The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

need help rolling croissant dough

cor's picture

need help rolling croissant dough

Hi everyone,


This is my first post to the site.  I am having a HUGE problem with rolling out my croissant dough.  I'll give you some background info on it:


1) Last night I made the dough (similar to the CIA's recipe), let it proof until it doubled on the counter, and put it in the fridge for about 18 hours.  Last night I also prepared the butter slab to be locked in.

2) Tonight I took the croissant dough out of the fridge, rolled it onto a wooden table on the deck (about 45 degrees F), let it sit for 30 minutes covered.  After letting it rest, I locked in the butter, did a four fold, and wrapped it and let it rest in the fridge for 30.

3) Did a three fold for turn 2 and let it rest again in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4) Performed a three fold for the third and final turn.  After this, I put the dough in the fridge to rest for about an hour.  

5) Took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it out again with hopes of cutting and shaping the croissants.  I was basically pushing on the dough with all my weight to get it to stretch out because it WOULD NOT move.  Actually, through the whole process the dough was TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT.  Of course when I shaped the croissants, there was no sign of layers of butter and dough since I pushed so hard and forcefully on the dough (although when I cut the dough in half after my final turn, the layers of butter were even and perfectly spaced between the dough).  When I cooked the croissants, of course all of the butter leaked out almost immediately.  So I know I was rolling it out too hard.

I figured by leaving the dough in the fridge 18(!) hours, keeping it always cool, I would have a little less problem with rolling it out... but I tell you, this dough was as dense and tight as it could be.  The dough was fully kneaded before storing in the fridge, too.

I thought cooling the dough was supposed to ease the gluten.  For me, it was a constant and frustrating tug and pull race.  I would roll the dough out and it would snap back again.

Should I have kept the dough warmer?  Should I have not been working in a cool location?  I am terrible at rolling dough.  Any helpful thoughts?  I'm having A LOT of trouble finding anything more helpful than "keep the dough cool".

pmccool's picture

Sorry to hear about your struggles, cor.

The cooling step keeps the butter firm so that it does not spread everywhere and/or penetrate through the dough layers.

The resting time, with or without cooling, is what allows the gluten in the dough to relax, making the dough more extensible and less elastic.

I'll let the pros who handle this stuff on a daily basis give you a detailed analysis. 

My amateur guess is that your refrigerator temperature might be low enough that both the butter and the dough are too cold, therefore too stiff, to be handled easily.  Sorry, I don't know the optimal temperature range.  Since you don't say what the initial dough consistency was like, I wonder if it was perhaps a bit low on hydration and therefore stiffer than would be preferred.  Finally, it's also possible that you are using a flour with fairly high gluten content that tends to form an elastic, rather than extensible, dough.

Just some guesses.


Vogel's picture

It can take some time until you manage to do the perfect croissant doughs. There are so many variables. The consistency of the fat has to match the one of the dough (so the hydration of the dough), the temperature may neither be to warm nor too cold and so on.

If the dough doesn't roll out it could mean that it simply is too strong and elastic when doing so. When you work the fat into the dough the first time, the dough should be rather weak at this stage. So don't knead the dough to the maximum and don't create any surface tension by shaping it into a tight ball or something. If you let the dough fully rise and let it rest for 18 hours before working the fat in, it could mean that the dough has gained a lot of strength during this process. Maybe instead of fermenting the whole dough for such a long time, do a yeasted pre-ferment ("Poolish") with about 30% of the whole flour weight the day before and use less yeast for the final dough (I use 1.5-2.0% fresh yeast). Then only knead until the dough just starts to pass the windowpane test, but is not super thin yet. Instead of letting fully rise, just put it into the fridge together with the fat for about an hour so both can gain the same temperature. Now roll out the dough and work the fat in and just continue the usual process.
Then, instead of waiting only 30 minutes between the foldings, let the dough relax for at least an hour.

Don't worry. Making croissant dough needs some practice. I probably needed 5-7 attempts until it was more or less free of accidents like the dough not rolling out and ripping or fat leaking in the oven. You will become better every time you do it.

lazybaker's picture

At the start, I do knead the dough so it won't be so sticky because you don't want to incorporate flour during the rolling process. But you don't want the dough to be too dry either. I use a pinch of flour on the dough and brush off the excess from the dough and surface counter. If you roll flour into the dough, you get crunchy layers instead of flaky layers.

What I don't do is let the dough proof before rolling. For some reason, it always comes out bread-y when I let the dough proof before rolling. After I knead the dough, let it rest for 15 minutes in the fridge and then do the butter lock in.

I do 3 double book fold with an hour rest in the fridge in between the rolling. The first rolling is easier, I can get it to 1/4" or 1/8" thickness. The 2nd and 3rd rolling gets tricky. But 1/4" thickness is fine. It's fine to stretch out the corners.

I do experience dough being elastic to the point that it becomes like a rubber band. I just let it rest in the fridge, so that gluten relaxes.

I let them proof anywhere from 2 to 3 hours depending on the room temperature. I prefer a cool room temperature, where the butter won't melt but will let the dough rise. I think you want the butter in the layers to be in a gel-like state. I know that cold butter in the dough will tend to melt if you bake. Butter in the dough that is in a gel-like state that won't seep into the dough will evaporate and produce flaky layers. I use two baking pans on top of each other to prevent the bottoms from burning. I bake in a pre-heated oven at 475 F for minutes. Then turn down the temperature to 425 F and bake for 5 minutes. Turn down to 350 F and bake for 5 to 10 minutes. You have to make sure the interior is thoroughly baked, or it will collapse! 

