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Croissant Baking Tips

Recently I've been a little obsessed with trying to bake the perfect croissant.  While the journey has been fun, it's also been a little frustrating.

There is just so much that can (and seems to always) go wrong, but I've learned a lot through several attempts.

Although I haven't achieved the perfect croissant yet, I feel I have a lot to share about baking croissants that I've learned from my mistakes.

What is the perfect croissant?


(Pictured above: My most recent - and definitely not perfect - attempt.) 

Before we get into the tips, let's discuss what we are trying to achieve. The perfect croissant to me, is one that is more of a European style, less of what you can find in American supermarkets and big chain coffee stores.

American croissants are usually bread-like and soft.

European style croissants are flaky and light.  They have a crisp outer crust/shell, and big air pockets inside that separate the thin layers of dough. 

While we have developed our style that results in the American croissant, their texture is also due to the difference between ingredients Europeans use, and those readily available in the US.

Croissant Baking Tips: What Can Go Wrong?

The short answer to this is everything, seriously.  But let's get a little more detailed below.

Butter

European style butter has more fat content than American butter.  This makes the croissants richer, more flaky, and makes the butter more spreadable during the dough lamination process.

This is important because errors in lamination can change the consistency of the croissant.  If the butter is too cold or too hard, you will get butter flakes instead of layers of butter, resulting in a more biscuit-like texture.

On the other hand, if your butter is too warm, it will incorporate in the dough and give you that softer, American style bread-like texture.

Your butter should be flexible, and ideally the same consistency as your dough before lamination.

Yeast

Real, authenticate croissant recipes call for fresh yeast.  This is what creates the large air pockets between the layers of dough, there is some type of reaction with the fresh yeast.

I don't believe that fresh yeast is unavailable in supermarkets, but I have had a hard time finding it.

Flour

One of the biggest distinctions between ingredients is the flour used.  French flour used for croissants has higher protein content than American flour.  The recommended amount is 11% minimum.  Most American flours have only 3-4g of protein per serving, whereas french flours can have 7-9g. 

However, companies like King Arthur Flour that are commonly found in American supermarkets are starting to create flours with 11% protein, as well as "French Baking" flours.

Baking Process

Most professional bakers use convection ovens.  These allow more air to circulate and give you a more even bake while lessening the chances for the bottoms to burn.  Luckily, air fryers create a similar effect because they are based on the same technology.

But if you've followed a croissant recipe exactly and then baked them in your home oven, the results might be different from what you were expecting.

Temperature

Although I can't give too much advice on this because it's so relative, it is important.  Temperature can affect the proving process of your dough and how it handles when you are making the croissants (rolling and laminating the dough).  

If it's too hot, the butter will melt faster and your dough is at risk of over-proving fast.  If it's too cold, the butter can be too hard (not spreadable) and the fermentation process can be stunted. 

While unfortunately, I cannot give much more advice on this, just try to be mindful of how your dough and butter is behaving while making croissants to prevent these mistakes.

Croissant Baking Tips

As you can see, there are a lot of variables involved when it comes to making the perfect croissant.  No doubt everyone has a different recipe and technique as well.  

But generally the process is the same and the results will most likely taste good no matter what.  

I hope this didn't scare you off!  Baking croissants is fun (after the first few attempts, at least), and can be a rewarding process.  It's definitely a way to grow your baking skill set.

This was meant as a primer if you are thinking of baking croissants for the first time, or have several failed attempts and don't know what you're doing wrong.

Even knowing all of this, I have yet to make the perfect croissants, but haven't giving up trying. 

I wish you good luck on your croissant baking journey as well!