There was a time in my life when I woke up every weekday before sunrise just to bury myself in a dusty archive until it was dark out, analyzing the most impractical, the most irrelevant of things. My social life was nonexistent. And throughout that period, the only part of me that got any nourishment at all was my brain; the rest felt like it was dying an agonizing, slow, isolated death.
In the midst of that seemingly endless gloomy gray, there were thankfully a few bright spots. One of them was the presence of my favorite bakery, Floriole, at Green City Market in Chicago. No matter what happened during the week, I knew when Saturday rolled around, there would be this little table at the farmers’ market that cheered me up. There would be perfect little canelés de Bordeaux in a glass jar. There would be delicious salted caramel, bread puddings, pies, clafoutis, pecan sticky buns, fruit galettes, and so much more.
These were some of the things that sustained me back in that gray era. I loved them so.
“We started selling at Green City Market in 2005,” says Sandra Holl, chef/owner of Floriole. “Just putting our toes into the water, so to speak.”
As it turned out, the water was fine; the water was more than fine. Their first year at the market was a big success; so were the subsequent years. In fact, less than a year ago, Floriole found a permanent home in Lincoln Park, a lively Chicago neighborhood. With that, Floriole, a farmers’ market vendor, became Floriole Café & Bakery, and Holl’s plan to live in France whence her husband comes was set aside indefinitely.
The bakery prides itself on making everything in-house and from scratch. Their pastries are made fresh daily with ingredients sourced from local farms. They don’t skimp on anything.
Holl gushes on her team of trained professionals who love and take seriously what they do. Also behind the scene, lending support, is Holl’s French husband, Matthieu. Unlike Holl, Matthieu is not a trained pastry chef. However, his discriminating taste, developed from years of growing up and eating widely in France, is behind the recipe development at the bakery.
“He’s the ultimate critic,” says Holl. All the French pastries at Floriole are the results of testing and retesting until they met with Matthieu’s approval.
These croissants, for example, have gone through countless rounds of testing. The exterior of these beautiful pillows is deep golden in color and impossibly flaky; the interior boasts perfect honeycomb-like texture that’s not gummy or too open. The flavor is pronouncedly buttery with just the right level of saltiness which is often lacking in inferior croissants.
In addition to proper technique, the use of premium European butter with higher fat content is key. What also sets Floriole’s croissants apart from others is the presence of sourdough starter in the dough.
(I got too impatient with the freezing and chilling of the dough.)
It took Holl a few experiments to finally arrive at the perfect formula which features just the right combination of flours and the right amount of protein content, the right kind of butter with the perfect fat content, and the chilling and freezing of the dough at different junctures. Making croissants is not easy, but with enough practice and the right ingredients, it can be done.
Holl explains how their croissants are made in the video clip below.
Recipe courtesy of Sandra Holl
Floriole Café & Bakery, Chicago
300 g butter
Disclosure: Shesimmers.com is not connected to or compensated for this article by Floriole Cafe & Bakery.