Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Puff Pastry and Croissant Class with Joanne Chang at Flour!

Back at the end of winter I saw a tweet from Flour Bakery regarding classes they were holding at their Fort Point Channel store and jumped at the chance.  Turns out two of the classes were being taught by Joanne Chang, owner and author of the fantastic cookbook Flour, so I signed up for the croissant and puff pastry class.  Having never made either before I was excited to learn the tricks of the trade.

When we arrived, the staff was busy setting everything up for the class and allowed the "students" to grab some coffee and tea while we reviewed the recipes that were were going to be using for the day: puff pastry, Parmesan cheese bread straws and croissants.

Coffee and Recipes
Even though we were not the first to grab a table we were still right in the center and had a great view of all the goings on.  Now, when Joanne Chang came out and greeted everyone, I must admit I got a bit giddy.  To some people she may not be famous, but to me she's a pretty big deal!  However, once she started speaking she immediately put us all at ease - she was warm and friendly, and seemed genuinely excited to be there with us.

Joanne Chang!
She said she wanted to teach this particular class because as she is trying to put together her next cookbook she was having trouble describing how to make the croissants, but puff pastry is the base type of "layer" dough to make croissants, so off she went to take us through the turns and proper ways of making the puff pastry dough.

Dough after a few "turns"
With all the refrigeration breaks needed to make the puff pastry, the Flour staff had gone through and pre-made the different stages so we moved right through all the different layers.

Three steps in...
It was great to see how the dough changed through each step.  During the process Joanne brought up volunteers to "assist." I was nervous but gave it a shot regardless - what did I have to loose!?!

Rolling Dough
I have been rolling out dough for a long time, assisting my Mom with butter cookies for as long as I can remember, but even this seemingly simple task is anything but.  For layer dough, in order to keep the layers even from edge to edge, you have to press down in the dough, almost creating divots to prevent the butter layer from sliding over, which would prevent the flaky bread from forming.  I also learned that I had a bad rolling habit - I rolled from the middle out which was all well and good, but then I rolled the pin right of the edge and onto the counter - sealing the dough.  Turns out this is NOT a good thing - you should roll out and almost drag the pin up.  If I never volunteered I would not have learned about my bad rolling habit.  Who knew they even existed!

Once the dough was all finished we started to make the straws by sprinkling cheese evenly (but generously) across the dough.

Putting on the cheese
And then, voila - we had cheese straws, and plenty to go around and taste!  I thought it was a job well done by all. 

Cheese Straws
Then we were onto the croissants.  She took us through the slight differences between straight puff pastry and croissant dough and how and why they differ.  Rather than strictly rolling and turning the dough, Joanne had a creative way to add the butter to the dough that she learned during her training in a bakery in New York City.  This method specifically is part of the reason she wanted to teach the class because it is difficult to describe in words (i.e. a cookbook), but easy to understand once you see it. 

The "Diamond" Method
I called the method the diamond method because it required turning the dough a bit and then making a diamond imprint within the square, followed by rolling out the flaps, which then surround the butter - I am describing it terribly but trust me, her recipe does a really good job of describing how to do this.  This crazy method is the key to making a flaky and delicious croissant.

After adding the butter there are a number of turns and refrigeration steps, followed by cutting the dough and stretching it out so as to form the perfect croissant.

Like food television magic, the croissants were ready right after they were placed on the cookie sheet!  Each was cooked to a perfect golden brown outside and were light and flaky on the inside. 

Finished product!
Look how flaky!
Joanne really helped to take the mystery out of making these somewhat intimidating doughs.  Also, she told us how there are a number of end points throughout the process where you can stop and freeze the dough for when you need it - most of it can be frozen for up to three months!  My only problem is I am not sure I have enough counter space to roll out the dough to the proper dimensions - maybe I can find something to fit over the sink to use as a counter extension. 

The class was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about puff pastry and croissants - mainly that in actuality its not to difficult, especially when you learn some of the tricks of the trade.  Joanne Chang was really wonderful and a great teacher.  I would highly recommend attending one of these monthly classes if you have the chance.  Regardless, you need to try the treats at Flour.  There are so many delicious bits to choose from!

Flour Bakery + Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. gotta love Joanne Chang! I met her at Myers and Chang awhile back. what a great class, glad you learned a lot!


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