Yes, I made croissants. With brown butter. Successfully.
I feel like I deserve a medal of some sort. Or a handshake? A nod of acknowledgement, at least? Something!?
Okay, okay. I’ve gotten off my high horse now.
This has been a long time coming, and I am over-the-moon ecstatic to finally be able to share it with you. Not only can you taste the warm, brown butter flavor in each bite, but these actually taste better than your average (albeit my average) croissant – if you can even call a croissant average, what with all the butter.
Croissants are a type of laminated dough in the same family as danish and puff pastry. Laminated doughs are made by encasing butter within dough (so the butter doesn’t incorporate into the dough) and folding the dough over itself multiple times to create many layers. Each fold is called a “turn”. When it is baked, the butter melts and its steam creates air pockets in each layer, which is what makes these types of pastries so flaky. Technically butter doesn’t have to be the fat used in laminated doughs (margarine is one alternative), but I can’t imagine anything beating butter’s flavor. In fact, if you’re ever in New York City or Paris and are hankering for a croissant, look for signs in bakeries that clearly say “croissant au beurre”, or butter croissant – you can be sure that these are made only with pure butter, and will definitely be of the best quality (as opposed to “croissant nature” which may be made with margarine). European style butter which is around 83% fat is ideal for laminated doughs, but regular butter will work fine as well.
Oh, and I forgot to mention one teensy detail: these can be on your table in only 4 hours, start to finish. This is possible because I did a quadruple turn – making twice as many layers as a double turn would, which is usually used in quick laminated dough recipes. So no long waiting times or rising times (although you could let the dough rise overnight if you want to have them first thing in the morning without having to wake up at 4am). Some may not like how fast these can be made because it’s not “traditional”, and yeast needs time to develop flavor. I hear ya, I do. I love the old school, classic methods. They’re all good for making traditional croissants. But…these have brown butter. They are in a league of their own, and pack enough flavor from the brown butter that cutting down the rising times means nothing more than making your life easier. You’re welcome.
How do you do this, you ask? First, get your hands on some brown butter and refrigerate it until it’s solid.
Then make the dough, a.k.a. detrempe. The dough in this recipe varies from an original croissant recipe in that it uses all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, and a mix of creme fraiche, heavy cream, and milk rather than just milk. If you don’t have creme fraiche on hand, you can use yogurt or sour cream. The butter slab is a mix of european and brown butter beaten together. Then there’s some rolling and folding, minimal chilling, then cutting, shaping, proofing and baking! Followed by devouring of course. Let’s get started.
NOTE: I’ve made these several times, and the pictures that show some of the folding shows the dough covered in too much flour. Try to use as little flour on your surface and hands as possible, otherwise the croissants will be dense and scone-like. Also, the way I put the butter square on the dough was a mistake – I’m only human! – it should be placed diagonally so that when the corners of dough are folded over it, the butter is evenly enclosed in the dough ( it should look like a diamond in a square). Even though I made these mistakes, the croissants were delicious. Not as perfect as the other times I’ve made them, but delicious nonetheless. So just try it, don’t be afraid of mistakes!
2 cups (11 oz) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons (or 2 1/4 teaspoons, or 1 packet) active dry yeast
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup (2 1/2 oz) heavy cream
1/4 cup (2 1/2 oz) milk
Butter slab: (keep your butter refrigerated until ready to use, NOT at room temperature)
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter, browned and chilled
2 oz (4 Tablespoons or 1/2 stick) butter, cold (I used high fat european butter here, regular would work too)
1 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 whole egg
splash of milk or cream
pinch of salt (salt breaks up the egg proteins so it’s easier to brush on)
- Mix the creme fraiche, heavy cream, and milk together in a small measuring cup.
- Combine 1 cup of flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Keep salt separate from yeast, because it could kill the yeast. Add in the creme fraiche mixture and mix on low until dough has formed.
- Slowly add the remaining cup of flour until dough is soft but not sticky – you may not need all the flour.
- Knead with the dough hook on medium for 5 minutes. Throw the bowl into the fridge for 20 minutes to let the dough chill while you get the butter ready.
- For the butter slab, layer two pieces of plastic wrap, dust that with the flour, and get another two-layer plastic wrap piece ready.
- Get your butters out! Put ‘em on top of the floured plastic, covering them with the other doubled up plastic sheet. Using a rolling pin (or some similarly shaped object) beat the butter and flour into a square shape, about 1/2″ -1″ in height. It doesn’t have to look nice, and you can stop, lift up the plastic and cut the sides and pile it on top to make it an even (roughly 4×5″) square, then keep beating until it’s flat. Wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for the time being.
