Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sourdough Croissants

I just can't seem to stop baking things with my sourdough starter to my family's delight (read this if you would like to get a starter of your own going). I got it in my mind somehow that it would be fun to try to make sourdough croissants. However, either I could not really find the kind of recipe I was looking for, something more traditional, or I couldn't find a recipe with complete instructions or a full set of ingredients. So I set off on a mission to develop a complete sourdough croissant recipe, which includes step-by-step instructions. I researched several recipes for information to develop this recipe including this one by the Sourdough Companion, which gave me the starting point for some of the ingredient amounts.

I have learned a lot about my starter and baking breads in general through the development of this recipe - it has been an interesting and challenging journey to say the least! This is not a quick throw it together recipe. There will need to be a little planning involved as you prepare and care for your dough on and off during a 2-day period. The entire process includes lots of waiting and then more waiting and then some kneading (three of my least favorite things), but the end result is so worth it.

It is easy to keep a sourdough starter (I promise)! - please check out my Quick Start Guide for more information.

** All ingredients are by weight. You will need a kitchen scale to make this recipe. Amazon has lots to choose from and you can probably pick one up locally as well. I have included approximate volume measurements just for your information, but do not rely on the volume measurements to make this recipe or your dough may not turn out. They are included for reference only, so you will have an idea of about how much of each ingredient you need.

** Click on the links to see the exact ingredients I am using.
1st Preferment Build
0.30 ounces sourdough starter (100% hydration, which means a starter fed with approximately equal amounts of water and flour by weight); about 1/2 tbsp.
0.60 ounces unbleached white flour; about 1 tbsp.
0.60 ounces filtered water; about one heaping tbsp.
Total first build is 1.5 ounces

2nd Preferment Build
1.5 ounces first preferment
1.76 ounces unbleached white flour; about 6 tbsp.
1.76 ounces filtered water; scant 1/4 cup
Total second build is about 5.0 ounces

16.8 ounces unbleached white flour; about 3 1/4 cups
0.35 ounces sea salt or Real Salt; about 1 1/4 tsp.
0.50 ounces sugar; about 3 tsp.
2.0 ounces unsalted, cold butter; 4 tbsp.
10.1 ounces whole milk; just over 1 cup
5.0 ounces second preferment

8 ounces butter, softened enough on counter so you can press it into a flattened rectangle

Egg Wash
1 pasture egg
1 tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. sugar

How To:
1. Make your first preferment: Combine starter, flour, and water in a small bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 12 hours. ****TIP: In the winter, when it's cold in my kitchen, I will turn my oven on to 200 degrees and set the bowl on the stovetop (NOT in the oven) to ensure a warm environment. I think this improves/ shortens the rising process and if you have had issues with getting your dough to rise in cold weather, you might try this technique.

Beginning of 1st Preferment
2. Make your second preferment: Combine the first build with flour and water and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 12 hours.

Near the end of 2nd Preferment
3. Make dough: In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in cold butter. Then add milk and 2nd preferment. Stir to combine - you can probably start with a spoon but will need to use your hands and knead as the dough starts to come together. Knead for about 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Place into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit to rise for another 5 to 6 hours to overnight until the dough has approximately doubled in size.
Dough just set aside for final rise

Dough after rising 6 hours
4. Butter & dough prep: Early in the day (or the night before) that you plant to make your croissants, take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it soften on the counter an hour or so. When it is soft enough (but not squishy), place it in between two pieces of parchment paper and gently press it approximately flat and into a square or rectangular shape. If it's too soft, it will stick to your parchment paper and make a big mess. Then place it back into the refrigerator (in the parchment paper) to harden.

