Why are these called Christmas Morning Croissants, you might wonder? Because if you’re a normal person with a job, Christmas morning is the only time you can make these time intensive treats. Are they difficult to make? No. Actually, they’re nowhere near as scary as they seem. But they do require a lot of down time, which means the work is spread out over a couple of days. That makes these babies the perfect December 23rd project. You do most of the work on the 23rd, a little rolling on the 24th, and then the morning of the 25th they’re ready to bake. Or if you’re super smart about it, you make them over Thanksgiving break and freeze them, so you’re spending Christmas Eve drinking hot toddies, you intelligent person you.
More importantly, are they worth it? Yes. These are the best croissants I’ve ever had. You end up wearing them more than eating them, they’re so flakey, and, not to sound too boot strappy about it, but there’s something satisfying about eating your own creation. The first one I bit into I thought, “Yeah, ok. This is good,” but it was the second and third one that really impressed me. I guess the contrast of the golden brown crunch and the yielding crumb that melts in your mouth is what did it for me. They ought to be tethered to the table with strings, they’re so light. It’s worth doing at least once, and Christmas seems like the perfect time to try it.
For 8 medium croissants
2 tablespoons warm water, (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 teaspoon dry-active yeast
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk, (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7 ounces chilled unsalted butter
a ruler or measuring tape (this is so much easier than eyeballing)
INGREDIENTS (EGG WASH)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
DIRECTIONS (MAKING THE DOUGH)
In a small bowl, combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to combine. Let it stand for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to bubble a bit. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attached (or if kneading by hand, a large bowl), combine the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and the salt with the milk.
Add the yeast mixture and flour to the milk mixture. Knead on low speed for 3 minutes, then up to medium speed for 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and shiny and should create a “windowpane” when you cut off a golf ball sized piece and stretch it with your hands. For it to be a “windowpane,” light has to pass through it. If you don’t have a mixer, knead the dough on a well floured surface using your hands.
Transfer dough to a clean bowl (or in my case plastic tub). Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and let stand in a warm place until at least doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down the dough, press it flat, and put it in fridge for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
DIRECTIONS (ROLL IN THE BUTTER)
Grate fridge cold butter like you would cheese over a sheet of plastic wrap. With you hands push it together into a 5 by 9 1/2 inch rectangle, wrap with plastic wrap, and press with your hands so it forms a single block. Pop back in the fridge for 30 minutes; you want the butter to be cold. When the dough is ready, remove the butter from the plastic wrap.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, roll it out to a 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Place the butter over the upper two-thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Fold the bottom (unbuttered) third of the dough up to the middle. Fold the top third down to cover it. It should look like a business letter…just made of dough.
Lightly flour the top of the dough, and work surface. Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right and roll the dough into a rectangle, 18 by 8 inches. Roll quickly, and all the way through the dough, as you want to to be an even thickness all the way through. Fold again like a business letter. Wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to fridge for 1 hour.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and repeat the rolling and folding process twice more, as above. If the butter has hardened, lightly beat the dough with the rolling pin going from one side to the other until butter has softened. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Resting overnight will make it easier to shape.
DIRECTIONS (FORMING THE CROISSANTS)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to be a 16 by 8 inch rectangle. Cut into 4 rectangles, each 8 by 4 inches. Then cut each rectangle diagonally into 2 triangles. Trim edges, make a little incision in the base of the triangle, and stretch lightly into skinny long triangles. Roll up fairly tight, starting from the base with the incision and rolling forward. Stretch the ends towards each other to create a little crescent shape.
At this point, you can let the croissants rise again right away, fridge overnight and rise next day, or freeze (defrost overnight in fridge before rising).
Place the croissants on a parchment of silicon mat lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream, and lightly brush over tops of croissants. Let the croissants rise in a warm space, which for me is my oven set to about 85F (the lowest setting on my oven), until very soft and jiggly, about 1 1/2 hours. Brush another layer of egg wash after they’ve risen.
Preheat oven to 425F.
Bake at 425F for 10 minutes then rotate the pan and turn down the oven to 375F and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Try your hardest not to eat them straight from the oven, as they need to cool for the layers to set properly.