Making Spiced Croissants with @emcdowell

Erin stopped by our new studio and test kitchen to show us how to make these delicious croissants from her new cookbook, The Fearless Baker. Watch Erin make these croissants and talk about her cookbook with Julie from The Feedfeed here and purchase a copy of her cookbook, The Fearless Baker, here.

About Puff Pastry

Puff pastry is made using the technique of lamination, which creates gorgeous crisp, flaky layers. I fell in love with the process when I was working in a hotel kitchen one summer. The process is laborious but strangely calming and the results are insanely satisfying! If you’re too intimidated to give it a go, you can use store-bought puff pastry for most of the recipes in this book that call for it, but making your own is a really fun weekend project.

Yeasted Puff Pastry Dough Variation: 
Make the butter block as directed. For the dough, omit the all-purpose flour and use a total of 567 g / 43/4 cups of bread flour. Decrease the butter to 71 g / 2.5 oz / 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon and replace the water with 360 g / 1 2/3 cups of whole milk. Add 14 g / 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant yeast and 66 g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the salt. Mix all the ingredients on low speed for 3 minutes, (not 4), then mix on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. If necessary, let the dough soften at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before locking in the butter block, then proceed as directed.

I use a bench knife (bench scraper) to help keep the edges straight and the corners squared off as I work on a dough like this. It’s important to keep the dough as squared off as possible because that will help the edges to meet evenly when you complete a fold. And that ensures cleaner layers in the finished puff pastry. If the edges of the finished dough are rounded, they won’t meet up, and there will be gaps in the layering. If you’re freezing the dough, it’s great to first roll it out into three or four 1/2-inch thick sheets, which are quick and easy to thaw whenever you’re ready to use them just like the store-bought ones!

Spiced Croissants and Puff Pastry excerpted from THE FEARLESS BAKER© 2017 by Erin McDowell.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.


Prep time 18hrs
Cook time 20mins
Serves or Makes: 20


Butter Block

  • 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/ 3 cup bread flour

Puff Pastry Dough

  • 3 1/ 3 cup bread flour
  • 1 2/ 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/ 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons cool water


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/ 2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/ 4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of fine sea salt

Make the butter block:


  • Step 1

    I use a baking sheet as a visual guide when I make puff pastry and roll the dough out to slightly larger than the baking sheet, so I don’t need to use a ruler. Cut a 13 by 18 inch piece of parchment paper and place it on your work surface with one of the short ends facing you.

  • Step 2

    In a medium bowl, blend the butter and flour together with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Scoop the mixture onto the lower third of the parchment paper and use an offset spatula to spread it into a rectangle 6 by 9 inches and 1/2 inch thick. Use the blade of the spatula to help keep the edges squared off while you work. Fold the upper part of the parchment down over the butter block you can use the paper to help you square off the edges. Transfer the wrapped butter block to the refrigerator.

Make the dough:

  • Step 1

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the bread flour, all purpose flour, and salt to combine. Add the butter and mix on low speed until it is fully incorporated and the mixture looks a little crumbly, about 1 minute. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together, 4 minutes. Increase the speed to high and mix for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the dough is smooth.

  • Step 2

    Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and use your hands to form it into a rough rectangular shape. Wrap tightly in the plastic and chill for 30 to 40 minutes. (This lets the dough rest and also allows it to come to a temperature and texture similar to the butter block.)

  • Step 3

    When the dough and the butter block are both chilled but still flexible (60° to 70°F / 16° to 21°C), it’s time to lock the butter into the dough: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a rectangle 12 by 10 inches and 2/3 inch thick. If necessary, turn the rectangle so that one of the shorter ends is facing you.

