I recently spent a week without checking email or Slack. I devoted the entire week to learning to make French pastry—specifically viennoiserie-style laminated pastry, such as croissants and Danish.
3 Things I’ve Learned from a Week of Baking Croissants
Making laminated pastry is an involved process; I cleared out my grocer’s butter shelf and spent hours rolling, folding, cutting, filling, proofing, and baking. Along the way, I homed in on the details that are the keys to success. If you’re thinking of attempting laminated pastry at home—whether for yourself or to serve to cherished family and friends—I hope these tips will guide you on your way.
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1. Start with the Right Ingredients
The most important thing to set yourself up for pastry success is buying the right butter. For croissants and other laminated pastries, go for European-style butter, which has a higher fat content than American butter. This allows it to remain flexible even at lower temperatures, meaning that you can manipulate it while it’s still cold. All that rolling, folding, and shaping is easier with European-style butter; plus, it’s extra-tasty! We recommend you splurge on Plugrá.
Additionally, use high-protein all-purpose flour, such as King Arthur All-Purpose Flour; it has a high enough protein content to support gluten development and provide structure for the rapidly inflating pastry while keeping the dough delicate enough to maintain a beautifully light and flaky texture. King Arthur All-Purpose Flour has an 11.7 percent protein content—the Goldilocks of gluten.
Our Favorite CroissantsCroissants can be a culinary triumph—or a waste of time. Our recipe guarantees success.
Chocolate CroissantsThe only thing better than waking up to the smell of buttery pastries is waking up to the smell of buttery pastries filled with chocolate.
2. Invest in Dependable Equipment
Our winning rimmed baking sheet is a kitchen workhorse: We stock more than 900 copies in the test kitchen. And for good reason—it’s durable, warp-resistant, and light enough to maneuver with one hand. Pair it with our favorite parchment paper for a reliable baking surface every time.
You’ll also need a sturdy rolling pin (for this type of pastry, a wine bottle simply won’t do). I find tapered French-style rolling pins a bit difficult to use, so I opt for our winning dowel-style pin from J.K. Adams. Proper laminated pastry also depends on accurate measurements: Invest in a kitchen scale and a ruler, both of which will also come in handy for most other bakes.
The Best Rimmed Baking SheetsA rimmed baking sheet is essential for sheet cakes and handy for cookies. But if yours is flimsy or you use it only for baking, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
3. Be Patient
I tend to be a pretty impatient person, which doesn’t work when making laminated pastry. Every step—from forming and shaping the butter block; to folding, rolling, and resting the pastry; to proofing the croissants or other baked goods—takes time and dedication. Good things come to those who wait, and in this case, those good things are filled with delicious butter and chocolate. And above all, embrace your mistakes and be willing to try again.
The triumph of a successful croissant is all the sweeter when you’ve messed it up the first time. If you have an issue during your first try, you owe it to yourself to give it another go. And when in doubt, buy more butter.
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Photo: Tim Platt, Getty Images