While I make croissants using commercial yeast fairly often and sourdough bread frequently, I am fairly new to making sourdough croissants. But boy have I been missing out: not only is the flavour even better than using commercial yeast, you get even crispier croissants that truly shatter as you break into them.
Post updated March 2020: new photos
These sourdough croissants are based loosely on a recipe by Shipton Mill and an adaptation of my recipe for croissants made with commercial yeast.
As with sourdough breads, it takes longer for the proving of the shaped dough here (by about a day) but your patience will be generously rewarded!
Two top tips for making croissants
Probably the most crucial tip I can give is to keep everything cool: chilling the dough for an hour or so in the fridge the moment you feel the dough warming up or the butter softening too much, and you are well on your way to making terrific croissants.
One of the other top tips is not to put too much pressure on the dough when rolling it out, especially when it comes to rolling out the dough prior to shaping. If the dough does resist, stop rolling for about 15 minutes if the kitchen is cool before continuing. Alternatively, fold the dough up loosely, cover it with clingfilm and freeze for about 20 minutes before continuing. Gently does it: it will roll out enough and all will be well!
If you have never made croissants before, or have experienced problems when making them, I cordially invite you to read my full guidelines for making croissants, including shaping, troubleshooting and the like. These are at my main croissants post here.
An approximate time-scale for making sourdough croissants
It take the best part of three days to make sourdough croissants well, but only a little bit of this time is actually hands-on work: most of the time is leaving the dough to do its thing!
The timings below are approximate: several hours or so either way is not going to make a difference:
Day 1: morning – feed the starter wth equal quantites of flour and water (I go for about 150g of each)
Day 1: from late-afternoon – mix up the main dough (step 1 of the recipe) and leave until the following morning.
Day 2: morning – laminate the dough (steps 3-8 of the recipe), allowing about an hour chilling between each turn. Rest the dough for a few hours before shaping.
Day 2: late afternoon – shape the dough (steps 10-13 of the recipe) and leave to prove very slowly overnight.
Day 3: morning – bake at last!
Recipe: sourdough croissants – makes about 14
- 450g strong white plain flour
- 60g caster sugar
- 10g fine sea salt
- 200-220ml cold water
- 160g active sourdough starter*
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
* ideally feed the starter in the morning so that later in the afternoon it will be active enough
Butter For laminating:
- 250g good quality unsalted butter
- egg yolk, beaten with a little milk
Make up the dough:
(1) Mix the flour, salt, sugar, starter and 200ml of the water together in a large bowl and mix to form a fairly firm dough: don’t worry if it feels too stiff side at this stage, but you can add a little more water if necessary. Knead lightly for about a minute, before adding the butter and kneading this into the dough for about a minute or until the butter has been completely incorporated.
(2) Cover the dough and leave a room temperature for about 4-5 hours to start to ferment. Put the bowl in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight. Don’t worry if it hasn’t risen much at this stage, as the starter will still be working gently and very slowly behind the scenes, already developing flavour.
Laminate the dough:
NB: I have used the photos of my non-sourdough croissant dough for these stages as the method is exactly the same:
(3) Shape or bash the butter into a square about 20cm by 20cm and chill until needed. You need the butter to be as similar a texture as the dough: cool but slightly soft and malleable rather than too firm or brittle, so remove it from the fridge about 30 minutes or so.
(4) Roll out the chilled dough to a rectangle that is just over 40cm by 20cm, with the shortest edge facing you.
(5) Place the butter in the centre of the dough and bring the top and bottom flaps over the butter, sealing gently along the two side edges and top, trying not to trap air bubbles. Brush off the excess flour.
(6) Roll out the dough to a long, thin rectangle – about 20cm by 60cm. Fold the bottom third of the dough up and then bring the top third of the dough over this, still keeping the edges as straight as possible: as in the photos below. This is one turn (an envelope turn).
(7) Cover the dough with cling film and put in the fridge for about an hour to rest and chill down.
(8) Rotate the dough 90° (as in the photo below) and give two more turns, rolling out each time to about 20cm wide, 60cm or so long and no more than 5mm thick, making sure you rest the dough in the fridge for about an hour each time.
NB: you have now done the three turns.
(9) Refrigerate the dough for at least three hours or even overnight before shaping. Go with whatever fits best with your life schedule!
Shape the dough:
(10) Remove the dough from the fridge and leave on the work top for 5 minutes or so to allow the butter to just start to soften up, making it easier to roll. Place the dough with the closed edge away from you, so the edges nearest to you and on the left and the right show the 3 layers of dough.
NB: this is the same way round the dough was when you finished the last turn, without rotating it at all. Seriously, it is so much easier having it this way round at this stage.
(11) Roll out the dough until the rectangle is about 20cm long. Now rotate the dough 90° so the closed edge is on the left. Roll out to a long rectangle about 4mm thick and leave the dough for a minute or so to relax before cutting (otherwise the dough might shrink on you). Trim the edges with a sharp knife and cut into triangles with base about 10cm and height about 20cm.
(12) Take a triangle and use cool hands to stretch it out a little. Roll up fairly tightly at first, easing up as you reach the tips. Repeat for the other triangles.
NB: see my main croissants post for fuller details and photos of the shaping for croissants or pains au chocolate: link here
Prove the shaped dough:
(13) Brush the tops lightly with the egg wash and pop the shaped dough onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment or silicon mats and place inside a large plastic bag or bin liner, making sure the plastic is not touching the dough – a tall cup or tin in there helps keep the plastic off the dough. Leave at room temperature for about 8-12 hours, depending on the room temperature, to rise significantly, before transferring to the fridge overnight, where they will develop a great depth of flavour. If the room is cool, leave them out of the fridge overnight.
(14) The following day – finally baking day! – take the shaped and risen dough out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C (fan): slightly higher than for croissants using commerical yeast.
(15) Brush the dough with egg wash and pop in the oven, immediately turning the temperature down to 180C (fan). Bake for 25-30 minutes until deep golden brown and they feel light when you lift one: a bit longer than for croissants made using commerical yeast.