These Sourdough Croissants are the best croissants ever! To have fresh Sourdough Croissants for breakfast, refrigerate them overnight and bake in the morning.
The difference between Classic Croissants and Sourdough Croissants is the use of the natural yeast in the starter to rise the dough. (You can use a smidge of commercial yeast to help you out, more on that later.)
If you don’t have one, check out my post to learn How to Make a Sourdough Starter. Then check out my system to Feed and Maintain Sourdough Starter. In the meantime you can go ahead and make those Classic Croissants with yeast.
I baked over 100 Sourdough Croissants before I was ready to post the recipe. The basic ingredients were not hard to nail down, I simply replaced some of the water and flour in the dough with sourdough starter and removed the yeast.
The biggest hurdle was keeping the dough warm enough to stay active, but not so warm that the buttery layers melt out of the dough. Well, that’s the challenge with any croissant recipe, but when working with sourdough is even more of a challenge.
What’s the secret to great Sourdough Croissants?
After several less than stellar batches, I finally decided that I had to treat this dough differently than classic croissant dough. Normally I would chill the dough after it’s mixed and chill it between each “turn”.
The problem with using that classic method is that each time I refrigerated the dough I slowed down the activity of the natural yeast and I could never get quite the poof I wanted in the final rise.
The first change I made was to add a hint of commercial yeast to the dough. Just a 1/2 teaspoon to help the dough stay active, but not so much that it would overtake the natural yeast or speed up the process too much. ***(See recipe note to make the recipe without commercial yeast.)
After 3 hours of fermentation the dough was beautifully soft, yet resilient. So I decided to skip the refrigeration step and move right into the lamination process.
Because the dough was soft, I let the butter warm up enough that it was a bit pliable, but still cool. This made it easier to roll the dough without the butter breaking apart.
Since the dough was so easy to work with I went right ahead and did the first two turns. I gave the dough a quick chill before the final turn and then a longer chill before rolling and cutting the dough.
Not only did this process cut a couple of hours from the total time, it also meant that my dough stayed nicely active. The dough was silky and alive. A good sourdough should feel alive in your hands.
The final step was to refrigerate the croissants overnight. In the morning I got up super early (the dogs help me here) and took the croissants out of the refrigerator.
Because my kitchen can be quite cool on a winter morning, I turned the oven on just for a minute to barely warm it up then turned it back off. (I wouldn’t need to do this in the summer.)
I put the trays in the oven and went back to bed (I’m not a morning person). When I got up a few hours later the croissants were ready to bake as soon as the oven was preheated.
Tips for making Sourdough Croissants:
- Your sourdough starter should be active when you mix the dough. It should pass the “float test”. Put a dollop of the active starter in water and it should float. If not, replenish your starter and wait until it’s active to mix the dough.
- If your kitchen is very cool, place the dough over a bowl of warm water or into a barely warmed oven during the fermentation time.
- If you find the butter is melting at any point during the lamination process, put in the the refrigerator briefly to chill.
- Brushing the dough with cool water before each fold helps create steam as the croissants bake. The steam will push the layers even higher for a bigger rise and flakier texture.
- The times in the recipe are estimates. The actual times will vary based on how active your starter is and the ambient temperature. The times will also be longer if you choose not to use the commercial yeast.
Over 100 croissants later, I can tell you that Sourdough Croissants have a depth of flavor that sets them apart from those made with commercial yeast. If you have a sourdough starter, I’m sure you know what I mean.
I know you hate to throw away that sourdough discard. Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard.
Are you a chocoholic? Me too. Use this dough to make decadent and delicious Chocolate Croissants. You’re welcome!
I’ve also got a recipe for almond lovers, Almond Filled Croissants are a little decadent and a lot delicious.
If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.
Overnight Sourdough Croissants
Classic croissants take on a extra special flavor when made with sourdough starter. To have warm Sourdough Croissants for breakfast, refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.
