Bake

Vegan Croissants

March 10, 2020
Photo by Gena Hamshaw
Author Notes

Fora Foods butter has the claim of being Michelin-starred chef-approved (it’s distributed to Eleven Madison Park, Tartine, and Larder in Los Angeles, among other high-end eateries). Yet it wasn’t the butter’s fine dining credentials so much as founder Aidan Altman’s unwavering confidence in its similarity to real butter that struck me. It can brown, bake, clarify, and emulsify into a beurre blanc, he assured me. And if I really wanted to see what it can do, he noted, I should try to make a vegan croissant.

It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

I began my first foray into puff pastry nervously, but with the sound guidance of Sally McKenny, Jeffrey Hamelman, and Zoe Francois, and encouragement from Erin McDowell, who responded to my anxious early morning DMs about yeasted lamination cheerfully. After a few days of research, I started the process of turning 12 (or so) ounces of Fora Foods butter into my first ever batch of croissants.

Most of my first-time baking experiments get classified as learning experiences. Shockingly, my vegan croissants were just right the first time around: light, beautifully golden brown, and yes, very buttery. When I peeked at them from the side, I saw the layers of lamination that I’d been told to look out for, and when I pulled off a piece to eat, there were crumbs everywhere, evidence of the flakiness I’d hoped to achieve. The lamination process was a lot less arduous than I’d feared: my Fora butter was easy to shape into a solid square with some whacks from a rolling pin, and it resisted breaking, melting, and bursting as I rolled and folded.

Most of the croissant tutorials I consulted stressed the importance of using an unsalted, European-style butter, which has a higher proportion of butterfat than regular. Fora butter isn’t unsalted, but it’s lower in salt than most of the brands I tested. Like Miyoko’s butter and Om Sweet Home, the two additional brands that I tested my croissants with, Fora clocks in at over 80 percent butterfat, similar to the 82 percent butterfat European-style butter typically required for traditional croissants. The higher percentage of butterfat leaves less room for water and milk solids, which freeze hard, reducing flexibility during the lamination process. Fora butter was silky and spreadable at room temperature but slow to melt—hugely helpful when laminating dough. Miyoko’s Creamery and another brand, Om Sweet Home, simply turned into pools of oil mid-lamination—but still made for decent croissants.

While I can’t promise that all vegan butters are suitable for making croissants, I’m confident that most of the brands labeled and packaged for baking (Fora Foods, Miyoko’s, Earth Balance, Om Sweet Home, Melt) will work. If you’re more knowledgeable and discerning about your pastry than I am, I’d recommend trying to get your hands on Fora Foods butter and using it as a 1:1 replacement in your favorite recipe. It’s the most butter-like butter I tested in terms of functionality, and pastry is where it shines. For some visuals on how to fold and cut the croissant dough, head here.Gena Hamshaw

