Baking 101: Croissants and Danishes Week

We recently completed the Pastry 101 leg of the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts course here at the Culinary Institue at Vancouver Island University, and at this writing, have begun the Baking 101 segment and are actually done with week two. Time for a course update!

Probably first on the list of changes when starting this new section is that we have been put into new teams. And because we have 17 people in class, there are five teams of three and one of just two. That happens to be Kevin and me. We both seem to like being just two, we communicate well and don’t need to adjust everything three ways. On the other hand, some of the stations, most likely Oven Duties, may be a little strenuous as this seems to be the biggest workload. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here as that won’t happen for two weeks yet.

The six Stations we’ll rotate through are:

  1. Oven: Proof & bake, manage oven, garnish, check and send catering orders, etc..
  2. Yeast Breads 1: Mix 75 lb Challah dough, make White bread, Pizza rolls, Foccacia, Dinner buns
  3. Bread 2 & Fancy Buns: mix several doughs, make whole wheat, Honey Seed breads, Bagels, Pita, Pretzels
  4. Sweet Yeast 1: Croissants, Danishes
  5. Sweet Yeast 2: Doughnuts, Cinnamon buns, Coffee Cake, Raisin Bread
  6. Wood fired Oven: Pizzas (make & bake) Granola, Gluten Free breads, attend to Fire

Kevin and I were starting our rotations at Station 4, Sweet Yeasted Breads 1. These stations were end-capped with a week of Orientation at the start and Review/Catch up week at the end. So pretty much the same deal as the Pastry section we had just completed.

Week One of Baking 101 was supposed to be Orientation and Mr B had each team do what they were going to do for Week Two as a warm-up week. As we were scheduled to do Sweet Yeast 1, that’s what we went into for orientation. Likewise all the other teams went ahead “testing out” their next week’s station.

Sweet Yeast 1 involves making laminated doughs for both Croissants and Danishes and when completed, making several varieties of croissants and danishes for sale in the cafeterias. Each day, we had to make three heads of dough for croissants plus one for the danishes.

A “head” in baking terms refers to a large ball of dough, in our specific case, three heads of 16 pounds each, a total of 48 pounds of croissant dough each day.

The process for building the laminated dough is the same for both Croissnat and Danish doughs although the recipes are slightly different in that the Danish dough has a couple of spices and gets only tow rotations. Since I have no photos of these steps and it would take many complicated paragraphs to explain, I’ll let this video from chef Ciril Hitz show you.

The daily process basically went like this:

Give each of the three croissant doughs made the day before a final rolling to get about 16 inches wide and around 72 inches long. Then using the croissant roller, cut the dough into about 60 croissants. Then add the required fillings (ham & cheese, pesto & cream cheeses, sundried tomato & cream cheese, spinach & feta) and roll these up. Lastly, apply egg wash, proof and bake. These last steps are done by the Oven team who are timing everything to fit their production and oven space needs.

Left: Sun Dried tomato & Cream Cheese croissants. Right: Just some of the piles of Ham & Cheese croissants we made every day.

Next, give the danish dough from the day before two stages of lamination and produce a few dozen danishes in different styles.

Left: Mr B shows us (Kevin here) a few neat Danish styles. Right: Diamonds with mixed berries and apple Bear Claws. These now get an apricot glaze to make them shiny and delicious.

Then start building the next day’s doughs and laminate the butter in three stages (or two for danish dough). This meant scaling and mixing the doughs, mixing and setting up the butter blocks and giving each head their full shaping and laminating so they’d be ready for their final roll out the next day.

At the end of this first week, Mr Barnett proclaimed that our class had advanced so well during what he had expected to be a challenging “trial” orientation week that we would move forward to our next stations the following week. Woot! (with an extra big “Woot!!” from the Oven team, Paul Conway, Andrea and Nicole who wouldn’t have to do that station two weeks straight.)

What happens to Orientation week now, since we all nailed our first station weeks? We’ll finish all stations with two weeks to spare which we can then use to focus on those things we choose to re-do and get more experience in. So basically two weeks of Review & Catch Up with space for further experimentation.

So ended Week One of Bread Baking. How was this compared to Pastry? Personally, I’m in heaven here. Although we are more into “production” in baking – focussing almost entirely on putting out large quantities of products for the cafeterias and special orders, it felt more comfortable to do. Kevin and I seemed to have done a pretty good job of our croissants – which Mr B specifically commented on – so that felt great too. We can only hope we continue to produce as well for the next several weeks.

And it was a hella fun to boot.

OK, bring on Sweet Yeast 2!

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