A well-made croissant has a crisp crust and a somewhat flaky crumb that is soft but never doughy. Croissant is actually the missing link between puff pastry and brioche. Take puff pasty dough, add some yeast, and you have croissant dough. Take brioche dough, add as much as almost double the butter, replace the eggs with milk, and you have the makings of croissant dough. Some people think of a croissant as a pastry, others as a bread. Most don’t think much about it at all, they just eat it with great pleasure.
Since this recipe first appeared in The Pie and Pastry Bible, I have received countless e-mails from home bakers eager to make the dough but unable to find the “reduced-bran whole wheat” called for. I used that flour because it offers a sweet, slightly nutty flavor and beautiful golden color without the bitterness of heaviness of texture of 100 percent whole wheat flour. Reduced-bran flour, available commercially in large quantities, is simply whole wheat flour with most (98 percent) of its sweet, flavorful germ still in it but only 20 percent of its bran—just enough to add flavor intensity without bitterness. Once I investigated flour mill in depth, I realized that it’s a simple matter to add this amount of germ and bran back to white flour to make your own reduced-bran flour! This recipe makes it possible. In fact, since I am adding the coarse bran and germ separately, I incorporate them into the butter package. The butter coats their sharp edges and helps to keep them from cutting through the gluten network of the dough. Of course, if you prefer a traditional croissant, just omit the germ and bran.
Now that high-fat European-style butter is nationally available to home bakers, it makes it a lot easier to produce quality croissants. Because the butter is more pliable even when cold, it’s easier to roll the dough. I also find I pefer the lighter texture of a croissant dough made with less of this rich butter.
Classic croissants are given a total of four turns (business letter folds). But if the butter starts breaking through the dough, it’s fine to stop after three turns; you will still have plenty of flaky layers. The fact that the butter breaks through the dough layers is what makes the croissant so much more tender than puff pastry where the butter layers remain perfectly moist.
Rectangles of Wheaten Croissant dough wrapped around small rectangles of bittersweet chocolate make a delectable variation on the traditional white-flour pains au chocolat. They are most delicious when eaten still warm from the oven when the chocolate is still slightly melted. Of course, they can be reheated to achieve this same effect.
Use your favorite bittersweet chocolate. I prefer a milder chocolate, not one that is too bittersweet, as it would contrast too sharply with the dough.
- 2 cups/ 10 ounces/ 284 grams unbleached all purpose flour (use only Gold Medal, King Arthur or Pillsbury)
- 1 tablespoon/ 4 grams wheat germ
- 2 teaspoons/ 2 grams wheat bran
- 1 ½ teaspoon/ 4.8 grams instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons/ scant 1 ounce/ 25 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon/ 6.6 grams salt
- ¾ cup/ 6.3 ounces/ 181 grams milk, scalded and cooled to room temperature (70°F to 90°F)
- 12 tablespoons/6 ounces/ 170 grams unsalted butter, preferably a high-fat European-style butter, such as Vermont Cultured, Plugra or Land O’ Lakes “ultra”
- 6 ounces/ 170 grams dark chocolate, such as Cluizel (60%), Valrhona Gastronomie (61%), or Scharffen Berger (62%) (For Pains au Chocolat)
- 1 large egg (3 tablespoons/2 ounces/ 56 grams)
- 1 tablespoon water
- A heavy-duty mixer with dough hook attachment
- 2 large baking sheets OR half sheet pans, lined with Silpat or parchment
- Optional: two 18-by-2-inch-high sheet pans, for proof boxes
Oven Temperature: 450°F, then 400°F
1. Mix the flour, germ, and bran for the butter square. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the flour, the wheat germ, and wheat bran. Cover and set aside.
2.Make the dough. In the mixer bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, the yeast, and the sugar. Then whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming in direct contact with the salt, which would kill it). With the dough hook, add the milk and mix, starting on low speed (#2 if using KitchenAid), until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 4 minutes. The dough will be silky-smooth and have pulled away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still cling to your fingers slightly. (The dough needs to be soft and not too elastic to make it easier to roll and so the butter package will not break through.)
Place the dough in a 1-quart or larger food-storage container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) for 30 minutes.
Using an oiled spatula, gently fold the dough by lifting it from the sides and pressing it into the middle to deflate it slightly. Cover and refrigerate it for a minimum of 2 hours, or up to overnight.
3. Make the butter square. Place the bran mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and put the butter on top of it. Wrap the plastic wrap loosely around it. Pound the butter lightly with a rolling pin to flatten and soften it, then knead it together with the bran mixture, using the plastic wrap and your knuckles to avoid touching the butter directly. Work quickly and as soon as the bran mixture is incorporated, shape it into a 4 ½ -inch square (no thicker than ¾ inch). At this point, the butter should still be cool but workable—60°F. Use it at once, or keep it cool. The butter must not be colder than 60°F when rolled into the pastry, or it will break through the dough and not distribute evenly. A cool cellar, or a wine cellar, is an ideal place to maintain this temperature. Alternatively, refrigerate it, but then allow it to often slightly before using it. The butter should be cool but malleable.
4. Roll the dough and make the butter package. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to an 8-inch square. Place the butter square diagonally in the center of the dough square and, with the back of the knife, lightly mark the dough along the edges of the butter. Remove the butter and roll each marked corner of the dough into a flap. (The dough will be slightly elastic.) Moisten these flaps lightly with water and replace the butter on the dough. Wrap it securely by stretching the flaps just so they overlap slightly, Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for no longer than 30 miutes.
