Proof Croissants overnight?
June 11, 2010 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with proofing croissants overnight in the refrigerator to reduce prep time in the morning?

I need to make a couple of dozen croissants for a weekday morning. The typical way of finishing the long prep process for croissants is to proof the laminated dough overnight, roll it out, cut into triangles, form the croissants, let them proof at room temp for a few hours and then bake. I am not sure that I have the three or more hours in the morning that this will take. I would like to make the croissants and then proof the fully formed croissants overnight in the fridge. I have found at least one recipe in which this is done, but without much explanation of the pros, cons or changes necessary to make this work. Most helpful would be someone's personal experience with this method or a posting that delves into the details on this. (I know you can buy frozen croissants at Trader Joe's or make them ahead and freeze, but I can not use "store bought" and do not have time for the freezing and then overnight thawing. I want to just skip the freezing and store the preformed croissants in the refrigerator overnight prior to baking.) Another complicating factor, the last batch of croissants that I made was over a quarter century ago.
posted by caddis to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
I don't have croissant-specific advice for you, but when I make huge batches of sticky buns for my New Year's Day brunch, I do the last proof overnight in the fridge. I take them out an hour before I want them to go in the oven so they can come up to room temp, then I bake them. They're yeasted, so temperature before baking might be important, but I think what you're proposing would work pretty well. Do you have an hour to let the croissants rest on the counter to take the fridge chill off before baking? Sorry I can only offer theoretical advice, but I'd go for it. I mean, they're homemade croissants. Who's going to complain if they aren't the tallest croissants in the world? They're going to be awesome.
posted by hungrybruno at 12:23 PM on June 11, 2010

I came in here to make a similar recommendation as hungrybruno's. Again, not croissant-specific advice (sorry!), but the cinnamon roll recipe I use calls for overnight fridge proofing. This is what you do the next morning:
Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.
Maybe something like that will work for you?
posted by Kimberly at 12:37 PM on June 11, 2010

I had a bad experience with this last week with bread making. It worked, but not well enough, and it took a long time for the dense, sticky dough to come to room temperature. After two or three hours, I rushed it, thinking oven spring would make up for the coolness and lagging rise, but it came out heavy and dense and not right.

So I'd recommend making your croissants as little as is reasonable -- I've never worked with croissant dough, but I'd think you'd want it to come to room temperature for as long as possible and it'll work faster if they're smaller.

If it were me, though, I think I'd sneak off to a bakery on the weekend, buy a bunch of lovely croissants, freeze them, let them come to room temperature the morning of the event, and no one would be the wiser. But I don't think I have personal fortitude for improvisational croissant making.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2010

I've made croissants, but I've always done the final proof in the morning.

My concern would be that the cold dough in the morning would rise significantly more in the oven than you are used to it doing. As I'm sure you know, this his how cold dough works since it holds more gas, and especially with the cold butter, I think you would have to wait quite a while for the croissants to come to room temp. Rolling and forming in the morning serves also to warm the dough somewhat. The reason I would consider this a concern is because the individual layers might turn out too bready, reducing the characteristic steam rise/layer separation.

(A Terrible Llama--Your problem was that the cold retarded the rise too much, not that it affected the dough. It's good to give the dough some proof time outside the fridge before moving it inside. It takes quite a long time for chilled yeast to really get going again. In general, a chilled loaf that has adequately risen will bake higher than one that has risen the same amount but is at room temp, because more gas stays dissolved in the loaf prior to heating.)
posted by OmieWise at 2:52 PM on June 11, 2010

FWIW, a restaurant my husband worked at proofed them over night in the fridge, they were good. The croissants were normal sized butter type.
posted by fifilaru at 3:24 PM on June 11, 2010

I used to bake professionally. We would put our pastries in the retarder (ca. 40F) at the end of the day. A timer switched the temperature from cold to warm (ca. 75F) an hour before I would show up the next morning at 4am. By 5 they were ready to be egg washed and baked off. Once they were done I could crank up the oven to baguette temperature and wa-lah! Perfect baguettes and croissants both.

So I think you can proof your patisserie in the fridge as long as you give them enough time at a warm temperature before baking.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2010

Thanks everybody. I am going with the overnight proofing. The dough is made and the fourth and final turn of the laminations is completed. Tonight the croissants get rolled out, cut and shaped. Tomorrow morning they come out of the refrigerator to warm for an hour or so to room temp and then bake.
posted by caddis at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2010

Success! The croissants proofed overnight in the refrigerator were an astounding success. This is the way to go. You can take them out when you first wake up and are still too groggy to do much more than turn on the coffee pot. Then an hour or so later after drinking the coffee and achieving some measure of lucidity, into the oven they go. Thanks again all.
posted by caddis at 10:20 AM on June 14, 2010

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