Fourth-generation pastry chef Nadège Nourian of Toronto’s Nadège bakery is best known for her sublime baked goods and inventive confections: cream puffs bursting with cassis-infused custard or topped with candied violets; multi-hued macarons in a daily parade of flavours; artful chocolates filled with exotic flavours like passion fruit, Earl Grey and Roquefort.
Eye candy, yes, but her creations are a treat for all the senses. Don’t be jealous, non-Torontonians: you can order them online, too.
Yet for all her skill with confections, Lyon-born Nourian fears that many high-end bakeries in France have overlooked croissants in their pursuit of fancy desserts, neglecting a long French tradition. Yes, a macaron well-made is a delight, but a croissant — a croissant, says Nourian, is a treat you can eat everyday.
Bakers on this side of the pond know what she’s saying. Here croissants are the latest “it” ingredient in fanciful fusions like the cronut, the crookie, and the crupcake. Foodies excitedly await the next croissanovation: will it be the crizza, the croisserole, the crudding, or something else?
Whether you enjoy your croissants plain or turn them into something new, baking them is a French tradition, and thanks to a recipe Nourian created especially for The Loop, it can be your tradition, too.
Chef Nourian has tweaked her recipe to be easier for home cooks, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: croissants are a labour of love and you’ll need plenty of time, patience, and butter to make them right.
You’ll also need quality ingredients, particularly a good butter with at least 84 per cent milk fat. Nourian uses Ontario’s Stirling Creamery European Style Butter to achieve the perfect flake, but any butter with 84 per cent fat or more will do (most commercial butters top out at 80 per cent, so expect to search around).
Seek quality ingredients for each component, but don’t worry if you can’t find high-end flour or honey — the butter’s the important bit.
Nourian also suggests getting to know your oven, as temperatures must be exact, and many home units run hotter or cooler than their gauges indicate. Perfect temperature matters at every stage: if your oven is too hot during the proofing process, you’ll find your doughy crescents lying in puddles of butter. If that happens, pull them out and start again — nothing you can do will fix them. Finally, don’t attempt making croissants in a hot kitchen. Go ahead and crank the air-conditioning up — Nourian says 20°C is the ideal temperature.
Nadège Nourian’s recipe for 30 Croissants
- 1,300g bread flour
- 33g salt
- 160g sugar
- 95g yeast
- 150g unsalted butter (soft)
- 640g milk
- 40g honey
- 300g unsalted butter for folding (beurre de tourage)
- 1 egg
- Pinch of salt
- Whisk ingredients together and brush egg wash on each croissant with a pastry brush. Mixture can be wrapped and stored in the fridge to use for the second egg wash applied immediately before baking.
- In a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients (except butter for folding) together with a dough hook until you reach the correct elasticity of the dough. To check the elasticity, take a piece of dough and stretch it. If the dough creates a thin veil and doesn’t snap, it’s ready. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for one hour.
- In the meantime, take one third of your folding butter and shape it into a square 0.5” thick. (Note: the butter shouldn’t be too cold or too hot. It has to be malleable.)
- The method for folding we are using is called pliage en portefeuille. This is composed of two double turns and one single turn.
- For the first turn, take the dough out of the fridge and roll into a square 1” thick. If needed, use flour to prevent dough from sticking. Place the folding butter in the middle of the dough and rotate it 45 degrees. The butter will be like a diamond in the square dough. Fold each corner of the dough over the butter so that all corners meet in the middle and the butter is fully enclosed.
- Roll the dough into a long rectangle until it reaches 1”to 1.5” thickness. Then fold the left to 2/3 and the right side to 1/3, and then fold the entire dough in half. Wrap it and rest the dough an hour in the fridge.
- After resting, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the same folding process for the second time. Rest another hour.
- For the third and final turn, turn the dough 90 degrees before rolling the dough and folding it into thirds. Wrap and rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll the chilled dough to 10” tall and then roll widthwise into a long rectangle that is approximately 0.5” thick. Cut this rectangle of croissant dough into a triangle every three inches.
- Take each individual triangle (point facing down) and place your hands on either corner. Push and roll the dough towards you creating the traditional croissant layers.
- Place rolled croissants on parchment lined trays, brush with egg wash (instructions above) and leave overnight in the fridge.
- The following morning, leave the trays of croissants to proof at 77°F for two hours.
- Once risen, brush with egg wash again and bake croissants at 350°F for 15 to 17 minutes. You are looking for a golden brown colour.
- Bonne dégustation!
- When making croissants, ensure your kitchen is cool.
- Ensure you don’t use too much flour when rolling.
- Use the highest quality butter you can find — ideally 84 per cent fat content.
- If you wish, place chocolate sticks or a spoonful of jam on the triangle of croissant dough before rolling.
Croissants are amazing on their own, but if you somehow end up with extras (obviously you forgot to invite us), here are a few things you can make with them:
How to make the perfect croissant (plus awesome things you can do with it)
Chocolate Croissant Bread PuddingCroissants are complicated to craft, but once you've made (or bought) them, turning them into a custardy chocolate-dotted bread pudding is easy peasy. Use good quality chocolate, eggs and cream and real vanilla for best results. GET THE RECIPE HERE.Bake or Break
Baked Croissant Sandwich CasseroleCroissants are stuffed with chicken breast, sliced peppers and arugula, then drenched in egg sauce, sprinkled with cheese and baked in a cast iron pan, creating a gorgeous savoury lunch for two — if you’re willing to share. GET THE RECIPE HEREFuss Free Cooking
Twice Baked Almond CroissantsThis is a great make-ahead dish to serve overnight guests. Whip up almond cream and sugar syrup one day, then assemble the croissants and re-bake them the next. GET THE RECIPE HERESandra Simmons/Dear Lauren, Love Mom
Nutella Croissant PuddingsThe perfect way to reinvigorate stale croissants, this recipe cleverly marries pastry, custard and Nutella in an unorthodox ceremony of sweet deliciousness. GET THE RECIPE HERENatasha/Butter Baking
Croissant Croque MadameLet’s be honest: a croissant filled with Gruyere, Dijon mustard and ham is already drool-inducing. Fry it in butter and top it with a fried egg and it’s délicieux. GET THE RECIPE HERESarah J. Gim/TasteSpotting
Chocolate Glazed Croissant CupcakesIt’s hard to tell from the finished product, but these little lovelies mix cubed croissants with almond-scented cupcake batter, which is then baked and topped with decadent chocolate ganache. GET THE RECIPE HERE Lillie Auld, butter me up, Brooklyn!
Blueberry Croissant PuffsCream cheese, blueberries and croissants come together for a one-pan wonder that works for breakfast and dessert. Très bien! GET THE RECIPE HEREThe Girl Who Ate Everything
Apple Bacon and Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese CroissantTake any fried bread recipe — French toast, grilled cheese, etc. — and replace the bread with croissants, and you’ll be rewarded with a flaky treat that beats the original. Don’t believe us? Try these grilled cheese croissants. GET THE RECIPE HERESteakNPotatoesKindaGurl
Brown Butter Fried Nutella Banana Croissant SandwichesCan’t get enough butter? Take a buttery croissant and fry it in butter. But don’t forget to stuff it full of sweet Nutella and creamy fresh banana for an ooey gooey update on your favourite plain pastry. GET THE RECIPE HEREHeather Christo
Strawberry Croissant French ToastAdd some je ne sais quoi to your French toast by swapping boring old bread for buttery croissants. Then top it off with strawberry syrup, because yum. GET THE RECIPE HEREJo-Anna/A Pretty Life in the Suburbs