ve made with croissant dough in the past:
Baklava Spirals – Toasted walnuts, honey, lemon zest, a pinch of cinnamon
Breakfast Croissants – Scrambled eggs, bacon bits, and cheese
Pizza Spirals – Tomato sauce, fresh basil, shredded mozzarella
Spanakopita – Spinach (though I just made it with kale because that’s what I had on hand), onions, garlic, lemon zest, and feta cheese
Really, go crazy. Come up with things that you love eating and see if you can’t make it work with croissant dough. In fact, I have it in my mind to make a kimchi cream cheese and spiced ham croissant. Wha????!
Some other things you can do is mess with the butter. I’ve made an herbed compound butter before locking in. How about a citrus zest butter? Or garlic butter? And there’s always the dough. Switch out some of the wheat flour for rye flour. This dough is completely customizable.
I’ve posted a time lapse video on my Instagram account @foodcationforever. Come check it out!