The History of Croissants
Ah, the classic French croissant. Its crust is buttery, flaky and shatters with each bite. Its inside is airy, soft and still oh-so-buttery. It has a honeycomb-like appearance on the inside, with its many layers of dough and butter. They are time consuming, requiring at least two days to make in a bakery or to make croissants at home. And they are iconic to French cuisine.
But croissants were in fact inspired by an Austrian cookie called kipfel. Kipfel cookies are crescent-shaped and made with lots of butter, just like croissants. But they usually are also made with sugar and almonds. Interestingly, you couldn’t find croissants in France except for a few bakeries here and there until the 1800’s. Then more and more French bakers started taking the kipfel and making it with puff pastry, allowing it to have that illustrious airy, flaky texture.
Baking Croissants at Home – Difficulty Level: Extreme
I’ll be honest – up until this year, I never thought I would ever dream of finding myself making croissants at home from scratch. They are extremely time-intensive, finicky, and delicate. The margin of error is miniscule. A lot can go wrong during the preparation of the dough, the lamination of the dough with butter, the timing of all the turning and rolling out and folding, the proofing times and temperatures… You get my point. Baking French croissants is not for the faint of heart! But as I was writing my 2022 Kitchen Bucket List, I felt a pull to dive head first and attempt to make croissants at home from scratch.
What Went Wrong
Surprisingly, my first attempt turned out not too shabby. The crust crunches and shatters as you bite into it. And the inside is soft, buttery, and pulls apart in airy layers. But during baking, things got a little crazy. After just a few minutes of my first croissants baking in the oven, I started to smell burning butter. I flipped on the oven light to find butter melting out of the croissants, off the pan, and dripping onto the oven floor, causing the oven to fill with smoke. Quickly I turned off the oven and rescued my barely-baked croissants. I transferred the croissants to the fridge to allow the butter to cool and harden again. After cleaning all the melted butter off the oven floor, I made a doubtful second attempt. In a different pan with taller walls to catch any melting butter, and with croissants straight from the fridge, I was able to create these beauties.
I’m not sure what exactly went wrong. All the recipes I looked at said to proof the croissants at room temperature, and then immediately transfer them into the oven. Therefore the butter in the dough would be room temperature upon entering the oven. But even with my croissants coming straight from the fridge with cold butter, it still melted into a buttery bath in the pan. If anyone out there has any insight, please let me know. 😊💡
What Went Right
There were a number of things that luckily went right while making these croissants.
First, I used the alarm app on my phone to set a reminder alarm each time I needed to proceed with the next step of preparing the croissants. For example, the dough was rolled out, folded, rested, and then rolled out and folded again several times at various time intervals. An alarm helped me stay on track with each important step.
Second, I also used a more delicious butter from Kerrygold. Since butter plays a huge roll in croissants, the flavor of your butter makes a huge difference in the taste. And European butters like Kerrygold have a slightly higher butterfat percentage as compared to American butters. More butterfat means there is less water in the butter, creating an even flakier texture.
Helpful Resources to Make Croissants at Home
The recipe I followed was from the book Tartine: A Classic Revisited. I would definitely recommend following a recipe from a professional baker if possible, with experience making croissants day in and day out. Here are some other helpful resources to learn how to make your own croissants!
- How to Make the Perfect Croissant – a video tutorial by Claire Saffitz, an editor at Bon Appetit
- How to Make Croissants by Hand – a video tutorial by Joshua Weissman
- Step-by-Step photos, video and recipe for Chocolate Croissants by Sally’s Baking Addiction
- Inside a renowned French bakery preparing their croissants for the day & their secrets to creating the best croissants
How to Enjoy Croissants
Honestly, croissants are so packed with buttery goodness that they are a divine treat on their own. Or tear it apart into pieces and dip it into a sweet jam. But if you’re looking to elevate your croissant game even further, try these delicious recipes.