Claire Ptak’s The Violet Bakery Cookbook includes recipes from the London bakery, sharing their delectable confections.
Croissants are heavenly things when made properly. In my first ever baking job at age seventeen, I learned to make croissants at the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station, California. For an entire summer I rose at 3:15 a.m. for a 4 a.m. start. Armando (the wonderful baker who trained me) and I would drink a vat of coffee and set to work sheeting the dough and carefully cutting the shapes; triangles for plain croissants and ham and cheese, rectangles for pain au chocolat and pain d’amande, and squares for apple turnovers. At Violet we lack the space for a pastry sheeter (a large machine that rolls the dough out for you in perfect sheets), so I decided not to make croissants when we first opened. A difficult decision, but the right one. You can’t do everything. For a time we bought croissants in and, if any went unsold, they were transformed the next day into this luxurious pudding.
- Preheat the oven to 355°F (320°F convection) and butter a deep 8 by 12-inch baking dish. Find another baking dish that is large enough to hold your baking dish (you will be making a bain-marie later to gently cook the custard).
- Tear the croissants into pieces and place loosely on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through, until crunchy.
- Put the cream and milk into a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add a pinch of salt and the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod along with the pod itself. Place over medium-low heat and just before the mixture starts to simmer, or when it starts to “shiver,” remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk your sugar and eggs into frothy ribbons.
- When the milk is ready, pour a third of it into the sugar and egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk and whisk in the cocoa powder. Strain the mixture into a bowl or jug. Save the vanilla pod, rinsing it well under cool water and laying it out to dry before adding it to your homemade Vanilla Extract.
- Put the toasted bread into your buttered baking dish, then pour the chocolate custard over it, so that the bread is covered in custard (you will have some custard left over), and let it soak for 30 minutes. Save the rest of the custard for later.
- After 30 minutes, add the remaining custard and scatter the chocolate pieces on top. Place the baking dish inside the larger dish and place in the oven. At this point, use a jug to pour water into your bain-marie so that it comes at least halfway up the side of the dish. Check the custard after 30 minutes. Bake until just set.
Reprinted with permission from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, copyright © 2015 by Claire Ptak. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.