Our Marketing Director, Chris Reimer, recently spoke with Head Chef Curtis Horka about one of his favorite creations - the almond croissant. Great baking is more complicated than you might think!
Chris: Hey Curtis, got a few minutes to talk about the bakery?
Curtis: I love what I do, so I have no qualms about talking pastries and cooking!
Chris: Tell me about this almond croissant. I understand there were some challenges recently.
Curtis: We’ve been working on this project, perfecting the almond croissant. It might sound easy, but we spent considerable time studying and experimenting, to get it exactly right - crisp on the outside, soft and aromatic on the inside. We started by creating that perfect croissant, which is always a challenge in a humid climate like Hawaii. The croissants we use are good, but it needed more stability. Through much trial and error, we identified ingredient issues - our flour. What most people don't know is that flour can change throughout the year. Basically the quality and amount of protein is what matters in this scenario and results in too much or too little moisture inside the croissant. It seems so obvious, but the flour is not always the first place you’d look. There are so many variables that go into this product, but after some experimentation, we realized we needed to change the brand of flour we used. After we successfully sourced that, the croissants turned out so much better. Keep in mind that flour is grown all over the world, is subject to seasonality, and we rely on our suppliers to get us the best stuff. We were able to find an unbleached, high-protein bread flour, and upon using it saw instant results. That’s just a glimpse of the homework and experimentation involved in an from-scratch bakery when you have so many ingredients, and so many products being made.
Curtis: When you’re making something as architecturally complicated as a croissant, you have to know what your building blocks are before you use them. Once we got the product where we wanted it, we were then able to execute. And we have a specific method for completing them - we cut them in half, and then dip them in just the right amount of simple syrup, so they’re nicely coated but not soggy. We then fill it with a specific amount of almond Frangipane. We sandwich that together, then another line of Frangipane on the top, with some decorative slivers of almond, and then we bake it. When you bake the product well, your almond creme Frangipane will turn into a little cake inside of your croissant that gets nice and puffy and delicious, and the croissant holds its structure. Your croissant gets a little puffier, and little more chubby looking. And then the delicious simple syrup you put in gets toasted, leaving you with this little crunch. So your final product is this amazing pastry that has a crispy, yummy outside, with a buttery, almond gooeyness inside. And it’s beautiful, hot or cold. Anyone who loves an almond croissant will know what I’m talking about. I love these.
Chris: Have we offered this for some time?
Curtis: Yes, we have. It’s a fairly standard product that would be offered at a bakery that serves croissants. And it’s something that we’ve been improving on for some time, trying to perfect it to meet our standard. Typically, you have two kinds of almond croissants. The first kind … it may have a beautiful look to it, but doesn’t have much of a almond taste to it. And then you have what you might call an “ugly mess,” which is kind of on the squished pancake side and it’s really crispy, with lots of sugar added, and it has this intense buttery, rich almond taste. And that’s amazing, too, if you’ve ever tried one. We’re going for something in between the two. It’s still going to look beautiful, still plump and big, but it’s going to have that crispy, yummy, sugary outside as well, but not too heavy, so we can balance that product out. So we don’t want to give you an overload of any one sensation. We want to make sure you get this full, beautiful experience of almond, flaky pastry, and crispiness too. And like I said, with a cup of coffee, you just can’t go wrong.
Chris: Do we sell the almond croissant in all of our Hawaii cafes?
Curtis: We are aspiring to get them in all of our cafes. Right now, they’re only in our O’ahu cafes. We hope to roll them out to Maui and the Big Island soon.
Chris: What is that word you used earlier? “Frangipane?”
Curtis: Yes, Frangipane. It’s a Italian word for almond creme - that’s the easiest way to say it in an American tongue. Frangipane has a lot of uses and is often made into a little tea cake.
Chris: Hunting for better flour. A simple but interesting quest.
Curtis: We already had a great almond croissant, but we can’t settle on “great.” We need it to be consistently awesome. I’m always seeking out ways to improve our products. A better flour with a high protein ratio produces a superior, beautiful croissant.
Chris: I’m ready to eat one or two.
Curtis: See you on O’ahu soon, then!