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Croissants: Layers and Layers of Flavor
A croissant is a staple of a continental breakfast or a leisurely morning spent in a café. Read on to find out how bakers get their dough to rise to the occasion.
However mouth-watering the smell of a fresh-baked, buttery croissant may be, most people will probably never experience that aroma in their own kitchens or office break rooms. The process of croissant-making takes both expertise and a lot of time: one batch can require more than a day to complete.
It’s a lot of labor for a food that might not make it past the two-minute mark on the plate. The ingredients are simple—usually flour, milk, yeast, high-fat butter, sugar, salt, egg, and water—but combined in precise proportions, at specific temperatures, and with plenty of resting time. The most time-consuming step, and the one that really makes a croissant a croissant, is called lamination. After first rolling out a slab of dough, the baker folds it over a broad, thin slab of butter, then rolls it out again. This process, called turning, is repeated three or more times, sometimes with resting and chilling periods of up to 45 minutes between each turn. Each time, the butter is dispersed through another layer of dough. (To envision this geometrical proliferation of layers, imagine taking a peanut-butter sandwich, cutting it continually in half, stacking the pieces higher and higher, and, just for fun, trying to fit the whole thing in your mouth.) Once the dough is cut and rolled into crescents, some bakers let it rest and rise once more for up to 24 hours.
Almost as soon as the rolls are popped into a hot oven, the pockets of butter begin to boil and push apart the layers of dough, producing the required delicate, flaky texture. This sizzling action is why pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s signature cronut—a donut-croissant hybrid—is not just a fad but a feat of engineering. Because the dough layers tend to fly apart fast in the fryer, Grub Street reported, it took Ansel 10 different tries to find a recipe and frying method that would produce perfectly golden, airy orbs.