Lesson 19: Gluten Free Croissants

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Learn how to make culinary croissants of which your gluten-eating friends would be proud. When reading this lesson, put aside everything you have ever heard about how to properly make croissants and what type of dough to use, and just dive in as if you’ve never tasted a croissant in your life. Once you make them and take your first bite, ask yourself if it tastes like heaven. If the answer is yes, then, who cares how you got there.

Parts of Croissant Dough

There is only one part to croissants, the dough! However, there are two parts to making the dough: the actual dough and the butter block that you cover with dough. Once you cover the butter block, roll the dough out and fold it over several times creating many layers of thin dough divided by thin layers of butter. This dough is called laminated dough. The more you fold the dough, the more layers you create. However, if you fold the dough too much, you’ll end up with undistinguishable layers. The butter just ends up being absorbed by the dough.

Laminated dough such as phyllo dough and puff pastry dough are traditionally made unleavened. Butter contains water which develops steam during baking, which raises each of the layers of dough. However, gluten free dough just doesn’t rise as much as gluten dough. Therefore, adding yeast is helpful.

After the first time I made this croissant recipe, I began calling this dough “phyllo dough”. It made the perfect substitute for phyllo dough because the layers resemble thin sheets of phyllo dough basted with butter.

There is much controversy and strong opinions floating around about what croissant dough should contain. As an example, in the first croissant recipe that I ever made, I received blog comments and emails stating that my croissant recipe is incorrect because a true croissant dough does not contain yeast. Another comment, “Croissants should be made from puff pastry, not phyllo dough.” My phyllo dough also cranked up differences of opinion such as, “This is nothing like phyllo dough.” However, none of these people ever made the recipe. I ask you only one thing. Make the croissant recipe and see if you like it. When you bite into one, is it reminiscent of croissants from a French bakery? (American bakeries often use dough enhancers, chemicals, and modified starches like what you find in commercial products.) Is it flavorful and buttery? Does it have a slight crunch on the outside? Those are the characteristics you are seeking when you create true croissants.

What I Learned While Developing This Recipe

The first croissant recipe I created, I adapted Julia Child’s Croissant Recipe, which contains yeast. What I learned from the first batch is that the recipe needed a little more flour in the butter block because butter literally oozed all over the baking sheet towards the end of baking. (It even left permanent, dark marks on my silicone baking mats.) Once corrected, they turned out beautifully, buttery and flaky.

I also used this same recipe to make Baklava (a Greek dessert, which recipe calls for phyllo dough). My baklava recipe won the heart of one of my cookbook recipe testers who has purchased baklava in several gluten free bakeries as well as tried making a few gluten free recipes herself. She likes my version the best.

Despite all of this success, many people complained about the time it took to make the dough. Julia Childs calls for a 2-hour chilling of the dough after every step of rolling and folding. It literally took all day to make. However, because of the wonderful results, a few of us brave and desperate bakers were willing to put in the time and effort. Eventually, I experimented and shortened the chilling time to 20 minutes between each rolling and folding step. It worked! During the winter months, I am sometimes able to perform two folding steps between chilling. However, during the summer months, I chill between each step and sometimes up to 30 minutes.

Separately, I had developed a Puff Pastry Recipe. Puff pastry may be used to make Beef Wellington, Danish, and a number of other recipes as you learned in the Puff Pastry Lesson. To develop the puff pastry recipe, I adapted the puff pastry recipe by adding much more yeast and little more water. My recipe testers enjoyed the recipe but really wanted more puffiness and a dough that didn’t dry so quickly. Then, I added baking powder and additional butter to the dough and successfully achieved this goal.

This all led me to think that I would prefer croissants made with this gluten free puff pastry dough rather than the croissant dough.  You decide whether to use the phyllo dough or puff pastry recipe. However, be sure to use the phyllo dough recipe for making Baklava and other items calling for phyllo dough.

