Today’s Buttery Croissant Loaf is a study in compromise. Don’t worry, the taste is in no way detracted from or altered because the dough is not the problem. I can make croissant dough without many tears or frustrations. But forming a croissant into that perfect croissant shape? Well, let’s just say that’s a work in progress. This loaf sidesteps the shaping issue and delivers all the flaky, butteriness of the classic croissant in a sliceable and toastable format. And if you’re hosting a New Year’s brunch, you really can’t ask for a better centerpiece. So let’s dive right in!
My baking nemesis is the croissant. It’s a very unfortunate nemesis to have because, well, croissants are perfect. And, for me, there isn’t a more nostalgic baked good out there. When I was growing up, my family had a feed of croissants every Christmas morning. They came from a local bakery called Julien’s, which you can still find in the Hydrostone market in Halifax, NS. When my parents moved from the city to the country, we had to find an alternative source for our croissants. I egotistically volunteered myself. I mean, how hard could it be? Well, pretty damn hard as it would turn out.
The first time I made croissants from scratch, my baking skills weren’t, um, fully formed. I made the dough while lamenting my lack of upper body strength. But despite the persistent ache in my forearms, the dough came together without much protest. But when it came time to form the croissant dough into its destined croissant shape, everything fell apart. I couldn’t roll the dough out thin enough (see my previous complaint about my upper body strength), so the dough was far too warm when I finally got around to cutting the triangles. And the layers of butter were practically liquid by the time the coiling commenced. Did I mention I was observed by family members throughout this entire process? In the end, I was rewarded with delicious but wonky-looking croissants and a brand-spanking new baking phobia.
I have attempted croissants a few times since. While I have addressed my lack of upper body strength and expanded my baking horizons, the croissant shaping has not improved. So rather than bang my head against what seems to be a real baking wall for me, I opted to make this Croissant Loaf. This shape is far easier to achieve and you can slice it and toast it. The slicing process is a bit of a delicate affair, however, but a slice of this beautiful loaf is well worth the patience and deft hand. So let’s go through the multi-hour-long process it takes to make this confidence-boosting loaf.
Okay, the first thing we’re going to do to make this Buttery Croissant Loaf is whip up a simple yeasted dough. This will require some lukewarm milk, a little brown sugar, and some dry active yeast. Combine these ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and let everything sit and get foamy. This should take about 10 minutes. If things are not foamy after that, discard your yeast because it is sadly dead. Start the recipe over again with fresh yeast and avoid tears a little farther down the road.
Once your yeast is foamy, add salt and most of the flour. Fit the stand mixer with a dough hook and mix on low. When a loose dough comes together, start adding the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments. You want the dough to be lightly tacky but firm enough to clean the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl. Knead the dough by hand for 5-7 minutes. I like to finish my dough by hand, so I can get a sense of what it might need. If it’s stiff, I knead in a little water. If it’s too gooey, I knead in a little flour. It’s a lot less messy to add flour, so I generally air on the side of too little flour when mixing the dough.
Roll the dough out to an inch and a half thickness in a roughly rectangular shape. Cover the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour. This is the first of many chilling interludes. While the dough is resting, let’s make the butter plate. And yes, a butter plate is exactly what it sounds like.
Take a piece of parchment paper and fold it into a 8×5″ rectangle. Make sure you have plenty of extra paper on all sides. Open the paper and place three sticks of butter next to each other in the center. Fold the paper over the butter sticks and beat and roll them out until they fill the 8×5″ rectangle you made. You will have a thin rectangle of butter to show for your efforts. Chill the butter plate with the dough for whatever remains of the hour.
When the hour is up, roll the dough out to a 10×16″ rectangle. Make sure you spend some time defining the corners of the rectangle. Place the butter plate in the center and fold the dough over the butter like a letter. Orient the dough so the short end faces you. Roll the dough out once again. This time to a 10×15″ rectangle. And once again, fold the dough like a letter. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Repeat this whole song and dance three more times. This is how we will form those layers croissants are famous for. This process is called laminating the dough. Once you’ve completed all four turns, wrap the dough and leave it to chill overnight or for a minimum of six hours.
