If you have ever wondered if you could make gluten free croissants at home—whether you could really do it—this recipe should settle the issue once and for all. You can do it. You should do it. Here’s how, step by step.
These croissants the absolute real Frenchie-style, unbelievably melt-in-your-mouth flaky deal, but they’re actually quite easy to do. Yes—that’s right. I said that traditional, yeasted croissants are easy.
The number of step by step photos you see below is not because it’s hard to make these beautiful pastries happen. It’s because I know you might fret over the whole business, so I thought some hand-holding was in order. That’s all!
Believe it or not, traditional gluten free croissants are one of the most common recipes requests I have received over all the years of writing this blog. It’s not like it’s every day that I’m positively buried with requests from readers simply dying to make their own croissants, though.
It’s more like a steady drip-drip-drip of requests over the years. Over time I’ve mostly pointed readers in the direction of these custard-filled danishes from years ago, since danishes are made from yeasted puff pastry, which is really what croissant dough is.
I’ve also suggested to readers that they just use my recipe for gluten free puff pastry (no yeast involved), and call it a day. After all that recipe has plenty of step-by-step photos.
Traditional croissants are, indeed, made with what is essentially a yeasted puff pastry dough, making these the most delicate and flaky of pastries as they get lift both from yeast and from “laminated” dough (lamination is simply the process by which you encase layer after layer of cold butter in layer after layer of pastry dough). That’s the only time you’ll hear any “fancy” terms, though, in this whole business. Period full stop.
Read through the instructions, and stare at the step by step photos. Follow the temperature instructions to the letter (sometimes ingredients and doughs are room temperature, sometimes (usually) they’re cold), and remember that pastry dough is much less a matter of chemistry than it is a matter of architecture.
Layers and layers of butter surrounded by layers and layers of flour. The yeast gives these an extra lift over puff pastry, but really the general puff pastry architecture is what does the heavy-lifting of creating the flakiness we crave.
Think of it like this: unlike flour, butter expands as it warms. When the butter layers (created in the “turns” described below) are properly chilled, they hit the heat of the oven and puff up, forcing the flour layers up and out.
Gluten Free Croissants
2 1/4 cups (315 g) Gluten Free Pastry Flour (252 grams Better Batter all purpose gluten free flour + 32 grams cornstarch + 32 grams nonfat dry milk, ground into a finer powder), or Cup4Cup gluten free flour (the “real” thing, or my mock Cup4Cup), plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons (6 g) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (24 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt
3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature
16 tablespoons (224 g) unsalted butter, chilled
Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten well), for brushing
First, make the dough. In a large bowl, place the flour, yeast and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the salt, and whisk again to combine. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the butter and milk, and mix until the dough comes together. Add more flour by the half-teaspoonful if necessary to bring the dough together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top very lightly with more flour, and roll into a 9-inch round. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the butter packet.
To prepare the butter packet, sprinkle a piece of unbleached parchment paper with 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of the flour, and place all 16 tablespoons (preferably in 2 whole sticks) of butter on top and press together. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, and cover with another piece of unbleached parchment paper. Pound the butter with a rolling pin until it flattens and melds together. Uncover and fold the flattened butter in half, cover again with the parchment and pound again until you have a 5-inch square butter packet. Cover the butter packet completely with parchment, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 5 minutes or until firm.
Next, wrap the butter packet in the dough: Remove the 9-inch round dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on a lightly floured surface. Place the chilled butter packet directly in the center of the dough and score the sides of the dough lightly to represent the exact size of the butter. Remove the butter and set it aside. Using a rolling pin and sprinkling the dough lightly with flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking, begin at the site of each of the four scorings and roll the edges of the dough away from the center to create 4 flaps, leaving the center of the dough intact. Return the butter packet to the intact center of the dough, and wrap the flaps of the dough around the butter packet like you would a present.
Roll out the dough with the butter and complete the first “turn.” Sprinkle the dough-and-butter-packet lightly with more flour, and roll out into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Fold the rectangle over on itself in thirds, as you would a business letter. Sprinkle the dough again lightly with flour. With the length of the 3-layer rectangle of dough running parallel to your body, roll the dough away from you into rectangle that is again about 1/2-inch thick. Turn the left and right sides of the 1/2-inch thick rectangle over on themselves again, as you would a business letter. You have just completed the first “turn.” Wrap the folded dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
Complete the remaining 4 to 5 “turns.” Once the dough has finished chilling after its first turn, repeat the process of rolling the 3-layer dough out into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle, then refolding the dough like a business letter, at least 4 more times, and for good measure 5 more times, wrapping and chilling the 3-layer rectangle of dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or the freezer for 10 minutes) in between turns.
Shape and proof the croissants. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside. Roll out the prepared 3-layer croissant dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Using a pastry wheel or pizza wheel (or very sharp knife—well-defined edges are essential here), square the edges, then cut out as many 4-inch x 6-inch rectangles as you can. Slice each rectangle diagonally into two triangles and separate the shapes from one another. Sprinkling lightly with flour as necessary to prevent sticking, roll each triangle out to elongate it to about 8-inches from base to tip. Slice a notch into the base of each triangle about 1/2-inch deep, and roll each triangle into a coil from base to tip, turning the edges slightly away from each other as you roll. Place on the prepared baking sheets, seam side down, about 2-inches apart from one another. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free location until nearly doubled in size. You will see the individual layers in each fold begin to separate slightly from one another once the croissants are fully proofed. Uncover the baking sheets and brush the tops and sides of the croissants with the egg wash. To avoid glueing the coiled layers of each croissant together, brush with the egg wash by beginning in the center of each pastry and brushing out to the sides in one motion on each side, with the “grain” of each coil, not against. Place the shaped and proofed croissants in the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes or until mostly firm.
Bake the croissants. While the shaped croissants are chilling, preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the chilled and proofed croissants in the center of the preheated oven, one baking sheet at a time, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown all over and firm to the touch. Allow to cool briefly before serving.