  • Prep time 18 hours
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Makes 12 to 16 croissants
Ingredients
  • Yeasted dough
  • 4 cups (512 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) vegan butter, such as Fora Foods Butter or Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Vegan Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) cold soy, almond, oat, or coconut milk (if using coconut, use the kind that comes in a carton, not full-fat or canned)
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) cold water, plus more as needed
  • Lamination & shaping
  • 10 ounces (300 grams) cold vegan butter (in stick form)
  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour as needed, for rolling
  • Vegan egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons soy, almond, or coconut milk (as in the dough, above)
  • 1 tablespoon maple or agave syrup
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Yeasted dough
  2. Place the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a dough hook on low speed for a minute, just until the ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high and drizzle in the milk, followed by the cold water. The dough should come together into a sticky ball. If there’s a pocket of dry flour left at the bottom of the mixing bowl, add extra cold water by the tablespoon—just enough for the dough to come together. Continue mixing on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Alternately, mix the ingredients in a bowl, with a wooden spoon or spatula, before turning your dough onto a floured work surface. Knead for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
  4. Flour a large dinner plate lightly. Flatten your dough into a disk, then transfer it to the plate and cover with a slightly damp dish cloth. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  1. Lamination & shaping
  2. The following day, slice the butter sticks lengthwise into 1/2-inch slabs. Lay the slices flat in a 5 or 6-inch square, depending on the length of your butter sticks—on a larger, 12-inch square of parchment paper. Place a same-sized square of parchment on top. Use a rolling pin to pound the butter into a single, solid piece. Ultimately, you want the butter to form an even, thin 8-inch square. Use a ruler to measure your edges and a pizza cutter or long knife to trim any excess butter, and use the parchment paper, rolling pin, and ruler to re-mold, flatten, and solidify any excess pieces within the 8-inch square. When the butter is formed, let it chill while you roll the dough.
  3. Remove your rested dough from the fridge and flour your work surface well. Place the dough on the work surface and gently roll it to an 11-inch square. Use some gentle stretching and flattening with your hands, as well as help from the rolling pin, to coax the dough into a square.
  4. When the dough is as straight and square as you can manage, rotate it one quarter turn so it’s a diamond shape facing you (with a bottom point close to you and the top point facing away from you). Place the butter square onto the dough so that there are four triangle-shaped flaps, one at each side (see headnote for a link to a visual guide). Fold these flaps toward the center of the butter, so that they cover the butter entirely. Seal the flaps together as neatly as you can by pinching the dough together. Then, lightly flour the top of your sealed dough-and-butter “package.”
  5. Gently roll the dough into an 8 x 24-inch rectangle, using even pressure as you go. Carefully flip the dough a few times as you roll to ensure there’s no sticking, lightly flouring your work surface and the dough each time you do this. When you have a rectangle that’s about the right size, fold one short edge in toward the center of the dough, leaving a third of the rectangle exposed. As if you were folding a letter, fold the remaining third over your first folded side, neatly lining up the edges. Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover it with a dish towel. Let the dough rest and harden in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  6. Laminate (rolling the butter-encased dough to a rectangle, folding it into thirds, chilling for 20 minutes) twice more, lightly flouring your surface as needed. Cover and place the dough in the fridge one last time, until thoroughly firm, at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  7. When the laminated dough has rested in the fridge, flour your work surface once again. Roll the dough into a 8 x 34-inch rectangle. (if the dough fights back and refuses to stretch, let it rest in the fridge for 5 or so minutes, before trying again.) Rotate the dough, so the long edge is closest to you.
  8. On the long edge closest to you, measure five inches in from the left, and make a small notch on the dough to mark that point. Repeat until you’ve scored the entire bottom edge of dough in 5-inch intervals. Then, score the top edge of the dough, this time beginning 2 ½ inches in. From that point, mark the dough every 5 inches, as you did on the bottom.
  9. Use your ruler and a pizza cutter to slice the dough diagonally from the first top mark to the first bottom mark. Continue across the dough, from top to bottom—you’ll end up with a series of parallelograms. Then, slicing in the opposite direction, halve each parallelogram into two long, thin triangles.
  10. Now you’re ready to shape your croissants. Gently stretch each triangle lengthwise, then make a tiny cut in the middle of the triangle base. With the short, cut edge facing you, roll the croissant up from bottom to top, tightly but firmly, tucking the pointed edge under the croissant. Place the croissant onto a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to keep the pointed edge nestled underneath the croissant. If you like, you can bend the outer “legs” of the croissant toward its center, to make it a crescent shape, or you can leave it straight. Divide your shaped croissants between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches in between. Repeat this rolling process with all remaining dough. Cut long triangles from your scraps in order to get as many croissants as possible!
  11. Allow the croissants to proof for 1 1/2-2 hours in a warm (75-80°F) area, until they’re just a little more puffy (you’re not looking for them to be even close to doubled—just a bit bigger). When you’re about 30 minutes away from baking, heat your oven to 400°F.
  12. Just before putting the croissants in the oven, make your vegan egg wash by whisking together the non-dairy milk and syrup. Brush the wash lightly over the tops of the croissants.
  13. Bake the croissants for 10 minutes, then rotate your baking trays to ensure that they bake evenly. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until they’re golden all over and browning at the edges, but not burning. Allow the croissants to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool thoroughly. Croissants can be covered loosely or stored in a paper bag for up to a day, but if you want to save them for a later date, you can freeze baked croissants for up to 4 weeks.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.