Croissants and France.
It is nearly impossible to think about one without thinking about the other. And while the history of where the croissant originated is debatable (did it actually originate in Austria in the 17th century?), the understood and agreed upon truth is that a croissant is absolutely scrumptious and made with ample amounts of butter.
If you have been following TSLL on Instagram, you know that for many Sunday mornings, a croissant picked up at a local bakery in Bend is often my weekly treat. However, each time I return to France (most recently this past summer – 2018), when I bite into a croissant while either sitting at a cafe in Paris or welcoming home a croissant to enjoy as I greet the day in my vacation rental, the difference is immediately apparent – the French simply know how to make croissants like nobody else.
French croissants need not be large, and the flaky, buttery layers that open up to reveal a warm, buttery soft, but a little chewy inside, creates a magnificent symphony for the tastebuds. Needing no extra sugar to keep the American palette returning as I find some bakeries choose to do, these quintessential French pastries are perfect just as they are with the simple ingredients of flour, butter, a little bit of milk, yeast (the bit of sugar in the recipe feeds the yeast) and that is it.
Having always enjoyed waking up on a Sunday or during the winter holidays and nibbling on a warm from the oven croissant, I have in the past found frozen croissants and kept them in my freezer, placed however many I needed for the next morning out on the counter the night before or in the refrigerator so that I could bake them in the morning. However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I have made my own croissants.
Inspired by watching Baking with Julia on PBS, it is during the show’s second season, episode #1 with French baker Esther McManus that viewers have the opportunity to see the making of the croissants (if you are a PBS subscriber/member, you can view this video for free here with your PBS Passport; you can also view the full video in two parts here and here on YouTube). It is this visual teaching that made all the difference for me (you can view the recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook Baking with Julia as well). I have transcribed the recipe as she shares it on the show, added my own notations that helped me along the way and included my own adaptions for freezing the croissants I don’t need immediately.
The beauty of a croissant recipe is that you can add any filling you want if you wish – almond, chocolate, etc. I do love a Pain au Chocolat every once in a while for a chocolate treat, so I split the recipe in half and made 12 traditional croissants and 12 pain au chocolats.
While the recipe takes time – a good 36 hours from start to warm-out-of-the-oven finish – the recipe is very simple and is certain to give you the flaky, buttery French croissant you remember during your last visit to France. As I share in my pictures below, I made small traditional croissants and standard pain au chocolat. As you make them yourself, you can decide the size you prefer best.
Needless to say, I am tickled with the result, and with now twenty croissants in my freezer, I look forward to enjoying a warm croissant hot out of my oven for many weeks to come, as well as being able to have something scrumptious for weekend guests of family and friends who visit me here in Bend. With each batch I know I will improve upon what I learned my first go-round, but with a recipe like this one, it is hard to go wrong.
The recipe is shared below, and look for this recipe to potentially be included in the upcoming second season of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen which will premiere September 2019. Wishing you a delicious morning with your next croissant and may it transport you to the cobbled streets of Paris. Bonne journée!