If you ever find yourself on Cape Cod, be sure to make your way to PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet. There, you will find “a taste of France” that includes — among other deliciousnesses — all of your favorite French pastry. Oh oui! Le croissant, le pain au chocolat, le croissant aux amandes, le pain aux raisins.
My last visit to the bistro was just a month ago. A guilty escape in the middle of the pandemic for sure, and worth the two weeks quarantine for the respite, as well as the croissants. But, not knowing when I might return again, I decided it would be fun to attempt to make some pastry myself.
AU PETIT BONHEUR LA CHANCE
With a little bit of luck.
A student of cooking shows since I was a teenager and a more-recent Great British Baking Show devotee, I knew early on that my first foray into this French pastry making — Le Pain Aux Raisin — was not going to make me Star Baker.
Which is not to say it didn’t make a decent showing. The raisins, soaked in whiskey for lack of cognac, were a highlight. So was the frangipane — a sweet almond cream filling I made from scratch — tasty, despite the hint of rosemary leftover in the spice and nut grinder.
Much to my surprise, the pastry even had some layers! Doughy, yes, but layers of doughy! That is a feat in itself— and should be considered such, given the rolling and folding and waiting necessary to create classic puff pastry lamination.
I confess, I was full of equal measure doubt and faith through the whole process.
I doubted the yeast was viable when it failed to produce its telltale foamy goodness. I questioned the lumpy dough and the technique of butter. I tried to convince myself the dough rose un petit peu in the covered bowl, though I wasn’t really sure.
Still I persevered with faith through the three rounds of rolling and folding and waiting, rolling and folding and waiting, rolling and folding and waiting.
I happily introduced the pastry dough to the rosemary frangipane and the drunk raisins.
I used my trusty Stanley tape measure to cut even, round discs. Then set them out on a tray, 2 inches apart for room to grow, covered them lightly…and took a nap.
Yes, I was full of equal measure doubt and faith — and humor.
In the time it took to make the pastry, I could have driven to Wellfleet, had a croissant by the beach, and driven home! I was pretty sure the dough was not rising any peu at all. And, in all honesty, I had no idea what I was going to do with a dozen or so pastry, because, well…pastry gives me heartburn.
And yet, in the end, there they were. Sixteen lightly browned, sort-of pain aux raisins — and I was proud.
As Julia Child once said, “If everything doesn’t happen quite the way you’d like, it doesn’t make too much difference, because you can fix it.”
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
And so…what the hell! Bon Appétit!