Thursday, February 21, 2013

Croissants, croissants, croissants! (and some things that aren't croissants, but are related to croissants)

Yay, back to recipes! But first, a confession. I've never really been a huge fan of pastries. There, I said it!

Croissants? I recognize that they're good, but I don't really love them. I'd much prefer something heartier or less buttery (sorry!). However, whenever I see them, I'm still really drawn to baking them (and other pretty treats), so I'm oh so fortunate to know quite a few people who like to eat them. :)

I've made vegan croissants once before (a few years ago with my sister - and we filled them with homemade pumpkin butter!), and had been meaning to make them for a while - but it wasn't until I was inspired by a series of wonderfully written posts featuring beautiful pictures and GIF tutorials on a blog called Top With Cinnamon (and had a spontaneous day off from work!) that I finally got around to making them.

Seriously, check out this blog! It's not vegan by any means, but the (17 year old!) author does a phenomenal job both baking and publishing. I already have a running list of recipes I want to veganize (how do Spiced Brown Butter Pumpkin Pretzels with Coffee Cream Cheese Icing and Samoa Baked Donuts sound?). :)

Croissants are a good weekend project - they take a ton of time, but most of it's not that active or very difficult, so if you can get started and then sit down with a good book or a movie, go for a walk, or do your laundry, you're in business. A batch of dough makes enough for four batches of croissants, so your labor of love will (depending on how hungry your friends are) last you a while. :)

Here's a rough timeline of the basic steps for the (super buttery layer-y) dough:

Hour 1. Make the dough, make a GIANT BLOCK of vegan butter, chill.
Hour 2. Combine the dough and vegan butter, roll and fold the dough, chill for an hour.
Hour 3. Roll and fold the dough, chill for an hour.
Hour 4. Roll and fold the dough, chill for an hour.
Hour 5. Roll and fold the dough, divide in four, chill overnight/freeze to save for later.

Then to bake the croissants/whatever else you decide to make (thaw dough first in the fridge if frozen):

Hour 0.5. Remove from fridge, roll dough, shape.
Hours 0.5 - 3. Let rise in the fridge for 2 - 3 hours (somewhat optional... I forgot to do this and they turned out fine).
Hour 3.5. Bake!
Hour 4. Devour with homemade jam.

Making croissant dough (ie. Stage 1: The very, very long haul)

Vegan Croissant Dough
makes dough for four batches of croissants, danish cinnamon swirls, pan au chocolat, and more! :)
1 cup cold non-dairy milk (I used hazelnut milk)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 Tbsp dried active yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

2 1/4 sticks (1 cup + 2 Tbsp) of vegan butter/margarine, frozen and removed from freezer to thaw
I found a brand here that was vegan, but in the US I usually go for Earth Balance


1. In a large bowl, combine the cold milk and hot water. Dissolve the sugar, then add the yeast and mix until dissolved. Let sit until it gets bubbly, about 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flour and salt, then add in and mix (with your hands!) until it forms a (sticky but) workable ball of dough. Clean and flour a surface (like your table), and knead the dough for a minute or two.

3. Let rise in a well oiled bowl for about an hour in your fridge.

4. In the mean time, grate your vegan butter. Pile it onto some saran wrap and spread it out into a rectangle about 8 x 5". Pack it down and warp it up (we used a ziplock instead because we didn't have any plastic wrap, but I'm pretty sure the plastic wrap would have been easier). Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

5. Once the block o' vegan butter has chilled, remove both the butter and the dough from the fridge. On a floured surface, roll out the ball of dough into a big rectangle (~16 x 10"). Unwrap the butter block and place it ontop of the dough in the middle. Fold the two long ends of the dough over the butter (think business letter!) and pinch the ends to seal the butter in.

Note: Make sure that the butter block has warmed to a workable consistency (not too brittle, but also not oily) before you roll it into the dough. I didn't do this, and my butter pieces were a little flaky rather than evenly distributed. This didn't seem to have a huge impact on the final product, but if/when I do it again, I will definitely try do it this way instead.

6. Indent and roll the dough perpendicular to the longer side of the rectangle to make another long rectangle. Fold again (like a business letter). You've finished round one, woohoo! Wrap it up, and refrigerate for an hour. Walk your dog, do some yoga, fold your laundry! Phew.

7. Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll the dough again in the same manner (once again, let it warm a little so that the butter isn't brittle). Fold it back up, wrap it back up, put it back in the fridge (for an hour). You're free again!!

8. Repeat step 7 twice more, so that the dough's been rolled and folded a total of four times.

9. After the fourth round of folds, slice the dough into four pieces, and you're done! I wrapped and refrigerated one piece, and wrapped and froze the remaining three (separated by parchment paper).

Baking croissants/other pastries (ie. Stage 2: Instant gratification! Hooray!)

Now that you have the dough made, the hard part is over! Once your dough has refrigerated overnight, you're ready to make croissants, danish cinnamon swirls, pain au chocolate, or anything else you feel like! 

I made some (mini) classic croissants and danish cinnamon swirls with my first batch, but I'm planning on making fun things filled with chocolate and berries! And also some savory options for the non-dessert lovers. :)

vegan milk substitute (hazelnut, almond, soy, coconut, etc) for glazing
cinnamon sugar, raisins, chocolate, other toppings/fillings!

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F (or, if you have a crazy oven like mine... probably approximately setting "4", haha).

Roughly a rectangle...
to shape croissants
2. Remove a 1/4 portion of your dough from the fridge, and roll out on a clean, floured surface. To make full size croissants, cut the dough into thirds, and then divide each rectangle in half diagonally to make six triangles.

I cut my dough in half lengthwise, and then cut one half into thirds and then triangles to make six mini-croissants.

3. Separate the triangles, and stretch the dough out to even the short end (a side of the triangle) and elongate the longer end (a point of the triangle).

4. Cut a small slit in the short side of the triangle, and then roll the dough towards the long end. Curl the sides towards the middle to form the crescent shape.

to shape danish cinnamon swirls
2. Using a 1/4 batch of dough to make full-size rolls, and a half 1/4 batch to make mini-rolls. Roll out a rectangle, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (~1/3 cup for a whole batch, 1/6 cup for a half batch), and raisins, dried blueberries, or other dried fruit (or chocolate!).

3. Roll the dough tightly using the short edge (to create a shorter, rollier log vs. a longer, less rolly log :D).

4. Carefully slice into thin (~1/2 - 1") rounds using a sharp knife or a piece of floss (so as not to squish the rolls!).

get bakin'!
5. Place your croissants/rolls (apparently, the croissants should go center-point down to help prevent them from unrolling!) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with ~2" of space between them. Brush lightly with hazelnut milk (or any other kind).

6. Cover, and let them rise in a cool spot for 2 - 3 hours (if you're this patient/remember.. oops!).

7. When you're ready, lower the oven temperature to 425 F. Bake at 425 F for about 10 minutes. Then, lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate the tray half-way through baking. The smaller ones need less time (the mini ones I made were done in just under 20 minutes total).

8. Let them cool (just a lil'!), and you're all done! Devour! Share with friends! You made it! :)

The great part is that I still have three batches left in my freezer, and about a million ideas of things to do with them. So expect more croissant recipes soon! :)

Enjoy! :) 


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