Also, about an hour before making croissants and after the dough has risen, place dough into the refrigerator. You want it slightly chilled.
5. Butterlock and Folds: Remove chilled butter from refrigerator. You want it to soften to the consistency of the dough, but not any softer. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator at the same time. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle that is about twice the size of the butter so that the dough is about 1 cm. thick. You will probably need to use your hands to help shape it. Place the butter in the center and fold each side of the dough up and over the butter so it overlaps and covers the butter completely (envelope fold). This is your first fold. Place the dough back into the refrigerator to chill for about 20-30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently roll the butter filled dough into a thin rectangle about 1 cm. thick. Then fold one short edge in about one-third of the way and the other short edge in about one-third of the way (overlapping), often referred to as folding like an "envelope". This is the second fold.. Place the dough back in the refrigerator to chill for about 20-30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator when chilled and fold again, one-third overlapping onto the other third, roll out and chill. This is the 3rd fold. You will do this one time for a total of four folds. It is very important that you keep your dough and butter chilled by refrigerator after each fold or you will have melted butter popping out of everywhere and a big mess on your hands. Guess how I know this?? I highly recommend that you watch these videos to see how to do the folds. Video 1 and Video 2.
You can see the butter layers in the cross section. Check out this great link for some "croissant math" to 
show you how to calculate the number of layers (4 folds = 81 layers).  

6. Shape croissants: After the final fold, stick the dough back into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Then roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, that is longer horizontally than vertically. Cut the dough in long vertical strips and then cut the strips diagonally into long triangles. Make the croissant by rolling the triangle up from the wide end toward the tip. I highly recommend watching these videos: Video 1 (shaping starts at 2:41) and Video 2 (shaping only).

If your triangles are too narrow, you won't be able to curve them into a crescent shape, which isn't necessarily the end of the world since they will still taste fantastic. You can see that's what often happens to me by some of my photos. Place each croissant onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You should have anywhere from 10-15 croissants, depending on how thinly you've rolled the dough and the shape of your rectangle. I usually get somewhere in the middle of that range.
7. Final rise and bake: Let the uncooked croissants rise a bit (approximately 1 hour) and then make the egg wash to brush onto the croissants just prior to baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm!
You can wrap any leftover croissants individually and freeze. Then, thaw in their wrapping at room temperature, un-wrap and re-crisp in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.

So, what the heck is a preferment anyway (pronounced pre-ferment and not prefer-ment)? A preferment is a "fermentation starter used in breadmaking" (Wikipedia). But more than that, it is the concept of taking a portion of the flour and water and fermenting it longer than the rest of the dough to evoke better flavor from the ingredients. By using a preferement in this recipe, we are creating a more complex and satisfying flavor. You don't have to worry about how to make a preferement yourself because I've outlined the process in steps 1 and 2 above.

A note about flour: this recipe uses white, unbleached flour and you can follow the link above to view the exact flour I use. I have never made the recipe before using another flour. If you would like to try another flour for yourself, I would love to hear about the results. But I cannot guarantee that croissants made using another flour will turn out as well. Also, keep in mind various flours weigh differently so you may need to adjust your measurements. Click this link for a great resource for conversions.

A note about timing: If you start at 8am on the first day, you can have croissants for dinner on the 2nd day if you are really good about staying on schedule. This process takes essentially two full days at a minimum and you don't want to rush it. It is important to plan accordingly so you aren't pulling them out of the oven at midnight. Patience is key here. In order to work around your schedule, you can allow the preferments to rest longer or the dough to rise longer, but keep in mind there may be a stronger sourdough taste. In my experience, there is a slight stronger sourdough flavor when I've let my dough rise for 24 hours; although at only 12 hours I don't believe there is a noticeable difference.

After doing all this work, you may be wondering whether you'll ever make them again. I know I get to that point myself. And then you take your first bite of buttery, flaky croissant and you realize, oh my gosh, this was so worth it. Also, once you do it a few times and get the hang of it, you will see that for the majority of the process you are waiting and the rest of it is not really much more work than other breads.

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This recipe was shared at Fat TuesdayReal Food Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Foodtastic Fridays, From the Farm Blog Hop, and Fight Back Friday. Please follow the links for more great recipe ideas.


  1. Hi Linda,
    Your Sourdough croissants are just beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday and hope you have a great week!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

    1. Thank you! That is so nice to hear. I worked really hard on this recipe and the croissants are very good. :) Thanks so much for the comment. Have a great weekend!



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