Parlez-Vous Croissant? How to Make Croissants from Scratch!

The croissant has evolved…into a crescent roll.  Let me explain.  From the time I was in college, until about 10 years ago, croissants were flaky, layered, buttery crescents of heaven. No matter where I bought them, they were all of the above, even at the supermarket bakeries.  I remember stopping at some a few mornings a week before work, and opening the plexiglass case, crumpled tissue in hand like a baseball mitt, ready to grab the freshest croissants before anyone else could.  Even the BK ‘croissandwich’ was flaky, with buttery layers!

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

Then something happened, and I don’t know if some of these places got tired of making croissants the right way, and/or they decided to skimp on the butter, (cutting costs was obvious) because outside of the fancy patisseries, the croissants I was buying were slowly morphing into crescent rolls.  Limp crusts, no flake, and (gasp!) soft white bread like innards with maybe two layers, if you were lucky.  These were not the croissants that used to flake all over my lap with each bite.  These were not the croissants I could eat layer by layer, slowly unrolling, unraveling, deconstructing – holding thin, buttery, window panes  of baked dough up to the light, trying to make it last as long as possible.

I finally bid a sad adieu to any croissants made outside french patisseries.  I wasn’t being a food snob, I just didn’t feel like paying 2 to 3 bucks for a crescent roll when I could easily whip up a batch of those with lots of butter in the dough.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

Then this day came..

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I was jubilant and nervous at the same time.  I had always wanted to recreate those awesome croissants of yore at home, but kept putting it off.  Now I had a reason to.  However, what if I turned out doughy, crescent rolls? I do very well with puff pastry, so how hard could it be? Same method as puff pastry, but using a yeast dough.  Piece of cake! Ha ha..NOT, in my case.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!Stretching the triangle of dough to about 8-10 inches, then placing a ball of scrap dough in the middle of the wide end before rolling, gives you a fatter, multi-layered, higher croissant.

I decided to use the recipe from the challenge to make plain, rolled croissants, and a recipe by Esther McManus from my copy of Baking with Julia (one of my favorite baking books ever) I’d been planning on trying for some time, for some pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants) and other filled croissants.  I even have this episode of Baking with Julia saved on my DVR, and I think I’ve watched it about 2 dozen times since this challenge was announced, not counting the two dozen times I’d watched it before.

This is also why I couldn’t stop talking like her as I made the dough –  ‘You make zee butter sit here and start beating from zee middle, kindly, but firmly.’  I wasn’t kind, and this is probably why I ended up with gaping holes of butter in my dough during my turns.  Sheeet, what to do?

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

Let’s backtrack a bit.  Esther Mcmanus’ dough contains a lot of butter.  OK, that’s an understatement; try 1 lb 2 ounces of butter. Maybe I shouldn’t have pounded it so hard to flatten the mountain of ice-cold butter.  No neat square in this recipe, just a big lump that you pound into the dough.  Then again, since I was already taking my aggression out on this dough, I forced it to roll further than it was ready to go.  Esther says in the episode..

“I’m not going to go any further than dees, cuz I feel it doesn’t want me to” after the first vertical roll of the butter into the dough.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!
I’m the boss, and I want to get the first turn out of the way, so I don’t care what it wants or doesn’t want.  I don’t want to wait 2 hours for a first turn.  I knew I was screwing up, but my dough was so strong, I thought the gluten could take a little beating.  I let it sit for 15 minutes, then started to roll, and it all went beautifully.  I folded it (like a letter, of course), wrapped it, stuck it in the fridge, and went about my day, deciding to let the dough rest overnight to recuperate.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

ROUND, errr..Turn Two.  This is when all hell, butter broke loose.  This was supposed to be a single and double turn at once, and then after another overnight rest, it would be ready for croissants! As I rolled away to get it to the proper length and width for the second turn, I started to run into little bits of butter oozing here and there.  I’d patch these minor caveats up with flour and light pinches, and continue rolling.

As I kept lifting the dough after several rolls, throwing flour beneath it to keep it from sticking, I noticed butter on the marble slab.  Those tiny, little butter nuisances were now turning into gaping holes of Paula Deen.  With every crater of butter in my dough, I heard a ‘Hi Y’all!’.  I was up butter’s creek without a paddle; I had completely ruined this dough. Again, Esther’s voice echoed through my head…

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

“If you tear eet, eeet’s no good”, or something to that effect.  Little holes were fine, according to Esther, but torn, gaping holes, were death.


