Croissant Dough

This recipe makes two “packages” of croissant dough. A package of dough will be enough for 6 croissants, or 6 morning buns, or 3 cronuts. Each of these is made from croissant dough.

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After testing several different recipes, I found that Julia Child seemed to be the best, so much of the following recipe and directions are from Volume 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I guess that is not surprising since the croissant is definitely a French goodie; make it like the French would! I tried doubling the recipe but the dough just didn’t feel the same.

Making croissant dough is rather time consuming; there are several periods in which the dough is either rising, or resting, so that it can be further worked. I have been lucky in that my rise times have been less than half of the expected time to rise; there is no way to speed up the resting times. To make life easier, I spread the making of the dough, and the making of the finished product over two days; on the first day, I get the dough made, and then let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I finish making the desired end product.

Croissant Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope of dry active yeast
  • 3 Tb warm water (not over 100 degrees)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup milk warmed to tepid in a small sauce-pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tb tasteless salad oil
  • 1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter taken from the refrigerator only when needed after dough is on the plate (see directions)

Directions

  1. Mark the outside of your bowl for measures you will want later.
    The 2 cups of dough is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to 7 cups. Later the dough will rise to double its original volume. To tell when the dough has risen enough, the outside of the bowl is marked. Fill the bowl with 4 cups of water, and mark the outside to tell where double the original volume is. Now add 3 more cups of water for a total of 7 cups and again mark the outside to tell where 3 1/2 the original volume is. Pour out the water, and dry the bowl.
  2. Mix the yeast in the warm water with the 1 tsp sugar and let liquefy completely while measuring out the rest of the ingredients.

  3. Dissolve the 2 tsps sugar and the salt in the tepid milk.
  4. Measure the flour into a 3 – 4 quart mixing bowl. When the yeast is liquefied, pour it along with the milk mixture and oil into the flour. Blend the elements into a dough by cutting and pressing with a rubber spatula, being certain all bits of flour are moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a kneading surface scraping the bowl clean. Let the dough rest for 2 to 3 minutes. The short rest allows the flour to absorb the liquid; the dough will be quite soft and sticky. Wash and dry the bowl while you wait.
  6. Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a scraper or spatula to help, and flipping it over onto the other side. Rapidly repeat the movement from one side to the other and end over end 8 to 10 times until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out. This is all the kneading it should have; it should give the dough just enough body so it will hold together when eventually rolled, but still not over-activating the gluten and making the dough difficult to handle.
  7. Put the dough into the bowl.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic and an insulating blanket like a bath towel, and place it at a temperature between 70 and 72 degrees. In 3 or 4 hours the dough should have risen to the 7-cup mark and will be light and springy when touched.
  9. Deflate the dough by loosening it from the edges of the bowl with a rubber spatula or the cupped fingers of one hand, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. With the lightly floured palms of the hands, pat and push the dough out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches. Fold into thirds as though folding a buisness letter- the bottom third of the rectangle up onto the middle third, and then the top third of the rectangle down onto the middle third. Return the dough to the bowl; cover again with plastic and the insulating blanket.
  10. Let the dough rise a second time (about 1 1/2 hours), to double the original volume (the 4 cup mark).
    (*)To put the process on hold, or slow it down, set the dough in a colder place or in the refrigerator overnight to rise the second time to the 4 cup mark.
  11. Loosen the dough from the edges of the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured plate. Cover airtight and refrigerate for 20 minutes, which will make the next step with the dough easier.
    (*)To put the process on hold, after the second rise to the 4 cup mark and the dough is on the plate, it may be frozen for up to a week.
  12. The stick of butter must now be worked into a smooth but still cold paste that can be spread evenly with the dough when rolled with it. Place the butter on a work surface and place a piece of plastic wrap over it. Beat the butter with a rolling pin to soften it. Then remove the plastic wrap and smear it out with the heel of your hand or a scraper or spatula until is is of a very easy spreading consistency but still cold; it must not become soft and oily! Refrigerate it again if necessary. The consistency should be about like a tub margarine.
  13. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured rolling surface. With the lightly floured palms push and pat the dough out into a rectangle about 15 inches tall by 8 inches wide.
  14. Spread the butter as evenly as possible over the upper two thirds of the dough rectangle, leaving only a 1/4 inch unbuttered border all around.
  15. The dough is now folded into thirds, just as before. Fold the bottom (unbuttered) third up over the middle third, and the top (buttered) third down over the bottom third. This makes three even layers of dough separated by 2 layers of butter. This is called Turn Number 1. There will be a total of 4 Turns.
  16. For Turn Number 2, lightly flour the top of the dough and the rolling surface, turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to the right as though it were a book going to be opened. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 15 inches tall by 6 inches wide. Roll rapidly starting about an inch from the near end and going to within an inch of the far end.
  17. Fold the dough again bringing the bottom third up over the middle and the top third down over the middle. There are now 7 layers of dough separated by 6 layers of butter; at the end of Turn Number 4 there will be 55 layers of dough.
  18. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a plastic bag and freeze it for 15 minutes then put it in the refrigerator. The dough must now rest for 1 to 1 1/2 hours to deactivate the gluten so that the two final turns can be made without difficulty.
  19. After the dough has rested for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the refrigerator, unwrap it, sprinkle lightly with flour, and deflate it by tapping lightly several times with the rolling pin. Cover it and let it rest for 8 to 10 minutes, again to relax the gluten.
  20. Being certain that the top and bottom of the dough are always lightly floured, start rolling the dough into a rectangle 15 by 6 inches. If the butter has congealed into hard flakes, beat the dough with light firm taps for a minute or so, going from one side to the other until the butter has softened. The butter must be able to extend the length and width of the rectangle inside the dough as it is rolled out. Fold the rectangle bottom and top onto the middle third.
  21. Rotate the dough so the opening is to the right, and again roll into the 15 by 6 rectangle and fold the bottom and top onto the middle third to complete Turn Number 4.
  22. Cut the dough in half to form the two packages.
    Wrap each package, place them in freezer bags and freeze each for 15 minutes again, and then refrigerate them for at least 2 hours before forming the dough in any of the variety of morning breads needing croissant dough. Or leave the dough overnight in the refrigerator.


The reason I divide the dough at this time and keep two separate packages is that when making many of the morning breads there is a need to roll the dough out fairly thin. This requires that the dough be rolled to a length 18 inches or more. A second reason for dividing the dough into packages is to ensure that some of the dough does not dry out while working on another part of the dough. With separate packages, the gluten can stay rested in the refrigerator, and no drying air is getting to the dough.

I have written separate articles for making each of the different morning breads- Morning Buns, Croissants, and Cronuts.

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