This queen of breads is the preface to the Croissant chapter featured in my book, “The New Pastry Cook”, published by Wm. Morrow Co., in 1986. It is usually available on ebay and sometimes through Amazon.com. My teaching assistant brought in a pristine copy he got on www.half.com. I have updated the technique for the final rise to more closely approximate a professional proofer in temperature and moisture. I also now recommend instant yeast, sometimes known as bread machine yeast which was unavailable at the time.
Of all the pastries thought of as French, the flaky, buttery rolls, called croissants have gotten to be the best known in America. The word means crescent, and the French give croissants a special place of honor at their breakfast table.
With any layered dough such as croissant dough or puff pastry, the most important process is to get the butter between the layers of dough but not to incorporate it into the dough. When the butter has been properly layered, it will melt in the heat of the oven, forming steam that separates the layers, causing the dough to expand and achieving the much sought after flakiness. Traditionally, for croissants, this has been done by making a bread dough and rolling it out in a rectangle, two thirds of which is buttered. The dough is then folded and turned. The rolling, folding, and turning are repeated several more times, forming hundreds and hundreds of layers of butter and dough. In this method, the most traumatic occurrence was having the butter break through the dough. It gave many aspiring at-home pastry chefs a complex they never got over. Continue reading