Croissants ready to rest in the “Proof Box”
I love to cook and I get plenty of practice making breakfast for our guests at A Bed of Roses, but the idea of baking croissants from scratch was pretty intimidating even for me! Pastry Chef Ali Caulfield at DOUGH in Asheville got me, along with a class of 10 or so other home bakers, over our fears this past week in a fun 2 day evening class. DOUGH is an innovative chef-owned market and bakery in North Asheville that also offers an ever-changing freshly made menu of sandwiches, salads and pizzas to eat there in the market or to take out. But the wonderful cooking classes and special events that they offer makes DOUGH totally unique, even for Asheville. Most classes are one-day courses, 2-3 hours each and include everything from cooking Thai or Moroccan food to making handmade pasta or mastering the art of the French Macaroon. They have some Parent-Child Pizza Workshops, too that look like a lot of fun. Even in our class we had a family. The parents and their two daughters have taken several classes at DOUGH and the girls did a wonderful job!
Chef Ali Caulfield demonstrates for the class
Lawyers, students, real estate agents, retired professionals and one nervous innkeeper all dug in to learn the art of baking croissants hands-on and the flour literally flew! I brought my camera the first night (go to our gallery to see the photos) and it was covered in white dust by the end of the class! Chef Ali took us through the steps one by one, demonstrating along the way with an angled mirror above her workspace that allowed all of us to see exactly what she was doing.
An angled mirror allowed everyone to see what the chef was demonstrating
It’s the perfect way to learn! You get to see it in digestible chunks, then do it while the visual is still fresh in your memory. The chef is available to check it and make suggestions right away before you move to the next step. Having the right equipment is as important as proper technique. Once the dough has been mixed you need to pound the cold butter into a thin, 5-inch square with a French Roller*. You can just imagine what it looked like to see a room full of people hauling off and hitting big chunks of butter with wooden bats. It was quite a sight! Then the dough is wrapped around the butter into a packet, that is then folded, rolled out and folded again, four times in all, to get all those luscious layers of dough and butter.
The bright and airy cooking lab made for a relaxed atmosphere
The process involved letting the dough “rest” at various intervals in a “proof box”** and at the end of the first class our dough packets spent the night in the refrigerator before we continued the next day. But even the first night we got to learn and eat what you can do with left-over croissant dough. The cronut! Now there’s a sinful treat. By the end of the second class we each had a batch of beautiful golden croissants to take home with us along with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, not to mention some new friends.
* A French Roller has no handles and is tapered at the ends.
** A “proof box” is a warm, humid place for your dough to rest. You can use your oven, set at 100° with a bowl of water at the bottom.
You don’t have to live here to enroll in classes at DOUGH. Check out their calendar and get a real taste of Asheville while you’re here visiting! And don’t forget to check out my finished croissants in our photo gallery. They were to die for, if I must say so myself! Yum.