In the suburbs, people know it’s fall when the leaves start to change. In New York, Milk Bar’s Thanksgiving Croissant signals the same thing. I spent a morning with Hilary Fann, Milk Bar’s current croissant queen (she has made ten thousand of them so far this year), to show me how it’s done. —Ryan Healey
MAKE THE DOUGH
Making Thanksgiving croissants is a three-day process. I started making the compound butter two days ago. I paddled together butter and Thanksgiving spices: dried sage, dried thyme, granulated onion, onion powder, salt, sugar, pepper, and a little turmeric for color. We developed the recipe from looking at the ingredient list for Stovetop stuffing.
The trick is to beat the butter until the spices are just incorporated. If you aerate the butter, it will break up when you fold it into the dough. We spread the butter into sheets and let it firm up in the refrigerator while we make the dough.
The dough itself is the mother dough that we use for all of our breads here at Milk Bar. It’s a super simple recipe: bread flour, fresh yeast, sea salt, and water. We found that a sturdier dough is best since the croissant is stuffed—it really needs to be able to keep everything locked inside.
The next day, I laminate the bread dough with the compound butter using three book turns. That’s what you’re seeing here.
ROLL THE DOUGH
I take the dough out of the walk-in right before I’m going to use it so the butter doesn’t have a chance to warm up. I flour my work surface and roll the dough out to 1/6-inch thick. You really have to go by feel: you want it to be thin enough so you have ample surface area for fillings, but thick enough so the fillings don’t puncture it.
WEIGH THE DOUGH
I have a very specific ratio of dough to turkey—150 grams to 250 grams—so I weigh each triangle after I cut it to make sure it is perfect. All ten thousand of them. We used to do it after they were filled but this allows us a greater degree of control over every step of the process.
SCOOP THE GRAVY
It’s time to start filling the croissants. First up is gravy. The gravy itself is very straightforward. We make a roux with chicken fat, butter, and flour and whisk in the juice we get from roasting the turkeys. I do it assembly-line style: each croissant gets a scoop of gravy before I move onto the cranberry sauce. Temperature is the most important variable here. I take the gravy out of the freezer a few hours before I’m ready to scoop it so it has a chance to thaw a bit and become scoopable.
SCOOP THE CRANBERRY SAUCE
The cranberry sauce is also very simple. We roast cranberries with a bit of sugar for two hours and then blend it until smooth. Unlike the gravy, I scoop the cranberry sauce from frozen. It’s basically the texture of cranberry sorbet. I have to move quickly or it will melt and prevent the dough from sealing.
ADD THE TURKEY
We roast over two thousand pounds of turkey meat each year for the croissants. We used to carve up whole turkeys, but we’ve realized that working in pieces makes more sense. There are a ton of bones in a whole turkey so it’s safer to use parts when looking at a larger-scale production. What we need is essentially shredded or pulled turkey meat. We rub the turkey with salt, sugar, black pepper, celery seed, and garlic powder and roast it at 212 degrees overnight. When they come out, I shred it and let it cool.
The shredded turkey acts as a cap on the gravy and cranberry sauce. If they’ve started to melt, the turkey prevents the sauces from leaking onto the edge of the dough. If that happens, the croissants won’t seal properly and the filling will come out during the baking process.
SEAL THE FILLINGS
I wrap the back two points of the croissant dough around the meat-and-sauce pile to seal the fillings in on the site and then pull the back edge of the dough over the top to do the same to the front.
WRAP THE CROISSANT
Once the fillings are secured, I wrap the croissant normally and set it on a sheet pan to proof until I’m ready to bake them.
EGG WASH THE CROISSANT
Right before the croissants are ready for the oven, I brush them with egg wash so they become golden brown as they bake. They spend 26 minutes in a hot oven and then they’re done!
I recommend eating them hot or reheated for the best Thanksgiving croissant experience.
BY THE NUMBERS