When you’re ready to form the loaves, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a 20×25″ rectangle. Trim the edges of the rectangle on all sides. Don’t throw the scraps away. Divide the dough into four evenly sized pieces and divide those pieces into thirds. Take each set of three and braid them together, pinching the dough at the ends to form a seal. Take one of the scraps and coil it into a snail shell shape. Wrap the braid around the snail shell and pinch to form a seal. Pack one braid into a mini loaf pan or place it in a large loaf pan with two more braids. This recipe makes either one large Buttery Croissant Loaf and one mini one, or four mini loaves. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour and half before baking.
When the loaves are ready to bake, brush them with an egg wash and add a sprinkle of raw sugar if desired. Let bake until golden and the loaf registers an internal temperature of 190°F. This should take about 40 minutes for a large loaf and 30 minutes for the mini loaves. Let the loaves cool completely before attempting to extract them from their pans. They should slide out very easily. Slice and serve the Buttery Croissant Loaf with softened, whipped goat cheese, and sliced figs, raspberry jam, and pomegranate arils.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Buttery Croissant Loaf. A flaky, intense, but ultimately delicious bit of business that will dazzle at any brunch or breakfast.
Buttery Croissant Loaf
- 1 Stand mixer with dough hook
- 1 large loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans
- 1 Rolling Pin
- 1½ cups whole milk luke warm (105°F)
- ¼ cup brown sugar tightly packed
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 3½-4½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups cold unsalted butter preferably in sticks
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp water
- 1½ tbsp raw sugar for sprinkling
- 300g (10.5oz) goat cheese softened
- 10 figs quartered
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- 1 cup raspberry jam
- Pour the milk into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast and whisk to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. **1½ cups whole milk, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
- Add salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour to the bowl. Mix on low using a dough hook attachment until a loose dough forms. Add the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments, waiting for each addition to become fully incorporated before adding more. Only add as much flour as you need to create a dough that is tacky but not sticky. The dough should clean the sides and the bottom of the bowl.1 tbsp kosher salt, 3½-4½ cups all-purpose flour
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Roll the dough out in a rectangular shape to 1 1/2" thickness. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let the dough chill for 1 hour.
- Once the dough is in the fridge, place the butter sticks side by side on a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and whack and roll the butter into a 5×8" rectangle. Chill the butter plate for what remains of the hour.1½ cups cold unsalted butter
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a 10×16" rectangle. Place the butter plate in the center of the dough and fold the dough around it like a letter.
- Turn the dough so the shorter end is closest to you and the seams face up. Roll the dough out to a 10×15" rectangle. Fold it like a letter once again and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour. Repeat this step three more times for a total of four folds. Chill for a minimum of six hours or overnight.
- The next day, lightly grease either four mini loaf pans or one large and one mini loaf pans. Set them aside.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a 25×20" rectangle. Trim the edges on all sides and divide the dough into four even pieces. Divide each of the pieces into thirds. Braid the thirds together, pinching the ends to form a seal. Take the edges you trimmed earlier and roll them into a snail shell shape. Wrap the braid around each snail shell. Place three braids in a large loaf pan or one braid in each mini loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, whisk to combine the egg and water. Brush the mixture onto the loaves and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. Transfer the loaves to the oven and bake for 40 minutes for a large loaf, and 30 minutes for the mini loaves. The finished bread should be golden and register an internal temperature of 190°F.1 large egg, 1 tsp water, 1½ tbsp raw sugar
- Let cool completely before removing the loaves from their pans. Slice and serve with goat cheese, pomegranate, figs, and raspberry jam.300g (10.5oz) goat cheese, 10 figs, ½ cup pomegranate arils, 1 cup raspberry jam