Flaky Croissants

At the bakery, we combine the half-triangle scraps of croissant dough with trimmings from the Danish dough to make pains de matin, which are sweet breakfast rolls. However, it’s unlikely that a home baker will collect enough scraps to make undertaking these rolls practical. I don’t want to waste croissant trimmings, so you’ll find instructions for piecing the scraps together to make croissants. [Editor's Note: Actually, you don't literally reroll the scraps. Instead, Sarabeth relies on a clever way of cutting the dough to minimize scraps.] They won’t be perfect, but it’s quite possible that no one will notice.–Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers

LC Not Complicated Croissants Note

We’re grateful beyond words to Sarabeth, of the famed Sarabeth’s Bakery in Manhattan, for divulging her recipe for these Frenchy, flaky croissants whose exterior seems to shatter at the merest glance and whose interior comprises layer after layer after layer of moist, buttery goodness. Although baking your own croissants may seem relatively fussy compared to running to the corner bakery, since most of us aren’t fortunate to live in France (or around the corner from Sarabeth’s Bakery), we feel pretty confident in saying you’re much better off making your own. Though the recipe may appear quite long, it’s not complicated. It’s just precise. Trust us, when you’re standing at the counter with your sleeves rolled up, your cheeks smudged with flour, and this ridiculously, obscenely, ineffably buttery loveliness before you, you’ll understand.

Flaky Croissants Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 3 H
  • Makes 28

Ingredients

  • For the detrempe
  • 3/4 ounce (1 packed tablespoon plus 1 1/2 packed teaspoons) compressed yeast, or 2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, cold
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 1 1/4 cups pastry or unbleached cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • For the beurrage
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons bread flour, plus more for the work surface
  • For the croissants
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling
  • 1 large egg, well beaten

Directions

  • Make the detrempe
  • 1. If using compressed yeast, finely crumble it into the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Add the sugar and let it rest until the yeast gives off some moisture, about 3 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve the yeast, then stir in the milk.

    If using active dry yeast, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup of the milk that you’ve warmed to 105° F to 115° F (40°C to 46°C) . Let it rest until the yeast softens and begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer and then stir in the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
  • 2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the yeast mixture in the bowl. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour mixture as it takes to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix, as the dough will be worked and absorb more flour during the rolling and folding processes.
  • 3. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a few times to smooth the surface. Shape the dough into a ball. The ball will hold its shape but will spread slightly as it stands.
  • 4. Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the flour and use a small, sharp knife to cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top, marking it into quadrants. Sprinkle the top with a little flour and refrigerate.
  • Make the beurrage
  • 5. Clean the mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more. Transfer the beurrage to a lightly floured work surface and press any remaining lumps of butter out with the heel of your hand. Shape the beurrage into a 4-inch square, place it on the half-sheet pan with the detrempe, and refrigerate them for about 15 minutes. The detrempe and the beurrage should be the same consistency and temperature after this slight chilling.
  • 6. Flour the work surface again. Place the detrempe on the work surface with the ends of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. You will notice 4 quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 1/2 inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves.” Use a rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to mark the square.
  • 7. Place the butter square in the center of the cloverleaf. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away any excess flour. (This dough is very extendable and will stretch easily, but don’t tear it.) Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the packet so the open ends of the square face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the north- and south-facing flaps (originally the east and west flaps) to completely cover the butter square, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
  • 8. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the packet over so the 4 folded flaps face down with the open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, brushing away any excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
  • 9. Lightly flour the work surface. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Roll out the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough over 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn (also known as a book turn). Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Return to the half-sheet pan and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.
  • 10. Repeat rolling and folding into a final single turn. With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days. The night before using the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted the dough will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.
  • Form the croissants
  • 11. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust your work surface with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the open seam facing you. Dust the top with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press too hard; let the weight of the pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling it, keep track of which side contains the seam.
  • 12. Turn the packet so the seam faces you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully at the sides of the dough, and you should be able to discern it, even though it’s faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick or rule, neatly trim the rough edges so you have a neat rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
  • 13. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Working with one piece at a time, unfold the dough on the work surface. Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, start at the top left corner of the dough and make your way downward diagonally to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base. Measure 3 1/2-inches from the top left corner of the strip and mark this point with a notch from the wheel. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 1/2-inch base. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch-wide base. Repeat with the second strip of dough to make 6 more large triangles and 2 half-triangles. You should have a total of 12 large triangles and 4 half-triangles.
  • 14. (See slideshow above) Place a single “complete” triangle on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissants on the pan. Curve the croissants by bringing the 2 ends together and then cross one end over the other, and press together. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them 1 1/2-inches apart on the pan. Overlap 2 of the half-triangles at their long sides, and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangles and add to the pan. Repeat with the remaining half-triangles.
  • 15. Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • 16. Meanwhile, position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Remove the glasses from the bags, then the pans. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F (176°C) and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Serve the croissants warm or cool to room temperature.

