Layers of love: the secret to great croissants

A little shop on Magill Road has mastered the art of the perfect croissant.

When Salahdin Benhammouche first arrived in Adelaide in the early 90s, he found many reasons to fall in love with the city but there was one important ingredient missing. “I love to eat croissants but, to be honest, when I came here I couldn’t find a good place,” he says with a wry grin. He concedes there are more choices now, but at the time the only option was to make his own. Making the flaky pastries is a famously laborious process, and far too time-intensive for just one person, so he opened his own store in 1995.

Though he has no formal training, he quickly developed a reputation as Adelaide’s pre-eminent croissant maker. When Qantas still had a local base, they would get a delivery from him every morning. His pastries are stocked in a range of venues around town, but for the full selection it’s best to go directly to the source at Cannelle on Magill Road.

It’s not a boulangerie (they make bread), nor is it a patisserie (they make cakes). Instead, as the Algerianborn baker explains, “it’s called a viennoiserie” because the croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche and amandier that he makes are considered “Viennesestyle” pastries by the French. Though he describes it as “more rustic” than a patisserie, there’s nothing in any way crude about the delightful pastries that come out of his ovens.

“What we do is a simple process,” he says, “but it’s very susceptible – any little thing can affect the result.” That “simple process” takes three days from when he opens a bag of flour to when the croissant is ready to eat, and everything is made from scratch in house.

He begins by making a dough from flour, sugar, salt and yeast, which is left to sit overnight. The next day, he rolls it flat and folds it four times with a layer of butter in between each fold. That process is repeated twice, with a few hours for the dough to rest in between, and the number of layers grows exponentially with each fold. When asked how many layers his croissants have, Benhammouche simply laughs and says that there are more than he can count. It’s enough simply to know that “there are lots of layers. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a croissant”.

Once the many-layered pastry is carefully cut and rolled into crescent shapes, they sit overnight and after proving to allow the yeast to rise, finally go into the oven for 30 to 40 simultaneously lighter and richer. Once they come out of the oven and cool down, each brioche gets a fresh egg wash to make the surface so shiny you can almost see your reflection in it before being topped with a crown of sugar.

“Everything we do, we do in the traditional French artisan way,” Benhammouche says with obvious pride. And it’s a process that works well – he estimates that 90 per cent of his customers are regulars and nearby residents start wandering in as soon as the smell of cooked croissants wafts out of the fan at the top of the building on Magill road.

There’s a good reason that they get in early – once the pastries are sold out, the store shuts for the day. It’s why the vienoisserie’s business card encourages customers to call and ask for their order to be put aside, just to be safe.

Cannelle
123 Magill Rd, Stepney
(08) 8363 4200

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