Croissant rolls may appear rather simple. If you’ve ever cracked open a ready-bake tin of them, it’s basically rolling up a triangle of dough into a crescent shape, right?
Oh, so wrong. What Pillsbury doesn’t prepare you for is that it’s not all about the croissant dough. The secret is in the butter-to-layer process. So whipping up homemade croissants isn’t actually that simple, and for the first couple times, you might find it downright difficult.
That’s why we’re sharing a few easier croissant recipes for the uninitiated and the unimpressed, who just want to bake some good, simple croissants.
Before You Bake: The Background on French Croissants
You don’t need the full history of the croissant to follow a recipe, but better understanding this buttery-baked good might help when you make it.
- Croissants are similar to puff pastries — they’re made with laminated dough, making them flaky and light.
- Laminated dough is composed of your dough and butter locked in a careful dance. You place a layer of butter inside of some dough rolled into a rectangle, then you fold it, roll it again, fold it again, repeat. The finished dough has many glorious layers of dough and butter that take plenty of time and careful effort — shortcut recipes produce what are called “rough puffs” or “flaky pastries.”
- The puffs only rise when internal water turns to steam during baking. In contrast, croissants are leavened with yeast. Additionally, a croissant “bread” mixture includes eggs, sugar, milk, and butter to create a sweet pastry.
- Croissants respond well to rich European butter. It has a higher fat content and less water, making it a little easier to manipulate during lamination. And remember, you’ve got that yeast to help raise the dough — so European butter still results in fluffy, flaky layers even with less water overall.
- You laminate the croissant dough while it’s chilled, and continue to chill it throughout the lamination process. That makes croissant-ing time-consuming. Plus, if the dough or butter gets too warm and soft during your rolling-folding, you’ve gotta pop it back into the fridge or freezer to regain consistency.
That about sums up what you should know beforehand! Do you want a fun fact or two now?
- Croissants aren’t actually French, not originally! They were brought over from Austria in the 19th century.
- The name of their Austrian ancestor pastry is “kipferl,” and they’re still popular today.
- Croissants can be a sweet or savory treat, and their names and fillings vary by country. Some popular variations include chocolate, Nutella, jam, nuts, fruits, and ham and cheese. Some are glazed on top, and some plain and simply sliced and used for sandwiches.
Our Top Pick for Easy Croissant Recipe
We’ve adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour, consulting other sources alongside it. We love this blend of ingredients for a large serving of simple yet decadent croissants.
- Yield: Approx. 24 croissants
- Total Time: ~ 4 – 5 hours +
- Prep/Action Time: ~ 45 mins
- Bake Time: ~ 30 mins
For the Dough
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup sugar
- 5 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- ½ cup lukewarm milk
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 1 tbsp salt
For the Butter Layer
- 30 tbsp unsalted butter, cool but not cold for use
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Dough
- Begin to dissolve the yeast in your warm water. Add the eggs, 3 cups flour, and 1 tbsp of sugar. Mix until blended, then set aside for some minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, remaining sugar and flour, the milk, and the salt.
- Add the melted butter into your original bowl, along with the contents of the whisked bowl. Continue to mix everything together until the dough forms, then knead the dough for several minutes until smooth and elastic.
- After kneading to a proper consistency, gently form and pat it into a large square. Wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
For the Butter Layer
- Cut the butter into manageable chunks and combine with salt and flour using a hand or stand mixer at low speed. Mix only until it’s smooth with no lumps.
- Spread the butter mixture onto a sheet of wax paper. Shape it into a large square, about the size of your dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap or another sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
It’s time to alchemize these disparate bad boys into croissants!
- Take out your chilled dough and roll it into a larger square or rectangle.
- Take out your layer butter, remove the top wrap, and place it face down in the center of your dough. Peel off the bottom sheet of wax paper.
- Fold the dough over the butter layer. There are 2 options here: If you have a square, pull all the corners toward the center and pinch them together. Or,
if you have a rectangle, fold the dough like paper that goes in an envelope, into overlapping thirds.
- If you folded all the corners in, sprinkle a little flour over it and turn the dough over. If you folded the dough in thirds, rotate the dough so that the short edge is closest to you. Then, in either case, use a pin to roll the dough into a larger rectangle, between 16 and 20 inches on the long end and 10-12 inches on the short side.
- Brush any excess flour off the dough and do the letter fold into overlapping thirds. This is your first “turn.”
- You can wrap and refrigerate the dough for 20-30 minutes if your butter is becoming too soft at this point. Otherwise, rotate the dough so that the short edge is nearest to you, and roll it out to the large rectangular size you had before folding.
- Fold into overlapping thirds (the letter fold) once again. This is your second “turn.” Wrap and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
- When time is up, complete two more “turns” — roll out the chilled dough and fold into thirds. (Re-chill if needed). Then roll it out again and fold it into thirds again.
- Finally, wrap the dough up extra tight and refrigerate for at least an hour — but overnight is recommended if there’s no rush order on the croissants.
- When that’s done, you’ll need to shape and bake the croissants. Flour your workspace, and cut the dough in half for a manageable workload. Return the other half to the fridge to complete afterward, or freeze to save it.
- Roll it into a large rectangle about a quarter of an inch thick. Trim the edges if desired, for a better rise while baking.
- Imagine where the thirds of the rectangle would be if you letter folded it — cut the dough into thirds at those points. Then, cut these pieces diagonally across so that you get two triangles.
- Stretch them out a little for length. Then cut a little notch into the wide end to help deal with expansion and shaping. Starting from there, roll up the triangle toward the narrow point, trying to create a bit of a curve.
- Place your completed crescents 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When times up, take them out and let them re-acclimate to room temperature for 1 hour or 90 minutes. They should be rising and expanding noticeably.
- Finally (again), preheat the oven to 425 F. You can apply a light egg wash at this time. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Other Simple Croissant Recipes to Try
- If you find yourself needing a visual on this whole folding thing, check out the comprehensive, step-by-step photos on Simply Scratch or Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.
- This quickie recipe from Home Cooking Adventure combines the rough puff process and croissants — add all the butter into your dough upfront, then just fold and flatten for layers. They can be done in about an hour.
- Who said a gluten-free croissant couldn’t be done? It’s a little tricky, but you can try this alternative recipe from Nicole Hunn’s Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.
It doesn’t have to be all trials and tribulations learning how to make croissants. If you don’t go in overconfident, you’ll probably surprise yourself with the results! But if you go in with something to prove, the humble croissant might just humble you.
Try out this simple recipe to get started, and you’ll be making bonafide, 3-day French bakery-level croissants in…some time. You’ll get there!