The initial high temperature will allow the butter to produce steam and produce the flaky layers. I found that any temperature below 475 F causes the butter to melt.

cor's picture

Thanks to everyone for the posts...  I think they have helped.  Here is my latest attempt.  I only mixed the dough until the ingredients were combined and homogeneous.  It was easy to roll at first but did become harder near shaping.


I'm wondering if the dough is too cold when I'm doing the final shaping.  The butter broke into pieces when I rolled the dough straight out of the fridge, and looked very hard and brittle.  Also, the dough was tight when rolling and shaping (I had left the dough in the fridge 3 hours before rolling to shape).  Wondering if I should let the dough sit in a warm room for 10 or so minutes before rolling.


I'll let you know how these bake.  I don't see a lot of layers in the finished rolled product, so I'm not expecting anything different than last time (lots of leaking and collapsing.  It's a nightmare).  



cor's picture

It looks like the butter may be broken within the layers as well...  I could see the butter lightly through the dough and did not appear to be a continuous layer (though no butter broke through the surface).

cor's picture

Franko's picture


The first problem I noticed with the method was that the dough was let to rise after mixing. You actually want to keep the yeast as inactive as possible at this point, since you'll want as much of the leavening power from the yeast when it comes time to let the croissants rise/proof before baking. After the dough is mixed, let it rest on the counter for 15 min , then roll in your butter and give it the first fold. Rest in the fridge for 30-35 minutes, then continue with however many series of folds you are using for your mix, resting 30 minutes between folds. Let the dough rest after the final fold for at least 3-4 hrs before using, but try to use the dough within the next 18-20hrs, or freeze it if that's not possible. Have both your roll-in butter and dough at 60F or slightly lower. If you're using ordinary butter, I'd suggest softening it slightly and mixing in 10-15% of bread flour to help absorb some of the excess water found in domestic butter. After this is done, bring your butter block to 60F along with your dough before you begin the roll-in.

Try this and I think you'll find the going a little easier.


cor's picture

Thanks, Franko.  This last time I put the dough straight in the fridge after combining the ingredients...  let it set in the fridge for about 4 hours so the dough was super cold (I did not allow it to proof on the counter).  Let the butter sit in the fridge so that got super cold, too.

Problem is, all I hear about croissant making is "keep it cold!" and "keep it cold!" and things along those lines.  So I probably keep everything way too cold (about 45 degress) for all these fears that the butter will leak!  Though I'm sure by being sooo cautious as I am there is nowhere near any danger of butter leaking at all.  Which is probably why my croissants have been coming out so terrible.

Tomorrow I will try rolling the dough and the butter (both at a higher temperature) and see how they come out.  Or if anyone is in the NYC area and would like to give some croissant lessons, I'm about at that point, too.  I don't know how much more butter I can waste on this.  ha


Franko's picture


You're on the right track , no worries.

Hopefully you have an instant read thermometer..if not then get one if you can. They're fairly inexpensive and indispensable when it comes to dealing with temp tolerances of various doughs. What you want is to have the dough and butter roughly equal in temp so that both can be rolled out at the same rate of expansion. Not too cold or too warm. The aim is to create an even, uniform layer of butter between the layers of dough so getting the temp right is crucial for this to work properly.

Keep us posted,


lazybaker's picture

Broken pieces of butter are fine as long as they're flat thin sheets of butter. Cold butter will have to break. There's no way around it. When butter melts into the dough, you'll end up with brioche.

I have a recipe that uses less butter, one and a half stick (3/4 cup) of butter:

Croissants (Makes 6)


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour,   ¼ cup all-purpose flour (for kneading and rolling)

1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 ½ tablespoons sugar 

½ teaspoon salt 

¾ cup lukewarm water


¾ cup (or 1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter

When you're measuring the flour, make sure to take a large spoon and fill the measuring cup with flour. Don't take the measuring cup and scoop out the flour because doing this will compact the flour and you'll end up taking in more flour. 

This works on a small scale and easier for rolling.

My failed croissants never end up in the trash. They always end up becoming croutons. haha

I typed a step by step with photos here. But whenever I posted the link, the site wouldn't let me. Anyway, you have to copy and paste after the fresh loaf dot com address, 


cor's picture

Hi All!


I took a class at King Arthur the other day and have succeeded in making my first correct croissants.  Here are some pictures.  No butter leakage.


Thanks to everyone for the help.  I'd like to share some of my observations on the things I was doing wrong and what I did to correct them.  Let me know if you agree/disagree with my findings.


1) The dough and butter were too cold.  I read everywhere and everywhere that if the butter is not kept cold, it will melt and leak out.  What I'll say is, DON'T WORRY.  Unless it is out for a long period of time on a hot summer day, it will be okay.  I've started thinking of dough as a living organism (which it is, really).  So it needs to be nice and alive and happy when you're rolling it out, not frigid and stiff.


2) I used to press on the dough with my hands after the shaping stage when they lost their shape.  It think this led to a loss of layers.


3) I have now started with a dough with butter mixed in, only kneaded to get the ingredients incorporated, let the dough sit in the fridge overnight and then rolled in the butter the next morning.  So the kneading was done with the rolling in the butter, not beforehand.  This made it much easier to roll.


4) I was very careful about having precise dimensions of the lock-in butter (5 inch by 5 inch) and made sure the dough was square when locking it in.


6) When rolling, I imagined I was one of those fancy dough sheeters.  So I went back and forth in a calculated, controlled and complete motion, not uneven and unpredictable.


7) I learned a lot of patience.  If the dough was too stiff (especially as the turns increased), I would let it rest covered on the counter for a few minutes.  This seemed to bring the temperature of the dough up a bit which made things a bit less stiff.


Overall, I've found it's an art, not a science.  I think of the dough as a living thing that wants to be cared for and treated in a warm, caring way.  It's helped me to rethink croissants and breads in general.