Light, flaky, buttery goodness. There’s nothing quite like the perfect croissant. Of course, this perfection is difficult to attain, vegan or otherwise. For years, the coveted croissant had baffled vegan bakers who could never quite get it right. However, a few outstanding vegans have finally cracked the code. To celebrate National Croissant Day on April 10, we spoke with vegan croissant extraordinaire and owner of Ridiculous Baking Co., Adam Leach, to learn all we can about this beloved French pastry.
The basic croissant recipe includes flour, water, sugar, salt, active dry yeast, eggs, milk, and a ton of butter. The airy, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry is created through a lengthy, meticulous process that requires both patience and hands-on work. The dough must rise and proof multiple times, in between which the baker repeatedly folds the butter into the delicate dough to form the pastry’s classic layers. Creating a traditional croissant is daunting enough, even without the additional challenge of replacing the recipe’s key ingredients with plant-based options. However, Leach was unphased by the task.
“It’s about technique and it’s about knowing what you’re doing,” Leach explained. As an experienced chef, Leach took the standard French croissant recipe, replaced the animal products with vegan versions, and applied the proper technique. He also invested in a proofer, which is essentially a hot box set a specific temperature to allow the dough to rise. “The right equipment [a proofer] allows the yeast in the dough to activate more than it would at room temperature…or in an oven. It gives you that combo of flaky layers but also a full bread.” Leach explained that you should be able to see multiple layers when you break open a good croissant, not just three or four. These layers are the sign of a successful proofing.
Leach wakes up at 2 a.m. every Sunday morning to prepare fresh croissants to sell at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. He noted, “It’s very labor intensive but also very cathartic.” He continued, “The croissants are out of the oven by 5 a.m., they’re in the customer’s hands when the market opens at 8 a.m., and they’re sold out by 10 a.m.”
Leach loves to experiment and offers his loyal customers a variety of sweet and savory options. “We deserve unique interesting things that nobody has ever had before,” he said. Beyond the classic plain croissant, farmer’s market patrons will find chocolate croissants, almond croissants, and a savory croissant of Leach’s invention. He has done vegan ham and cheese croissants, pizza croissants with Miyoko’s mozzarella, and a Reuben croissant. The latter is filled with plant-based pastrami by the Herbivorous Butcher, local sauerkraut, vegan 1000 island dressing, and a few secret ingredients. The company’s Instagram is also packed with inventive uses for croissants. Our latest obsession: tofu scramble-stuffed croissants. Breakfast of champions.
Leach left us with a few tips on the best way to consume croissants. Obviously, these pastries are best eaten fresh, but you can freeze them if you don’t intend to devour one straight away. “Just reheat it in the toaster oven, and keep it away from the microwave,” Leach advised.
The Ridiculous Baking Co. sells croissants, muffins, breads, and a few other vegan baked goods (like cronuts) at the Hollywood and Mar Vista farmer’s markets, as well as Alana’s Coffee Roasters in Venice.
Image Credit: Ridiculous Baking Co.