What makes a perfect, flaky, buttery croissant? According to Yu-ching Lee, pastry chef and chief croissant maker for Chippendale’s Brickfields Bakery, it’s all in the layers. The secret to perfect consistency is having roughly 27 layers of pastry dough, 30 per cent of that dough being butter. That means a lot of rolling – known as laminating – to get the butter evenly laced through the folds.
But it’s not just the layers that make Brickfields’ croissants so impressive. “The inside is important too,” says Simon Cancio, general manager at Brickfields. “It should also have a nice crumb and profile. It needs to be baked fresh – that’s going to have an impact on how flaky it is – and the flavour is important. It should have a nice, kind of sour, complex flavour. Not just sweet.”
At Brickfields, the croissant-making process takes a full day and begins early in the morning with a combination of plain flour, sugar, salt, milk and yeast. It also includes a ferment made from croissant pastry off-cuts to develop the flavour. Dough is rested for several hours and then laminated to create the all-important layers and a beautiful, striated pattern. Much comes down to the bakers’ feel for the dough, and at Brickfields, involves one-kilogram tiles of unsalted butter being worked into it.
“Recipes are just a guide,” says Cancio. He says their croissants are always a work in progress, and are influenced by humidity, temperature, the type of flour and the butter used. Brickfields constantly plays with these variables to create the perfect finish, from single-origin flours to hand-crafted butter. Croissants are also hand cut and shaped, rather than using standardised cutters. Every triangle of dough is individually cut, weighed, stretched and rolled from thick end to thin, creating the distinctive twist that is a Brickfields croissant. The result is a batch of beautifully uniform pastries with just a hint of individuality. Finally, the pastry scrolls are proved at room temperature, put on trays and baked hot and fast for 16 minutes for that puffy, flaky, golden finish.
“You need to bake them fresh, sell out and then bake them fresh throughout the day,” says Cancio. “You can’t have piles of them just sitting around waiting.” Luckily here, they never, ever are.
Brickfields Bakery and Cafe
206 Cleveland Street, Chippendale
(02) 9698 7880