These fluffy homemade croissants are the lightest, butteriest breakfast treat. The detailed recipe includes clever tips, step-by-step photos, and helpful instructions, making the task approachable by any baker, even younger ones.
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Croissants are a treat many of us buy at the pastry shop without a second thought. I mean, why would you even consider making them at home? But homemade croissants had been on my to-do list for some time because I love finicky pastry projects. My plan was to make them once out of curiosity, just to learn more about how they’re created. Then I’d resume buying them at the shop. I’d been thinking about this croissant project for years, but had yet to act on it.
A new book recently pushed the idea back to the top of my pastry priorities: In the French Kitchen with Kids, by Mardi Michels. A cookbook for busy families and kids with a croissant recipe…? Homemade croissants must be doable then, right? I read the recipe several times to get a good grasp of the task ahead, then dove right in.
Turns out there are shortcuts to making homemade croissants, and Mardi provides them in her recipe. Of course, you won’t go through the tricky laminating process that’s usually done by machine in pastry shops, but you will roll, fold, and turn the dough eight times. Through the process, the dough goes from sticky and super soft to beautifully smooth and elastic. I have to say: there’s something in this rhythmic task that makes you feel like a pastry pro.
This folding and rolling technique “produces a fluffy, rather than super flaky, croissant,” says Mardi. She’s got it exactly right: these homemade croissants are the airiest, butteriest breakfast treat ever. Enjoyed minutes after they come out of the oven, they’re magical—basking in the sweet aroma of freshly baked homemade croissants while you eat one is pretty close to paradise—and they’re just as delightful slightly reheated for days after. My family and I have enjoyed them plain, dipped in jam, even sliced open and filled with PB&J or ham and cheese.
This homemade croissant recipe is just one of the many delights in Mardi Michel’s book, In the French Kitchen with Kids. Mardi is a school teacher and she’s been offering cooking classes to both kids and adults for years. I’ve long been in awe of the beautiful dishes, desserts, and treats made by the kids in her class: there’s something completely enchanting about seeing little hands making tartlets or rolling croissants. This book is the result of the experience and expertise she accumulated through the years: if children can make delightful French treats such as Profiteroles, Madeleines, and Crème Brûlée, everyone can.
Mardi is indeed a great teacher, and she writes in an empathetic, helpful voice. She provides timetables to help with planning more ambitious projects, mentions visual cues to make sure you stay on the right track, and dots her pages with fun anecdotes that teach you more about French cuisine. Mardi strives to “break down any preconceived notion that French cuisine is too fancy or too difficult for kids to master,” makes a plea about the importance of teaching kids how to cook, and provides extremely helpful, yet simple, tips for cooking with kids.
Mardi reminded me that I should cook and bake with my son more often. Because of what I do for a living, cooking usually occurs during daytime, when he’s away at school. For the sake of efficiency, I also prep family meals during the day and simply assemble or reheat come dinnertime. This means my son knows I cook all time, but also that he seldom gets to do it with me. Using Mardi’s book for inspiration, I’ve started scheduling small baking projects on weekends, and we’ve been having lots of fun making them together. So far, we’ve made Mardi’s delicious financiers and jam tarts and we plan to try many more recipes from her book. Projects will get more complex as my son gets older and more experienced in the kitchen; for now, I’m just happy In the French Kitchen with Kids reminded me to share my passion for cooking and baking with my son.
Your croissant-making schedule will look like this:
Altogether, making these homemade croissants is a 9-hour (mostly hands-off) process. While you could make this project in a single day, starting in the morning and baking the croissants in the late afternoon/early evening, I think it’s better to split the task over two days. You can either refrigerate the folded dough overnight for the 2nd rest, or shape the croissants and refrigerate them to do the 3rd rest overnight. My favorite option is the latter, because it’s the one that allows you to enjoy freshly baked croissants for breakfast!
To make homemade croissants, you need the following equipment:
As Mardi herself says, this recipe for homemade croissants is one of the more advanced recipes in her book. It’s not especially technical or difficult, but the process takes a lot of time to complete, and you do need to be careful and patient, especially during the rolling, folding, and turning process. This is a recipe I’d recommend doing with older kids, especially ones with previous experience in the kitchen. Younger kids might be discouraged that the process takes so many hours—although it might be a good way for them to learn about delayed gratification!
In all honesty, croissants wouldn’t be so fun to make with a young kid repeatedly asking, “Are they done yet?” My son is only four years old, so here’s how I did it. On a Saturday afternoon, I started preparing the dough in the kitchen. As he often does, he got curious and joined me, asking what I was doing. I replied, “I’m making dough. Want to help me?” He added the ingredients to the food processor and then helped gather the dough into a ball. He went off to do his kid business, and after the dough had rested, I did the rolling, turning, and folding on my own because it’s a trickier part of the project that requires a bit of strength and precision.
I let the dough rest overnight, and the next morning, I rolled the dough out and cut it into triangles. I invited him back into the kitchen so he could help roll the croissants, which he loved doing. He was eager to taste the croissants, but I said they would ready after lunch. We enjoyed freshly baked croissants with jam for dessert—what a treat! My son was super impressed we’d baked croissants from scratch, and he was proud he participated in the process. I know what his experience and patience levels are, so I took him along for the fun parts. You can be sure he was a pro at eating the croissants, though!
