The last two days of laminated dough week presented an abundance of delicious, interesting and exciting treats – most of which were completely brand-new to me as a baker (but not as an eater). First thing Thursday morning, Chef Liza returned for an all-school (culinary and pastry) pizza-making party. When the first pizzas started rolling out of the oven close to 9 am, no one cared that it was still the breakfast hour. Bring on the pies!
With eighteen students and close to sixty balls of dough, the pizza-making didn’t stop. In the morning, I would guess every person made two. As the pizzas came out of the oven, they were quickly cut and placed on plates or cookie sheets for people to taste. Then more went into the oven. It was hard to stop eating the delicious concoctions!
Despite the fact that the only difference in the first set of pizzas and the second was the type of flour used in the recipe, the 00 high-protein flour had a noticeably different and – to me – better taste and chew. If I make pizza at home, I’m locating some 00 flour!
With no need for lunch, we went right on into our continued croissant making. There was new dough to cut, and other recipes to work on for the following day. As Thursday wound down, we had more incredible treats coming out of the oven.
Most of the regular croissants were immediately wrapped up and saved for Friday. We’d be using them for pretzel croissants, ham and cheese croissants and almond croissants. I couldn’t wait!
On Friday morning, before digging into the croissant work, there were more baguettes and ciabatta to make. Chef continued to want us all to get very comfortable with these items, and I don’t think anyone objected (not that we would!). Marni and I hadn’t made ciabatta before, so we got to work on that. It’s a very wet, very sloppy dough that needs to be handled very gently to preserve the big air bubbles inside.
Once the dough was properly mixed and in its plastic tub for a two-and-a-half hour rest, it was time for croissants. In order to make the ham-and-cheese croissants and the almond croissants, we used day-old croissants. These are better for these purposes because they can hold onto the added ingredients in better fashion than trying to make either of these varieties from the start. To prepare for this, the croissants were split and toasted in the oven. The extra baking firms them up and prepares them to be loaded with goodness.
Originally, Chef had thought we’d make pizzas for lunch out of the remaining dough. But with the batches of pimped-out croissants coming hot out of the oven, that was all we needed. And let me tell you, they were delicious. We all made sure our plates had salad, but it was all about the croissants. The ham-and-cheese were amazing – cheesy, crunchy, buttery. Hard to believe this was from day-old croissants. I put away one-and-a-half. Or perhaps two.
Then came the almond croissants. Let me back up for a moment. I first had an almond croissant last July in Israel, at an amazing French bakery in Jerusalem. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. Since then, I’ve tried to find its equal (or something close to it). I have come up short nearly every time (close runners-up: my breakfast place in Prague and Vanille Patisserie in the Chicago French Market).
This did not come up short. This MIGHT have been better than the Jerusalem one. It was better because I made it. And wow oh wow. We were all floored. What took it to the next level was that some of them, before applying the almond cream in the middle, had a small layer of raspberry jam added. It was hard to stop myself from eating the entire tray. I would have to say that it is probably my favorite thing I’ve eaten in pastry school.
When we finally were stuffed, we would have all preferred naps to continuing to work, but there were more delights awaiting us. Marni and I needed to get our ciabatta shaped and ready to bake, and there were chilled and shaped croissant doughs to be dipped in lye (and, as an experiment, baking soda) for pretzeling. In addition, Marni and I had to get our Apple Tarte Tatin in the oven. So much to do!
The ciabatta was the last thing to come out of the oven on a long, delicious, enjoyable and carb-loving day. I knew ahead of time I loved croissants and I figured when we made them I’d enjoy them. And I did. But I had no idea how amazing our almond croissants would be, nor the pretzel croissants. It’s going to be hard to top those two.
We also gobbled up any loose morsels, packed up the extras to enjoy on our weekends and wearily changed out of our chef uniforms. Despite a second straight Friday of bready overindulgence, I didn’t regret it for a second. It’s rare that you can make and eat fresh such wonderful pastries and I loved every morsel I consumed. And there were plenty. (However, if this continues, I will need to buy some new pants!)
I was excited to get out of town for part of the weekend, enjoy hanging out with Matt and his family, drinking some wine, eating good food and relaxing in the great outdoors. The only mystery was: Will the box of goodies for my hosts stay intact during the long ride to Sonoma County, or will I partake on the way. Stay tuned to find out. 🙂