Croissant dough sounds really scary, but as long as you have a good recipe, it’s relatively straightforward and surprisingly forgiving. King Arthur Flour’s blog has a great, step-by-step explanation. You can make croissant dough with a stand mixer and dough hook (my preference) or knead it by hand. I’m posting both sets of instructions because fresh croissants are amazing and definitely worth the time.
Croissant Dough (By Hand)
From King Arthur Flour
Yield: 24 large croissants OR 36 mini croissants OR 18 rectangular filled croissants
- 2 large eggs plus enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast OR 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (optional)
- 1 scant tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, for sweet pastry)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
For butter inlay:
- 1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch
- 3/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Make the sponge:
- Crack eggs into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add enough warm water to equal 2 cups.
- Beat until blended, and pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Add yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. If using active dry yeast, let it proof while you measure out 3 cups of flour.
- Add the 3 cups of flour.
- With a wooden spoon, mix until well blended. Cover and set aside.
Make the butter inlay:
- While the yeast begins its work, set up the butter inlay. Using a mixer on low speed or with a spoon by hand, mix the 1 7/8 cups butter and 1/2 cup flour just until the mixture is smooth and well blended (no hard lumps). Be careful not to incorporate any air.
- Lightly flour a piece of plastic wrap, place the butter mixture on it, and use a dough scraper to pat it into an 8-inch square.
- Wrap the butter inlay and set aside.
Continue preparing the dough:
- Stir the vanilla, if using, and the melted butter into the sponge.
- Stir in the rest of the sugar (if you’re making savory croissants, you can leave this out), the dry milk (if using), and the salt.
- Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a soft but kneadable dough. Measure out another 1/2 cup of flour in case you need it while kneading.
- Flour a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes dough is smooth and elastic. Add the measured 1/2 cup of flour a little at a time if the dough is still sticky.
- Pat dough into a square shape. Wrap loosely with plastic wrap, or sprinkle a little flour into a large plastic bag and put the dough inside it.
- Put both the dough and the butter inlay in the refrigerator on a flat surface for at least 30 minutes. (You want the dough and butter inlay to be at the same consistency when you roll it out.)
Make laminated dough:
- Flour a work surface and rolling pin.
- Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and gently roll it into a square about 12 inches across.
- Unwrap the butter inlay slab and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in the square.
- Fold the flaps of the dough over the edges of the butter until they meet in the middle.
- Pinch and seal the edges of the dough together. Moisten your fingers with a little water, if necessary.
- Dust the top with flour, then turn the dough over and tap it gently with the rolling pin into a rectangular shape.
- Pick up the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking underneath, dusting under with more flour if necessary, then roll from the center out until you have a rectangle 20 inches long by 10 inches wide. Turn the dough over from time to time, dusting it, the work surface, and the rolling pin with more flour if necessary. (Don’t worry if the dough rips and the butter shows in places; just brush it lightly with flour.)
- Lightly brush off any excess flour, then fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center, and the top third over that (like a business letter). Line the edges up on top of each other, and even up the corners so they’re directly on top of each other. If necessary, use a dab of water to tack the corners together. You’ve now made your first “turn.” (You can keep track of the number of turns by making dimples in the dough.)
- Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Remove and orient the dough package so it looks like a book ready to be opened. Do a second rolling and turning the same way.
- Make a note of how many folds you’ve completed and the time, wrap the dough, and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Repeat the above folding and turning process two more times, for a total of four turns.
- Wrap the dough well and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight before using. (You can divide the dough in half and freeze half of it. Before using, defrost in the refrigerator for about 8 hours.)