Are you ready to start making your own croissants at home? Read for all the tips, things to look out for, helpful resources, and delicious recipes!
I'll be honest - up until I first attempted to make croissants from scratch, I never dreamed that I would find myself making them. Croissants are 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 and folding, the proofing times and temperatures... You get my point. But the outcome is so rewarding!
I've made several batches of croissants, and I want to share all my beginner tips for making croissants with you. I've spent the last four years developing foolproof recipes for beginner home bakers. And while croissants may be the go-to for "beginners" I believe anyone can bake amazing croissants, with patience and attention to detail.
What is a Croissant?
Ah, the classic French croissant. Its crust is buttery, flaky and shatters with each bite. Its inside is airy, soft and moist. It has a honeycomb-like appearance on the inside, with its many layers of dough and butter.
To achieve all this delectable flavor and texture, they require at least two days to make. And these pastries are iconic to French cuisine.
The History of Croissants
Croissants were actually 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. Once French bakers started making the kipfel with puff pastry, it allowed it to have that illustrious flaky texture, more closely resembling today's croissant.
Best Flour for Croissants
The best flour for croissants contains a relatively high amount of protein and produces a strong gluten structure. These two factors strengthen the dough, so it won't tear during the lamination process.
A strong gluten structure means your croissants will develop the airy layers on the inside.
Protein in flour holds onto moisture, so using a flour with more protein means your dough will retain more moisture so your croissants won't dry out.
Finally, using the right flour will help your croissants rise in the oven. More protein in the flour helps trap more air during fermentation and baking, so your croissants will be fluffy and airy on the inside.
Types of Flour
Most croissant recipes either use bread flour, all purpose flour, or pastry flour, or a combination of these. Bread flour contains the highest amount of protein at 12% to 14%. It makes really chewy and elastic croissants. All purpose flour contains 10% to 12% protein, and pastry flour contains 8% to 10% protein, producing more delicate baked goods.
Best Butter for Croissants
The best butter for croissants is a high quality butter with a high fat content. Since so much butter goes into croissants, the flavor and quality of the butter makes a huge difference. Similar to buttercream frosting, the butter's flavor can affect the flavor of the entire recipe. If there was ever a time to splurge on quality butter, it's when you make croissants from scratch.
High fat content in butter means your croissants will have better flavor, layers, and moisture.
Butter usually contains milk fats, water, and milk solids. The more fat in your butter, the less water it contains, so your butter will have a richer, more buttery flavor. It also helps create distinct layers of butter in your dough, to get the iconic flaky layers. And a higher fat content means your dough will retain more moisture, so the inside of your croissant will be tender and moist.
Croissant recipes often recommend using European style butter, which contains a high amount of fat, around 82%. However, the higher butterfat percentage means these butters are softer and can melt faster. So as you're working with your dough, make sure everything stays cool so the butter doesn't melt.
How to Store Croissants
Croissants, like many flaky pastries, are best enjoyed fresh on the day they're baked. Overtime, they can dry out and harden. Store leftover croissants at room temperature in a paper bag for 1 to 2 days, to help maintain their texture.
Can you Freeze Croissants?
You can freeze both unbaked and baked croissants.
To freeze unbaked croissants, it's best to freeze them after rolling and shaping them, but before the final prove. Place them on a baking sheet and freeze them until they're pretty solid, after about an hour. Transfer the partially frozen croissants to a freezer safe bag, or wrap each one individually in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil. Store unbaked frozen croissants in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To freeze baked croissants, allow them to cool completely. Wrap each croissant in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow baked frozen croissants to thaw at room temperature for about 2 hours.
How to Bake Frozen Croissants?
Since unbaked croissants were frozen before their final prove, we need to prove before baking them in the oven. Thaw frozen unbaked croissants at room temperature and allow them to prove for about 2 to 3 hours. Then you can add the egg wash and bake them according to your recipe's directions.
How to Reheat Croissants?
I recommend reheating croissants in the oven. A microwave could cause them to turn too soft, losing all of its flaky, crispy exterior.
To reheat croissants in the oven, wrap each croissant individually in aluminum foil. Bake them on a baking sheet at 350°F for 5 to 10 minutes, until they're warm. Carefully unwrap the croissants and enjoy!
Tips to Making Croissants at Home
- Use an alarm to set reminders each time you need to proceed with the next step of preparing the croissants.
- Use the best butter you can find. Since butter plays a huge roll in croissants, the flavor of your butter makes a huge difference in the taste. I've used Kerrygold butter, I and love the flavor it gives homemade croissants.
- Just like with pie dough, you want to keep your croissant dough cold so the butter doesn't melt.
- The lamination process is critical to develop croissant's iconic buttery layers. Try to roll out the dough as evenly and neatly as possible. Shape your butter block so it has straight, even edges.
- Don't skip the final proofing of the dough after shaping it. This final proof allows the dough more time to rise and develop its rich flavor.
- Watch your oven closely as your croissants bake. My first attempt resulted in the smell of burning butter after only a couple minutes, since butter was quickly melting out of the croissants and onto the bottom of the hot oven. Stay vigilant! 🙂
- Bake croissants on parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat to prevent sticking and to ensure the bottoms are evenly golden brown.
- Use a lightly floured worked surface - if you add too much flour as you roll out your dough, your dough could become less elastic. More flour can results in drier croissants. Use a pastry brush or shake off any excess flour you see on your dough.
Helpful Resources to Make Croissants at Home
I would definitely recommend following a recipe from a professional baker if possible, with experience making croissants day in and day out. The recipe I usually follow to make homemade croissants is from the cookbook Tartine: A Classic Revisited.
If it's your first time making croissants, I recommend to watch several tutorial videos before embarking on your pastry journey. 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
How to Enjoy Croissants
Honestly, croissants are so packed with buttery goodness that they are a divine treat on their own. Or tear them into pieces and dip into a sweet jam. But if you're looking to elevate your croissant game even further, you can make bread pudding or French toast!