There was no way I was wasting 1 lb 2 ounces of really good European butter.  I folded up my half turned mess of dough, wrapped it tight in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge, which was going to become its new home for a few days because that’s how long it took me to come up with a solution.

Julia Child to the rescue! I decided to make Julia’s dough from the challenge recipe, no longer for plain croissants, but to save my bruised, battered and buttered dough.  I was basically starting over, my block of butter (beurrage) now a block of butter in dough, which in turn was wrapped in another dough, then all the turns all over again.

To my delight, it worked.  I had a beautiful, silky dough with not one peep from Paula Deen.  One small problem, though..the original butter battered dough had now sat for a a week in the fridge. The yeast had certainly weakened considerably, and the amount of yeast in Julia’s dough would not be enough to carry the load, not to mention it was probably a sourdough by now.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

I formed the croissants, egg-washed them, and sprinkled them with some sea salt (I read it makes a really pretty bubbly effect on the flaky crust).  I knew deep down I wasn’t going to get much oven-spring, and I didn’t, but they were cute and tasty, albeit too dense.  How can anything with all that butter not taste good, regardless of the texture?

Naturally, I wasn’t satisfied because I wanted those big, flaky croissants I loved so much! I made another batch of Esther’s dough, this time using only 3 sticks of butter. As you can see, success; beautiful, big, flaky seven rolled croissants, (See photo collage of croissant rolling, above. I numbered a rolled croissant to show you what I mean).  Tight rolls of each 8-10 inch pulled and stretched triangle gets you 7 ‘sections’ which equals more layers and prettier croissants.

This must all sound confusing, and my collages certainly aren’t clear and easy to understand, so, you can see the full episode of Esther’s croissant making, with the lovely and wonderful Julia, HERE (part one) and HERE (part two).  You can also see a full episode of vintage Julia making croissants, HERE.

So, here’s what I made;

  • Accidental mini sea salt croissants
  • Plain, rolled, croissants, although I didn’t pull the ends long enough to curve them into a classic croissant shape.
  • Plain pain au chocolat
  • White and dark pain au chocolat
  • White chocolate-pistachio and dark chocolate-pistachio croissants (I used the almond filling recipe provided by Esther in Baking with Julia, substituting pistachios for the almonds.)
  • Candied bacon – Pepper Jack cheese croissants.

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

Candied bacon – pepper jack??  Yes, and they were amazing.  Remember a while back when I told you about being a member of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program?  They sent me and others a $25.00 gift card to purchase a variety of Sargento cheeses, American processed cheese singles and any other fruits, crackers and whatnot to host a ‘tasting’, comparing Sargento cheeses, such as Colby, Provolone, and the aforementioned Pepper Jack processed American cheese singles.

Umm..are you kidding? It’s a no-brainer..of course Sargento won out.  I keep American cheese singles on hand for one purpose only – childhood comfort grilled American or Velveeta cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.


Why do we call it grilled cheese? It’s not grilled, it’s griddled; it’s toasted/fried/seared in butter in a pan with a flat surface, NO grates; no grill marks. OK, from hereon in it is GRIDDLED CHEESE to me!


I paired several of Sargento’s cheeses (they come in sticks which are perfect for croissants, like the chocolate batons shown above) with candied bacon, deciding pepper jack was a phenomenal match.  And there you have it..candied bacon – pepper jack croissants!

How to Make Croissants and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) from Scratch!

Leftover croissants going stale? (Although I don’t see how, as we scarf these babies down pretty quickly. Not once, even when I’ve purchased them, have we had leftover croissants to make anything with). BUT, if you do, I strongly recommend THESE twice-baked almond croissants. Oh my gosh. HEAVEN! Also, any croissant bread pudding always kicks ass. I like to add toasted pecans and toffee bits to the custard. It gives you a pecan toffee sauce that’ll knock your socks off. SO, do that to any croissant bread pudding recipe you like.

In conclusion, I loved this challenge, loved how my croissants turned out (especially the second batch), but I think it’s going to be a while before I make croissants again.  I’m still wiping the flour off my face, the frustration off my brain, and the butter from my arteries.

