The Sins of Gluttony


STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD CORNISH

DSC_9372.jpg

The aroma of freshly baked buttery croissants rolls down the main street of Creswick. Croissants made with real French butter. Croissants that are light and airy with the sweet and complex aromas of properly fermented dough and the clean tang that distinguishes a real croissant from their cloying, flaky, greasy pretenders. The secret to the quality of the croissant at Le Péché Gourmand is time. Baker Paul Williams explains that the dough is made from a starter of flour, yeast, water and fleur de sel from Gironde in France – the tiny flower-like crystals that form on top of the salt ponds. Once this starter has fermented, it is worked into a dough made from flour, milk and sugar – very similar to a pain de mie. Then it is slowly fermented at low temperature during which time the dough develops its layers of flavours. The dough is shaped out into a square, a layer of special patisserie butter laid on top, the dough folded over and over again creating thousands of layers of butter trapped by the dough. When the butter melts in the oven, it lubricates the fine layers of dough, the water in the butter evaporates into steam forcing the layers apart creating the signature lightness of the pastry.  

The theatre of the croissant, Danish, brioche and baguette all play out in the front window of the bakery, housed in an old Gold Rush era building. Here, Paul works from early in the morning. Working quickly but gracefully, sometimes attracting a few inquisitive onlookers on their way to school. Paul gained his love of French patisserie when he found the love of his life. He was working in the kitchen of a restaurant on the Great Lakes in Ontario, Canada. Working front of house was a beautiful young woman called Marie from Vendée in the Loire Valley, France. They married and settled in Sydney. Paul’s sister, however, had married a bloke from Beaufort and a quick visit saw Paul and Marie fall in love with Daylesford. Paul got a job at Peppers and saw an opening for a French bakery in the region. They thought they would do moderately well. “The support from the locals was overwhelming,” says Paul. “We were busy from the second we opened the doors.”

“We wanted to include some of the foods I grew up with,” says Marie, who grew up on a traditional French farm where her father raised pigs. From their flesh, her mother made jambon fumé, terrine and other charcuterie. Her father was also an avid hunter so there was also a lot of game on their table. Marie follows this tradition and fills their baguettes with charcuterie from Salt Kitchen in Ballarat. She points out that Salt Kitchen butcher and charcutier Mick Nunn learned how to make French-style hams such as noix de jambon by travelling to France to study. 

The little bakery serves good coffee, has seats around the bar at the window and a small communal table. They make six different breads and baguettes every day and eight different pastries often filled with fresh fruit brought in by locals. And le péché gourmand? “This means ‘the sin of gluttony’,” says Marie. “Something so delicious that it must be eaten even if one is completely full.”

Le Péché Gourmand
69A Albert Street, Creswick
Tues-Sat 7am-4pm (03) 5345 2731,
lepechegourmande.com.au

eatSarah Langeat