Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gluten-free Croissants

Do you want to experience the feeling of endless layers of buttery dough shattering against your teeth as you bite into a lovely pastry?  Then you need to make yourself some of these gluten-free croissants, because odds are that no one is going to make them for you.  It's hard to get good glutinous croissants let alone GF ones, so you will have to fend for yourself.  This recipe does take several hours to a day to prep, but it's worth the time and effort for fabulous, flaky, buttery gluten-free croissants.

Note: This recipe takes about 24 hours.  If that's too long to wait for your croissants, check out my newer recipe, Quicker and Easier Croissants.

I learned many things about croissant making and gluten-free dough while developing this recipe.  I've done a separate post on tips for making gluten-free croissants that you can read for more details.  I also have a post with more photos for laminating the dough that you should read before delving into that step.

I modified this recipe from the croissant recipe on Joe Pastry. I made several changes for the following reasons:

- Using cream for the dough fat made the dough too soft.  Oil helped make the dough more pliable and strong.
- The dough came out too salty the first time so I reduced the salt.
- I added more sugar and some vinegar to improve the rise.
- I revised the folds and technique to make it easier for gluten-free dough.

A handy list of ingredients you will need for this recipe:

20 oz. (4 1/5 cups) of my Deluxe Pastry Flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp psyllium husk powder
4 1/2 tsp. (about 2  packets) Red Star active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups whole milk, ultra-pasteurized (or scalded and cooled) at room temperature
1/4 cup cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar 
Potato starch for flouring your surfaces
12 oz. cultured European butter 
1 egg and some water for the egg wash


Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (or just some really strong arms and a wooden spoon)
parchment paper or, less desirable, plastic wrap
rolling pin, preferably a club-style pin but I use a marble rolling pin
A dry, clean pastry brush
A good, heavy baking sheet with edges or two sheets nested together

Making the Dough

Put about two cups of the pastry flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the yeast, psyllium husk powder, salt, and sugar.  Blend those together briefly.  Add in the milk, cream, and vinegar, and blend together thoroughly.  Start adding more flour until the dough starts to come together, a little at a time. You probably won't use the whole 20 oz. of flour - there will usually be at least 2 oz. left.  The dough should still be soft, but will start climbing up the sides of the bowl like this:

Taste the dough.  It should taste like raw bread - pretty neutral but yeasty.  If it tastes too salty or sour add more sugar and re-mix.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for about an hour.  Before that is done chilling, make your butter packet as described in the post on laminating the dough.

Cover your hands and the dough ball with a good dusting of potato flour.  Knead the dough for a little while.  If it's just too sticky to handle even with the potato starch then knead in more pastry flour until you can handle it.  You don't want the dough too dry and stiff, though, so it should still be a little tacky to the touch.  Coat the dough with potato starch again and form a smooth ball. 

Roll out the dough on a well-floured piece of parchment paper and insert the butter packet as described in How to Laminate Dough.  Neatness and even rolling are especially important for croissants.  You want to strive for even layers of butter and dough, and tight packages with no gaps where the ends fold in.  Do one letter fold and one book fold, chilling the dough for 1/2 hour in between the folds if necessary.  Sometimes you can get away with not chilling in between folds, but don't push it. If you see sticky, shiny dough or butter on the surface or on your rolling pin, chill the dough.  After completing the two folds, try rolling it out partially as far as you can push it without it getting sticky, ideally to about 3/4 or 1 inch thick. chill the folded dough for 1-2 hours before rolling it out for croissants.

Note: if you feel confident with your laminating skills and your dough is behaving, you can try for more folds.  Do two letter folds and a book fold for thinner layers of dough.  Just be warned that your croissants will probably come out more like the picture below - still delicious and flaky, but they tend to split.

Rolling out the croissants:

After the dough is evenly chilled all the way through, you can bring it back to your work surface that is covered with parchment paper and liberally floured with potato starch.  Cut the dough in half and refrigerate or freeze the second half for later use.   Check the cut edge to see how you did with the layers.  If they look uniform and unbroken, you should be eating some beautiful croissants soon.  If the layers look smeared you may need to chill the dough more.  If they layers have cracks in them you may have trouble rolling it out or proofing, or it may be too cold.  If I think it's really messed up I might use it for a crust or something that's not as difficult to shape as croissants.

Start to press the dough with your rolling pin.  Press, press, press in different directions, being very patient and gentle.  If it starts to crack, hold off until it warms up slightly.  All of a sudden, the dough will become workable.  You will feel it give way easily.  Gently roll it out into a large sheet until it's about 1/4 inch thick.

See this post for directions on how to shape pain au chocolat.

Cut the edges off the dough to make a neat rectangle.  Cut the rectangle into sections about 4 inches wide.  Cut the rectangular sections in half at a diagonal.

Take one triangle and place it on a separate piece of parchment paper.  Roll out the base so it's more symmetrical, then gently roll out the length of the triangle as far as you can without tearing it, brushing off any extra potato flour as you go.  Loosely roll the croissant from the wide end, leaving some space in the middle on the first roll.  Place the croissant on your parchment paper-lined baking sheet making sure you don't trap the tail underneath the croissant.  Repeat these steps for all the remaining croissants, refrigerating them if they get too soft to handle.

Brush the tops of the formed croissants with an egg wash (egg whisked with water)


There are a few different ways to proof and bake the croissants.  I'll give you the best way and the fastest way.  Your timeline will determine which method to use, but you could always split it into two batches and use both methods.

Best way:

Proof the croissants in the refrigerator overnight.  Cover them loosely with plastic.  In the morning, take them out of the refrigerator and proof at room temperature for 1-1.5 hours.

Fastest way:

After forming the croissants brush them with egg wash and proof them at room temperature.  This can take as little as 20-30minutes so keep an eye on it.  If you press a finger on an edge and the dent only fills halfway up, it's ready to cook.


There are also two methods for baking.  I still haven't figured out which one works best under which circumstances.

Normal method:

Preheat your oven to 400.  Brush on a second coat of egg wash.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until very brown on top.  The baked croissants have the best flavor and texture after they have cooled, but within a few hours.

Cold-oven technique:

This method can sometimes get you a little more oven spring in your croissants.  Brush on a second coat of egg wash.  Place the croissants in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 400 degrees and cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until deep golden brown.