Flour, water, butter, yeast, sugar, and salt—these are the deceptively simple components of the ubiquitous French pastry that’s known and loved worldwide for its flaky layers, subtle crunch, and tender interior. When mixed, kneaded, rested, folded, and rolled just right, these six ingredients make up a winning batch of laminated dough—with distinct layers of butter and flour-based yeasted dough that rise into a complex, cavernous labyrinth of buttery deliciousness.
- Section I: In a small bowl, crumble the yeast into the water. Section II: In another small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and milk. Section III: In a small saucepan, heat butter, milk, and water until butter is melted.
- Turn the folded dough 90-degrees, so that the single fold is perpendicular to you, roll it out and fold again. Press with two fingers, so you'll remember that you'e done two "tours", wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour.
- Remove the butter from the refrigerator 30 minutes before using, so that it will soften some and be easier to handle. Place it between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap , and with a rolling pin, beat it to form a solid sheet of butter about 1/2-inch thick.
- On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1 1/2-inch thick. Place the butter on top of the dough, fold edges over to envelope completely, and press well with the fingers to seal. Sprinkle flour on dough, rolling pin, and work surface, then roll out dough to a long rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, and fold it into thirds.
- Remove dough from refrigerator, turn it 90-degrees, roll it out, and fold. Repeat, wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
- After the last refrigeration time, roll out the dough into a 36x12x1/8-inch rectangle. (If your work surface is small, roll it out one half at a time). Cut in half, lengthwise, then cut each strip into 12 triangles, 3 inches wide at the base. Roll up each triangle, beginning at the base, and curl the ends to give the pastries a crescent shape.
- Place on ungreased baking sheets, about 8 per sheet. Brush with beaten egg to prevent drying and thus aid in the rising process, and let rise in a warm place (not too warm - the butter would melt and run out over the baking sheets) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. Brush again with eg and bake in a preheated 475-degrees over for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Sever warm with coffee and tea.
- Note: Professional bakers in France give the dough exactly 2 1/2 tours, but the homemaker handles the dough much more, which necessitates 4 tours. The dough should have a uniform appearance, with no lumps of butter showing through. If this happen, give it 1 or 2 more tours, until the color is even.
- Storage: Wrap baked croissants in plastic and store in a cool, dry place for several days. To freeze for up to 2 weeks, place warm croissants on a baking sheet or tray and freeze, uncovered. When frozen, place in a plastic bag. To serve, heat unthawed croissants in a preheated 325-degrees oven for 5 minutes. The "détrempe" (that is, the dough before adding the butter and touring) can be frozen for up to 1 month. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator for 12 hours before using.
- Afterword: According to another old legend explaining the crescent roll's origin, the Polish King John III Sobieska saved Vienna from a later Turkish siege which occurred in 1683. To celebrate the liberation, the Viennese bakers used the last of their flour to make pastries resembling the enemy's symbol: the crescent.