Ham and Cheese Variations

  • Fatty Daddy gilds these lovelies with jambon et fromage, and merde, they’re good. One taste, and we promise you’ll be pardoning our French.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [J. Tabora] After rereading (and rereading) the directions on how to actually shape and mold the dough into a croissant, I was brave enough to try it. I thought the flavors were spot on!

  2. Beth Kujawski says:

    I bought her book recently. I’m in love with it. Easily one of the best baking books I own. I’ve never attempted croissants, but this recipe (along with the scene playing in my head of Meryl Streep making chocolate croissants for Steve Martin in “It’s Complicated”) make me want to try!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Beth, yes, that book is a keeper. And I just added that movie to my Netflix queue…many thanks! Meryl Streep is simply a goddess…as is Sarabeth, for that matter.

    • I remember it like it was yesterday when Meryl Streeep learned from me to roll the croissant for the movie. She picked up the technique quickly… a natural at everthing. The scenes inside the bakery were shot at Sarabeth’s Bakery. There is a quick moment when you see someone sheeting the dough through our sheeting machine. It’s in slo-mo….that someone is me!

      • David Leite says:

        Jump back and get out of town! Really? That’s fantastic. Now I have to rent the move just to see you in slo-mo.

      • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

        Sarabeth, that’s phenomenal! Who knew?! BTW, I just strolled up to your UWS location and bought a croissant today…

      • Beth Kujawski says:

        I *own* the movie! Popping it in right now! I didn’t know there was a connection, but I *love* that there is! Makes perfect sense!

      • Jamie says:

        Wow! How exciting is that? Yeah, gotta rewatch the movie just to see that!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          Yup! I’ve been searching high and low for that clip from the movie, but alas, to no avail…

  3. These look so unbelievably delicious– i can just imagine them flaking in my mouth… AHHH yum!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Exactly, Lynn! Although thanks to the recipe, you don’t need to just imagine…

  4. Jamie says:

    Ah, you tease… posting these perfect croissants just as I have puff pastry in the refrigerator. But prefect croissants have long eluded me and I have been searching for the recipe that will give me perfection, so this is one recipe I will try. The photos are perfect, too… I need to see the technique. Thanks to both Sarabeth’s Bakery and LC for giving this to me…

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You’re quite welcome, Jamie. And yes, many, many thanks to Sarabeth’s… Signed, The Tease.

  5. Lauralee Hensley says:

    It’s been a long, long time since I’ve made Croissants. This recipe is making me think about doing it again. Thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      It’s sort of our duty, Lauralee. Our pleasure. Let us know when you make them…

  6. Chrisjuricich says:

    Movie was delightful, croissants are delightful, and no doubt so is the book. I have made a lot of food items in my day that require patience and practice to complete. I’ve made cheese, butter, and complicated cakes and tarts, but making croissants? Nope. Yes, it’s a challenge I’ll undertake one day for my own personal edification, but spending three hours to make, say…eight croissants which I would be loathe to see only half of them eaten in a timely manner…not yet.

    Too many good croissants locally to bother!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      And one day you’ll have the satisfaction, Chrisjuricich. No rush. In the meantime, for those of us who are loathe to wait, it’s sort of the same as climbing a mountain. We do it because it’s there. And because we can. For those who crave the challenge and have the time, the experience is a memorable one. And if it’s not right for you now, that’s swell, too. The recipe will be here waiting for you….

  7. I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!! IS SOOOOO DELISH!!!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      music to our ears, Daniela! thanks so much for letting us know

  8. Ilan says:

    Hi! I’m making these right now–do I have to let them freeze for 24 hours and then defrost overnight or can I just freeze for a few hours and then leave in the fridge overnight? Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Hello, Ilan! I am more of a croissant consumer than I am a croissant baker, so I consulted with our resident baking expert Cindi Kruth, who is also a baking instructor and a LC recipe tester, and here are her pearls of croissant dough wisdom: “The freezing here seems intended to prevent any rise once the dough has been completed. It’s true that you work croissant dough enough in the rolling and turns to warm it nearly to rising temperature so a quick chill can be prudent. Once it begins to rise it will become harder to roll out neatly, which may cause a slight squishing of the layers. I doubt, however, a hugely noticeable variation. I’ve left dough a little too long, gotten some rise, and simply rolled it out anyway without any major trauma to the croissants or to me. Basically, the necessity is to keep the dough cold at every stage. That prevents premature rise and keeps the butter from melting into the dough. I think the latter reason is actually more important. My educated guess, I haven’t done this recipe, but I have made lots of other croissant recipes, is a shorter freeze is fine. It may be that the dough begins to rise slightly in the refrigerator overnight. It depends on how cold both the freezer and fridge are. Rolling out will deflate the dough again anyway. In any case, I don’t see that as causing much, if any, harm. If that timing works better, I’d say go ahead.” So as you see, permission granted! We’ll be looking forward to hearing how it goes…

