Who Needs Cronuts? Make Classic Croissants

Guest Contributor

by Guest Contributor on October 7, 2013

Written by Abigail Hammett.

Few of you, I’m sure, escaped the summer without hearing about the infamous cronut. The internet was lousy with stories about crazed New Yorkers lining up at 5:00 am for the pastry du jour or selling them for $40 on the black market. The summer’s hottest hybrid inevitably made its way out here to San Francisco and it’s just the kind of thing that the San Francisco foodie crowd would go bananas for. This is a group whose love of cheeky hybrid cuisine has lead to the burritoization of almost everything—on any given day you can get a sushi burrito, a Filipino sisig burrito, a bibimbap burrito, and an aloo gobi burrito.

homemade croissants, via goodfoodstories.com
But I am not a trendy person, food-wise or anything else-wise. I prefer a plain glass of whiskey to an artisanal cocktail; I live in the Haight-Ashbury (a neighborhood that, while boasting other lovely qualities, has not been cool since 1968), and my personal fashion sense has been described alternately as “sexy grandma” (thanks, Casey) and “dorky” (thanks, friend-who-shall-remain-nameless). Regardless of how others describe it, I prefer to think of my taste as classic, and while hybrids can be great, sometimes you just want the original. Maybe I am getting a bit curmudgeonly, but mostly I want my sushi to be sushi and my burritos to be burritos. Likewise, I am perfectly satisfied with croissants and doughnuts as they have always been.

This August, tired of hearing about the cronut, I decided it was time to learn to make the un-cronut, the original: the croissant. In my normal life, I have very little time for baking or even cooking (this is where San Francisco’s burrito glut comes in handy), but at my family’s remote cabin on a beautiful lake in Maine, there is no electricity and no phone and no internet. Our annual summer trip is the only time all year I get to cook for cooking’s sake, and making homemade croissants seemed like the perfect kind of impractical endeavor I would never undertake anywhere else.

maine cabin, via goodfoodstories.com
And it turns out that unlike some other old-school French items, making homemade croissants is not as hard as it sounds. It is very time consuming, but it does not seem to be a terribly delicate process (basically if you’re willing to put the time in, it’s tough to screw it up). The basic premise of constructing the croissants is that you make a simple yeast dough and wrap it around a massive block of butter. Then you repeat a process of rolling and folding to create alternating layers of dough and butter that give the croissants their flakey texture.

The baking process similarly involves multiple steps including letting the dough rise in a tented garbage bag, and spritzing both the unbaked croissants and the oven with water to keep everything moist. But after all the rolling and the chilling and the measuring and the rising and the baking, the croissants came out great! They were deliciously simple, nostalgic, and very, very French—just how a true classic is meant to be.

homemade croissants, via goodfoodstories.com

homemade croissants, via goodfoodstories.com
And while the results were musical-number-worthy, the process of making them was also surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it’s the architect in me, but the process of following very specific instructions, taking the time to carefully complete every step, and finally pulling croissants out of the oven that were so perfectly croissanty-looking was nearly as satisfying as eating the finished product. [Editor's Note: I feel the same way about assembling IKEA furniture.]

We are living in an era of increasingly short-lived food trends and approaching a time when we will be able to just print our dinners. Just as it was refreshing to take a break from San Francisco (which perpetually has its collective face buried in its collective iPhone) and visit technology-free rural Maine, it was a relief to eschew trendy foodie endeavors and engage in a process of old-school, patient, craft-oriented baking.

Now slip into your sexiest grandma apron and give it a go yourself: take the weekend and follow this classic croissant recipe from the renowned chef and baker Nancy Silverton.

Abigail Hammett is a San Francisco-based architect who still bleeds Boston red and blue when it comes to sports. When provoked, she can eat and drink her weight in seafood and whiskey.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat October 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Although Abby is not a featherweight in any field of endeavor, she does weigh only slightly more than a feather and that much whiskey and seafood is easily consumed by any true New Englander. Mmmmm – I think I can smell the croissants from here.

Best,

Pat

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Tracy Collins October 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm

As one who had the pleasure of Abby’s company/cooking skills, family & the lovely state of Maine, I must confess these were the best damn croissants I’ve ever had!! And discovering just how much butter & work go into making them I’m limiting myself to eating only 1 or 2 a year. Thanks Abby!

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Wino October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I am in Montreal right now and this article has made me very hunger for a great croissant! Humm, I wonder if I can find a tasty one in this city???

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Aimee Wimbush-Bourque October 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Good reminder to make croissants. It’s been….nearly an age. But as long as it has been, I still remember the heavenly feeling of biting into a warm homemade croissant!

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Allison October 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

I do keep hearing about those silly cronuts! But these look delicious, and realistic since I am nowhere near a cronut. I don’t think I’ve ever made croissants but that needs to be remedied!

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