Don't be flaky; celebrate croissants!


Today is National Croissant Day. A day to knead out your frustrations on some dough, and turn all that effort into a light and flaky melt-in-your-mouth creation that will make you forget why you needed to knead.

The croissant has an interesting story, even if it may be legend. In 1683, the bakers of Vienna alerted the army about the Turks who were coming to do battle.

The bakers received high honors and thanks for their assistance in defeating the Turks.

To celebrate they baked their bread in the shape of a crescent moon which was the symbol of the Ottoman Empire. From then on, it became custom to serve morning coffee with the crescent-shaped pastry.

About a hundred years later, Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to the French who dubbed it a "croissant."

To make a croissant, dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, in a technique called laminating. The process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry.

Fortunately for those of us who lament over lack of time, someone developed a factory-made, frozen croissant in the 1970s which could be freshly baked by the unskilled. Sad, to say, however, 30 to 40 percent of all croissants sold today in French bakeries and pastries are frozen. Sort of like the French hearts.

Today, though, you have the chance to dapple in the art of the pastry chef. Making your own croissants is not difficult; there's no special equipment or hard-to-find ingredients required. What is necessary is good technique. Once you understand the basics of creating multilayered dough you can set up shop for a warm french bakery, minus the Dough Boy.


(recipe from

Recipe makes 1 dozen

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

Combine yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Allow to stand until creamy and frothy.

Measure flour into a mixing bowl. Dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar and salt in warm milk. Blend into flour along with yeast and oil. Mix well; knead until smooth. Cover, and let rise until over triple in volume. Deflate gently, and let rise again until doubled. Deflate and chill 20 minutes.

Massage butter until pliable, but not soft and oily. Pat dough into a 14 x 8 inch rectangle. Smear butter over top two thirds, leaving 1/4 inch margin all around. Fold unbuttered third over middle third, and buttered top third down over that. Turn 90 degrees, so that folds are to left and right. Roll out to a 14 x 6 inch rectangle. Fold in three again. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and put dough in a plastic bag. Refrigerate 2 hours. Unwrap, sprinkle with flour, and deflate gently. Roll to a 14 x 6 inch rectangle, and fold again. Turn 90 degrees, and repeat. Wrap, and chill 2 hours.

To shape, roll dough out to a 20 x 5 inch rectangle. Cut in half crosswise, and chill half while shaping the other half. Roll out to a 15 x 5 inch rectangle. Cut into three 5 x 5 inch squares. Cut each square in half diagonally. Roll each triangle lightly to elongate the point, and make it 7 inches long. Grab the other 2 points, and stretch them out slightly as you roll it up. Place on a baking sheet, curving slightly. Let shaped croissants rise until puffy and light. In a small bowl, beat together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Glaze croissants with egg wash.

Bake in a preheated 475 degrees oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Brush the croissants with egg wash a second time half way through baking. Bake until the bottoms are an even brown, the tops richly browned, and the edges show signs of coloring. If they appear to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10 degrees. Let cool on baking sheets on racks.

It would be treacherous if I gave you a croissant recipe without the option of making a Chocolate Croissant. Chop some good-quality bittersweet chocolate and distribute it along the length of the notched end of the dough triangle after you've stretched it-use about 1/2 oz. or 1-1/2 Tbs. for each one. Roll it up just like a plain croissant but without stretching out or bending the legs. Bake the same. I like to drizzle a little semi-sweet melted chocolate over the top after baked.


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