I have this theory that those who don't care for croissants just haven't experienced the the real thing: the flaky outer crust shattering as you sink your teeth in, releasing a buttery aroma and uncovering a heavenly tender, fluffy, rich interior. At the end of the experience you might have to get up and shake yourself off. Many croissants start out this way but after about a day they turn into croisoggies as they quickly stale and don't have quite the same effect on the palate.
A croissant is a variation of laminated dough that starts out as dough wrapped around a buttery core. Samurai swords are made in a much similar way with molten metal being wrapped around a red hot iron core. Coincidence? I think not! This dough is folded and wrapped around itself to the point of where there are several dozen layers of fat and dough. When baked, steam is released and trapped between the layers which provides a leavening lift as well as flaky goodness. These vegan croissants feature a mix of Vegan Butter and shortening to mimic the similar fat content of butter. Do not use tub margarine for croissants if you don't want to waste your time. It's all about having a high-fat Vegan Butter so there's more distinction between the fat and dough layers.
Making croissants is much easier than it looks but does take about six hours in the kitchen due to having to work with the dough at specific intervals. I recommend tackling these when you're going to be around the house anyway doing chores, wash, cleaning your guns, etc. That way you can just duck into the kitchen from time to time to get to the next step. You'll be rewarded with some of the finest vegan croissants this side of the Atlantic.
1 Tablespoon active-dry yeast
1 ¼ cups non-dairy milk, warm
1 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons (27 grams) Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine
Vegan Butter Square
1 ¼ cups (269 grams) Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces and cold (do not use tub margarine)
¼ cup (54 grams) Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening (½ stick), cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces and cold
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon soy milk
1 Tablespoon amber agave syrup
Prepare the dough1)
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the yeast and warm non-dairy milk. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast activates.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour and 1 ¼ cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar and salt.
If using an electric stand mixer
Add the non-dairy milk mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour mixture and knead until the dough forms a sticky ball, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 Tablespoons of Vegan Butter, one Teaspoon at a time and mix the dough as you did above for another 5 minutes or until the dough forms a smooth sticky ball. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come away from the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in 1 Tablespoon increments until you get the desired texture.
If mixing by hand
Add the non-dairy milk mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture back to the medium mixing bowl, add the Vegan Butter in ½ Tablespoon pieces and use a mixing spoon to stir the dough in a circular motion. Switch stirring directions a couple times to thoroughly develop the gluten until the mixture forms a sticky ball, about 5 more minutes. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come away from the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in 1 Tablespoon increments until you get the desired texture.
Roll the dough into a ball and use a sharp knife to cut an X shape into the top, extending halfway through the dough. Place the dough in a medium mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or place a plate on top and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Prepare the Vegan Butter square4)
In a medium mixing bowl add the 2 ½ sticks of Vegan Butter pieces, the half stick of shortening pieces, 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, lemon juice and mix on low until just combined. Place the mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and use a bench scraper to shape to a rough 7 inch square. Wrap the Vegan Butter square in the plastic wrap and shape it to a more accurate square. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, coat your rolling pin with four and roll out along the X to 11 inches square. Roll three times in each direction using long even strokes, dusting your rolling pin with flour as necessary. Remove the Vegan Butter from the plastic wrap and place it diagonally on top of the dough.
Fold the corners of the dough over the Vegan Butter as if you're wrapping it like a gift. Pinch the dough ends together to seal.
Use a rolling pin to lightly tap the dough, starting from the center and working your way towards the edges until the square becomes bigger. This helps make the fat pliable so it can be rolled with the dough.
Carefully roll the dough out to 14 inches square. Feel free to dust the dough with flour if it begins to stick to anything.
Fold the dough in three folds like a tri-fold business letter. This is known as a turn in the laminated dough world.
Now turn the dough 180 degrees and fold it in three folds again so it turns into a square. This counts as another turn.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. The refrigeration allows the fats to resolidify and the gluten in the dough to relax. This causes the dough becomes more pliable and elastic while maintaining it's strength. Now is a great time to take a break for a day or so. It's important to not let the dough sit in the refrigerator for more than 3 days because it can start to discolor.
Repeat Step 5 again so you have a total of four turns. This will give you a total of 243 layers of fat and dough.
Shape the Croissants
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out onto a liberally floured surface to a 20 inch square. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2 rectangles then cut each rectangle into thirds so you have 6 small rectangles. Cut each small rectangle diagonally to make 12 triangles.
Pick one of the dough triangles up with one hand holding the short side and the other hand holding the sharp tip. Carefully stretch the triangle so it's about one inch longer than it was originally so it's sides are symmetrical. Flip the triangle upside-down when placing it back on the countertop. Do this with the remaining triangles. Note: the side of the dough facing up will be smoother than the side that's facing down and will have a lesser tendency to stick to your countertop while forming. This will result in croissants that look as perfect as possible.
Cut a 1 inch slit into the middle of the short side of a dough triangle. Fold the dough away from the slit outwards. This makes it easier to form the croissant into a crescent shape. Do this with the remaining triangles.
Roll the triangle from it's short side along it's length using both hands pushing away from you. Leave ¼ of dough tip unrolled. Transfer the croissant to the baking sheet making sure the unrolled tip is facing downward, pointing to the baking sheet. Shape the ends of the croissant inward to form a crescent shape. Do this with the remaining triangles.
Preheat your oven to 400F (204C). Loosely cover the croissants with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until barely puffy which should take about 60 minutes. They are not intended to double in size.
Prepare the Dough Wash
In a small mixing bowl whisk together the soy milk and agave syrup until smooth. This dough wash will give your croissants a golden, crispy exterior.
Brush the croissants and bake until they're golden brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets on the racks and front to back halfway through the baking duration. Cool the croissants on a wire rack and serve warm. Croissants can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or 2 weeks in the freezer if thoroughly wrapped in plastic.
Makes about 12 Vegan Croissants.