The 405’s finest examples of the delicate crescent-shaped pastry.
Ever wonder why the croissants you buy at an excellent bakery are better in multiple ways than the store-bought examples that taste more like white bread pressed into a mold? The answer, according to Harvey Bakery and Kitchen pastry chef Alyssa Ulrich, is the laminating process. Before there were machines, bakers laminated manually, but the process is tedious, so the machines have made the process more accessible.
“Lamination is the process of layering butter and dough back and forth through a series of folds,” Ulrich said. “Done properly, you have multiple layers of butter and dough that account for the beautiful interior after baking. The water in the butter turns to steam in the oven, which makes the pastry puff up, and the butter solids melt into the dough, so you get little pockets in the structure and a delicious buttery flavor.”
Honestly, that’s about as good an explanation as you’ll find for a complex process. Like the French baker who trained her, Ulrich uses two layers of egg wash. The first keeps the dough from drying out during the baking process, and the second gives it the beautiful finish and sheen. The laminated dough can be used for multiple pastries, with the traditional croissant being the most recognizable.
There is a legend of sorts related to that recognizable shape, but like many origin stories, it’s difficult to verify. The Viennese bakers — croissants originated in Austria, not France — allegedly used the crescent shape to celebrate the victory of Viennese forces over the Ottomans when the latter tried to invade the city.
Is it true? Hard to say, but the point is that real croissants are delicious. And as Robert Black, co-owner and founder of Twisted Tree Baking Company in Edmond, notes, they are meant to be consumed fresh.
“In Europe, you stop into a viennoiserie at the beginning of the day to get a croissant to tide you over till lunch,” Black said. “They’re only fresh for a few hours, so they consume them right away. We only have one word for bakery in the U.S. as a rule, but the Europeans think in terms of viennoiserie, boulangerie and patisserie.”
Most local bakeries are a combination of two or three European styles: viennoiseries make breakfast pastries, boulangeries specialize in breads and patisseries focus on traditional pastries, especially sweets. The important factor here is the type of specialization required to be good at different aspects of a craft. There are a few local bakeries with well-trained pastry chefs, including Harvey (301 NW 13th St., OKC), Twisted Tree (111 N. Broadway Ave., Edmond), Ganache Patisserie (13230 Pawnee Dr., OKC) and Quincy Bake Shop (1235 NW 38th St., OKC).
We were also pleasantly surprised to find a good pastry chef, Ian Colver, making croissants at McClintock Saloon and Chop House (2227 Exchange Ave., OKC). He’s a trained pastry chef, and like many in his position, he splits time between pastry and nonpastry menu items. And given that the croissants are new to the McClintock menu, there is no variation — only traditional croissants.
Ulrich can rattle off about a dozen pastries that use the laminated dough at Harvey, including the utterly brilliant Midnight Cowboy croissant with its clever use of chocolate ganache. Twisted Tree has a delicious sausage and cheddar croissant that ought to be on your breakfast rotation soon. Trisha O’Donoghue at Quincy Bake Shop makes a delicious triple cheese croissant, as well as a ham and cheese version, both of which make a lovely quick breakfast.
Finally, we like what Ganache Patisserie co-owner Chef Matt Ruggi said about his store’s croissants: “A croissant done properly doesn’t need help.” That is the test, after all. Take a bite of a proper croissant, and it should be a buttery indulgence with or without sweet and savory additions. Truthfully, just give us all the croissants.