To get Julia’s recipe for croissants, click HERE.

I’m submitting these croissants to Yeastspotting, a weekly showcase of all things bread baking, hosted by the extremely talented, Susan, of Wild Yeast.

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64 Responses to Parlez-Vous Croissant? How to Make Croissants from Scratch!

  1. Shelley C says:

    Holy moly. Can I come live with you? Please? I’ll even do the dishes. I am amazed. With your results, with your ability to turn an oops into a wow, and with all the beautiful variations you made. Seriously, Lisa – Wow.

  2. Nice! Look how buttery and flakey they look.. I’m so bummed that I didn’t get the chance to make them this month (it’s been a heck of a month for me)..

  3. MandyM says:

    You did a fantastic job with the dough rescue, they look great. But I’m not going to lie, your other croissants look AMAZING. Such beautiful golden crusts! All the layers inside, those fillings. I think I just put on 10lb’s looking at your post.
    White chocolate, my weakness. Pistachios. Another weakness. You and I were split at birth.

  4. WOW I absolutely love the fourth photo the flakiness of the crumb is outstanding I love love love it and all the different versions are so beautiful. Beautiful eye candy pictures. Also I sent you an email a while ago did you get it? Bravo to you Lisa

  5. ceecee says:

    Lovely results! Loved this month’s challenge!

  6. Megan says:

    Those chocolate croissants look amazing!

    I’ve never heard of putting the dough ball in croissants like that. I actually was taught to cut a slit there and pull the sides away from each other. Interesting.

  7. There is nothing better than homemade croissants and yours look amazing…especially the chocolate ones! Although it’s definitely a lot of effort…and very time consuming. Love tall the versions you’ve made – you really are very talented 🙂

  8. Laura says:

    Despite the problems you had, they look so tasty and well done.

    I made the same recipe years ago as my first attempt to making croissants. The dough was super tasty but during baking I had butter oozing every where. I guess a little less will help. I will have to try that recipe again, it was so good.

    The chocolate/pistachio croissants are to die for!

  9. Very well done! Those croissants and pains au chocolats are fabulous. I really have to make croissant…



  10. Mary M says:

    Ok seriously……I have been contiplating attempting croissants like forever!! Now I am motivated after seeing this. Yummy!! My sis-in-law just got back from Paris and went on and on about double fisting buttery, flaky croissants. Then she brought me some white honey from France with NO croissants. Boo!! Well in her defense they probably would have been stale. I totally echo your sentiments about the cresent rolls. No comparison to croissants! Can’t wait to get started after seeing your delectable delites. Thanks again for sharing!!

  11. Sounds like quite the adventure. I love that you didn’t give up on the first batch and that they were delicious any way. All your versions look and sound delicious! Wish I had a video of you rolling saying If you tear eet, eeet’s no good 🙂

  12. Ella says:

    Wow!!! Gorgeous croissants! Love the chocolate ones!

  13. Suz says:

    Seven rolled? SEVEN ROLLED? Your croissants are absolutely perfect. You could study them for days and not find a single imperfection. And that crumb? Just beautiful. Funny, I thought the pain au chocolat would be my favourite, but that cheese and ham version is calling my name – loudly. All are glorious though, and -as always- I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them. 😀

  14. Simone says:

    Now that you mention it… you are so right about the croissants we can buy here. It’s the same… Hmm, wonder what happened. I sometimes – I get weak every now and then – buy myself one, just to get very disappointed at the dry thing that is supposed to be a croissant.. Now yours look absolutely perfect… all of them… even the ones you say are not perfect… I wanted to do the challenge this month and then ended up without any time again… O well… probably just as good as these are so not good for the waistline!

  15. Patri says:

    Qué buena pinta!!! Your croissants and the petit-pains look absolutely delicious! Great job, as always 🙂

  16. marcellina says:

    Absolutely stunning! I have that book as well and was going to try the croissants. There does seem to be an awful lot of butter! You did a tremendous job!

  17. Stunning as always Lisa!
    I loved reading your post…and I can’t stop looking at the pictures!

  18. Dan says:

    Once again you out did yourself – having been to France many times these look better and quite delicious. I find it amazing for someone with no formal training or working time as a professional that you continue to churn out such amazing food. Whether savory or sweet your posts are colorful and oh so appetizing and writing is very entertaining. Keep up the good work and where can I ever get to taste your food?