  9. Angie says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe, I want to start now while my 2-year old is napping but I only have all-purpose flour in the house. Would the croissants be a huge failure if I only used this flour and not the cake or bread flours? Thanks and sorry for the stupid question, I’m guessing the flour is a pretty critical part of making these the most amazing croissants ever!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Angie, sorry to be responding to you past what I think is nap time. None of our testers tried it with just all-purpose flour, so I’m hesitant to say yes, especially since, as you surmised, the precise proportion of flours and their various characteristics is a pretty critical component. I could say something annoying about how the prolonged anticipation of waiting till you can run to the store will make the finished croissants all the more lovely, but I won’t. All I’ll do is ask that you let us know how the recipe worked for you as you’re dusting those flaky croissant crumbs from your keyboard…

      • Angie says:

        Thank you, Renee! I did finally purchase the bread flour (sent my husband to get it) but he came back without the pastry flour, said he couldn’t find it. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway following the substitute for pastry flour using corn starch and all purpose flour. I had SO much fun following this recipe with my 7 year old daughter. We had a great time rolling and folding, rolling and folding then rolling and folding some more. It killed me to have to wait overnight to finish the recipe and actually bake the little angels. I haven’t actually tasted them yet…only 6 more minutes in the oven. It smells like a French bakery, the buttery dough aroma is filling the kitchen and making me salivate uncontrollably. I wish I could upload a picture—they look perfect.

        I had to take a break from typing and promptly remove the croissants from the oven early. They were looking done, perfectly golden brown and slightly crispy…I’d hate to overbake them after all this hard work.

        I couldn’t resist, I had to try the creations before I finished my post. OMG – the only sounds you could hear while my husband, my 7 year old daughter and my 2 year old son ate their croissants was the chomping coming from my daughters open mouth and my son saying, “mo, mo, mo” (more, more, more). Hubby loved them too. THANK YOU so much for this recipe, I am going to wow all of my friends and family with this one!

        Do you mind if I post this link on Facebook?

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Angie, this is quite possibly the loveliest comment we’ve ever received at Leite’s Culinaria. Thank you! I wish there was an audio clip of your family tucking into those croissants that you so carefully and patiently made for them, although the picture you paint with your words is still quite touching. We so appreciate you sharing this with us. Of course, all credit really goes to Sarabeth Levine and her book, Sarabeth’s Bakery. We just know a good recipe when we see it…and can’t help but share it.

  10. Thanks very much for this great step-by-step guide. I’m keen to give this a try…

  11. Ray Hurley says:

    My wife is allergic to wheat. Will the recipe still work using spelt flour?

    Many Thanks

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Ray, as I’m sure you know, spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family. The gluten in spelt flour breaks down very easily and is not resilient like wheat flour, which requires a longer kneading time to form the gluten bonds. It is very easy to overwork the dough and end up with a crumbly texture. That being said, spelt can impart a lovely flavor and texture to baked goods. Please let us know if you try the croissants with spelt. Inquiring minds want to know!

  12. Kristen says:

    I was brave enough to make the dough today. I will bake these croissants for Thanksgiving. I had an amazing time reading the instructions five times, and yes, my kitchen was covered with flour!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kristen, hurrah! Let us know what you think after you sit down with your croissants and, we hope, a soupçon of smug satisfaction this Thursday….

  13. Chris J says:

    I love crawsonts…so much. And I love to bake. I have tried many esoteric items on the world’s baking list but croissants, making and rolling the layers and layers and layers requisite times for the dough, simply hasn’t been worth the effort.

    I’m fortunate to live in Berkeley, CA, where there are “too many” bakeries as it stands and when the desire for a breakfast pastry says crawsonts, I don’t really have more than a five-minute walk or a five-minute drive to get one. Some are excellent. Some are so-so. But in spite of my joy of baking…my time is better spent on other baking challenges.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      And so, Chris J, this begs the question, what baking challenges do you crave?

      • Chris J says:

        Well, as far as sweet stuff goes, cookies are always a challenge for me but…other than the challenge to do ‘em right for their own sake, not interested.

        Cake frosting, actually, is my recent bugaboo—and while that isn’t a baking challenge per se, it’s still vexing. My results are often too runny, though I have a clue now as to why. I like cake baking because of the relative challenges of cutting rounds properly, baking to the right consistency, etc. Decorating is my next big challenge—again, less baking than making its appearance nice.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Well, Chris J, I think that in pretty much all aspects of life practice makes perfect—or darn near perfect. I look forward to hearing about your progress. At least your less-than-perfect attempts are still quite edible…!

