All About How I Learned to Make Perfect Croissants in Paris

Lenotre School Paris

just three little secrets

can you say 'beurre'

One word. Butter. And lots of it. But once you get past the thought of future heart attacks, being in Paris to learn how to make croissants was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

It all began one day in my kitchen in Dublin when I became frustrated over another futile attempt at making croissants. My family actually loved the results that I hated, but I wanted perfection. I wanted to recreate the ones I had indulged in while on honeymoon in France a few years before.

I made another desperate search for an alternative recipe that could show me the trick. But Instead I was lead to a course held in the Lenotre School in Paris. It cost one-hundred-and-twenty-five dollars and promise to teach me how to make croissants and pains au chocolate. It was expensive. But my desire begged me to act irresponsibly. I searched for flights and it just so happened that a small Irish airline was flying to Paris for eight bucks plus tax. I was a bit embarrassed with my husband about extravagant treat, but he was so supportive that the shame wore off and soon I was shopping for a cool, black outfit so I could blend in with the chic Parisian crowd.

It was early last December when I waved good-bye to my husband, our two toddlers boys and our baby girl to catch a plane for Paris. As I boarded the plane I thought about how well my high school French would serve me. I wondered if everyone else in class would have perfect baking results while I produced my usual mediocre croissants. It was a gorgeous sunny morning when I arrived to the grounds of the Lenotre School. I took the metro and walked along the Champs Elysee to get there. I remember walking past the Christian Dior shop and an Aston Martin dealer. I walked along the chic-est area in Paris. I thought I would explode with excitement before I arrived at the school.

Instead I almost melted with embarrassment at having arrived late. The instructor and seven other women looked at me as I interupted the lecture. I drank some Evian and took my place around the counter. When I managed to look up again, I saw in the faces of these seven other women the excitement that still pounded in my heart. One of the women was a parisian originally from Argentina who like a child admitted to me that she too felt restless about baking the perfect croissant.

The energy in the room felt much like a classroom full of pre-schoolers about to take on water-colors for the first time. We all poked our heads closely as the instructor demonstrated each step. A few of us excitedly took photos of his every move. We were total dorks and it didn't matter because we were all in Paris that day for the love of the croissant. Truthfully, I confess that the croissants that we produced that day were the best I had ever tasted. I proudly brought a box home and they disappeared within minutes.

Here are the three secrets to the perfect croissant:

These should be incorporated to any croissant recipe and the results should be fabulous.

  • The first secret is that the temperature in the room should not be too cold or too hot. It should be perfectly at room temperature.
  • The second secret is that warm milk should be used instead of cold milk or water when dissolving the yeast.
  • The third secret is that only quality butter should be used. Certain countries like Ireland and France only know how to produce good butter. However, in the the States I have found that only Plugras butter works well.

When I left the Lenotre School that day, I felt that I was in love with life. Sure, where else would one be with such feelings.

Comments 7 comments

orionsky60403 7 years ago

Mmmm I love the smell of freshly baked goods. I've never tried making my own but I LOOooove eating them

D.G. Bennett profile image

D.G. Bennett 7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland Author

The yummy smell is worth getting started. Think you've inspired a new article!

Lisa Kelly 7 years ago

Hello! I found your post on yet another feverish google search for the perfect croissant recipe. I've never tried to make them, but I'm passionate about them, and I'd love to find the best recipe that gives me a chance at creating good ones. Could you nudge a fellow Irish girl in the right direction please? I was thinking about trying Esther McManus's recipe, mainly because there's videos of the entire process here:

Do you think this sounds like a good recipe? Also, big question: plain flour or strong bread flour?! Please help!

D.G. Bennett profile image

D.G. Bennett 7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland Author

Loving that enthusiasm! I came across that Julia Child recipe on one of my own searches but I could never get it to work for me. I have to say that the process of making a croissant that one can actually consider 'perfect' requires a zen-like disposition. Slow, breathe, in the moment, as there are lots of steps and careful details. However it's the greatest feeling in the world, a satisfied passion. Now, here are a few tips as you try out Julia's recipe:

1 Let the base temperature of the room you are working in be 54 degrees C.

2 Before you begin to work with the butter, make sure it is out of the fridge for one hour, no more no less.

3 Use a combination of flours: one more fine and the other strong.

4 VERY IMPORTANT: once you have rolled out and shaped your croissants brush them with a mix of one egg and one yolk and a bit of salt and then place them in the oven at 30 degrees C for TWO HOURS. This is a pre-baking step. After the two hours, remove them from the oven, let them cool and set your oven to the full baking heat. Brush them with the egg wash again and bake them once the oven is at the required temp.

6 Make sure you use the best quality ingredients, organic when possible as this does ultimately affect the flavor.

7 Almost forgot one. When you are rolling out the dough and doing your turns make sure that you brush off from the dough any excess flour that you have spread about the work surface, so for example before you hide the butter into the dough brush off the flour from the piece of dough that will be folded over the butter. It is worth investing in a medium size brush, the kind that usually comes with a dust pan, that of course you will ONLY use for baking purposes.

This is a wonderful adventure you have embarked on, have fun and enjoy, and do let me know how they turned out:)

Lisa Kelly 7 years ago

Thank you so much for the kind advice!

I'm about to undertake step one - making my dough. Yes, at 10.20pm! The house is beautifully quiet and I'm going to get into the kitchen and commune with the flour and yeast and hopefully come up with something that isn't quite as tragically brick-like as the last challah I attempted. I figure if you're going to screw up then what the hell, you may as well do it in a heroic attempt to master the very Queen of Pastriliciousness - the magical croissant. I'm going to take your advice and mix up some strong bread flour with some plain stuff. I'll let the dough rest overnight while I muster myself for the rollings tomorrow.

Deep breaths. Positive outlook. This much butter can't be wrong! Thanks again. :)

D.G. Bennett profile image

D.G. Bennett 7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland Author

Well done you! Yes, with all the butter prescribed one can't help but think that it will all work itself out:) Keep me posted.

keo 5 years ago

when im baking croissant why the upper part of it risen??

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