- Grab your dough from the fridge, plop it out on the floured counter, and roll it out to be big enough to fold over the butter slab – roughly 10×11″ and 1/4″ thick (see pictures). It doesn’t have to be a perfect, just do your best. Get the butter slab out, remove the plastic and put it right in the middle of your rolled out dough diagonally. Fold over the corners of the dough so they meet in the middle of the butter square and use your fingers to press the sides of the dough together to seal it – again, doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Use your rolling pin to press down on the seams of the dough packet, then slowly throughout the entire packet to flatten it a bit before starting to roll it out. Roll it out into a long rectangle shape – about 1/4″-1/2″ thick. (If the butter starts peeking out, push it back in and try to cover it with the dough. If it’s too hot in your kitchen and the butter is getting to soft and greasy, just put the dough in the freezer or fridge for 15 or 30 minutes, respectively. You don’t want the butter to incorporate into the dough!)
- Now we fold: mentally notice where the halfway mark is on the dough lengthwise (you can mark it physically, just be careful not to cut it). Each half is going to be folded 3 times towards the center, which will fold each half into fourths. Start by taking the outermost edge of one side and folding one fourth of that half over itself towards the middle of the dough. Fold it over itself two more times towards the halfway mark, until the edge of the folded dough is in line with the halfway line. Do the same with the opposite end of the dough, until it looks like you have a rolled up scroll in front of you, each half rolled towards the middle. Now take one side and fold it over the other, like closing an open book. Ta da! Quadruple turn – you now have 8 layers already made. Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge (or freezer if it seems too soft) for 30 minutes.
- Take it out, roll it out into a long rectangle again (doesn’t have to be as big as the last rectangle) and do one more book turn – fold each half to the middle of the rectangle, then close the book. Let it chill in the fridge for 1 whole hour. (Or if you want to wait to bake them the next day, let it chill overnight and remove it about half an hour before rolling it out when you’re ready to make it).
- Now we cut and shape: take the dough out and roll it into a long skinny rectangle, about 1/4″ thick. Use a pizza cutter, bench scraper, or sharp knife to cut out triangles – starting at the bottom corner of the rectangle, cut upwards to the opposite side of the rectangle. You’ve just cut out one triangle. Cut straight downwards from where your last cut was made and you’ll have another triangle, with these first to triangles forming a rectangle together. Continue cutting out triangles like this until there’s no more dough to cut.
- Take each triangle and stretch it lengthwise a bit to lengthen it, and also tug at the bottom corners to make it an isosceles triangle rather than a right triangle. Then cut a 1″ long slit in the middle of the base of the triangle, spread the two sides of the base outwards and slowly roll up the triangle from the base up using your palm. Roll it up loosely enough that the inner layers have room to rise a bit, but tightly enough that they don’t look floopy and flat. Shape the two outer points of the croissants in towards the middle for that classic crescent shape.
- Place all the croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rest at room-temperature (but better warmer than colder) for about 45 minutes to proof. They may not look noticeably risen after that time, and certainly won’t be doubled in size – they may look just a tiny bit puffier.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- For the egg wash, mix together the egg, cream/milk, and salt. Brush each croissant with the egg wash, being careful to avoid putting any on the creases between the layers because the egg wash can act like glue and keep them from rising. Also avoid letting the egg wash drip from the croissant to the parchment paper, because this will also act like glue and keep it down. I probably could’ve put more egg wash, but I was too afraid of getting it in the creases. Oh well.
- Bake the croissants for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. They will start to smell delicious after about 5 minutes, but if you check on them that soon you will be disappointed. The pictures I took while they were in the oven were taken at the 5,10,15, and 20 minute marks, and you can see that at first the butter seemed to be melting and pooling at the bottom, while the croissants didn’t seem to be baking or rising at all. It was terrifying. But eventually they seemed to soak all the butter back up and browned very nicely. So no worries! And I’m sorry for subjecting your eyes to my awfully old and dirty oven…it’s the oldest thing in my house, and I’m sort of in love with it.
- Let the croissants cool for about 10 minutes before gobbling ‘em up. Eat them plain in all of their brown butter glory or with a generous pattering of butter, jam, or better yet: Nutella. Don’t lie, you were thinking it too.
They’re best enjoyed fresh on the day they’re made, but keep any extra croissants in an airtight container for up to 3 days.