This past Saturday I was at the bread table adding the finishing touches to the Lemon Curd Raspberry Danishes. Vanilla syrup brushed on, powdered sugar dusting on one side, fresh lemon curd piped in, hand placing each and every raspberry gently on top, from one of our local farmers.
It was a moment of what I call pastry bliss.
We created 24 danishes this past Saturday - a new record!
I took a moment to count the number of croissants made, and another moment to recognize that although our numbers are increasing steadily, the intention, creativity, and quality does not decrease.
It’s a hard balance to maintain, and being someone who very much values the intention and quality put into the art of creation, I feel fortunate to work in a setting where these values are upheld and supported.
THE FIRST CREATION
On Friday, Bonnie and I spent time with Ben creating and testing hypotheses regarding a butter and lamination technique, further working towards perfecting the craft. Mid-conversation, Bonnie found some old scraps of paper tucked into the pages of Modern Sourdough... my notes and sketches from the very first time I was laminating, many months ago.
January 13 to 15 to be exact, a three day process. I knew the dates because I had photos in my phone. While some people take pictures of their children and pets at different milestones, I take pictures of pastries I create and the mushrooms I find while foraging in the woods.
I remember the days leading up to when Ben and I started talking about the lamination process. It would be my first full opportunity to engage in test-baking a brand new pastry item for Voyageurs Bakehouse. When I started at Voyageurs in late October, the holiday season was my initiation into the Bakehouse. Until this point, I hadn’t had the opportunity to take an idea and fully go for it.
There is always some level of nervousness when trying something new...
Let alone in a work environment where you are the new kid on the block, finding where you fit into the community and looking for the areas where you may be able to stretch and grow.
With that, bringing along all the layers upon layers of past experiences in work, in life, both the good, the challenging. All these experiences that are laminated into the perceptions we have of ourselves, our worth, and our capabilities…
Sometimes those layers bring doubt or feelings of not being enough, or fear of failing or being rejected. This can heighten those feelings of nervousness. It’s that process of delineating the feeling of fear from excitement, both of which resonate very similarly in our bodies.
I remember January 14, 2021, standing at the side window table, next to the ovens. I must have read Modern Sourdough a dozen times, maybe even a baker’s dozen, trying to figure out rolling size and dough to butter ratios; trying to decipher the text on how to cut the triangles, as there were no diagrams in the book. I had never done this before.
As I was sketching out the dimensions, my internal dialogue in my head made me laugh. Although I’ve never really needed to use calculus at work, that semester of trigonometry back in high school was really coming in handy.
In the time it took me to make my first dozen croissants, 8 months later I can now roll out six dozen, including a final shaping… That’s six times more.
You’ve come a long way baby.
January 15, 2021, we baked the first dozen. The moment of proof… I mean truth.
They were golden. They were textured. They looked promising.
After Ben and I let them cool, we took our best serrated knife and started to cut into the middle… It was the true moment of truth.
It was a honeycomb of layers. I was beyond excited.
Although there would be more tinkering to take place with the dough and lamination process, the initial product exceeded both our expectations, and within myself I felt an opening expanse of possibility.
Challenging the preconceptions of self, layer by layer.
There would still be more growth along the way… teaching my friend and former co-worker, Jenna, the process and fumbling through new beginnings.
One of these growth days being the day I had to show Ben my technique. I was all nerves, still just beginning to trust my own capabilities and still questioning if I was at all legit and whether these successes were sustainable or not. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was the only one holding any of these doubts. I dare say that I was working through the process of challenging and healing imposter syndrome.
Layer by layer, we pull parts of ourselves back, examining them, rolling out the rough edges. Then layer by layer we build ourselves up again with new experiences, that when laminated, form the whole.
THE ALMOND CROISSANT
Fast forward to February 27, 2021. A Saturday, which always leaves a little bit of time to experiment…
Ben approached me to ask if I’d try creating an almond croissant.
Once again, I open Modern Sourdough looking up the recipe for frangipane and searching for pictures.
Since I have never eaten an almond croissant in my life, I relied on my resources to pull it all together, hoping and intending that it wouldn’t turn out like garbage (a recurring thought pattern that I have worked to heal)… confronting the worry that my shortcomings would be exposed (again, challenging that layer of self doubt).
The almond croissants went into the oven. Again another test…
They came out golden, smelling of sweet almonds and butter.
I moved them to a rack and dusted them gently with powdered sugar. I called Ben over to show him.
What happened next was the first of many moments I now look forward to in the Bakehouse - taste testing with my boss when I try something new.
The morning light was pouring into the back of the house. Ben takes one of the almond croissants and pauses silently for a moment. He bites in, and I can see him savoring it. I remember seeing the look on his face - this was a good croissant.
We sliced other almond croissants from the test batch, and one by one, members of the team snuck into the back of the house for that same moment of pause, savoring.
It brought me a lot of joy, seeing their faces. Then the feedback came in. One of my friends and fellow co-workers, Tyler, told me, “This might be one of the best things I ever ate.”
Layer by layer, the expressions, the words… they all challenged the thoughts that I held in my head.
What is happening here? Really? It was surreal.
Then came the next moment, as I was finishing up some other pastry, Celeste came up to me and said, “I want to tell you that this takes me back to Europe. I’m really impressed with the work you put into this, and the results. Please, you need to take one of these home with you to share."
Moments later, I was still standing at the shaping table, and my thoughts and feelings began to stir. I started talking with my friend and co-worker Andrew, and told him how all this was making me feel; that the feedback was almost overwhelming, as for sometime now, in other aspects and endeavors of my life, I was feeling disappointment, doubt and failure.
And then I could feel it further; tears started to build up in my eyes, and I had to excuse myself to go outside for a moment.
I stood outside the back of the building, and I began to weep.
There have been very few moments in my life where something like this brings up such emotion… a sense of healing. And in essence, transformation.
After work that day, I shared the almond croissant with one of my dearest of friends, inviting him for tea in my new apartment. I told him about the day and my experiences. After his first bite, he said to me, “This is your art.”
I began to weep again.
I could go on further with other metaphors and experiences that have come up throughout this process of learning and growing with the croissant, but that may turn into more of a book.
When Celeste and I discussed writing this article, and the opportunity to use my words and voice in another art form I’m passionate about, she asked me to share why I wanted to take on this project, how it made me feel, and what has been fun about it…
So if you are still reading this, I want to leave you with this final sentiment:
When I’m laminating and making the croissant, I take an intentional moment to reflect on what this process has meant to me. And when I do, I send out loving kindness and intention that you too have moments in your life where you are able to savor the growth, peel back all the layers of yourself, and within those layers see that you are whole.