A guide to patisserie quality french laminated pastry using natural yeast!
I will skip the long boring story about my love for laminated dough and get straight to the technical details. I have another post where I talk about nailing the croissants at home. Those points are still valid here too. The fact that you are using natural yeast, doesn’t change anything with the lamination and the rest of the technicalities of making croissants.
The most important factor here is the strength of your starter. Only you know your starter, so it is practically impossible for me to tell you when it is at it’s peak or how much of it to use. But for the moment, I will assume that you have an active starter, with a good track record of making nice baked goods. I generally consider a starter as a good starter, if it doubles in less than 6 hours (at room temperature), once fed with 1:1 flour and water. This is just a gauge I use, and has worked for me.
To rejuvenate your starter, make sure you feed it for a whole day (every 6 hours) and that it is not starved or tucked in a fridge. Once your starter is active an bubbly (just before it collapses) is the perfect time to make the sweet starter for the croissant dough. This may sound like a lot of work, but if you are constantly baking with your starter, you usually know when your starter is at it’s peak, and for best results we have to use it just before it reaches it’s peak.
Red circle shows the starter height just before it’s peak and so the red star is the time we should use the starter!
For the croissants we will make a stiffer starter, meaning using less water. In this case it is a little less than 40% water. This makes a dough ball rather than a paste. If you are not used to making stiff starters, this might seems strange at first. So by reducing water, we will slow down the activity and also, this gives us a chance to control our final dough hydration. The starter also use two tablespoons of sugar ( this can be either brown or white) This is a considerable amount of sugar and could slow down fermentation. That is why we use 50% culture. A starter made with these ratios will take roughly about 12 hours to reach it’s peak.
To make the starter, mix the starter ingredients and knead into a firm ball. Make sure everything is combined. Now let this sit for 12 hours in a big plastic container covered with a lid or cling film.
The sponge will be expanded to about three times it’s original size and would feel like a sponge when you touch it. The texture will be airy and sponge like and would smell acidic. This is now ready to be mixed with the dough.
To make the dough mix all the dough ingredients and the starter sponge in a stand mixer and mix until everything is combined. When the dough forms, take it off the mixer on to a bench surface and knead slightly by hand, just to make sure it’s consistent and no lumps are present. You do not have to make it smooth, just make sure everything is properly mixed.
Then flatten the dough slightly, as shown in the picture below, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for about a day (24 hours) If I mix the dough around 11 am on Friday, I usually refrigerate it till Saturday morning (9 a.m or 10 a.m). I usually do this to fit my schedule,and this retardation is forgiving, so it doesn’t matter if you over do it by a couple of hours.
This long slow proof allow yeast to multiply but without making the dough going soft. If we proof too much at this stage, we will be losing all the air during the lamination. So this is just to let the yeast kick start their fermentation.
After the long retardation, now we are ready to laminate the dough. This is the crucial bit. This is where the layers are being added. The neater the layers now, the prettier your croissants will look.
We will start this by making a butter block. I use four butter ticks and about 1/3 cup of flour to make the butter slab. I read this somewhere, that flour makes butter a little bit more stable, so when we roll out, it won’t melt as fast. Because at home, we don’t have the dough sheeters, which roll out the pastry in one go. Instead we have to try rolling several times using a rolling pin. This takes time and dough sitting for too long in the room temperature isn’t a good thing as the butter tend to melt away, taking the layers with it.
To make the butter slab, let butter go a little soft, just until it feels like play dough. Now all we do is mix butter with flour.
Take the mix out and flatten it out between two cling films. The slab should be about 3/4 centimeter in thickness. Make it to a neat rectangle or a square (about 9″ by 9″ for this dough). Refrigerate this to firm up. Check this video.
For the lamination to start, the dough and the butter slab should have the same firmness. So that when we roll out, the two will expand harmoniously creating an even layer of butter and dough.
Take the dough out of the fridge, and roll it out to twice the size of the butter slab as we are going to wrap the butter with this dough. Check the image. Check this video to see how I do this.
When rolling out the dough, lightly dust the bench and use firm motion to roll out the dough to one direction. Lift the dough up and re-flour the bench to stop it from sticking and stretching too much. If your dough feels elastic let it rest in the fridge for 10 minutes before continuing.
Now wrap the butter slab with the dough and seal all sides. Now place the dough so that the closed side (the folded edge) is on either on your right or left. Follow the diagram for the folds. We will do three letter folds. If you are worried, stop at two letter folds or you can do two book folds if you like. The more you folds, the more you handle the dough and the risk of butter being melted gets higher, if you are not careful. Check this video.
Roll out the dough to about 20 inches and do a letter fold. Wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll out to 20 inches again, wrap and chill for another 30 minutes. Take out the dough and give another letter fold. Repeat one more time. Place back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes and roll out to 20 inches. Now we are done laminating.
Now wrap and let this dough rest for about 10 – 12 hours. Then we need to roll out the pastry to actual final thickness to cut out the shapes. What I usually do it cut the pastry in to two and roll out the two pieces separately. Final dough thickness should be about 1/2 centimeter.
Take your time doing this. If the dough seems elastic, let it rest in the fridge and roll out again. Once the final width is achieved, wrap and chill for another two hours before cutting out shapes.
Use a ruler or a cardboard block to cut the triangular shapes. And make the croissants as shown in the pictures below.
Make a slit on the top edge and stretch it slightly
Start rolling from top to bottom.
Tuck the end underneath
Once these are done, you can either refrigerate them for about 12 hours or let them proof straight. To prove these, place on a tray cover and let sit for about 8 hours. If you want to speed the process up, place in a slightly warmer place. I usually make the shapes in the midnight, let them sit there covered until morning and them place them in a switched off oven with a cup of boiling water, for about 3-4 hours. Then they are usually ready for morning tea (or brunch).
You know its proofed, when its swollen and wobbly. You would also be able to see all the layers.
Leaving a gap around croissants is important, as it will stop from sticking together and they will be baked nice and even all around
Once the croissants are ready, heat the oven to 420 ℉ and place a rack in the center. Prepare an egg wash by whisking together two egg yolks and a teaspoon of water.Once the oven is ready, paint the croissants with a thin even coating of egg wash. Be gentle not to disturb the fragile pastry. Also avoid egg wash dripping around the sides as it will seep to the bottom, get burnt and be messy.
Place the croissants in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Then rotate the trays reduce the temperature to 400 ℉ and give another 15 – 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the croissants during the final few minutes as they might burn easily. Once they are evenly golden brown, remove from the oven and place the trays on a wire rack to cool.
These are best served fresh and still warm. If you want to store them, let them cool down completely. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to two days. To keep for longer freeze them sealed in freezer bags. To freshen up frozen croissants, let them thaw and reheat them in a moderate oven for about 5-10 minutes.
There you have it! Homemade croissants are the best and when they are naturally levained, it’s even better! Get the recipe from below and refer to the above post for execution details. It might take time to get a perfect croissants, but practice makes perfect. Give this a go and let me know how it went. If you have questions or comments please do not hesitate to ask me either on Instagram or use the comments section below!