  19. Crumbs of Love says:

    I tried making these 3 times this month but was not happy with any of them, so I have decided to skip posting this month so as to not clog the web with my failed attempts! You, on the other hand, have done a marvelous job. I should have stuck with the original recipe for better luck. I tried Paula Pecks, Sharon Tyler Herbst, and Tartine (which I had the most success with). I also did a pistachio paste and dark chocolate version but they never reached the height I wanted. I really like your idea of the little dough ball in the base. Great read!
    Best, Sandie

  20. Makey-Cakey says:

    These are amazing!!!!! So high, so perfectly croissant-y, such exciting fillings.

  21. Sandra says:

    OMG that’s a ton of work! Congratulations, you deserve a day at the spa.

  22. Jonathan says:

    I like the cross section of your dough, looks like you got about 200 layers there. The pain au chocolat with pistachio is tempting me. Going to give that a shot. Very well done!

  23. carlysulli says:

    Your croissants are stunning! Dandied bacon and pepperjack? Are you kidding me? I want one! Great job with this month’s DB challenge!

  24. Katrina says:

    Gorgeously divine looking. And what a great trick to put a little dough in the middle before rolling. Man I wish butter was good for you. 😉

  25. Jessica says:

    Dang, all of your croissants are stunning!! I need to try that dough ball trick next time. Your fillings sound amazing, too! I think someday, all butter will be referred to as “Paula Deen”.

  26. Liz says:

    Oh, my gosh, you went ALL out, girl!!! What a fabulous array of goodies…all so wonderful!!!

  27. Ahh I just love that tip about having the seven folds because they look so much better with the more folds! And I can imagine how disappointing that must have been to get crescent rolls instead of croissants!

  28. Jenni says:

    “Gaping holes of Paula Deen”?!?! LOL You crack me up! Your croissants look awesome, all 26 million of them, and I can’t believe you double wrapped them! Crazy girl. I am sure they were thoroughly awesome, and after 2 pounds of awesome butter, how could they not be?

  29. Valerie says:

    Wow! You’re a true Daring Baker. 😀 It’s sometimes too easy to throw in the oven mitt after something doesn’t turn out quite right the first time. And what a come-back!

    All your varieties sound scrumptious! Even the “Accidental mini sea salt croissants.”
    Well done. 😀

  30. anja jansen says:

    Wow you’re croissants look delicious. Great. I’m already getting hungry

  31. jaime says:

    Totally amazing! What an delicious post!

  32. shaz says:

    My goodness Lisa, you are such a dedicated baker! I haven’t even started the challenge (about to do so this morning, wish me luck), and you go and make 6 kinds!! Which all sound amazing. I would have been happy even with the sea salt ones. I’d definitely want to try to make pain au chocolat though.

  33. Renata says:

    Wow, Lisa! Your croissants are more beautiful than the ones we buy in France! I couldn’t make the 7 layers, mine ended up with only 5, next time I’ll try that!
    Fantastic job, as always!!

  34. Kimby says:

    I am bookmarking this post for all time — not just for the links and your helpful tips on croissant-making, but because you nailed “what it’s like to eat a REAL croissant” with your descriptive writing. LOVE THIS! Excellent post!

  35. Korena says:

    I admire your perseverance with the dough – I would never have thought to double-wrap it! What a great save, and beautiful end results. The pepper jack and candied bacon croissants sound UH-MAZING. Love the reference to “Paula Deen”!

  36. Juliana says:

    Wow Lisa, could never guess that you had any issue from the pictures of the croissants…they look perfect. Amazing! Gorgeous! Need to say more?
    Hope you are having a fantastic week 🙂

  37. These are beautiful!! I’ve never made croissants before but yours look perfect. I know what you mean about bad croissants! I have no patience for them either.

  38. FOODESSA says:

    Now, that’s what I call a real merry-go-round of a culinary journey. Putting the two of us in a kitchen would not only be frustrating…it would be a floor-roll LOL experience. I really do find myself bonding with your culinary spirit Lisa.

    So, let me get this right…IF ever, I’d want to have fresh homemade croissants made by my gifted ;o) hands…I’d better stick with Esther’s recipe?…I got you and not confused at all. LOL

    Jokes apart, I’m incredibly impressed with the final outcome…those croissants are too perfect to eat!

