Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pleasing the French


Adrienne sticks her head into the kitchen:

"There're some French people here, from France, who said they go to this one place back home that's supposed to make the best croissant.  They said yours are better."

First let me just clarify something, lest you accuse Adrienne of nitwittery.  She was quite right in qualifying the French people who came to our shop as coming from France.  Because we're cheek to cheek with Quebec up here, so they could have been from Montreal.  Still French people.  Still hard to please when it comes to pastry.

But these were French people from France and that gives the compliment just a tad more luster. 

Croissant are my morning's great pleasure and pain.  There are very few doughs that make me so giddy and consume so much of my time.  The process of making the dough itself, folding in pounds of butter and then folding it four more times over the course of two hours and then letting it rest for at least two hours or overnight.  All of this before you can touch it, roll it, cut it into their time honored shapes.  And then you let them proof, letting moist, warm air surround the yeasty beasts and prod them into plumping to the point of screaming for the oven.


Every baker has their particular way with croissant.  Some use less butter or more butter.  You can envelope the dough around the butter to seal it in a myriad number of ways.  You can use water in the initial dough or milk.  Or both.  

But we all have to wait.  Whether you roll by hand like I do or if you use a sheeter, everyone is at the mercy of their dough.  So in the morning, when I walk through the kitchen door, I feel a tinge of resentment.  The needy beast in the fridge needs to be rolled right away or I risk them not proofing in time for opening.  But any ill will falls away when I open the refrigerator to find my helpless dough straining at it's cling wrap confines,  pleading for release.  Just look at that fat, cloud of dough.  It needs me.  And it pleases the French.  So I'll heed the yeasty call again tomorrow morning and the next.  Because there's no better compliment to an American baker than to be told the French like your croissant.