The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Croissants - getting better, room for improvement

kathleen-finn's picture

Croissants - getting better, room for improvement

Hi! My first post on TFL :) 

I'm working towards a beautiful honeycomb croissant, following txfarmer's recipe and guidance. This photo depicts my best crumb so far (on my fifth or sixth attempt!) I have some questions:

  • Is this croissant underproofed? It seems too small. I actually let this batch proof for about 8 hours, and was totally surprised at how slow they were rising. I proofed them in the oven with a pan of boiling water, but the temperature was only around 73-75 F - maybe it was just too cold?? (The humidity was 80-90%.) I wonder if I mis-measured the yeast or something.
  • I'm vegan, so I use plant butter (Earth Balance buttery sticks), and I brush with non-dairy cream instead of egg wash. I'm pretty happy with the butter replacement (although it is softer at room temp compared with butter, so I worry about raising the proofing temperature). But I'm not yet happy with my egg wash replacement. First I tried soy milk, but that wasn't great. I read up on the effects of all the traditional, non-vegan washes. From this reading, I concluded that egg *yolk* is what makes the wash turn out dark and shiny. So I tried coconut cream mixed with a little soy milk (egg yolk = emulsified fat, coconut cream = emulsified fat)? This seemed to be an improvement, but my croissants are nowhere near as shiny as I want.
  • The tops of my croissants came out really really wrinkly after baking. Why is that? I wonder if they were too wet from high humidity while proofing, or too much milk wash? Or maybe it's because they were underproofed?
  • I used 100% high-protein bread flour for this batch. txfarmer recommended APF for hand-rolled croissants but every time I use APF my croissants are super bready. I don't know why I'm having this discrepancy from txfarmer; maybe I'm not kneading enough to develop the gluten?

TIY everyone!

PeterS's picture

You have nice webbed structure, but they actually look overproofed to me. 

I've always used whole eggs for my wash; egg whites contain albumins, water soluble heat coagulating proteins, that give shiny surfaces when baked.  Coconut cream contains albumin proteins, too, but, as far as I can tell, not as much, proportionately as eggs and proportionately more fat--which does not contribute to gloss.  You might try coconut milk instead of cream.   Sugar can also increase gloss (and browning).

Without seeing the tops of your croissants, it's difficult to diagnose your wrinkles.  You'll want to make sure you have no excess flour on top when you wash.  A guess: Too much of a fat would be absorbed into the dough and soften it; if not absorbed evenly, producing wrinkles.

This page has a nice comparison of egg washes that may give you some insight for your vegan wash.

Epicurious on egg washes 

kathleen-finn's picture

Thanks for the tips! 

I guess I proofed a long time, hoping the croissants would get larger. Maybe it's simply a matter of shaping them better, rolling the dough slightly thicker, or something else to make them larger in the middle.

I will try aquafaba mixed with coconut cream to simulate egg white + yolk. Failing that, I'll try looking for other sources of vegan albumin - I've read that hemp seed is high in albumin.

arlo's picture

The croissant looks slightly over proofed, but lamination looks like it is getting there. You'll want to see the layers starting to slightly delaminate right before placing in the oven. This can be a bit difficult with your non-dairy butter (see tops being wrinkly).

Your NDB (non-dairy butter here forth) as you know, has a different melting point and consistency than 83% butterfat for plasticity and lamination, it could be the very reason you are experiencing the tops you are talking about. I have attempted a few times at the shop with Earthbalance and another NDB option.

I strictly use 11.7% protein (and a local AP of 10.8%) at my shop for all my croissants and never have used bread flour for them. I do an improved mix before a one hour bulk, overnight retard at 39-40dF and then start the lamination of the dough being 40dF and my butter being brought to about 43dF after I make it pliable. The bread texture could be from the fat just becoming part of the dough (melting point) and ending up more like bread with butter in it. I distinctly recall having to keep my dough constantly in and out of the freezer while using double-folds to reduce my hands touching the dough, and the warmer atmosphere of our shop.

Was the croissant flaky or crunchy at all? Sometimes when I've used NDB I've ended up with bread like texture depending on the brands absorption into the dough.

As far as the egg wash goes, I do not egg wash any croissants at my wife and I's shop. You can view the IG if you'd like @tecumseh_bread_pastry to get an idea of it. I stopped egg washing a while ago since baking with a convection at 375dF for 12 minutes, then lowering to 350dF for 9-10 produced an evenly browned croissant without adding egg to the ingredient list. Personal preference though.

Overall, you are on the right path and it can only get better from here.

kathleen-finn's picture

Thanks arlo! Your croissants look beautiful, and I'm very pleased to hear that they can be done with no wash at all.

This batch did turn out flaky and crunchy, and shattered quite a lot when biting into them. The croissant doesn't seem bread-y, although i'm sure the lamination could improve. I have sometimes been able to see the layers delaminate while proofing, but it didn't happen this time - I wasn't sure whether it was because my lamination wasn't clean enough, or if something went wrong with the proofing.

You are right that working with NDB is an additional challenge. So far I've tried to navigate this challenge by (1) keeping my kitchen below 65dF while laminating, (2) rolling and folding as quickly as possible and then resting in the fridge, (3) getting my dough texture right (with enough hydration so the dough is very pliable), and (4) proofing at a slightly lower temp (around 76dF).

I haven't extensively experimented with different brands of NDB, but many bakers say Earth Balance is the best. Earth Balance NDB has 78% fat, and mainly consists of palm oil (which is solid at room temp), some plant oils that are liquid at room temp, and some water. I've thought I could try blending in an additional bit of palm oil, enough to increase the fat to 83%, which should make the consistency a little firmer. Maybe I will give that a go. Or I could go full-hog and blend my own NDB. It sounds like a lot of work but maybe one day I'll get there.

bottleny's picture
kathleen-finn's picture

Holy smokes those are great-looking vegan croissants! Thank you for the links, this is awesome.

kathleen-finn's picture

Adam's posts inspired me to freeze my dough for a while between laminations, to great results! Thanks again.

semolina_man's picture

Overproofed is causing the lack of rise.   Choice of (non-animal) fat is causing the other phenomenon. 

Google Bruno Albouze.  He just posted two excellent croissant videos on YouTube.  Even if you follow his professionally-trained method perfectly, non-dairy and non-animal fat and protein will affect the outcome.  If you want Parisian croissants you need to use the ingredients used in Paris.