    Have a wonderful week and flavourful wishes my dear.

    Ciao for now,

  39. Suzanne says:

    You crack me up, I can see you talking like Julia. Well, you did a fabulous job as usual on making the croissants no matter how many you did. I really would have loved to be the taste tester of the chocolate ones and bacon and cheese ones yum! I had lots happening and haven’t got to try mine and the courage it takes to make them too. Hope you are well my friend, we do need to chat soon. xoxox

  40. chef_d says:

    Oh wow, candied bacon croissants? Sounds and looks awesome! Next time I make croissants I’m going to put a ball of dough to make them look more “croissant-ey”. Great job for this month’s challenge!

  41. monkeyshines says:

    Wow! gorgeous croissants! I love your crazy bacon-pepper jack idea. Just crazy enough to work! I’ve never managed to get 7 layers on mine – i am so impressed!

  42. Ok, let me tell you how horrid I am… the first thing i thought when I saw your stunning croissants was, “damn, hers look better than mine”
    They really are stunning, absolute perfection.
    *kisses* HH
    p.s. im going to try that with the dough ball, great idea!

  43. Danielle says:

    Beautiful croissants! I want that candied bacon – cheese! The dough ball tip is great too, will use that in my next try :o)

  44. oh my! i’m not a big fan of flaky things, but your croissants look amazing! love the bacon and cheese one! great job on the challenge! and the perseverance!

  45. Jamie says:

    Wow!!! Wow!!! These are perfect croissant and pains au chocolat, exactly like I get in my local boulangerie! Fabulous! I still dream of getting mine looking like this and looking at your photos (thanks!!) I can see a couple things I got wrong. But I want the recipe you used. And man you don’t ever settle for just…. you go all out and make everything in a huge selection of fillings and flavors. Jamie is soooo impressed! Fabulous job and you have really inspired me to try again!

  46. Ali says:

    The croissants look good, nice and flaky. such a beautiful post. Love the photos… nice blog 🙂

  47. Lisa~~ says:

    I have been looking forward to reading this post since before I went away and oh my, your work and late nights paid off because the croissants look flaky and delicious. I’m betting that your’s were a lot better than the ones they served on the ship…which honestly and unfortunately weren’t worth eating. Maisie saw the picture of the ones you made with bacon and asked if I would make some for her…she’s my little candied bacon lover! I told her that some Lisa’s were good and talented in working with dough and others weren’t and unfortunately her Mama was one Lisa who doesn’t do well with dough. You once again did a fabu job and congrats on another gorgeous post.

    Cook Lisa Cook

  48. Shumaila says:

    The croissants look great and all the flavors/fillings sound absolutely delicious. I loved making croissants. For the challenge I made plain ones but now I am working on making filled ones. The waiting though is a pain!

  49. Beth says:

    They sound like a lot of work, but they look spectacular! Well done!

  50. Fabulous!! Perfectly executed, as always . . . . And croissants are sooooo hard to get perfect.

  51. Mais Oui Oui je parles Français, oops I mean Croissant. I so agree aa croissant imposter has taken over the retail worlds. I am impressed by your creations, so fluffy and flaky. I always get gaping holes of butter of puff pastry like recipes. And a chocolatine for breakfast please?

  52. SinFoodie says:

    Your croissant look amazing. Bookmarking them for making it some day!

  53. Your croissants look perfect! Love the variety you have created. Very nicely done.

  54. Ilke says:

    Gosh, you went all the way above and beyond! I love the different types you made.

  55. Sue says:

    I would be in heaven with all of your croissant variations…one of each(at least), please! Mmmmmm, so many buttery, flaky layers:) I have made croissants ONCE, and I think my husband and I ate them all, but don’t tell anyone. They were so worth the effort. I think it’s time for croissant making again…thanks for the inspiration!

  56. Hello talented lady
    how are you !!! missed your posting and your news….
    what a gorgeous looking croissant you got with several
    varieties to choose from .
    I will come back and visit you soon, and hopefully I will
    get some good news to share with you….!!

  57. WOW candied bacon and pepperjack?? Homemade croissants?! I give you my word I will try that recipe! That would be so incredible to pull that off! Thank you so much for sharing this. Your croissants look amazing! My fussy French other half even says so! 🙂

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