The croissant in the above photo was made with phyllo dough (no baking powder). Note that they also tend to be more delicate without baking powder.

French Croissants vs. Crescent Rolls

There are extreme differences between croissants and crescent rolls. Crescent rolls are doughy and closer to biscuits. Croissants are closer to a Danish pastry but flakier. If you want something in between the two, use the Puff Pastry Recipe adding in the baking powder. They’ll still be buttery.

How to Make the Dough

The dough instructions are all laid out for you in the recipe for Gluten Free Croissants.  Stick to plain croissants before venturing out into specialty croissants. However, adding a few shavings of chocolate to the widest edge of your triangular-shaped dough may not be venturing out of your comfort zone. Just avoid adding any chocolate to the left and right edges. You don’t want chocolate melting and oozing out the sides because it can burn during baking. Once you have the basic recipe perfected, broaden your experience by making Gluten Free Blueberry Croissants.

Preventing the Dough from Becoming Too Soft to Fold

Never hesitate to stop any rolling or folding step if your dough is too soft and stretchy. Immediately cover it with plastic wrap (do not wrap it, just cover) and refrigerate until firm enough to handle, 10 – 20 minutes. Using a cold rolling pin also prevents the dough from becoming warm. As you’ll see in the video, I use a marble rolling pin. However, I remember as a young baker using a plastic rolling pin filled with ice or iced water. I believe Tupperware used to make them. However, about ten years ago, I picked one up at a dollar store. I only used ice though. It didn’t seal well enough to add water.

Frequently Asked Questions?

There are a few questions I am frequently asked about making croissants, phyllo dough, and puff pastry. Below, I share them with you.

Why do I need to pinch the ends of the dough?

Pinching the ends of the dough prevents additional cracks from forming. The ends become thin and crack easily. Dab the ends with water to keep them moist, which prevents cracks from forming. Then, using the side of your hand, push the dough inwards to form a straight edge. When the dough is firmly chilled, the edges tend to crack easily. To prevent this happening as much, pound out the dough instead of rolling it. You’ll see this demonstrated in the video.

My dough became dry. What happened?

When you’re first learning how to make croissants, you may be slow in performing each step. As stated above, continue to baste any dry or cracked edges with water as well as cracks in the dough itself. This keeps the dough moist. Also, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap while refrigerated. More importantly, do not store your dough in the refrigerator unless you are defrosting frozen dough. These steps will prevent dry dough.

Can I freeze the dough?

Yes. Freezing croissant dough is possible. Just be sure to wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and then store in an air-tight container or plastic zipper storage bag. The dough doesn’t rise quite as much when frozen and defrosted but adding a tiny bit of baking powder to the dough when first making it will help.

Can I bake croissants in advance?

Croissants begin to lose their crispness as they cool. If you’ve ever made gluten free bread, you probably have experienced the same thing with the top crust of the bread. It softens as the steam escapes.

How do I make dairy-free dough?

Dairy-free croissants are possible. You can make them just as well using palm oil as a substitute for butter. If you want a butter flavor dough, when you add the water to the dough mix, first mix a little butter extract or butter emulsion into the water.

ASSIGNMENT:

Make the croissant recipe using the phyllo dough recipe. Keep in mind that if you’ll be freezing the dough, adding a tiny bit of baking powder will help the dough rise once defrosted. I would add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. However, remember that adding baking powder removes some of its crisping qualities. Baking a little longer can fix this though.

If you have successfully made the croissant recipe in the past, you can either skip this assignment, make the baklava recipe (if you’re a fan) or make the blueberry croissant recipe.

First, watch this four-part video:

How to Make Puff Pastry Dough Video (Keep in mind that no baking powder is used in the video. Amounts of ingredients may also have been changed since the making of the video.)

Gluten Free Croissants

Gluten Free Phyllo Dough

Gluten Free Puff Pastry

Gluten Free Blueberry Croissants

Small Batch Gluten Free Gum-Free Puff Pastry