Two of the last three weeks of pastry school were devoted to Viennoiserie, a category of pastry that includes croissant, danish, puff pastry and all manner of breakfast baked goods such as cinnamon and morning buns. For me, these were the most anticipated classes of the program as Viennoiserie are made through more involved processes than other products and I wanted the valuable hands-on kitchen experience. Being able to see everything come together from start to finish over the four days was fabulous. We turned out some excellent product and ate ourselves silly on savory and sweet pastries.
It made sense that these weeks came near the end of the program as they brought together so much of what we had learned, from lectures and in the kitchen, over the past months. We reviewed ingredients from flour (bread flour or a mix of bread/all purpose works best in croissants) and sugar (makes a more tender product, creates that beautiful golden color) to eggs (adding more eggs to brioche makes for a richer product) and butter (European butter has a higher fat content and produces a superior product, but very expensive). The egg washes we memorized in the first few weeks during basic, lean and enriched breads came back around, as did the properties of yeast, temperatures for proofing yeast dough and the importance of resting dough between rolling/turns. What was new to us was the method of adding the butter to the dough, yeasted or not, in laminating (except brioche). Getting the butter to the right thickness and size involved a lot of banging with rolling pins, so loud my head was ringing by the end of the day. Then we rolled in the butter in and repeated the rolling and folding (turns) from three to six times depending on the dough, whether croissant or puff pastry. From there we shaped and added almond cream, chocolate, raspberry jam, sugar, lemon curd, sauteed apples, ham & cheese, mushrooms & gruyere, spinach & goat cheese and more. We ate, brought baked goods to spouses, kids, neighbors and coworkers and even left with some frozen treats to thaw and bake at home. I haven’t yet had time to make croissants in Gloucester and my kitchen in Somerville is too small for rolling but I’m very much looking forward to making tons and tons of these flaky, buttery, preposterously good treats this fall when my internship is over the kitchen temperature is conducive to the butter staying as cool as the dough. In the meantime, I like to visit Flour Bakery in Fort Point, Forge Baking Co. in Somerville and Cafe Madeleine in the South End for my almost-like-Paris breakfast pastry fix.
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