I originally published this last year, but now that I make it all the time, I’m republishing it with simplifications and slight modifications as I figure them out. I should be making the damn things as we speak, but my town currently has, I kid you not, a mandatory curfew (alcohol sales are banned!) because our local river is due to flood, oh, about 25 feet above usual tonight because of our lovely pal Hurricane Irene. So here I am, sitting at home like a chump, mentally calculating over and over the distance from the building (6-months-ours today!) to the river. I keep coming up with: not far enough.
Let’s talk about something else, shall we?
(September 2011 update: building was fine after Irene, hooray! Also please note THIS IMPORTANT UPDATE to this recipe, and also that the photos on this post are ATROCIOUS because the ‘ssaints look amazingly better these days. Poke around here or here for better photos.)
So here we go:
Learning to make croissants was supposed to be my birthday present to myself last year, but then my standing mixer broke…and then this and that happened, and I never got around to getting a new one, even though the void caused me pain at least once a week (& I burnt out two Salvation Army hand mixers in the interim). But now the birthday fairy stepped in, and voilà!
And let me say, friends, if you’re a serious cook, and especially if you’re a seitan-maker, don’t buy a KitchenAid mixer if you can avoid it. I know, I know, they are pretty–look at my old matchy-matchy yellow one! But there’s something screwy with them—I think the gears are plastic. They work just fine if you just make cookies and whatnot, but if you’re doing heavy duty stuff, of maybe just if you’re me, they burn out amazingly fast. Then your only solution is to replace the motor, which is damn near as pricey as buying a whole new machine. Ah, disposable economy.
Back to flaky pastry!
These didn’t come out perfectly. [update: they did on the second try [and third, fourth, etc. times]! The recipe below is the perfected ones.]
I’d say they are 80% perfect though, and I know what to do in the future: use a bit less oil, and a lot less flour. I used almost 2 cups more flour than I should have, because when converting a butter recipe to a coconut oil recipe, I didn’t account for how insanely much more rich coconut oil is than butter (butter has some milk solids, but coco oil is all fat), so I needed extra flour to compensate for the extra fat. Thus, my croissants didn’t rise as they should have and were a bit dense. The rule of thumb is to use 20% less coconut oil than butter, and I probably only did about 10%.
This isn’t a difficult recipe.
If you have no experience working with coconut oil or yeast doughs, however, I wouldn’t recommend it as your first foray. It is, however, crazy time-consuming, and requires paying serious attention to the process—no-knead bread it ain’t. But the croissants freeze great, and the pride you will feel when you serve them to your astonished pals is, not to be all cheesey or anything, SO worth it.
My recipe is based on Shirley Corriher’s wonderfully detailed one in BakeWise. I can’t recommend BakeWise highly enough—it’s one of those cookbooks you will read every word of, even for recipes you know you’ll never make, just because you know you’ll learn something. Wonderful. My mentors Selma and Noel gave it to me for my birthday two years ago, so see how it all ties together? Birthday present + birthday present = a third birthday present to and from myself.
As you know, I hate Earth Balance, so I use coconut oil as my fat for baking. If you’re weirded out by coconut oil, get over it. Here’s my manifesto about it. It’ll help.
If you’re going to all the trouble of making these, might I suggest you spend $20 to buy a digital scale first? Not only because I only measured in grams and thus you’re going to have to convert if you want to make these, but because if you’re a serious baker (and, congratulations! You are, if you’re making croissants by hand from scratch!) you’ve got to become friendly with weighing and, particularly, with grams. God, I love grams. (No jokes about how it runs in my blood, please…) So precise!
One final note: if it’s a super hot and humid day, skip this recipe until a nice cool day comes along. Coconut oil is liquid in warm temperatures, so unless it’s a cool day you will be fighting with the dough to stay cold, which will mean you will be tempted to put it in the refrigerator when it starts to become a melty mess. Do not ever refrigerate this dough (except: if the finished, unbaked croissants seem very soft, you can refrigerate them for a while, or even overnight. At the shop I make a batch of 80 croissants a week and freeze them before baking, then bake a few a day.) It will become almost instantly rock-hard and you will have to work ridiculously hard to continue with the recipe, and you will risk coconut oil chunks that will never soften until in the oven, which will tear holes in your precious flaky dough.
