Flaky, buttery, and golden brown
There's nothing quite like a warm croissant or pain au chocolat with your morning coffee. Great croissants take practice and effort, but the rewards make them worth it. Click through the slideshow to learn how to make croissants.
Mixing the dough
When you mix the dough, first combine the milk and water, heat it to 110 degrees fahrenheit, and activate the yeast. Then mix the yeast mixture with the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed using a dough hook until the dough becomes smooth and stretchy.
Proof the dough
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (not the surface of the dough), and allow the dough to proof at 85 degrees Fahrenheit for 1.5 hours. Halfway through the proofing process, remove the plastic wrap, deflate the dough and fold it over on itself a couple of times, then replace the cover. The dough will double in size and feel lighter.
Pre-shape the dough
On a floured surface, press the dough into a 20x10 inch rectangle and allow it to rest five minutes to relax the gluten. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter and allow it to proof for 20 minutes on the bench.
Prepare the butter
Cut cold butter into 1 inch chunks and place them between two pieces of plastic wrap with lots of overhand on both sides. Pound the butter flat with a rolling pin. Gather it back into a small pile, then pound it out again, until it is cold and pliable.
Create the butter pack
Use the rolling pin to roll the cold butter into a smooth, even sheet that is approximately 14 inches by 7 inches. Place the "sheet" of butter in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool.
Roll out the dough and place the butter
Roll out the dough so it is approximately 21x10 inches. Place the butter in the center, with over an inch overhang on the two edges and an even amount of dough overhanging the long way.
Cover the butter
Bring the two ends of the dough together, encasing the butter. Pull the edges together, so none of the butter underneath is exposed.
Roll out the dough and butter
Turn the dough and butter pack the long way, so the line where the dough meets in vertical, and slowly roll the dough out. Avoid pressing too hard, which will cause the butter to squirt out. If it does, just push it back inside after you finish rolling.
Fold like a letter
Fold the dough into thirds. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and place in the fridge for 30 minutes, with something heavy completely covering it. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge, roll it out again, fold into thirds, wrap, and return it to the fridge for 30 minutes. The dough should get a total of three sets of folding and chilling. After the third set, wrap and return the dough to the fridge under the weighted object to chill overnight.
Roll out the chilled dough and measure
After the dough has chilled overnight, remove it from the fridge and gradually, carefully begin to roll out the dough into a large sheet just shy of 1/4 inch thick. Cut a rectagle measuring 21x8 inches. Using a ruler, make small marks in the dough along the top every 3 inches beginning at the edge. Then, starting 1.5 inches from the edge, measure and mark every 3 inches on the bottom of the dough piece.
Cut the dough
Using a pizza cutter or a chef's knife, cut diagonal lines from the top marks to the bottom to create triangles.
Cut a slit in the triangles
Cut a .5 inch slit in each of the triangles and gently pull the dough apart.
Roll the two flaps of dough created by the cut away from each other.
Gently push the dough to roll up the croissant. Do not roll tightly, so the dough is stretching, or the croissant won't be able to rise. Also avoid rolling it too loosely, which will cause the croissant to lose its shape.
Bring the points together
Gently shape the rolled croissant into a crescent shape. Ensure that the tip of the triangle is neatly tucked under the croissant to prevent it from popping up during proofing and baking.
Give each croissant about 3 inches of space on a parchment lined baking sheet. Proof the shaped croissants for 45 minutes at 85 degrees. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Shaping pan au chocolat
Even if your plan is to make croissants, you may have some dough left over to make pain au chocolat (or, this may be your plan for the entire batch). To begin, cut the dough into 3x5 inch rectangles.
Place the chocolate
In France and in most bakeries, there are special bars of chocolate made for this one use. These bars contain a fair amount of wax to prevent the chocolate from melting too much while baking. I prefer to use real chocolate and put up with a little dripping. To begin, place two lines of chocolate chips on each dough rectangle.
Roll the edge of the rectangle over the first line of chocolate. Then push the remaining chips close to the edge of the folded flap.
Finish shaping the pan au chocolat
Continue rolling the dough in the same direction, over the second line of chocolate, so the second edge ends up on the bottom of the shaped pain au chocolat. Place these on a parchment lined sheet tray to proof for 45 minutes at 85 degrees.
Brush with egg wash
Once the shaped croissants/pain au chocolat feel puffy and light, carefully brush the exterior with egg wash. Be careful to avoid the edges where you cut the dough; only brush the surfaces not the edges. This will allow the layers to fully puff in the oven.
Bake to golden brown perfection
Bake the croissants/pain au chocolat in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Then drop the oven to 400 degrees and allow them to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown. Allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.