For Homemade Croissants Made Easier, Look To Softened Butter

Home bakers know: Making croissants from scratch can be all too laborious. Not only are there various rising periods — prolonging the time between making your croissants and actually getting to eat them — but the steps can feel tiresome. Working with butter in croissants especially takes its toll, as the pastry calls for layers of hard, solid butter laminated inside folded dough. While solid butter is responsible for the pastry's flaky, trademark layers, it's not so easy to work with. Enter softened butter — an alternative way of incorporating the fat that contradicts the traditional guidelines for laminated pastries. 

For context, croissant recipes rely on chilled butter because it remains solid during the first few minutes of baking. This means the butter won't melt into your croissant dough and can, instead, work magic on the pastry's texture. Solid butter, however, can prove difficult to spread and laminate with. It's not quite soft enough to mold the way you want it — at least, not quickly. You also have to work carefully so as to not tear your delicate pastry dough. 

Softened butter is far easier to use — and it doesn't mean your croissants will wind up limp and layer-free. Rather, you're free to use softened butter, so long as you add at least one chilling period into the mix. As for how, exactly, to pull this trick off, you have a few options. 

Flatten and mold softened butter before chilling it

The croissant butter trick is as easy as it sounds. All you have to do is swap solid butter for softened — and then let it chill. However, there are two main approaches to doing this. Both begin by softening your butter to a spreadable consistency that's easy to work with. Simply combine that butter with a bit of flour, and you can begin to consider the dough. 

From there, one strategy recommends that home bakers spread the softened butter directly atop their croissant dough. Fold your pastry as you normally would and then — before moving on to the next layer — pop the dough in the freezer to chill. After a few minutes, take it out, repeat the folding process, and so on. 

If that sounds like too many moving parts, you can streamline the steps even further. Consider molding your softened butter to the same rectangular shape and size as your croissant dough. Once you've shaped the butter, refrigerate the rectangle until chilled — but not too hard or frozen. From there, work with your now-solid butter as you normally would. With this recipe change, you'll find the laminating process all the easier. So long, daunting croissants.