You know your kids better than anyone. Divide the project into tasks and involve them in the ones you know they’ll enjoy doing. If they want to tag along for a while, let them. If they butterfly away, let them! Next time, they may stick around for longer, and fingers crossed, they’ll be making homemade croissants on their own before you know it!
GET A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE RECIPE: I’ll first break down the recipe into detailed steps with helpful pictures, but you can also skip it and jump to a printable version of the recipe at the bottom of the post, if that’s what you’re looking for.
YIELD: 10 croissants
Active time: 1h15 to 1h45
Resting time: 7 hours, divided into 3 rests
Baking time: 20 to 25 minutes
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk (3.25 % m.f.) or partly skimmed milk (2% m.f.)
2 1/2 tsp (12 ml) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups (375 ml / 225 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 ml / 50 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 ml / 226 g) cold salted butter or European-style butter, cut into cubes
All-purpose flour, for rolling and shaping
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp (15 ml) heavy (35% m.f.) cream
1. Heat the milk to between 110˚F and 113˚F (approx. 45˚C) in a medium saucepan set over medium heat (use a digital thermometer to check the temperature). Alternatively, you can heat the milk in the microwave. Start by heating the milk for 30 seconds at high, then stir and test the temperature. Keep heating by 10-second bursts if needed.
2. Pour the milk into a large heatproof bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it sit for 10 minutes. It will be frothy on top after this time.
3. Meanwhile, place the flour, sugar, and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse eight to ten times—you should still be able to see large chunks of butter.
4. Tip the flour and butter mixture over the warmed milk and use a wooden spoon to just incorporate the dry ingredients into the milk. The dough will be lumpy, shaggy, and quite dry at this point.
5. Use your hands to gather the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for about 1 hour (don’t leave it much longer than this, because it will become too difficult to roll out).
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and lightly flour your countertop. Transfer the dough to the work surface. The dough will be very soft and sticky at this point, so you will likely need to sprinkle the top of the dough with flour as well. Shape it into a rough rectangle.
7. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough until you have a very large rectangle (8 x 17 inches/20 x 40 cm). You should be able to see butter pieces in the dough. If the edges of the rectangle crack a little as you are rolling, simply push them together with your fingers and continue to roll until you have the correct size of rectangle.
8. With the largest side of the rectangle facing you, fold the dough about two-thirds of the way from left to right, then fold remaining third over the first fold. The dough will still be very soft and sticky at this point; use a pastry scraper or a large icing spatula to lift the dough more easily. The short side of the folded rectangle of dough should be facing you. Turn the dough clockwise so the long side of the rectangle now faces you. (You will most likely need to use the pastry scraper to help lift the folded dough.) This rolling and folding technique is known as a “turn.”
9. Lightly flour the working surface around the folded dough, and the top of the dough again, then lightly flour the rolling pin again. Repeat Steps 7 through 9 seven times for a total of eight “turns.” Sprinkle flour to prevent the dough from sticking, being careful to add only what you need. With each roll, fold, and turn, you will feel the dough become smoother and easier to handle.
10. Once you’re done with the 8 turns, fold the dough one last time and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
11. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and place a large piece of parchment paper (at least 48 inches-/60 cm-long) on your working surface. Let the chilled dough sit for about 15 minutes so it’s not completely cold when you start working with it. Roll the dough until you have a rectangle that is a little over 8 x 24 inches (20 x 60 cm). This may take a bit of patience, but if you take it slowly, the dough will definitely roll out this large. Trim the edges of the rectangle so they are neat and straight—a clean ruler or a tape measure and a pizza cutter work well to do this. Save the dough trimmings to make tiny sugared escargots. See note at the end of the recipe for instructions.
12. Working along the long sides of the rectangle, make a small cut in the dough on each side of the rectangle every 4 1/2 inches (12 cm). Place a ruler or a tape measure across the width of the dough at the first mark. Use a long sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut a rectangle across the width of the dough. Repeat at each mark until you have five rectangles.
13. Cut each rectangle in two diagonally to make two triangles. Use a ruler or a tape measure (to make sure the triangles are even) and a pizza cutter to do this. You’ll have 10 triangles.
14. Gently stretch one of the triangles by pulling on the right-angle side so that both long sides of the triangle are angled towards the tip. Working from the wide end, roll up the dough until you have reached the pointed end. Voilà, you have a croissant!
15. Repeat with the remaining triangles. Place five croissants on each tray and cover each tray with a clean tea towel. Leave to rest in a warm place (such as a turned off oven with the light on) for 3 hours. The croissants will puff up slightly during this time.
16. When the croissants have been resting for 2 1/2 hours, preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C)—making sure to remove the raw croissants from the oven if that’s where you rested them. Whisk the egg and cream together and use a pastry brush to gently brush the tops of the croissants with this egg wash.
17. Place one tray in the top third of your oven and the other in the bottom third of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the croissants are golden brown on top. Switch the trays from top to bottom and turn them from front to back halfway through baking.
18. Remove the baking trays from the oven. Let the croissants sit on the baking trays for about 10 minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool completely.
These homemade croissants are at their very best enjoyed freshly baked. Store leftovers for 2 to 3 days in a resealable plastic bag. To reheat, place in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 8-10 minutes, or microwave for a few seconds.
Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.
Recipe adapted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Disclosure notice: I received a complimentary copy of the book In the French Kitchen with Kids for review purposes.
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