Who needs a fancy French bakery for croissants when you can make your own? Or at least, here's how to make your own croissants when you don't have access to a fancy French bakery (because let's be honest here -- grocery store croissants are awful). And croissants are not nearly as difficult to make as you might think. They're not time consuming, but they do need advance planning -- each step takes only 15 minutes or so, but you have to space them out over three days. Start them on Friday evening and you'll be pulling hot, buttery, flaky deliciousness out of the oven on Sunday morning.
Side note: Many of you know I adore young adult books -- so much that I also write for a YA book blog aimed at like-minded adults who like to enjoy a nice glass of champagne or a martini with their teen angst, called Forever Young Adult. One of our big obsessions is the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, set in a dystopian has-been-United States and starring a tough young girl, Katniss, and sweet (but equally tough) baker boy, Peeta. And in the inevitable love triangle, we've decided Peeta will win out over Katniss's hunting buddy Gale because Peeta knows how to bake. How can you argue with a man who can bring you fresh croissants?
from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (although if I had these in my house all the time I'd be enormous)
1 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons to brush over croissants
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon jam, melted, and mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
Stage 1 (evening)
1. Heat 1 cup of the milk to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm milk. stir in 2 tablespoons flour (from the 2 1/4 cups) and whisk until there are no lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
2. Mix the sugar and salt into the remaining 2 1/8 cups flour.
3. Heat the remaining 3/4 cups milk. Transfer the raised dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the lukewarm milk, and with the mixer at high speed, start adding the sugar, salt and flour (from step 2), a little at a time, reducing the speed to low-medium until the dough is sticky and soft.
4. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Stage 2 (morning)
1. Bring the butter to room temperature and work it with the heel of your hand to incorporate the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour until smooth. Shape into a square.
Stage 3 (afternoon)
Roll out the dough 2 more times, wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Stage 4 (morning)
1. About 1 1/2 hours before baking time, remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle flour on the work surface. Roll the dough into a 16-inch circle, working as quickly as possible. Using a knife, cut the dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into 3 triangles.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the croissants with the glaze and bake for 15-30 minutes. If the croissants brown too fast, cover them loosely with foil and continue baking. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.