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Dec 4, 2012 07:44 AM

Melted butter in croissants?

So I've recently begun my croissant making quest - attempts 1 and 2 were abject failures, attempt 3 created something delicious that was not a croissant (serious leakage problems, but eating dough fried in butter isn't so bad).

Now, let me first say that attempt 4 went pretty okay. And it's because in addition to water, yeast, milk (more on this below), salt, and sugar, i added two tablespoons (for a batch of twelve croissants) of melted, cooled butter. My problem for attempts 1-3 was that the dough was SUPER elastic - difficult to roll even at the start, becoming even more difficult as the process went on.

Now, I've been very good about being patient - each attempt chilled my dough an hour after forming (bulk rise), another hour after locking in butter and turn 1, another hour after turns 2 and 3, another hour after turn 4, and then three hours proofing, back in the fridge for another 15 min or so, and then egg wash and in the oven. I've also been using AP flour, even though I thought that bread flour would produce the type of croissants that I prefer. I've done all this in the name of keeping the dough extensible but at the end of the day, something seemed very wrong until try #4 with the melted butter.

So I've got two questions for you gurus out there:

1) Is there some reason that my dough would be so elastic? I see a lot of croissant recipes out there - plenty use lard/melted butter in the dough, but just as many don't. So I feel like even though I am moving in the right direction, I would like to understand why my first three attempts were so problematic.

2) WIth respect to using milk in croissants - versus just water - is this to aid extensibility, i.e., the fat content of whole milk? Is there some other purpose? I imagine it would make the croissants come out a bit softer but I like my croissants flaky and crispy. So I'm wondering if this is just a matter of taste, or if milk is actually supposed to make the process easier and/or more reliable.

Thanks in advance, appreciate the help! Attempt #5 to come shortly...

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  1. Are you weighing your ingredients?

    It sounds like you're not allowing your dough to rest and rise before working in the butter.
    One recipe I tried recommended refrigerating the dough overnight. I think that is a good recommendation.

    When you form and proof the croissants, allow them to puff up full which is about 2 to 3 hours.

    1. I'm also going to ask if you're scaling vs. volume measuring. What you're describing is characteristic of a too low hydration dough. Croissant dough is fairly low hydration to begin with, and if your amount of flour is off that can create a problem quickly. It's always better to err on the side of a wetter dough. Other useful dough techniques are an autolyse period of 20-30 minutes after you have introduced the liquid to the flour and mixed VERY briefly, and strictly limiting or adding no bench flour while kneading.

      I have never ever had a fail with the Joy of Cooking croissant recipe and European butter, even in my very first attempts. That dough contains a few tablespoons of butter. My one and only fail was when I used domestic butter.
      Dairy in any dough is a tenderizing ingredient, both because of the fat and the milk proteins. It's there to aid the finished product. IME milk is not particular noticable in the unbaked dough. Fat, on the other hand, IS noticable in a dough. It makes the gluten take longer to develop and makes the finished dough softer and less bossy which is my term for the problem you seem to be having. The most extreme example of what fat does to dough is brioche, which has the consistency of clay.