Homemade Croissants

Apparently, when my mother first made croissants, my brother and I told her that they weren’t as good as the ones from the store. That was also the last time she made croissants. I don’t remember this particular incident, but after trying to make my own croissants, I feel pretty awful for dismissing my mother’s handiwork – these are hard! They also take up a lot of time. Next time my mom hands me a homemade treat, I definitely won’t complain.

I followed this recipe, though I ran into some issues with the lamination process (it’s important to me that I share some of my baking failures as well as my successes- sometimes it’s nice to have someone out there who experienced the same problems, or maybe on of my readers has a good solution!). Lamination is the process of folding and rolling the dough to make layers of butter and dough that give a croissant its characteristic flakiness. I wasn’t able to get my butter to roll out properly; instead of rolling out in one nice sheet, it broke into chunks, so instead of having nice layer I just had pieces of butter distributed through my dough. In a few places, there was a slight layering, but for the most part the butter was distributed strangely in the dough. I have a few theories as to what caused this, though they aren’t discussed in depth in the instructions that I’ve seen so far:

  1. Butter temperature. The recipe I had recommended refrigerating for 45 minutes in between each turn (each set of rolling and folding). Sometimes things freeze in particular spots of my fridge, so it might be that this is too long and my butter was too stiff, and therefore didn’t roll out well. It’s possible that reducing this chilling time will work better  for my fridge.
  2. Butter preparation. In other recipes, the butter is beaten in a stand mixer before it is shaped into the butter block. In the recipe that I used, four sticks of butter are beaten with a rolling pin until they form a 6″x8″ block. I think my butter was too cold during this part, because the sticks didn’t quite seem to adhere to each other properly. Using a stand mixer might help with this in the future.

Luckily for me, the croissants still came out of the oven smelling and tasting like a croissant, so I think it was still worth the effort, and I’m excited to try again in the hopes of reaching that perfect, buttery, flaky croissant.

This recipe made a lot of croissants (at this point I’ve eaten a few, but I think I made a little over 30 croissants), so I had some room to play around with the flavours. I started off with plain, cinnamon sugar, and some chocolate/coffee (I mixed 3 tsp sugar, 2 tsp cocoa powder, and 1 tsp espresso powder and spread on the croissants before rolling).

Because of the butter issues, these didn’t roll quite as easily as they probably should have, but I was still able to get a pretty nice crescent shape out of the dough:

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Because my oven is a little finicky, I had to play around a bit to get the temperature right. I ended up baking at 400C instead of 425, because my oven runs a bit hot at higher temperatures. I also had a lot of butter leak out of these, so if you ever run into a similar croissant issue (i.e. big blocks of butter), it might be best to use a baking pan with edges; I was pretty nervous about my first batch coming off the baking sheet, because the butter got very close to dripping off the edges.

Here’s how that first batch turned out:

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Not bad for a first try! A few of them unrolled a little, but most of them came out with a nice shape. I tore one open to check the inside. Nice and airy, but not quite the flaky croissant I know and love.

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My theory is that the air pockets are places where the butter just up and melted out. Seriously, there was a lot of butter left over on the pan, so I think a few chunks disappeared and left these air pockets in my croissants.

I baked these the same night that I made my dough, after refrigerating for 4h. I wanted to see if they turned out alright before baking the second half, because I figured I could make some buns or some other biscuit/pastry if the croissants came out terribly. But I was fairly pleased with these, so I decided to keep the crescent shape but to experiment a bit with flavour.

I tried six different flavour combinations for this second batch of croissants. Pictured below we have:

  • Lemon, cinnamon, and sugar (left, top): I started by brushing some lemon juice onto the dough, then covered with cinnamon sugar. I was going for the flavour of a killaloe sunrise beavertail, because I can’t eat beavertails anymore (or rather, I probably could, but now that they have a peanut butter option, I’m not taking the cross-contamination risk). These unrolled a little bit, possibly because I spread the filling too high on the dough triangle.
  • Lavender (middle, top): My mother gave me some lavender sugar, which is just cullinary lavender mixed with some superfine sugar, so I spread this onto my dough triangle before rolling. This flavour is a little suble, but super delicious. They also held their shape the best out of all of the flavours I tried.
  • Apple, cardamom, and cloves (right, top): I made some apple sauce by chopping up and apple, heating it with a little water, cinnamon, and sugar, then blending once the apples were soft. Most of the time, I prefer unsweetened apple sauce, but I did make these with granny smith apples, which are pretty tart. I stirred in some cloves and cardamom, then spread this on my dough triangle before rolling.

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  • Matcha and white chocolate (left, bottom): I spread some matcha (green tea powder) on my dough, then sprinkled on some finely chopped white chocolate. The bitterness of the green tea and sweetness of the white chocolate are a really great compliment for each other.
  • Chocolate (middle, bottom): I used up my coffee/chocolate mixture, then added some finely chopped semisweet chocolate. There’s nothing better than some melted chocolate oozing out of a croissant.
  • White and dark chocolate (right, bottom): To use up the last of my chocolate, I added my finely chopped white and dark chocolate onto the dough before rolling

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I haven’t tried all of these flavours yet (there’s only so many croissants one person can eat in a day), but I have tasted both the green tea & white chocolate and lavender croissants, and both are super delicious. I’m excited to try the lemon, cinnamon, and sugar as well, as that is a favourite flavour from my childhood. I remember going for long skates in the cold, then stopping for beavertails and hot chocolate. Once I tasted killaloe sunrise, that was the only flavour I would order. I love the mix of the sour lemon and bitter cinnamon with the sweetness of the sugar, and it’s still a flavour that makes me reminisce about winter days spent with my family.

I had some small ends of dough left over, so I made some mini croissants in each flavour. After all the time that went into these, there was no way I was going to waste any dough!

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These were a lot of work, but definitely worth it in the end. And I say that even though I didn’t get a perfect croissant out of this process. I think there’s a lot to be gained from every baking failure, and these are no exception. I’m really excited to try my next batch and use what I’ve learned from this trial to keep improving until I can get something close to those delicious, flaky, bakery croissants.

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