Do as the French do—start the day with coffee and a croissant.
Roll out and cut dough:
- Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16-inch-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.
- Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.
- Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.
- Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. (Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)
- Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired.)
- Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough.
Let croissants rise:
- Slide each baking sheet into a garbage bag, propping up top of bag with inverted glasses to keep it from touching croissants, and tuck open end under baking sheet.
- Let croissants rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 2 to 2 hours.
- Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425ºF.
- Remove baking sheets from bags. Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door. Put croissants in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400ºF and bake 10 minutes without opening door.
- Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180º, then reduce temperature to 375ºF and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.
Makes 24 pastries
Cooks’ note: Baked and cooled croissants keep 1 month: First freeze them, uncovered, on baking sheets until firm, then wrap them snugly in foil before returning to freezer. When ready to serve, remove foil and bake (not thawed) on a baking sheet in a 325ºF oven 5 to 10 minutes.
It’s important not to try to halve this recipe. When you need only a half recipe of dough, as for the pains au chocolat, use the rest of the dough for a batch of Parma braids or a princess ring. Or make a double recipe of those irresistible chocolate croissants and share them with friends. One batch of this dough is enough for 24 plain croissants, 32 chocolate croissants, 16 Parma braids, or 2 princess rings.
- 1½ cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast (from two ¼-oz packages)
- 3¾ to 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 sticks (1½ cups) cold unsalted butter
- Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.)
- Add 3¾ cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1½-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.
Prepare and shape butter:
- After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold).
- Scrape butter into a block and put on a kitchen towel, then cover with other towel. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8-inch-by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough.
Roll out dough:
- Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by-10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you.
- Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.
Make first “fold”:
- Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15-inch-by-10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.
- Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10-inch-by-5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.
Make remaining “folds”:
- Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.)
- Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).
Makes about 2¾ pounds
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 (¼-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- ½ cup warm water (105° to 115°)
- ⅔ cup milk
- 4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- Press butter into a 10-inch-by-8-inch rectangle on wax paper; chill.
- Combine yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
- Heat milk to 105° to 115°. Combine yeast mixture, warm milk, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 cups flour, and next 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat mixture at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
- Punch dough down. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill dough 1 hour.
- Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 24-inch-by-10-inch rectangle. Place chilled butter rectangle in center of dough rectangle, and carefully fold dough over butter. Pinch edges to seal.
- Roll dough into an 18-inch-by-10-inch rectangle; fold into thirds, beginning with short side. Cover and chill 1 hour.
- Repeat rolling and folding procedure twice, chilling dough 30 minutes each time. Wrap dough in aluminum foil, and chill 8 hours.
- Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll 1 portion into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, and cut into 6 wedges (keep remaining dough chilled). Roll up each wedge tightly, beginning at wide end. Place, point side down, on greased baking sheets, gently curving rolls into crescent shapes. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
- Bake at 425° for 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool croissants slightly on baking sheets, and transfer to wire racks to cool. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions.
Yield: 2 dozen
Chocolate-Filled Croissants: Place 2 or 3 tiny rectangles of a milk chocolate candy bar on the wide end of each croissant dough wedge, and roll up each wedge. Proceed as directed in recipe.
Strawberry or Apricot Croissants: Spread 1 teaspoon strawberry or apricot preserves evenly over each dough wedge, leaving a ¼-inch border; roll up, and proceed as directed in recipe.
Cinnamon-Sugar Croissants: Sprinkle dough wedges evenly with a mixture of ground cinnamon and sugar; roll up, and proceed as directed in recipe. Combine sifted powdered sugar and milk, stirring until mixture reaches drizzlying consistency. Spoon over croissants.