Dominique Colombié grew up in the South-west of France where baking is a sacred art. His father ran a patisserie and taught Dominique how to bake using classic French techniques. This meant using a simple list of high quality ingredients – including local butter which is a wondrous thing in France – and a patient hand with the dough. The Colombié kitchen table had the freshest croissants, tarts and breads which Dominique grew up appreciating and sharing with his village. After some years, Dominique went on to learn modern baking and production techniques as well, in order to take his special family traditions into the next millennia. With all of his quiver full of knowledge, both old and new, Dominique ventured into the wide world to see where he could bring his skills.
It was during a visit to New Zealand in 1982 with his wife Celia that the pair noticed this country didn’t have access to the kinds of croissants and quiches Dominique had grown up with. They decided to return and change all that. In 1986 Dominique and Celia started La Tarterie, in Auckland, which had queues of people lining Khyber Pass waiting for their very own taste of France. Dominique kept all of his family traditions in place, exchanging only French butter for New Zealand butter. Not skimping on ingredients or process, his croissants and quiches became legendary in the area. So the Colombié’s decided to expand.
Dominique and Celia sold their successful cafe and started a new bakery called Paneton. The name refers to the classic willow bread proofing baskets which are lined with a special linen. This reference to classic technique was to be bridged with new methods of production, such as pasteurization and flash freezing technology. These contemporary skills allowed the ideas that Dominique, Celia, and now their daughter Madeleine too, had around their own kitchen table to be shared with the rest of the country. Dominique wanted to give the same kind of experience they and their local customers had (of waking to the smell of fresh pastry baking in a nearby oven) to, say, the farmer out on the rugged West Coast or the Southlander who didn’t have a great cafe within brunch distance.
It is the latest in flash freezing technology that enables Paneton Bakery to create croissants, danishes and pain au chocolat that can be kept in the freezer until needed, and then still come out of the oven as good as at the bakery. If you’ve been to a good French patisserie and had great croissants, you’ll know this is quite a thing. Dominique explains that the trick is he decided to offer his pastry to the customer at the stage where people will need to proof their pastries at home before baking. You can buy frozen, pre-proofed croissants a dime a dozen but it’s not the same thing, both in terms of the baking experience and the end result. This was important to Dominique because the main idea was to share the experience of making and enjoying great pastry while Paneton did all the hard work in between. To proof your croissants, you simply put them in a closed oven the night before. When you wake up, take them out. Give them a little egg wash while you preheat the oven to 180˚C and then bake for 12-15 minutes. My Paneton pastries had a lovely curved shape, a beautiful rise and were as flakey as – as they are in Paris!
My only complaint was that the danish needed more of Dominique’s home made custard or hand sliced apricots. Paneton makes everything fresh and, even after being frozen, you can tell it’s good stuff… and you will want more. Dominique tells me that to keep the price point affordable to as many people as possible they’ve decided to have a petit amount (that is, just the right amount) of fillings for the waistline. You can add a bit of glaze (say, melted apricot jam) or a few fresh berries for yourself to these danishes and they’ll be even more fabulous. I’m looking forward to getting their new flakey pastry and making some quince & rhubarb tarts with fresh ingredients from my little garden outside. At Raeward Fresh we’re grateful that the Colombié’s have shared their traditions and innovations with the rest of us via Paneton. We’re looking forward to what comes next from their kitchen table to ours.
Recipe: Paneton’s apple galette
300 grams of Paneton Flakey Puff Pastry
2 large apples
Icing sugar for dusting
• Unroll the Paneton Flakey puff pastry as per instructions on the packet
• Cut 4 rectangles from the pastry
• Peel, core and finely slice the apples
• lightly score (don’t slice through) the edges of the pastry making a 2cm border. This will allow the outer edge of the galette to puff up around the apples. You could also fold the out edge over the apples at the end for a different effect.
• Place apple slices onto each rectangle (you can also place a wash of custard underneath if you like
• Sprinkle with caster sugar
• Gently wash the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg
• Bake your galettes in a pre-heated oven at 200˚C for 15 minutes or until golden brown
• Wash with melted apricot jam and dust with a bit of icing sugar
To serve, add a bit of your favourite vanilla ice cream.
Tip: you can use any left over pastry strips to make canapés or snacks like cheese straws.