5. Turn the dough. Place the dough seam side up on a well-floured surface. Keeping it lightly floured, gently roll the dough package into a long rectangle 7 inches by 16 inches. Brush off all the flour form the surface of dough and give it a business letter turn. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 40 minutes before the next turn. (Mark the number of turns on a slip of paper, as the fingertip impressions in the dough used for puff pastry would disappear in this yeast dough as it rises.
For each turn, clean the work surface and reflour it. Position the dough so that the closed side is facing to your left, and press down on the edges of the dough with the rolling pin to help keep them straight. (The upper part tends to roll out ore than the bottom part.) Roll and fold the dough a second time exactly the same way, but this time turn it over occasionally to keep the seams and edges even. Be sure to roll into all four corners of the dough, and use a pastry scraper to even the edges. Do a total of 4 turns, resting the dough for 40 minutes between each. Don’t worry if the butter breaks through. Just cover the exposed butter layer with flour and keep going. This dough contains so much more butter than a pie dough that a little extra flour won’t make much difference to the texture.
After the last turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours before rolling it.
6. Shape the croissants. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
Roll the dough on a floured counter to a rectangle about 14 inches by 24 inches. Brush off all the flour. Fold the dough over lengthwise so that it is about 6 inches by 22 inches. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, trim one short side on an angle (reserve the scraps), cutting through the two layers, then make another diagonal cut to make a triangular piece of dough with a 5-inch base. Continue making diagonal cuts to form triangles down the entire length of the dough. Make a ½ -inch notch in the center of the base of each triangle. Open up the two layers of each triangle and cut in half to form 2 triangles.
Shape the croissants one at a time, keeping the rest of the triangles covered with plastic wrap.
Use the scraps to make 12 to 14 balls (depending on the number of triangles) the size of green grapes (about 4 grams each). Scissors work best to cut the dough for the balls. Keep these covered with plastic wrap too.
To shape the croissants, gently stretch each triangle to about 9 inches long: first pull the base sideways—gently but firmly—then, holding the base in your left hand, use your thumb and two fingers of your right hand to work down the length of the dough, elongating it. Place the triangle on the counter with the narrow point toward you. Shape one of the little balls of dough into a 1 ¼ -inch-long football, and place it at the base of the triangle. Roll the base over the football to encase it by about ½ inch. Continue rolling with the fingers of your left hand, keeping the triangle stretched with you right hand. Place the croissant on the lined half sheet pan, with the point underneath. Curve in the sides so that they turn in on the side of the croissant opposite the point. Keep the croissants covered with plastic wrap while you shapes the others. Set 6 to 7 croissants evenly spaced on each pan, so there will be room for them to expand to the baked size of 5 inches by 2 ½ -inches.
7. Glaze the croissants and let them rise. Lightly beat together the egg and water for the glaze. Brush the croissants with the glaze. Cover and refrigerate the remaining glaze. If you have two large plastic containers or 2-inch-deep 18-inch sheet pans, invert them over the croissants. Alternatively, cover them lightly with very well-oiled plastic. Let rise (ideally at 75°F to 85°F) until the croissants double in size and are very light in texture, about 2 hours. (At 70°F, they can take as long as 3 to 4 hours to rise.)
8. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lower level.
9. Glaze and bake the croissants. Gently brush the croissants again with the egg glaze, being careful to use a light touch so as not to deflate them. Place the croissants in the oven and turn the oven down to 400°F. Bake for 10 minutes. Reverse the position of the two sheets, turning them around as you do so, and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until the croissants are golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 210°F). The texture will be slightly doughy inside, but on cooling they will continue to cook through perfectly.
10. Cool the croissants. Remove the croissants from the oven and transfer them to racks to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. They are best eaten warm (when the outside is crisp and light, the center soft and tender) or within 3 hours after baking.
To Make 12 Pains au Chocolat:
1. Shape the pains au chocolat. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, cut the chocolate into coarse chunks.
Roll the dough on a floured counter to a rectangle 6 inches by 24 inches. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 4-inch pieces. You will now have twelve 4-by-3-inch rectangles of dough.
Brush off all the flour from the dough. Shaping the pains one at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap, set a row of the little chunks of chocolate on each piece of dough close to a longer edge of the dough and, starting from that long side, roll up the dough so that it encloses the chocolate. Moisten the end of the dough with a bit of water, and place the pain seam side down on the lined baking sheets. Space the pains at least 2 inches apart.
2. Glaze the pains au chocolat and let them rise. Lightly beat together the egg and water for the glaze. Brush the pains au chocolat with the egg glaze. Cover and refrigerate the remaining glaze. If you have large plastic containers or 2-inch-deep by 18-inch sheet pans, invert them over the pains. Alternatively, cover them lightly with very well-oiled plastic. Let rise (ideally at 75°F to 85°F) until the pains au chocolat double in size and are very light in texture, about 2 hours. (At 70°F, they can take as long as 3 to 4 hours to rise.)
3. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lower level.
4. Glaze and bake the pains au chocolat. Gently brush the pains au chocolat again with the egg glaze, being careful to use a light touch so as not to deflate them. Place the pains au chocolat in the oven and turn the oven down to 400°F. Bake for 10 minutes. Reverse the position of the two sheets, turning them around as you do so, and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pains are golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 210°F). The texture will be slightly doughy inside, but on cooling they will continue to cook through perfectly.
5. Cool the pains au chocolat. Remove the pains au chocolat from the oven and transfer them to racks to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. They are best eaten warm (when the outside is crisp and light, the center soft and tender) or within 3 hours after baking.
Nutritional information is based on 14 servings.