How to make croissants? How to make crescent rolls? You might ask why combine these two together. There has always been a lot of discussion in bread baking as to the difference between croissants and crescent rolls. I have many recipes which are titled “croissants” and I consider them to be crescent rolls. Even in much of my research, there is not a “clear cut” difference.
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The original croissant from Vienna Austria appears to me to be more like a heavier “bread cookie”. It is not like the light flaky bread roll which we now can get. This roll spread throughout all of Europe; all having different versions and known by different names. The French bakers learned how to make croissants using this idea. They created this bread to have a more refined taste and appearance. This creation swept throughout Europe and eventually the United States. Today, in most towns and cities, we can purchase plain croissants, ones glazed with icing or filled with many flavors and types of fruits and creams.
So where do the crescent rolls fit into this picture? Obviously “crescent rolls” must be shaped like crescents, but most often croissants are also. Both of the names of these rolls are used so interchangeably that I am going to give you my take on this subject. Although I think of the crescent roll as a small dinner roll and I like my croissants much larger, they can be the exact same size.
When I learned how to make croissants and crescent rolls, the biggest difference I find comes after the “first rise”. I can use the same recipe for the dough but it ends there. Even this point has been contradicted by some recipes titled “croissants” but I consider those to be crescent rolls. After the first rise, for crescent rolls, you punch down the dough and roll into a circle. Cut the dough in pie shapes, roll up and let rise before baking.
When learning how to make croissants, you will still punch down the dough after rising. The dough is usually rolled in a rectangular shape. Layer this rectangle with butter. Sometimes recipes will instruct you to roll the butter between wax paper and freeze or refrigerate before using. After applying the butter, you will fold the dough and place it in the refrigerator for a certain length of time. You could be instructed to do this process of applying butter and refrigerating three or more times. To me, this is what makes a “croissant” and not a crescent roll.
I do love good crescent rolls if made correctly. I have tasted many homemade ones which were too heavy. This was because too much flour was added or they were not allowed to rise long enough. (Many recipes do not instruct you to rise before baking; even 10 to 15 minutes make them lighter). They should be very light and flaky, and they are much easier and quicker to make than croissants. As much as I love good crescent rolls, when I learned how to make croissants, I found them to be heavenly. The layers of butter make layers of flaky dough when these croissants are baked. The “bottom line”, I say the difference is the layers of butter and the amount of time required in the making. Croissants are much richer in taste and flakier. I make crescent rolls to serve for dinners. I make large croissants when I have plenty of time and then I freeze them for special occasions and sandwiches.
NOTE: When I learned how to make croissants I found that the dough needs to be kept cold all through the process.
NOTE: When I learned how to make croissants, I found that the unbaked croissants do not freeze well. After cooling croissants completely, place them in a large plaster freezer bag and place in the freezer. They thaw quickly or place them in the oven briefly. I like to make them ahead and freeze for special occasions.
HOW TO MAKE CROISSANT ROLLS or CRESCENT ROLLS
I use this first recipe to make croissants and for crescent rolls. This is a large recipe; you could cut it in half.3 Cups warm milk (112 to 115F degrees)6 Package dry yeast¾ Cup sugar¾ Cup melted butter6 Beaten eggs12 Cups flour¾ Cup melted butter (To do all dough in crescent rolls)3 Cups softened butter (To do all dough in croissants)
Sprinkle yeast and 6 tablespoons of the sugar over warm milk; stir and let stand about 10 minutes until foamy.
Measure about 6 cups of flour into a large bowl; pour yeast mixture over the flour.
Add melted butter and beaten eggs; add remaining sugar and salt and stir to blend.
Continue to stir in flour until it makes a dough ball; turn dough out onto floured surface.
Knead dough adding enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Knead dough until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes.
Place dough in a clean greased bowl; turn to coat all sides.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a clean towel; let rise in refrigerator overnight.
NOTE: After this rising, divide dough in 3 parts. I use 1/3 to make crescent rolls and 2/3 for croissants.
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FOR CRESCENT ROLLS divide 1/3 into 2 parts; roll each part in a 9 inch round circle and cut in 12 wedges.