  14. Natasha says:

    I made these yesterday and they came out fantastic! One question, if I don’t want to bake all the croissants at once can I put them back in the fridge after they’ve proofed so I can bake them fresh over the next few mornings?

    thanks!

    • David Leite says:

      Hello, Natasha. Yes, you can keep them in the fridge for a day or two without any problem. Just make sure they’re covered well so they don’t dry out.

  15. Debbie says:

    I’m confused. In “quick glance” yield is 28. Instructions state “total of 12 large triangles and 4 half-triangles” which equals 14 croissants. This is half of the expected amount in “quick glance”. When I diagram the shaping instructions on paper I get a total of 16 large triangles and 4 half-triangles using both pieces of dough to equal 18 croissants. I’m don’t mean to be difficult. Just want to be sure of the yield based on the ingredient amounts given in the recipe. I’ve been “practicing” croissants for over 4 yrs. I learn something new with almost every batch and by continuing to read about others’ experiences. Thank you for your help :)

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Debbie, thank you so much for your questions. It gave me the opportunity to speak with the lovely Sarabeth Levine to get a bit more clarification. In step 10, the dough is cut in half. It is halved again in step 12. Each section of dough will yield 6 whole triangles and 2 half triangles, or 7 croissants per section for a total yield of 28. Depending on how you roll the dough, you might end up with an extra croissant or two. Can’t complain about that!

      • Debbie says:

        Obviously I did not read the instructions carefully (she sheepishly confesses)! Thank you for pointing out what I missed. I love the instructions in step 14 of using 2 half triangles to make a whole. It works beautifully. I have less scraps and more croissants. What’s not to love about that!

        • Beth Price says:

          I could never argue with an extra croissant, or two, or three. Thanks for letting us know, Debbie!

  16. Renee says:

    This is a fun recipe to make, but set some time aside to make it. After step 19, I started to get frustrated and confused, as it was getting late and I wanted croissants. I’d wanted to have croissants for my son that evening, had picked a recipe that sounded interesting, and went with it, though I didn’t read through the whole recipe before I started. This is probably why I was frustrated. I halved the recipe and this, too, probably added to my frustration. After step 20, I cut the dough and made croissants, stuck them in the refrigerator, and went to bed. The next morning I baked the dough. When everything was done, everyone loved the outcome! I’m looking forward to following the complete recipe instructions next time. I’m sure the results will be even better. Thanks for sharing.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Renee, I can empathize, as this is a long and, admittedly, somewhat tedious recipe. But then, most recipes for croissants are, and we love this one in particular for Sarabeth’s detailed instructions and the helpful visuals that accompany her recipe. Like you, we find the result to be worth every second of effort. Still, sorry to hear it tried your patience. But what a lucky son you have that you would do this for him!

  17. Bea says:

    Since I read this post I’ve been wanting to make these! Today was the day! :) I made the croissants following the instructions (but without freezing the dough) and filled them with Iberico ham and a soft Manchego cheese. They turned out beautiful, the smell is fantastic, and the taste is amazing!! The texture, wow!! They’re definately worth making!! Thank you so much for the great recipe!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Bea, you are so very welcome! That was our experience exactly in terms of the sight, smell, and taste of these beauties. Love the notion of stuffing them with quality Iberico and Manchego, though, and am now hopelessly craving that…!

  18. Natasha says:

    Is there any way to make this predominately whole wheat (or white whole wheat)?

    Thanks!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Natasha, you could try substituting whole wheat bread flour or whole wheat pastry flour for a portion of the flours. We only tested the recipe as written, so you might find that the change in flours affects the texture. You might want to play around with the proportions until you find that perfect flaky bite.

  19. Elva says:

    Hello,
    I’d like to try out the recipe this weekend. Although I do have a couple of questions before I start. I’ve been reading a lot of articles on croissants making. They all advised keeping the room temperature low as not to melt the butter before baking. A lot of people suggested 24c for the final proofing. Will proofing the croissants in a warm temperature as suggested in your recipe melt the butter? Can I maybe proof them over night in the fridge? Secondly how long do you refrigerate the dough before laminating? Thanks.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Elva, so glad that you are going to try this recipe. Generally speaking, you can proof croissants overnight in the refrigerator, 3 or so hours in a cool place or 1 to 2 hours in a a warmer location. (Not warmer than 85 degrees or the butter might melt) In this particular recipe, the plastic bag and glass of hot water is meant to replicate a proof box. I would let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 or so minutes before laminating. Hope this helps!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail