My first ever croissant attempt...

Making Croissants at Home
They aren't perfect, but even with my silly mistakes people gobbled them up!

Who doesn't love croissants? It's such a shame that there are so few real deal (and by that I mean, all-butter, laminated yeast dough, flaky crescents of deliciousness) croissants to be found in the world, so I decided it was a challenge I needed to at least attempt. No hydrogenated fats, no compromises and shortcuts. I was going to make "real" croissants.

Ok, to be perfectly honest, they are a pain to make. I actually make them pretty regularly now that I've gotten the hang of them. The technique isn't all that hard, but they do take time. Lots of time. And not convenient time either. My favorite is to have one with coffee (technically, a latte, I'm a junkie for milky espresso drinks) first thing in the morning, but that requires me to set my alarm to be up at 5 am so I can shape the dough, give it the 2-3 hours to proof, and have one gloriously warm at 8 am. That isn't counting the time it takes to create the actual dough, the mixing, the folding, the resting. Therefore, I relegate croissants to weekend mornings where I can wake up, shape them in my pjs and just go back to bed.

Why go through it? Are they worth it? Yes, absolutely. Even my first attempt yielded better croissants than any I have eaten outside of Paris, period. But if you do attempt to make these suckers, be warned of two things:

1) They are good only on the day you bake them. Sure sure, I've eaten day or two old croissants gladly, but they are only a pale memory of what they were when freshly baked. And trust me when I tell you, nothing pisses you off more than seeing your hard work turn into stale pastries.

2) Baking your own will absolutely ruin you for croissants elsewhere. Before making my own, I used to enjoy those bready, simple things most grocery stores and bakeries in the US call croissants. I hear even in revered Paris, the real deal croissant is getting rarer and rarer. And trust me, you will be able to tell the difference.

But, if after those two warnings you want to make you own - please do! I highly encourage it and hope that by sharing my first time rookie  mistakes, I will have in some way helped prepare you for these delicious pastries.

First, the recipe. My first attempt was a hybridized recipe I printed out and can no longer find the true source of. Something in my mind tells me it came from some Jacques Pepin book. I actually still use a hybridized recipe modified from that original because it works for me and I like it. I do like the croissant recipe from Baking With Julia as well as Jennifer Reese's from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. Whatever recipe you use, just remember to keep the dough cold. If the butter melts and starts to weep and seep, you won't get a laminated dough. I live in Florida and decided to begin my croissant experiment in the middle of the summer. Let's just say I was up very late waiting for my next set of turns. In fact, I was so distracted when I first attempted (the butter block is annoying when you aren't used to it) that I completely forgot to add SALT to my dough.

Yep, that was my rookie mistake. Imagine my frustration when at 10 pm, getting ready to pull out the dough for my last turn, I realize I never put salt in the dough! So I cheated, sprinkled some salt into that last fold and hoped for the best. Went to bed that night, woke up at 5 am the next morning and set out to shape my croissants.

Just shaped, ready for proofing. I did plain, almond, and pain au chocolat.

I don't know if I am unusually uncoordinated, but I had some trouble shaping the dough into those lovely crescents. I tore some of the dough (and trust me, you can't patch laminated dough like pie crust!) and my croissants were not equally sized. But they looked like croissants, so I was happy.

After their final proofing. I've also added almonds to the top of the almond croissants.

Out of the oven, the smell is unbelievable.

Close up, not perfect, but still looks yummy!

Pain au chocolat

Interior of plain...

Interior of pain au chocolat.

So after it all, even forgetting the salt and adding it late, they were still ridiculously good! No, they aren't perfect, I've definitely gotten better with practice, but the folks I gave croissants to sure ate them up gleefully.

There you have it, my first attempt documented. If you do make these darlings, remember to let them cool before you eat them. When you pull them out of the oven, the smell is so intoxicating you are going to want to devour them then and there, but they do need just a little time to set so you get that gorgeous flakiness and perfect interior texture. Have fun and good luck!

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