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These hand-rolled sourdough croissants require simple ingredients and only two lamination folds after locking in the butter block. No stand mixer required! They are akin to what you would find at a bakery but with all the benefits of sourdough with a long fermentation.
I also love baking pastries with my sourdough starter!
Shortly after developing my Sourdough Danish Pastries, I was determined to work out a homemade sourdough croissant recipe that gave consistent results.
These hand-rolled croissants use no commercial yeast as leavening, just sourdough starter.
They are buttery and flavorful with a lightly crisp and flaky exterior. They are a fun project and well worth the time spent on the dough!
What is a croissant?
Croissant dough is laminated which means it is thinly layered with butter. This is done in a process of rolling and folding the dough after locking in a butter block that you form first.
Lamination creates those amazing flaky layers and light texture.
There are different ways this layering can be done. I use two folds: a book fold followed by a tri-fold (letter fold). This creates 25 layers in the sourdough croissants.
Lamination takes some practice, but I will show you step-by-step how the process works. The trick is managing the temperature of your dough and butter to get the best layers.
The dough is then cut and shaped. The croissants are brushed with an egg wash after proofing to make them deeply golden and shiny out of the oven.
Does using sourdough starter make the process more difficult?
The process of mixing and laminating the dough is similar whether you use commercial yeast or sourdough starter.
The only difference is a the long ferment time in between making and laminating the dough (though many yeasted croissant recipes also call for an overnight rise).
I don’t mind this extra time, though. I mix my dough on day one, allow it to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours, and then pop it in the fridge. The next day, I’m ready to continue the process when it fits in my schedule.
You can also hold the dough in the fridge for an extra day before or after lamination. The croissants generally end up with a more open honeycomb interior and a slightly more sour flavor this way.
Sourdough Beginner Guides:
- How to Feed and Maintain a Starter (Easy Refrigerator Method)
- Essential Sourdough Bread Making Tools
- Sourdough Baking Terms for Beginners
- Milling Flour at Home: A Beginner’s Guide
Do I have to use unsalted butter?
Definitely use unsalted butter. Salted butter will pull moisture from the dough, making the layers in the croissant less defined.
High quality butter with a higher fat content (82% fat), like Kerry Gold or another European butter, will give you the best result.
The higher fat content makes the butter more pliable at a colder temperature which will work in your favor during lamination.
These butters have a deeper yellow color and are cultured as well.
All this to say, you can use a store brand unsalted butter which I have done in this tutorial, but a higher quality butter will be a little more forgiving.
It will ultimately impart more flavor and color to your sourdough croissants.
Sourdough Croissants Baking Schedule
*The strength of your starter, the temperature in your home, and other factors will affect how long each step in the recipe will take.
- Mix and warm ferment: 4 hours, 10 minutes
- Cold ferment: 12 hours
- Creating butter block and laminating dough: 1 hour, 50 minutes (including chilling time)
- Shape and proof: 5 hours+
- Egg wash and bake: 30 minutes
Feed your starter several hours prior to baking the recipe and allow it to peak.
Start the dough on day 1, leaving about 4 hours of time for fermenting at room temperature. Refrigerate until the next day. Finish croissants on day 2, remembering to leave extra time for proofing just in case.
Tips for Success When Making Sourdough Croissants
- Use active starter that has just come to its peak after a fresh feeding.
- When laminating croissant dough, you want your butter the same consistency as your dough. Your dough should be chilled. Your butter should be cold as well but still very pliable if you bend your butter block. If the butter becomes too warm and melts at any point, the butter will meld into the dough and you will lose your layering (you’ll end up with bread-like crescent rolls). Wrap and chill your dough when necessary during lamination if your butter and dough become too soft or your dough begins to resist being rolled out.
- If you attempt to roll your dough when it is too cold, your butter will crack beneath the surface of the dough when you roll it. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before rolling to allow the butter to become pliable again.
- Avoid over-handling your dough. Take your time. Be careful not to poke any holes in the dough with your fingernails or due to the dough sticking to your countertop.
- Make sure you allow enough time for the croissants to proof before baking. They should have doubled in size and “wobble” like marshmallows if you bump the baking tray. You should begin to see some separation in the layers when they are done proofing. Under-proofed croissants will leak butter during baking, giving the croissants a heavy texture, dense middle, and layers that are overly thick and defined.
- I’ve also learned through trial and error that croissants should be proofed slowly at room temperature (don’t exceed 75°F!) If the proofing temperature is too warm you’ll have similar problems with your butter leaking during baking and the layers turning out thick or overly defined like a crunchy crescent roll. You can even chill your croissants prior to baking to help with this.
- Digital kitchen scale
- Parchment paper
- Plastic wrap
- Half sheet baking pans
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Pastry brush
- Bench scraper
- Rolling Pin
- Cooling rack
How to Make Sourdough Croissants
Step 1 – Make and Ferment Sourdough Croissant Dough
Add your starter, sugar, kosher salt, melted butter, milk, and flour to a large bowl. The ingredients are listed by weight in grams for consistency.
Stir until a shaggy dough forms. I like to use my Danish dough whisk whenever I’m mixing a dough.
Remove dough to a clean countertop. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes smooth. Since the kneading goes quickly, I usually don’t use my mixer for this recipe.
The dough should be tacky when it’s finished, but not sticky!
Form the dough into a ball. Place the ball in a bowl and prop a lid on the top or cover in plastic wrap.
Leave the dough in a warm place to ferment for about 4 hours or until the dough looks a little puffier. I usually use my microwave or oven with the light turned on for a warm place to ferment.
Then cover and transfer to the refrigerator overnight.
Step 2 – Make Butter Block
The next day, you are ready to laminate the dough. The first step is to make the butter block.
