This July, in honor of a different red, white, and blue, I chose to embrace French culture this weekend and . . . slow down. The French take leisurely meals and relaxation to levels unrealized in the States. With Bastille Day activities and Summer in full bloom, some of the French's laissez-faire attitude temporarily came to my neighborhood last weekend. Even if it's just now and then, it is important to embrace a 4-day work week. Wine was generously poured, crepes sizzled, and the musical French ambiance filled the air. The scene was an Americanized view of France, but still took me back to Paris and those 3-hour meals at outdoor bistros and the relaxing strolls along the Seine.
Although French cuisine is not known as traditional "comfort food," there are endless warm thoughts that enter my mind when I think of brie, baguettes, and that most delectable of all French food—the croissant. Deciding to tackle the ultimate French pastry is no small feat. You have to be ready to dedicate almost a full day to learn the art of proper croissant preparation. Be forewarned, it is not as easy as Julia Child (or Meryl Streep playing Julia Child) make it look on television. You have to commit to slowing down. That's the key to achieving the buttery goodness of the croissant. You are not making toast or a bagel. You are about to make the most buttery, flakiest baked good known to man and your oven. With a little practice, you might feel like you just left your kitchen for the Left Bank.
Taking an entire day to bake may not be a 21st century societal norm. We are used to running around and multitasking on our smartphones. How does one justify the time in the kitchen? Easy. A hot croissant fresh from the oven is all the reward you need. Your kitchen becomes a classroom. Your pastry pan becomes the pedestal for a work of art. There will be some frustration along the way. Resist the urge to surrender (ironic, I know), and keep baking and perfecting the croissant. If you follow my recipe, you will impress everyone in your family and, most importantly, your lips, taste buds, and stomach. Enjoy the end result. You've earned it.
C'est la vie!