If you arrive at Proof Bakery after 11am craving a croissant, you should hope that luck is on your side. It’s the morning pastry they’re best known for, and as soon as they sell out for the day, you’ve missed your chance. You can’t go wrong with any other item on the menu, but there’s something remarkable about eating a small crescent-shaped treat that was part of a multi-day process to make.
Na Young, owner of Proof Bakery, arrives at 8am each morning, still four hours behind the person who arrives to fire up the oven. There’s always something going on in their kitchen. “At Proof, we like to bake and make everything as fresh as possible, so our production and baking throughout the day is constant,” Na Young explained. “We are also seasonally driven, getting most of our fruit and ingredients at the farmer’s market.”
Their morning pastry menu generally stays the same with croissants, teacakes, scones and quiche. As the seasons change, they’ll change their fresh ingredients—scones are dotted with the latest ripe fruits and quiche and strata always feature different vegetables. They’ve recently added empanadas to the menu, with fillings that also vary seasonally.
Eclairs are the latest menu addition and have been a huge hit so far. “Our favorite eclairs are filled with pistachio cream and topped with our chocolate ganache and toasted pistachios,” bakery manager Jules Exum told us.
As Na Young cut and shaped the dough for the croissants on the afternoon of our visit, Jules explained the full production process to us. We occasionally fancy ourselves as bakers, but croissants take some serious TLC and practice to make.
It all starts with the dough—it’s mixed, kneaded and shaped, then wrapped to rest for approximately twelve to fifteen hours. After resting, it goes through the lamination process (a phrase we weren’t familiar with without Jules’s explanation). “It’s the process of folding the butter and dough in layers, which helps create the thin layers when it bakes,” she told us. Over the course of about three hours, the dough goes through numerous folds—it’s folded, chilled and rests again.
“It’s important to try and keep the cutting area as cool as possible so that they layers of butter don’t melt while shaping,” Jules explained. Without a cool surface, all of the folding work will have gone to waste.
The dough is rolled out into a flat sheet then cut and shaped, piece by piece. Na Young, who has been baking professionally for nearly fifteen years, does this all in the blink of an eye. She trims the edges of the dough, aligns her ruler at the top edge to mark individual segments, then cuts them into perfect squares. She has a team of one or two assistants waiting to shape them, and possibly add bits of chocolate depending on the batch.
Before going into the oven, the dough rests again for another night to be pulled out at 4am the following morning. “Proofing” is the final step in the process—the dough rises and is coated with an egg wash, then baked until perfectly golden.
With this entire process in mind, we’ll appreciate a croissant from Proof for even more than it’s flaky goodness. It’s worth getting up a couple of hours early to make sure you get to try one!
Na Young is wearing the Preston in Whiskey Tortoise.
Photos by Collin Hughes