Making Croissants with Dan the Baker
The local baker breaks down the elaborate process behind one of his most popular offerings.
People line up every weekend at Daniel Riesenberger’s Grandview-area bakery, Dan the Baker, for artisanal breads and outstanding croissants. Besides the traditional butter croissant, he also makes chocolate croissants, ham and cheese croissants and seasonal varieties like summertime tomato and fontina. Here, Riesenberger explains in his own words his elaborate process and offers a warning to home bakers before they attempt to mimic his methods. “There’s so many more fun things you can do with your life than make croissants at home,” he says. “Go support your local croissant artist, because they are crazy people." dan-the-baker.com
Making the sourdough is the first thing I do. I build the sourdough overnight, let it ferment. Once I come in the next morning, I’ve got the first step done. I also have croissant scraps from previous batches. I don’t make my croissants without scraps, because it tastes really good to have the extra fermented dough in there. It adds extra richness. You pull your scraps, then you start your leaven.
When my leaven’s ready, which is the next day for me, I’m ready to mix the dough. Then, I pull the dough out of the mixer and form it into the correct size blocks that are 4 kilos, or a little more. Each block of croissants is a book, and each book makes 45 to 50 croissants. I freeze mine so they don’t ferment before they’re processed. As soon as I’m done with the croissants that night, which is usually five hours or so of freezing time, I put them in my cooler, just to keep the fermentation locked down.
Laminating is the process of incorporating the butter in the dough. Laminating uses a sheeter, which is basically a set of rolling pins that has two conveyor belts on either side of it and a handle in the middle that allows you to crank the thickness down of the rolling pins. It’ll convey the dough back and forth through those rolling pins at a precise thickness and allow you to manipulate the dough and butter into the correct size and dimensions. It’s like 4.2 kilos of dough and a kilo of butter.
I like to let the blocks sit in the freezer for about a week. Then, I let them thaw. You send a block through the sheeter to get it to the full-size length, which is about 18 inches by 70 inches. If it’s for butter croissants, cruffins or ham and cheese croissants, I divide the block lengthwise down the middle using a croissant bicycle, a multi-wheeled cutter. I put those two halves on top of each other, which makes it easier to cut two at once. Then, I put all of the triangles in the cooler. Later, I take them out of the cooler, separate them and shape all of them. Once the croissants are shaped, I leave them out overnight.
The next morning, the croissants are doubled or even tripled in size. They get an egg wash. It gives them the sheen that is so customary. A croissant without egg wash is like you’re not wearing clothes. You don’t look right. You can’t step out like that.
They go in the oven for about 20 minutes. I bake mine pretty hot because I want them to spring up well, and I also love the caramelized flavor in the dough. I always go for a darker color on the bake, which I know is sometimes divisive. People are like, isn’t that burnt? I’m like, this is delicious. Caramelization is the flavor.