- 1 cup (8 oz, 224 g) active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 1 1/4 cups (10 oz, 300 ml) whole milk, scalded and cooled to 110°
- 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (optional, see note)
- 3 1/2 cups (17.5 oz, 490 g) unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (3 oz, 84 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 4 sticks (16 oz, 448 g) unsalted butter, pliable but still cool
- 1 egg for egg wash
- Make sure your starter is active and bubbly before using. If not, refresh the starter and wait until it's fully active before mixing the dough. Place the starter, milk, yeast (if using) and 2 cups of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix to form a thick batter. If working by hand mix with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook. Add the sugar, salt and remaining flour. Mix until the dough gathers on the hook and clears the sides of the bow, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed. l. If working by hand stir in as much flour as you can with a wooden spoon, then finish kneading in the rest of the flour by hand.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temperature. After 30 minutes uncover the bowl, lift one side of the dough over into the middle of the dough. Repeat with the other three sides of the dough then flip the dough over. Cover the bowl and after 30 minutes repeat the procedure. Cover the bowl and after 60 minutes repeat the procedure. Cover the bowl and after 60 minutes repeat the procedure one last time. By now the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still sluggish give it another hour or two at room temperature.
- While the dough is fermenting, prepare the butter package. Draw an 8" square in the center of a piece of parchment paper. Flip the paper over and line the 4 sticks of butter, side by side, in the middle of the square. Fold the parchment over the butter. Use a rolling pin or other heavy object (I use the flat side of a meat tenderizer) to flatten the butter to fill the 8"x 8" square. You can lift the paper if it sticks. Trim and rearrange the edges of the butter as needed. Fold the butter into the parchment and place in the refrigerator. 30 minutes before the dough is finished fermenting, remove the butter from the refrigerator. (If your kitchen is very warm, take the butter out 10 minutes ahead.) The butter should be firm and cool but a little flexible for layering into the dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Do not knead out the air. Roll the dough to a 10" square. Once you have a square, roll from each of the four sides to form a 3" flap of the dough, leaving the center thicker than the flaps. You should end up with a square with four "flaps" coming out from the corners. Now it's time to layer in the butter.
- Unwrap the butter and place it in the middle of the square. Fold the flaps so they overlap and enclose the butter, pinching in the corners as necessary to glue the seams together. You should now have an 8" square of dough with the butter enclosed. Use the rolling pin to gently press on the square to flatten it. Roll the dough to a 8" x 24" rectangle. Take your time to roll gently and evenly so the butter stays in one layer in the dough.
- Orient the dough so the long side of the rectangle is facing you. Brush off the excess flour. Brush the entire surface of the dough with cold water. Fold the right 1/3 of the dough towards the middle then fold the left 1/3 of dough over enclosing it like a letter. This is the first "turn".
- Orient the dough so the closed edge is on the top side and the open edge is facing you. Roll the dough again to an 8" x 24" rectangle. Brush off the excess flour. Brush the entire surface of the dough with cold water and again fold the dough like a letter. This is the second "turn". Set the dough on a sheet pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and do a third turn exactly like the first 2. Wrap the dough and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Roll the chilled dough to a 24” long x 16” wide rectangle. With the long side facing you, fold the top half of the dough over the bottom half to form a 24” long x 8” wide rectangle.
- Starting from the left, measure along the top edge of the dough and make a mark at 2”. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, make a diagonal cut from that mark to the bottom left edge of the dough. Save the piece that you cut off.
- Working from left to right, measure and mark 4” increments along the bottom edge of the dough. Working from left to right, measure and mark 4” increments along the top edge of the dough. You should have a pattern of one top mark between two bottom marks. Starting from the top left, make a diagonal cut to the next mark on the bottom edge, forming a triangle. Then cut from the bottom to the next top mark. Continue this pattern to cut 11 alternating triangles and one 1/2 triangle end piece. Save the 1/2 triangle piece you cut from the end of the dough.
- Unfold the triangles and cut each in half along the joint so you have a total 22 triangles. Unfold the 1/2 triangle pieces which you cut from either end. Pinch them together to form 2 more triangles.
- To form a croissant, hold a triangle from the wide base in one hand and gently stretch the width a little. Set the dough on the work surface with the narrow end pointing towards you. Roll the croissant towards the pointed end, holding on to the tip and gently tugging as you roll. Bend either end of the croissant towards the middle to form the crescent shape.
