Producing Croissants with My Advanced Culinary Students and Creating a Croissant Candle

It’s been a week since I opened a business bank account in Nevada. My account has since been frozen. I’ve had several urgent voice mails from the banker who opened this account to call her; but every call that I have made has gone to voice mail. Since I haven’t wanted to play phone tag and cannot take calls when I am with my students, I left a voicemail for the banker in which I asked her to just tell me what the problem was. She did. Sort of. She chose to reply by sending me an email through my on-line bank account which is frozen and inaccessible.

Since I’ve been getting my Culinary Arts program ready for a state audit as per of the state’s five year review, I haven’t been able to get to the bank before closing. I’ve been arriving at work before the bank has opened and I’ve been leaving work after the bank has already closed.

Insofar as Tasty-Candles is not yet operational, I have not prioritized resolving this issue. I have instead focused on completing the 25 page self-assessment that I was sent by the Nevada Department of Education. I have also been compiling documentation in an on-line shared drive for the NDE to review. This included three days during which I inventoried every tool and piece of equipment in the kitchen.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, I have recently become a departmental chair. This is far less impressive than it sounds. At a larger school, the department chair would provide instructional leadership, guidance for aligning curriculum with the state standards, and assistance with formulating each teacher’s budget in cooperation with the district office.

Since I’m at a small rural school, I’m the only Career and Technical Education teacher at my location. At one time there were four of us; automotive, woodshop, business, and culinary arts. Retirement and budget cuts have done away with the rest of my CTE department and culinary arts is now the only remaining CTE program at my school.

Instead of allowing me work on my own which I would have much preferred, the principal formed an ad-hoc department by placing me with the art and music teachers as well as P.E.

After the art teacher was promoted to an administrative job, we lost our department chair and since the most senior teacher amongst us plans to resign at the end of this school year, this left me (with 31 years of prior teaching experience) as the next most senior instructor.

As a departmental chair, I now get to attend weekly departmental meetings with the principal and to then hold weekly meetings of my own to share information as needed with my department.

Since grades are also due next week, my metaphorical plate has been quite full and I haven’t had any time to spare for the bank. With less than 3 weeks before Tasty-Candles was supposed to have been operational, I am uncertain as to whether I’ll be able to open the virtual store on time.

Without access to a commercial bank account, I can’t apply for credit card processing and I cannot set up online deposits. The virtual store has not been stocked. I also still have to find an insurance company to provide liability coverage. Were it not for the fact that I have now spent $6000 in candle making supplies, I would have punted the entire idea of a virtual business to next year. The only reason I have not done so is that I would then lose the ability to deduct start-up costs from this year’s taxes.

On the brighter side, I spent the past week working with my advanced culinary students on the production of croissants. Although most people think of croissants as distinctively French, the croissant originated in Austria. Known as a kipferl in Austria, there are many stories as to where the first roll was created, I’ve always liked the origin story of how this buttery and flaky roll was first created in Vienna in 1683 in celebration of the defeat of the Ottoman Turks who had been besieging the city. The crescent shaped roll is said to have been made to emulate the crescent moon symbol used on the Muslim banners.

Boulangerie Viennoise, Paris, 1839

As to how these rolls came to France, in 1839 an Austrian businessman named August Zang opened a Viennese style bakery in Paris. His bakery was called, “Boulangerie Viennoise.” Included among his many delectable wares was the kipferl which the French began calling the “croissant” or crescent roll. These rolls were so popular that French bakers began to producing them. The French version was more buttery and crisp, less dense, and less sweet than a kipferl.

Since my culinary students spent 3/4ths of last year in virtual instruction, I started this year with an intense remediation of the hands-on production skills that my Culinary II students should have developed during the previous year. Instead of teaching these students how to fabricate (cut apart) a whole chicken to get wings, breasts, drum sticks, thighs, and a backbone; and how to then produce poulet sauté chasseur (Hunter’s chicken) that would be served with chicken demi-glace made from a stock reduction; these students have instead been learning how to bake.

I think that baking is a great way to begin instruction in the Culinary Arts. Since baking is an exact science; students have to learn how to use exact measurements. They also have to learn how to read and follow the sequential steps of a recipe. Unlike other classes where students may not necessarily care about the quality of their English essay or whether or not they found the correct solution for a calculus problem; vested self interest and sometimes a growling stomach encourages them to follow our recipes to a successful conclusion.

From top left proceeding clockwise: Sugar cookies with vanilla icing, apple pie, chocolate cupcake with banana butter cream frosting, and cinnamon rolls produced by my culinary students

Given our time constraints, the Culinary II students have been participating in a condensed version of a Culinary I baking unit. After producing chocolate chip, oatmeal, and sugar cookies, they produced an apple pie, chocolate cupcakes with butter cream frosting, and cinnamon rolls. Having produced cinnamon rolls, I concluded this baking unit with the instruction of a Culinary II instructional objective and taught these students how to make croissants by first making a laminated dough.

A laminated dough is made by alternating layers of a yeast based dough with layers of butter. This is done by (1 and 2) rolling butter into a flat rectangle. (3) The butter is then placed over a sheet of sweet roll dough. (4 and 5) After folding the dough over the butter, (6) the dough is rolled out, folded over, and rolled again to create layers of butter within the dough.

When baked the butter adds flavor to these rolls. Steam from the melting butter helps with making the dough rise. The melted butter also makes the internal layers 0crispy. It is this crispy and buttery goodness that gives the croissant its distinctive taste.

The internal layers of a baked croissant

As with the cinnamon rolls that we have previously made, the process of producing croissants took all week. We ended the week by brushing the croissants with egg whites prior to baking these crescent shaped rolls. The egg whites were a cosmetic touch that were used to create a shiny finish for these croissants. They were then baked in an oven that was initially set for 425 degrees Fahrenheit. After ten minutes, the temperature was lowered to 375 degrees and the croissants were baked for an additional 12-15 minutes.

Our freshly baked croissants

The aroma of sweet buttery rolls wafted throughout the school. Cell phones began to chime as classmates and even parents who worked at the school began texting my students to ask about the possibility of getting a croissant. Within my first class, two students asked if they could take a freshly baked roll to a parent. Another two asked if they could take a croissant to a favorite teacher.

“Chef, would you like one of my rolls?” asked Ralph (not his real name).

“I would LOVE one. Thank you so much.”

Courtney (not her real name) abruptly turned and bumped into Ralph who dropped the croissant.

“Oh crud.” The students were crestfallen at the sight of the roll that was now lying on the kitchen floor. Ralph promptly threw it away and offered me another croissant. Although I initially declined because I didn’t want to take another of his dwindling stock of rolls, he insisted. After thanking him, I gave him a peach soda water by way of exchange. While the students sat in the classroom and enjoyed their croissants with strawberry jam, I fished the discarded roll out of the trash to take home to use for the production of a silicone mold.

Since I had a butter candle oil fragrance that I’ve been wanting to use, I combined this aroma with freshly baked bread and sugar cookie scents to create this buttery sweet smelling croissant candle.

In painting my candles with colored wax, I chose to model the coloring on professionally made croissants like the ones pictured below. These croissants were painted with an egg white wash prior to baking. The egg wash gave them a shiny appearance and deepened the color of the browned parts to a deep brownish-orange.

real croissants

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