Place your cold butter on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with the flour.
Loosely cover the butter with the edges of the parchment paper. Beat your butter with your rolling pin until it begins to flatten. If it won’t budge, let it sit for a few minutes to warm slightly and try again.
Next, make a rectangular pouch out of your parchment paper that measures 6 x 8 inches. I crease the the sides to 6 inches first. (Update: I have found it’s easier to measure and fold the parchment before placing the butter inside!)
Then I fold the top down and the bottom up, adjusting it to 8 inches as I measure it.
Now flip the whole pouch over so the folds stay closed.
Use your rolling pin and your fingers to press the butter evenly into the pouch, making sure it fills the corners as well.
Now check your butter. If it’s melty and greasy on the edges, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to chill. If it’s still cold, but very pliable when you bend the package, you are ready for the next step.
Step 3 – Lock in Butter Block
Remove your chilled dough from the fridge. Place it on a lightly floured surface and press it into the shape of a rectangle. Pinch the corners to help shape them.
The more accurate you are at these beginning stages of lamination, the easier your dough will come together. Take your time and enjoy yourself!
Roll the dough to a 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Unwrap your butter block and place it in the center of your dough with a short side facing you.
Fold the short ends of the rectangle over the butter until they meet in the middle.
Use a pastry brush to brush away any loose flour. Pinch the center seam and the top and bottom edges closed so the butter is completely encased in dough.
Step 4 – First Lamination Fold (Book Fold)
Now we’re going to do our first lamination fold. This is called a book fold. Turn your dough so the center seam is parallel to you.
Begin to lengthen the dough by gently pounding it with your rolling pin. Focus on keeping the corners and edges straight, and check often to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Dust underneath with more flour when needed.
I always pound the dough to get most of the length. This keeps my rectangle more shapely and helps my dough to shrink back less.
Now finish rolling the dough to a 24 x 10-inch rectangle. I work on the length first, and then finish the width.
Concentrate on rolling with a gentle outward “sweeping” motion instead of pressing hard downward into the dough.
Continue to brush away loose flour as you go. Fold in both edges to meet in the middle.
(Update: I’ve found that it’s better to meet the edges of the book not in the middle for the most even layering. You will still close the book in half the same either way.)
Then close your new folded ends together like you’re closing a book.
Here is a side view so you can see the layers:
Wrap your book in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. This will keep the butter and dough from getting too warm and will allow the dough to relax for easier rolling during the final fold.
Step 5 – Second Lamination Fold (Tri-Fold or Letter Fold)
Place your book on your counter with the folded side facing you. Roll to a 24 x 10-inch rectangle again, pounding the dough first, then rolling gently outward.
Still focus on keeping the edges and corners straight, and watch that your dough isn’t sticking to your counter underneath.
Now fold the dough in thirds as if you’re folding a letter, brushing away loose flour as you go.
Here is the side view after the letter fold:
Wrap your dough in plastic and chill again–this time for at least 1 hour.
Step 6 – Cutting and Shaping Sourdough Croissants
When you’re ready to shape your croissants, pull your dough out of the fridge and allow it to rest for 20 minutes to allow the butter to become pliable again.
Set your dough on your counter with the fold facing you. Roll to an 18 x 11.5-inch rectangle.
Use a pizza cutter to trim the edges of the rectangle. This will expose the layers so they rise properly during baking.
Now use your pizza cutter to cut the dough into 5 even rectangles (measure for accuracy). Cut each rectangle in half crosswise to create 10 triangles.
*These dimensions make 10 modest-size croissants. If you want 8 larger croissants, roll laminated dough to 17×14, trim, and cut into 4 rectangles before slicing into triangles. Arrange 4 croissants to each sheet pan, and lower the baking temperature to 375°F after the first 3 minutes of baking. Bake until golden brown.
Starting with the fat side of your first triangle, gently stretch the corners to make them wider. It’s even easier if you use both hands at once. Careful not to tear the dough.
(Update: Instead of stretching the corners, I now cut a slit in the center of the base of the triangle. That allows the corners to splay outward as I begin to roll the croissant.)
Then begin rolling the croissant from the bottom. There is no need to stretch the croissant as you roll, but you want to roll tight enough that there won’t be gaps in the pastry.
The end of the triangle should end up on the underneath side.
Press the end gently into the croissant to help it adhere to the bottom. Repeat to shape the remaining triangles.
Place your croissants on parchment-lined half sheet pans, five to a pan.
Step 7 – Proofing and Baking Sourdough Croissants
Cover your sourdough croissants with plastic wrap (not too tightly), and allow them to proof until they have doubled in size and wobble like jello when the pan is bumped (see “Tips” section for notes about proofing).
Proofing will likely take several hours. It is very essential that they proof long enough (at a temperature that is not too warm) so the butter doesn’t leak out of the layers during baking.
When they are almost done proofing, preheat your oven to 425°F and place a rack in the center of the oven.
Whisk together the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash gently on each proofed croissant with a pasty brush, avoiding the layered edges.
Bake one pan at a time for 15-17 minutes, or until the croissants are deeply golden. (Hold the second pan in the fridge if it’s done proofing, but you aren’t ready to bake yet. Egg wash and bake when the first pan is done.)
Place your finished pastries on a rack to cool completely before serving or storing.
How to Store Sourdough Croissants
The croissants will last for 2-3 days at room temperature in a sealed container.
I prefer to freeze any leftover sourdough croissants in a single layer in a zipper freezer bag for optimal freshness. To reheat, microwave the croissants briefly, or place them on a baking tray in a 475°F oven for 3-5 minutes, or until warm.
I hope you enjoy making these as much as I do!
If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you would come back to leave a star rating and a comment. Your feedback is very appreciated!
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