Lesson 13: Part 1 – Inception!
What did I say… tune in for the golden truth!
Food historians believe that the humble and much loved croissant dates back to 1683 and to the siege of Vienna by the Turks. Thanks to Viennese Bakers who were up at the crack of dawn baking the daily bread, the Turkish forces were discovered and repelled. Once the Ottomans were vanquished the bakers were given the honour of creating a pastry to celebrate the victory. They created “Hornchen” in the shape of the crescent on the Ottoman’s flag.
Later in 1770, Marie Antoinette, the Viennese Princess who married Louis XVI, King of France, introduced the croissant to the French court at Versailles. She may have been beheaded in the Revolution and been history’s epitome of gluttony, opulence and excess BUT she is credited with giving us the Croissant in all its eventual glory. She is the inception of Viennoiserie in France and as such has satisfied countless hungry tummies and eyes around the World!
Enough of the history lesson…
I couldn’t keep this from you a second longer so for the first time ever I am splitting up my posts into our demonstration and practical classes!
Today was the culmination of making the dêtrempe dough the other day.
Croissants are so simple and so cheap for Parisians. We on the other hand are fascinated by their flaky and soft texture, their buttery and rich taste, and their warmth served best with raspberry jam or dunked in an espresso.
Lesson 13: Le Croissant ßà Croissant
Croissant – a Croissant
Pain au Chocolat – do you really need any translation?
Oranais – Apricot Pastries or Apricot Tunnels
Moulins aux Cerises – Cherry Windmills
Pains Swisse – Chocolate and Crème Patisserie Swirls
Pain aux Raisin – My Favourite “Escargot”
And last but not least…
Kouignamann – Brittany Caramelised Croissant Dough
The chef was showing off again today for his own sense of appreciation and our pleasure!
He was also flaunting a rumour that he is responsible for introducing a Brittany delicacy in the 1980’s to Paris by mistake at the ripe old age of 20 – Kouign-amann!
Kouignamann is spelt so many different ways but no matter which pâtissier you walk into and see this delicacy – try it you won’t regret a single one of the calories in this speciality.
Kouingamann literally means typing error and is a delicacy made with croissant dough but is rolled and pinned with sugar between the layers instead of flour! It is caramelised pastry in all it’s penultimate glory!
When he asked the class a question regarding Kouignamann, I was shocked to actually know the answer. But, as usual, I found it difficult to roll the French answer off my untrained tongue. I had, by chance, randomly bought myself kouingamann early on in my time in Paris without knowing it’s significance or it’s place in pastry – it just looked really tasty.
He also surprised us with one of my personal favourites Pain aux Raisin
made with croissant dough.
Now getting back to class, he is developing a reputation as a skilled professional with a wicked sense of humour and comic timing to go along with his temper.
Well today, as well as creating gold, let us recognise that he was seriously on a run with his jokes – impossible to translate unless you know him!
“Better to have floured and to have lost, than not to have floured at all”
… Such timeless advice from a pastry chef of his distinction and calibre!
Watching him is like watching a machine so much so that he likes going by the name Robo-Cotte.
But even he is not game enough to try making brioches by hand openly saying he would end up with sticky dough all the way up his arms.
No mere mortal he has hands the size of a shovel, able to do things by hand that others must do with rolling pins and by other means.
“Brush my apricots with Nappage and call me Jessica”
… I believe this will be the title of his sophomore album in stores next week!
And to finish of the lesson we quickly discussed the virtues of the two main techniques for making Almond Croissants;
The first, economical and delicious, the way we normally buy our Almond Croissants. Croissants dipped in syrup, filled with almond paste inside the middle and a little on top and then sprinkled with almonds and icing sugar.
The second, expensive and extremely gourmande, and I cannot wait to make them! It is made with two triangles one of the détrempe dough, 1 of raw pâte d’amande. And then the two triangles are rolled into the croissant shape and baked together in the oven, creating alternating layers of croissant dough and almond paste throughout the whole pastry.
A final piece of golden advice from the chef, no matter your techniques, whether you freeze your products for days at a time. All croissant products need to be given the chance to rise twice – proofed, one rise over night to develop the characteristic flavours of the yeast dough, and proofed again once moulded into the desired shape, before baking until crisp and golden brown.
It was a lesson that I will never forget! Thank you Chef!