We scoff at Danish, laugh at Napoleons and don't waste a glance on doughnuts. For us, pastry doesn't get any better than the croissant, a shining star in the family of baked goods known as "viennoiseries." The word references the city of Vienna, Austria, where many such goodies originated.
The flaky, crescent-shaped puff of fleeting delight is a combination of layered yeast dough and butter, rolled, layered and folded - a baking technique called "laminating."
The croissant is not French in origin, but evolved from a Viennese pastry called "kipferl." In the 1830s, the Boulangerie Viennoise in Paris specialized in Austrian pastries, including kipferl, and it wasn't long before the French "borrowed" the template and gave it a twist -- literally and figuratively. And a darn fine job they did.
Inevitably, the art of croissant-making was sullied by the fast-food mindset when frozen, premade croissants went on the wholesale market in the 1970s, making it possible for any store with an oven to sell dumbed-down, insulting versions of the baker's pride.
Good thing for us the Bouchon Bakery exists in Yountville in the Napa Valley. The bakers there make croissants from scratch. It's a process that requires 48 hours of loving care from the bakery's pastry team and bread team, from the time the dough is mixed till the croissants are sold at the counter. That's according to assistant head baker Erik Bursteiner.
We dropped by the bakery last Tuesday and were shocked to find no line outside the door, as there is usually. We walked inside to a blast of wonderful aromas from fresh-baked pastries and breads, and freshly brewed coffee. We were tempted to tell the counter person, "Two of everything, please!" but settled for a box of croissants and a large dark-roast.
We returned to the parking lot, used the trunk of the car as a table, and ate half the stash. You can, too. In fact, you should.
Bouchon Bakery is at 6528 Washington St., Yountville; (707) 944-2253, www.bouchonbakery.com.