- Set the croissants on the prepared baking sheets, 3” apart. You should fit a dozen croissants per half sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight. (see note)
- In the morning. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator. Allow them to proof at room temperature for 2-3 hours. The exact time needed for proofing will vary depending how active your starter was and the temperature of your kitchen. They should be at least 50% larger than they started and feel airy and puffy. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the croissants with egg wash. Bake the croissants until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
***You can make these croissants without using any commercial yeast. Your initial fermentation time may be a bit longer (mine took about 5 hours) and the croissants may take a bit longer to rise after coming out of the refrigerator (about 4 hours).
To bake the croissants the same day let them rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours until they're about 50% larger and look light and aerated. Brush with egg wash and bake as directed.
The formed croissants can be frozen until firm, packed in freezer bags and stored for up to 3 months. Defrost, then rise and bake as directed.
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Sunday 14th of August 2022
I am excited to try the recipe. Can these be frozen? If so, do I freeze before or after the last rise? Thanks!!!
Monday 15th of August 2022
@Eileen Gray, thanks!!
Monday 15th of August 2022
I usually freeze the baked croissants then reheat then in a low oven to re-crisp. If you want to freeze them before baking I would put them in the freezer after shaping. They'll need to defrost and rise before being baked.
Tuesday 22nd of February 2022
In a few of your sourdough recipes you have suggested warming the dough in the oven briefly the following morning to kickstart the rise. Can I do that with croissants or will the mess up the butter layers?
First time making these and I am very excited!!
Tuesday 22nd of February 2022
I'd be careful with the croissants since, yes, you might melt out the butter layers. It's not impossible to do it, but I would just heat the oven until it's BARELY warm and then put the pan in just long enough to take off the chill.
Monday 10th of January 2022
Second time around and it wasn't a success on either tries. Although they did taste amazing.
The dough didn't rise after 4 stretch and folds. Should I have let it sit until it doubled in size before i started the laminating process?
Everything went super well, expect that they didn't rise after i rolled them.
Not sure what I did wrong.
The butter did not leak through and the dough didn't break either. But it just didn't rise even though i did the floating test with the starter.
Monday 10th of January 2022
If your dough wasn't active before you started laminating it is difficult to get things going once you start laminating and chilling. I find in the cooler winter months the dough often needs extra time to get going.
Monday 3rd of January 2022
A bit frustrated with this recipe as it does not specify in step one that you use SOME of the flour and not all. Probably won’t turn out now but I used all of my starter and can’t start over.
Monday 3rd of January 2022
Step one says "Place the starter, milk, yeast (if using) and 2 cups of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer". It specifically tells you exactly how much flour to add. Not sure how much more explanatory I could be...
Saturday 17th of April 2021
I'm starting these now, as I've been wanting to make croissants for a few weeks now and just realized today that I could probably use my sourdough discard in them - so this is perfect! One question, do you personally use the weights in your recipe or the volume measurements? I always bake by weight, but my conversions are significantly different than yours are, so I want to make sure I'm using the actual amount called for. (For instance, if I weigh out my equivalent of 3.5 cups of flour - by my weight conversion, that's 420g or just shy of 15oz flour, significantly less than the weights you provided. So I don't know whether to use 420g or the 490g you call for by weight. Same for the sugar - 1/3 cup to me is 67g or 2.3 oz.) Thanks so much! Looking forward to these! :-)
Saturday 29th of May 2021
@Katy, one point to note is that there is a difference in size between the original American cup and the UK equivalent. The other issue is about density of flour and the differences in weight per volume. You should probably stick to weighing the ingredients before sifting.
Saturday 17th of April 2021
Using weight measurements is the most accurate for the exact reason you are describing. The weight of a cup of flour is not an absolute since how you fill the cup can significantly change the actual amount of flour in the cup. I use the "dip and sweep" method for filling a measuring cup. That is, I "dip" the cup into the bin of flour and over fill it. Then I "sweep" away the excess flour for a level cup. Using that method I always get 5 oz of flour per cup and that is the conversion I use for my recipes. If you fluff the flour and then spoon it into the cup you can get as little as 4-4.5 oz per cup. Again, this is why weighing ingredients is always preferable for baking. Have fun!