The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Naturally leavened croissants

emkay's picture

Naturally leavened croissants

I have always wanted to make a naturally leavened croissant for no other reason than to see if I can do it. But most sourdough starter / levain croissant recipes I see on the internet have both commercial yeast and levain in the dough. I have nothing against using commercial yeast in croissant making or in any other bread for that matter. Whatever floats your (bread) boat is fine with me. Croissants and other laminated yeasted doughs are challenging enough without using sourdough starter / levain as the sole means of leavening.

When Michael (mwilson) recently posted his purely sourdough croissant formula, let's just say that I was more than excited to try it out. The day I made my croissants was one of the hottest days of the summer in San Francisco. 83 degrees F! And, yes, that is considered hot for SF. I did have some minor tearing while doing my folds and I didn't roll the dough thin enough during the shaping step, but I don't think that had anything to do with the weather. I just need to practice my lamination skills. I filled the croissants with chocolate because (1) I have a big box of Callebaut chocolate batons that I needed to use up and (2) uh, it's chocolate, so why not? :)


I deviated from Michael's recipe a little bit. I used more egg yolk and butter and I didn't add any flavorings to dough as suggested in his post. I didn't use a stiff levain nor did I double-feed my levain to temper the sour flavors. I built a 20% rye flour, 80% hydration levain which fermented for 12 hours. Even though I wasn't following the letter of the law, I hoped that I was honoring the spirit.


I think my croissants still turned out pretty well. These croissants seemed sweeter and less buttery than the typical French-style croissant. My crumb wasn't as lacey and honeycombed as I would have liked and the bottom crumb was slightly compressed, but that's because I overhandled the dough. They were still flaky and crisp and oh-so delicious! I admit to having more than one with my afternoon tea.


Naturally Leavened CroissantsGramsBaker'sPct
Low-protein bread flour (~12% protein level)350100%
Egg yolk205.7%
Granulated sugar6318%
                                                           DOUGH726.3 grams 
Roll-in butter22631.1% of final dough


  1. Mix together all ingredients except the roll-in butter. (I used my KA stand mixer to mix the dough on speed 1 for 2 minutes and then on speed 2 for 2 minutes.)
  2. Refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours. (I did it for 6 hours.)
  3. Enclose the roll-in butter in the dough. (I like the regular lock-in method, but any alternative lock-in is fine.)
  4. Do 3 folds with 1 hour rest in the refrigerator between each fold. (I used the single fold aka letter fold as opposed to the book fold, but that's just my personal preference.)
  5. Shape the croissants and let them proof for 16 hours at 72 degrees F. (I shape retarded mine at 40 degrees F for 16 hours and then let them sit at 72 degrees F for 3 hours before baking.)
  6. Gently brush with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees F until golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Baking time will depend on the size of your croissants.)


:) Mary


mwilson's picture

Very, very impressive Mary! A nice touch with the chocolate. I came very close to putting chocolate in mine but didn't in the end because I cut them rather small. I think your interpretation has far surpassed my efforts. Not sure I could pull this off with those warm temps you had there in San Francisco. Very well done.


emkay's picture

Hi Michael,  Even though it was quite hot in my kitchen, I found this dough easier to handle than my usual croissant dough made with dry yeast.  I compared the overall percentages between my usual formula and your formula and they were pretty close. Perhaps the SD provides a certain extensibility that the dry yeast doesn't. Whatever the reason, the dough was nice to handle.  I will be using this recipe again and again. Thanks again for sharing your formula.

:) Mary

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Mary.  It's as if you read my mind...this weekend getaway, I was looking forward to visiting one of my favourite bakeries and getting a Pain au chocolat.  Yours turned out very nicely.  A bit shinier an outer crust than what I am used to but no less amazing.

Dang, dang dang.


emkay's picture

I'm not sure why my croissants turned out so shiny. I think I might have been heavy handed with the egg wash. Have a good weekend and enjoy your pain au chocolat!

CharSiu's picture

Those are beautiful. I'm very impressed! 

emkay's picture

Thanks NillaFish!

dabrownman's picture

anything that has over a half a pound of butter in it, better have come chocolate in it too, or it just won't taste right and be...unbalanced:-)  The one thing Lucy and I are are famous for and experts at is being unbalanced;-)  I get the flat bottoms too when I make laminated dough in AZ when it is  85 F in the kitchen.  I think the butter won't stay put and leaks out when they are proofing and falls to the bottom - but the proofing sure goes faster at 85 F!   Mine never look as good as yours though.  When I saw Michael's croissants I though he had gone full blown txfarmer on us :-)

Well done and happy baking Mary.

emkay's picture

Lucy is a smart girl. If she says it needs chocolate to balance out the butter then who I am to argue? Thanks dab!

baybakin's picture

Wow thoes look amazing.

my side of the bay had some warm temps as well, I didn't even try and bake bread, as I have no Air Con.  I opted for grilling instead, with some home-made tortillas.

Sounds like it's time to make some more croissants, I doubt they'll end up looking as well as yours do though.

emkay's picture

 I'm sure it was much hotter in the East Bay than in SF. Most SF homes don't have AC either.  I don't bake bread when it's hot since I would have to preheat with the stone and then bake the bread. That's just too long to have the oven on. But baking the croissants doesn't require too much oven time.   Thanks baybakin!

BigsbyBakehouse's picture

Perhaps this is more common in cornetti than in croissants but the butter level seems very low (though your recipe obviously yielded great results). I am also wondering if you could go into a bit more detail regarding proofing possibilities/options with naturally-leavened croissants, it seems there's much more leeway and time need than in regular sourdough.