Imagine eating a sourdough croissant so fresh that the outer crust crackles with each bite as your teeth sink in to the thin, buttery layers inside. These homemade croissants are akin to what you would find at a bakery but with all the benefits of sourdough with a long fermentation. They are flavorful, but not sour, and worth the time spent to laminate the dough.
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Shortly after developing my Sourdough Danish Pastries, I was determined to work out a sourdough croissant recipe.
My goal was to end up with a pastry that was flavorful, but not actually sour at all. I achieve this by doing the majority of bulk fermentation over a long period of time in the refrigerator.
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.
I do this layering with only two folds: a book fold and a letter fold. I will show you step-by-step how this process works.
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. They are quite beautiful.
This recipe yields 10 croissants. I like the size of these. They are big enough to use for a sandwich and will satisfy the croissant-sized hole in your heart.
You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post, but I encourage you to read through the directions in the post for the best explanation of the process.
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. This will be 12 hours, or longer, if you wish.
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 will bake with a more open, airy interior with a longer ferment, but they will be delicious either way.
Do I have to use unsalted butter?
Definitely use unsalted butter. Salted butter will pull moisture from the dough, making the layers less defined. High quality butter with a higher fat content, like Kerry Gold, will give you the best result, but any unsalted butter will do the trick.
Tips for Making Sourdough Croissants
- When laminating your croissant dough, make sure your butter is the same consistency as your dough. Your dough should be chilled. Your butter should be cold but still very pliable. Chill your dough when necessary during lamination if your butter and dough become too soft.
- If your dough gets too cold in the fridge 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.
- Make sure you allow enough time for the croissants to proof before baking. They should “jiggle” if you scoot the baking tray.
- Large lidded bowl
- Digital kitchen scale
- Measuring spoons
- Danish dough whisk or spoon
- Plastic wrap
- Parchment paper
- Rolling Pin
- Two half sheet baking pans
- Measuring tape
- 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. I recommend you weigh your ingredients (especially the flour) 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. It should be less sticky once you are done kneading.
Since the kneading goes quickly, I don’t use my mixer for this recipe.
Form the dough into a ball. Place the ball in a lidded bowl and prop the lid on the top so air can escape without the dough drying out. You could also place a damp tea towel over your bowl if you don’t have a lid.
Leave the dough in a warm place to ferment for 4 hours. I usually use my oven with the light turned on for a warm place to ferment.
Then place the lid on tightly and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Leave it for an extra day if you want to.
Step 2 – Make Butter Block
When your dough is done fermenting, you are ready to laminate it. 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.
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 on the edges, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to chill. If it’s still cold, but very pliable, 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.
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.
Now finish rolling the dough to a 24 x 10-inch rectangle. Work gently, pushing the dough outward. I work on the length first, and then finish the width.
Continue to brush away loose flour as you go. Fold in both edges to meet in the middle.
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 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 (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.
Still focus on keeping the edges and corners straight, and watch that your dough isn’t sticking to your counter underneath.
Now fold your 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 or overnight.
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.
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.
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.
Then begin rolling the croissant tightly from the bottom.
When you get to the end, gently pat the top of your croissant to help the bottom seal. Repeat with 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 place them in a warm spot to proof until they look “poofy.” They should be jiggly if you scoot the pan. This will take 1-2 hours.
It is important that they proof long enough so the butter doesn’t leak out of the layers during baking.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. (Don’t proof your croissants on top of your preheating oven, or the butter will melt out. I made this mistake once.)
Whisk together your egg and milk to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash gently on the entire surface of each proofed croissant with a pasty brush.
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
Freeze any leftover sourdough croissants in a zipper freezer bag for optimal freshness. Place a croissant on a plate and microwave for about 20 seconds to thaw.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!
If you make this recipe and love it, I would greatly appreciate if you would come back to leave 5 stars and a review! Tag me on Instagram @aberlehome to show me what you made!