Have you set aside 5 or so hours? Cool! Let’s go!
Makes 18 croissants (2 sizes)
3 cups (383 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surfaces
1 cup (244 g) coconut milk
3 tablespoons (approx. 45 g) coconut oil, solid, for the dough, PLUS 300 grams coconut oil for the oil block.
1 package (7 g) instant yeast (secret: I always use regular yeast in recipes that call for instant, and it’s always fine) I actually use more like 9 grams these days, and they’re a bit fluffier.
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (13.5 g) sea salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
olive oil, for brushing
sugar, for sprinkling
- To make the dough: In a medium mixing bowl, stir the flour into the milk. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap (I use unused shower caps) and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Shirley explains that this step (called autolysis) “fully hydrates the flour and enhances the extensibility of the dough.”
- Meanwhile, whip both coconut oil measurements (the one for the dough and the one for the block) in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on maximum speed for 5-8 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Scrape down with a spatula every 2 or so minutes to ensure that there are no hard chunks of solid oil, which will create holes in your dough. Here’s what the coconut oil looks like at the beginning: And here it’s about 1/2 way whipped: see the fluffy white bits and the solid coconut chunks? And here it is, all finished:
- Fun fact! YOU CAN USE THIS MAGICAL TRICK TO MAKE COCONUT OIL A MAGICAL SHORTENING-LIKE SUBSTANCE THAT WORKS LIKE YET TASTES BETTER THAN EARTH BALANCE! Sorry to scream, I just have to point out that EARTH BALANCE IS TOTES USELESS WHEN YOU KNOW HOW TO WORK COCONUT OIL. Whip it, people. WHIP IT. Not only do you get to use the whippie attachment, which no vegan I’ve ever met could come up with a use for until this moment, but it makes coconut oil perfectly light and fluffy and easy to work with. With two caveats: 1) Do not over-whip it. It will become oil if you do. In fact, actually, do over-whip it. Just once, just to see what happens. It will get all runny and sad and oily. Put it in the fridge until it hardens up again, and start over. Whip just until there are no hard chunks but it looks fluffy and white and happy—not oily. In order to make flaky croissants, which is your only goal here, pretty much, you must have cold, thin layers of fat suspended between flour particles. If your oil gets warm and too oily, it won’t puff properly in the oven and you won’t have layers. You’re done. Don’t make croissants with a liquid oil. 2) Do not under whip-it. You’ll have chunks of oil trapped in your dough that will cut your beautiful layers to pieces. Chunky coco oil will make this recipe hell.
- Watch your whippy mixture. You’ll be able to tell when it’s all fluffy and perfect. Just watch it. When it’s white and semi-solid and perfect, take a minute to marvel at your saturated fat (but, you know: medium-chain fatty acids! Used as energy in your body, not stored as fat!) masterpiece. Doesn’t it look delightfully naughty? Like lard, or Crisco? It’s a fat miracle: the very best fat you can bake with, which just happens to be an amazingly awesome addition to your diet. God, life is amazing.
- Weigh out coconut oil for the dough and the block separately and set aside. Fit the mixer with the dough hook.
- (ignore that the scale says 52–the recipe is better now!)
- When the 30 minutes are up, sprinkle the yeast over the dough and transfer it empty to the standing mixer bowl. Mix for 30 seconds to blend the yeast in. Stir in the sugar, salt, water, and coconut oil for the dough. Mix until the dough comes together and no longer sticky. Knead the dough for 1.5-2 minutes. It should be very soft and will probably be a bit sticky. If needed, adjust with a little more flour or a few sprinkles of water.
- To make the coconut oil block: SEE BELOW–I DON’T DO THIS STEP ANYMORE:
Sprinkle some flour on a clean counter or large sheet tray. Scoop the coconut oil for the block out on top of the flour. Sprinkle generously with more flour. Be nimble throughout this process: be aware and alert to what you’re doing. You want to coat the fragile, soft coconut oil mass with flour so you can roll it out. Listen to what the coconut oil is telling you. Most likely it will be screaming at you to use more flour, but be at stingy as possible with it. Use your hands and a flour-coated rolling pin to work the block into a 6-inch (15-cm) square. Set aside.
