Vegan Croissants Recipe : oh my!
I have always loved croissants, with their flaky layers of yeasted dough, so it's become a bit of an obsession to work out how to veganise a traditional croissant recipe, but still get superb results.
And after my second attempt, I think I have stumbled onto something so delicious, so fabulous, that our Sunday breakfasts may well never be the same again....
No butter? What's in them instead?
Yes, that's right. These croissants are dairy free. And they don't use hydrogenated vegan margarine either.
Instead, they use a home-made "better butter", using Aquafaba, which not only behaves itself in the yeasted dough (meaning not coming apart in the layers), but also gives them a "buttery" flavour.
(Aquafaba is simply the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas. You can use your own home-cooked chickpeas, but for a recipe which requires precise measurements such as yeasted dough, I prefer to use the Aquafaba from a can of salt-reduced chickpeas - as I know that each time it will be consistent. Besides, it's no hardship to use up leftover chickpeas in our house - they can tuck themselves into almost any dinner dish without complaint.)
The first time I attempted vegan croissants, I made my own dairy-free butter with unrefined coconut oil and cocoa butter, as well as using wholemeal flour for the dough. They tasted ok - but the overwhelming flavour was of coconut and chocolate - and while the wholemeal flour made it healthier, it meant that it was harder to control the moisture ratio.
On the second attempt I learned from my mistakes. I used the recipe for Nina's Aquafaba butter, which has refined coconut oil and Aquafaba in it, and used a combination of white stoneground organic baker's flour and wholemeal organic spelt flour, as well as incorporating the magical Aquafaba into the yeasted dough itself. I've since tried using all (biodynamic) white baker's flour - without spelt flour - and the results were awesome too.
Baker's (or strong) flour has a naturally higher protein content than cake (soft) flour, so it produces good results for yeasted doughs as higher protein will generate more gluten. That helps the dough to rise nicely. But you don't want the dough to rise too quickly, or the croissants will taste "bready" which is why they are placed in the fridge to arrest the rising process, as well as keeping the aquafaba butter chilled so it stays in separate layers in the dough.
The results speak for themselves....
Why do we love this recipe?
- They have the classic flaky texture of croissants.
- Flavour is "buttery" without being too rich.
- Dough behaves beautifully, thanks to the aquafaba, so it rolls out well and doesn't shrink back.
- They are made from simple ingredients, not processed margarine or dairy butter.
- Easily adapted to vegan pain au chocolat by cutting into rectangles (instead of triangles) and placing a chunk of dark vegan chocolate in the centre, then rolling up.
Vegan, dairy-free, Aquafaba Croissants
* First you'll need to make up a double batch of Nina's Aquafaba Butter. I used refined coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and cold-pressed sunflower oil, + a little dusting of turmeric for colour. I poured the mixture into a lined pyrex dish to set, so it would already be in the rectangular shape needed for later.
So I'm not going to pretend this recipe isn't fiddly - and it's certainly not something you can spontaneously make - because you really need to start cooking 24 hours before you want them.
But I can say they are worth every moment of preparation, and rolling the dough is actually incredibly therapeutic. The Aquafaba in the yeasted dough makes it very pliable and a pleasure to work with. And as for that Aquafaba butter, it really is a game-changer. Buttery, salty, velvety smooth - it's the good stuff. And yet, it's made with healthy fats, and no cows were harmed in the process.
Next, I want to try using this recipe as a base for Danish Pastries, especially as we approach Spring and the thought of all the lovely stone fruits that are soon to appear are already making my imagination dance for the possibilities. Almond and cherry? Peach and walnut? But for now, I know what we're going to be having next Sunday morning for breakfast. It's more of these little beauties in their flaky perfection.
Just one more croissant, anyone?