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I've been trying to make croissants at home. Many recipes I've read specify "European style" butter, with a higher fat content. However, finding this kind of butter locally is very difficult. In the places I have found it, it's very expensive.

I've found that when using ordinary unsalted butter as sold in the US there seems to be no good temperature for laminating the dough. Cooled as recipes suggest, the butter is brittle and cracks. Allowed to warm slightly more, the butter is absorbed into the dough.

So I'm wondering, is there some substitute available (not for butter generally, but "European style" butter? If a higher fat content is what's needed, I wonder if some combination of clarified butter mixed with ordinary unsalted butter might work. Any suggestions?

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    Might just try clarified butter. Removing the water content would pretty well have to raise the fat content to near 100%...I wonder if whipping/beating/creaming it might help with the handling/behavior. – Ecnerwal Apr 28 '16 at 3:27
  • @Ecnerwal If you put that in an answer, I might accept it. I have a block of 20% clarified mixed with 80% ordinary unsalted which was then very vigorously beatten now chilling in the fridge, and so far it feels promising. I'll try laminating tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. – Phil Frost Apr 28 '16 at 19:05
  • This doesn't answer your question, but it worked well for me with American butter: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/45360/… – Jolenealaska Apr 29 '16 at 21:16
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A mix of clarified and ordinary unsalted butter works well.

I used clarified butter that was simmered for a long time to be sure the water was thoroughly removed, just to the point where it stops sputtering, and the solids in the bottom begin to brown.

If the unsalted butter has a fat content of 80% and clarified near 100%, then a 20% clarified to 80% unsalted ratio results in 84% fat.

I let the two warm to room temperature, then beat them thoroughly with an electric mixer to combine.

Immediately after beating I transferred the now very soft butter to parchment paper. Folding the paper over, I squished the butter into a nice slab for laminating, wrapped it tightly with the parchment, and put it in the fridge to chill until the dough is ready.

I'm still experimenting with the flavor of croissants made this way. Obviously this won't reproduce the complex flavors of a cultured butter.

However, the workability of this combination is great: no shattering even when chilled in the freezer, unlike 80% fat unsalted butter alone.

  • I am surprised that you are seeing so much difference. If getting 82% fat instead of 80% is so noticeable, I would expect that using 84% instead of 80% will also be noticeable. But I never look at my butter fat content when I buy it (I am in Europe), nor do the other home bakers I know. I just looked at the one I had, a popular brand considered slightly better than average, and it had 82%, uncultured (the uncultured part is by choice). I would have happily baked croissants with it, and I never notice a difference between butter brands. – rumtscho May 11 '16 at 20:18
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I haven't tried this, but it could work...

Since the difference between European butter and American butter is fat content, maybe you could do a combination of butter and shortening. American butter is normally 80% fat (or more). European butter is normally 85% fat (or more). Shortening is 100% fat (it doesn't contain water). I wouldn't use all shortening though because that butter flavor is too delicious to miss. Also, I think you need the water to create steam that leads to flaky layers...also delicious.

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I don't know how fast water will evaporate from butter, but leaving slices of your butter exposed to (dry) air for half a day could be a low-effort way of reducing water content? The butter would discolour slightly, but there shouldn't be noticeable off-flavours that would affect the dough. (I've successfully used a fan over egg-whites to rapidly reduce water content for a different baking task.)

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