- I actually never do this step anymore. Now I just roll out the dough and put the coco oil on top of it and, with flour-covered hands and a bench scraper, pat it into a rough diamond as shown below. Your call.
- To “turn” the dough: Dust a clean counter top or very large sheet tray with flour. Place the dough on it and press into a rough square. Gently roll into a 12″ (30-cm) square.
- Throughout this entire process, whenever the dough seems to be fighting you and doesn’t want to roll, let it hang out for 10 minutes or so. Give it time to relax now and then. Also, whenever things look too oily or are difficult to work with, add a few sprinkles of flour, as sparingly as you can.
- Place the coco oil block on top of the dough like a diamond. Pull each corner of the dough over the block to completely cover it. Really take your time with this step and get it right—no oil should be exposed. Care in this step will make your life easier later (mine is far too messy and that left side is a fiasco). Press the seams together well. Gently roll the dough with the rolling pin. Let rest 10 minutes.
- Roll the dough into a 10 x 18″ (25 x 46 cm) rectangle. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter. Use the rolling pin to press firmly on the seams to seal. Let rest 10 minutes. You’ve made one turn.
- Turn the dough over (be sure to lightly flour the underside and the counter or tray) and roll the dough into a 10 x 18″ (25 x 46 cm) rectangle again. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter. Use the rolling pin to press firmly on the seams to seal.
- Let rest 10 minutes. You’re making those myriad flaky layers! You’ve made two turns.
- Continue turning over, rolling, and folding two more times (for a total of four turns), letting it rest each time. If you see any solid bits of coconut oil, like in this photo, pick them out, or smush them with your fingers until they are more semi-solid. On the other hand, if the dough seems like it’s getting too warm and your lovely fluffy semi-solid coconut oil is becoming a liquid oily mass/mess: move it to a cooler location (not a refrigerator, see above), or let it rest a while until it cools down. You can also put the rolling pin in the fridge between turns.
- To form the croissants: Roll the dough out into a 20 x 18″ (50 x 46-cm) rectangle. Use a ruler to square off the sides.
- Behold! Your masterpiece-in-progress!
- I’m not going to describe how to cut the dough, I’m just going to hope to high heaven that these pictures load, because it would take about 3,000 words to describe what you can instantly see in the photo. Shirley recommends (and provides instructions for) creating a paper model of how to cut the dough beforehand, and it did help me out….but not enough, since my first four cuts were totally wrong. (Do not cut it this way!!!)
- I managed to press the dough back together. Dough is always forgiving of those with bad spatial skills.
- Cut a little notch in the middle of the top edge of each triangle.
- Line three small (9 x 13, I believe) baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat or tin foil or whatever floats your boat. The truth is that coconut oil is so oily that even an uncoated baking sheet will be fine—these fat-bombs aren’t sticking to anything.
- Loosely (they’re going to expand, remember) roll up your beauties, stretching the top edge a bit with the help of the notch so you have a nice full croissant shape.
- If you want to make any pain au chocolat, coarsely chop up some chocolate and arrange it in a line at the top, then roll them up.
- Place on baking sheets with the tips tucked under. Space them about 2″ (5 cm) apart.
- Let them rise at cool room temperature (about 70 degrees) [in my heat-starved house, we’d call that summertime weather, not “cool,” though] for 1 1/2 to three hours. (These days I do things differently: For the shop I freeze them at this point [since I have to make these when the shop is closed for space reasons and by this time it’s always super late already) and we bake them fresh every morning, brushed with olive oil and sugar. Instead of the rising step we put them in a *cold oven* and turn it on when the croissants are inside. They rise well this way, and are finished in about 15-20 minutes.)
- After about an hour, preheat the oven to 400 and, if you’ve got it, place a baking stone in the bottom third of the oven.
- Just before baking, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar. (Shirley calls for an egg wash. You could do the flax seed eggs thing, but I love the flavor of an e.v.o. wash, even with a sweet-ish pastry like this).
- Bake each tray for about 12 minutes, then rotate and bake about 12 minutes more. They should be beautifully well browned, not anemic and pale.
- You did it!!!!! Eat some now, freeze some for later.