Butter and Ham and Cheese Croissants
Homemade croissants right out of the oven are in my top 10 favorite bites of all time. These have a crunch on the outside and then the inside is full of soft, pillowy layers of flakey goodness. This recipe shows you how to make them plain or filled with ham and cheese. They are a labor of love but, I have started to space out the work over three days, letting the dough rise slowly in the fridge every night, so that they don't take up too much time any one day. That said, I'll give directions to make them quicker as well. Happy baking!
Your Time: 1 hour Rising Time: 5 - 24 hours
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for bench flour
1 cup bread flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
10 tablespoons European style salted butter
1 large egg
8 slices deli sliced black forest ham (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, salt and sugar. Set aside.
In a small saucepan heat the milk to approximately 100-110 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer you can place your finger in the milk. If the milk doesn't feel hot or cold then the milk's temperature is right around your body temperature (98 degrees F). Continue to heat the milk until it is just warm to the touch, that will be approximately 100-110 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in the active dry yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast just begins to foam.
Add the milk mixture into the flour and stir until evenly incorporated with a rubber spatula. The dough won't be completely smooth, but you shouldn't have any flour lumps. Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours until doubled in size, or place in the refrigerator overnight (this is what I do most often to break up the work).
Lightly dust a clean work surface with bench flour. Cut the cold butter into 1 tablespoon pieces and place on top of the flour. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the butter into a small disc, pushing the butter into the flour, the butter should be about 1/4-inch thick. Dust the top of the butter with flour and then set these pieces of butter aside. (It's important to work with the butter when it is cold or you won't get these flat discs of butter, the butter will just melt and become messy). If the butter becomes too soft, place bake in the fridge or freezer to firm it up.
Remove the risen dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 20-inches long and 8 inches wide. The dough should be about 1/4-inch thick. Leaving a 1-inch border around the edges, place the butter on the left side of the dough, taking up about one half of the total space of the dough. Fold the right side of the dough to the center, and then fold that section up and over the butter. Gently press the three sides of the dough with open folds closed to keep the butter from coming out the edges when rolling. Dust the dough with more bench flour and then roll the dough again into a 20-inch by 8-inch rectangle. The butter will begin to incorporate into the dough, if any butter starts to come through the dough, dust it with flour so you can continue to easily roll the dough out. Fold the dough again, just as before. Repeat this process two more times; each time you roll and fold the dough (also known as laminating the dough), the butter will become more evenly incorporated which will give you the flakey layers you want in a croissant. After you roll the dough the last time, fold it one more time and then place in a clean bowl and cover with a towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours or place in the refrigerator overnight. (You can also freeze the dough at this point after the second rise, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 1 month).
After the dough has risen, again lightly flour a clean work surface with flour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 20-inch long by 8-inch wide rectangle. Lay the dough so the long side is parallel to you and then use a pizza wheel or a sharp paring knife to cut the dough into four 5-inch rectangles. Next cut each of these pieces of dough into triangles by cutting a diagonal line from the bottom corner to the opposite top corner. In the end you will have 8 triangles of dough each about 8-inches long and 2 1/2-inches wide at the base.
Next, roll the triangles into slightly thinner triangles, about 1/8-inch thick; it's ok that the triangle increases in size as you roll them thinner. If you are adding ham and cheese, fold each slice of ham in half and place it on the bottom, wider end of the croissant, adding 1 slice per croissant. Top each slice of ham with 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan. Next, starting at the thicker end of the croissant, roll the dough into a log towards the tip of the triangle. This will give you the perfect croissant shape, where the tip is in the center of the croissant. Place the croissants on the prepared baking sheet, making sure the tip of the croissant is facing down against the baking pan so it doesn't unravel when baking. Repeat with the remaining croissants, spacing them out evenly on the baking sheet. Let the croissants rise 1 hour or again, cover with a clean towel, and refrigerate overnight for a slow rise.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly whisk the egg and then brush each croissant with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the croissants are deeply golden brown on the top and bottom. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.