  • Step 4

    Peel the paper back from the top of the butter block, leaving it on the paper so that you can use it to help you to guide it onto the dough: Invert it onto the bottom half of the dough, positioning it so that there is a 1/2 to 3/4 inch margin of dough around the sides and bottom of the butter block. Fold the top of the dough down over the butter block so that it meets the opposite edge of the dough. Press the edges of the dough together firmly all the way around to seal, then fold the excess dough at the bottom and edges under itself. You should now have a firm but pliable rectangular package of dough (about 6 by 10 inches) enveloping the butter block. If the dough and/or butter block are too soft to proceed with rolling and folding, cover the dough with plastic wrap, place it on a parchment lined baking sheet, and chill it for about 30 minutes.

  • Step 5

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a rectangle 13 by 19 inches and 1/2 inch thick. If you’re having a hard time rolling the dough, it’s probably too cold. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. On the other hand, if bits of butter are breaking through the surface and getting all melty and squishy, it’s too warm; return it to the refrigerator to firm up.

  • Step 6

    There are two kinds of folds used for making puff pastry: the 4 fold and the 3 fold. You will be making a 4 fold, a 3 fold, a 4 fold, and a final 3 fold. (If this sounds confusing, it will all make sense so on!) For the first 4 fold, position the dough so that one of the long sides is facing you. Fold the left edge about three quarters of the way over the dough. Fold the right edge one quarter of the way over the dough so it meets the left edge. The dough will now look somewhat like an open book with an off center spine.

  • Step 7

    Fold the larger side over the shorter side. You will now have 4 layers of dough. Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush all excess flour off the surface of the dough. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes you want the dough to relax and return to the ideal temperature.

  • Step 8

    Now make the first 3 fold: On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out again to a rectangle 13 by 19 inches and 1/2 inch thick. With one of the long sides facing you, fold the left edge one third of the way over the dough. Then do the same with the right edge, folding it one third of the way over so that it rests on top of the piece you just folded. You will now have 3 layers of dough. Brush away the excess flour. Return the dough to the baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

  • Step 9

    Repeat steps 8 and 9 to make another 4 fold. Return the dough to the baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

  • Step 10

    Repeat step 10 to make another 3 fold. Return the dough to the baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

  • Step 11

    The dough is ready to be rolled and shaped as directed in the individual recipes. Or wrap the dough and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

To make the filling:

  • Step 1

    In a small bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla into a spreadable paste.

To roll the croissants:

  • Step 1

    Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  • Step 2

    Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces; refrigerate all but one piece of the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough out to a rectangle about 9 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Use a knife or pastry wheel to square off the edges. Cut the piece of dough crosswise into 5 triangles with a base about 4 inches wide. You’ll end up with 2 half pieces, which you can either match up and press gently together to make an additional croissant (it will be a bit wonky but still delish) or save to make Danishes.

  • Step 3

    Cut a 1/4 inch slit in the center of the base of each triangle. Place one triangle on a clean work surface. Spread 1 tablespoon of the spice paste evenly across the dough. Lift up the dough and stretch the triangle by pulling the top and base gently to elongate it a bit. Lay the dough back down on the surface, with the base of the triangle facing you. Roll up the dough first lift the points of the base of the triangle up on either side of the slit you cut, then fold them over so both pieces rest on the work surface, on either side of the remaining triangle. Roll the rest of the dough up toward the point of the triangle (2). When you finish, the point should be on the bottom. Move the outside ends toward each other a bit to bend the pastry into a crescent shape (3). Transfer the croissant to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining triangles, leaving 2 inches between the croissants on the baking sheets. Then roll out, fill, and shape the remaining 3 pieces of dough.

  • Step 4

    Cover the baking sheets with greased plastic wrap and let the pastries rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 35 to 45 minutes.

  • Step 5

    Preheat the oven to 400°F / 204°C, with racks in the upper and lower thirds.

  • Step 6

    Brush the croissants with the egg wash. Bake until they’re evenly golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes, switching the sheets from front to back and top to bottom at the halfway mark. If you’re unsure about whether the croissants are done, take the internal temperature it should register around 185°F / 85°C. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

  • Step 7

    PRO TIP: You can get creative with the filling you spread onto the dough: Nut butter, jam, and curd will all produce nice results.