Every morning, Sami Cocaj makes enough dough for 1,000 croissants. The recipe is simple: butter, flour, sugar and yeast. That’s it, no preservatives or additives. But it’s the process that makes these croissants so special – once the dough is made, it rests for 24 hours. This allows the gluten to develop, which will help create those thin, delicious layers of pastry. So after each morning’s dough is made and set aside, Sami gets to work laminating yesterday’s dough.
Similar to laminating wood or paper, laminating dough is the time consuming process of folding butter and dough together to create thin, alternating layers of each. During the baking process, the butter will melt and release steam into the dough, giving croissants their tender, flaky texture. Eager to show me how it’s done, Sami waves me into the bakery at the West Market Square location, where he works as bakery production team lead.
Along a side wall there is a dough sheeter machine, which Sami uses to roll out the dough and butter that he’s folded together. After laminating the dough, he lets it rest for an hour. Then he folds the butter and dough together again, rolls it through the sheeter and lets it rest for another hour. Then the same thing happens again until the dough is layer after buttery layer.
Next it’s over to a metal table at the back of the bakery, where Sami cuts the dough into long triangles using a contraption that looks like a paint roller but with blades. He weighs the dough to make sure the croissants are a consistent size, then rolls them up by hand. If he’s making cheese croissants, he adds cheddar on top of the dough before rolling it up. For chocolate croissants, he adds Belgian chocolate sticks that get rolled up inside the dough. And for the almond croissants, Sami slices already-baked plain croissants and stuffs them with an almond filling made from almond flour, butter and cream. Then he tops them with almond paste and sliced almonds before baking them for another few minutes until they’re crispy, almondy perfection.
Sami’s croissants are so superb because his family has a 300-year tradition of baking, he tells me. Growing up in Kosovo, Sami gained experience working in his family’s bakery where, like the rest of Europe, everything was always made fresh. Although he fled Kosovo during the war in 1999 and came to Canada as a refugee, Sami still bakes like he’s in Europe.
So when he experimented with a new croissant recipe a few months ago and brought it to the operations team for tasting, the decision to use his new recipe was an easy one to make.
“It’s the process that makes it so tasty,” he says. “I mean 24 hours resting the dough? Nobody makes it like this.”
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