In the spring of 2020, everyone became an expert at baking sourdough. Some especially motivated bakers opted for donuts, bagels, or perfecting the delicate macaron. But in the kitchen of Seattle chef Daniel Durand and partner Serena Rodriguez, the bake of the day was always flakey, buttery croissants. A trained pastry chef, Durand has always been drawn to French food and when he and Rodriguez were left with extra time thanks to the pandemic, they played off their strengths to form Pufftown Bakehouse.
Welcome to the wonderful (and highly technical) world of laminated puff pastry.
"I’ve focused on the savory side of food for pretty much my entire 15-year career," Durand said. "Now, making it transition into the pastry aspect of things is really cool and exciting. It’s been very fun to experiment and grow that side of my career."
The process to make Pufftown Bakehouse’s croissants takes three days of precision. To make a successful laminated puff pastry, the stars have to perfectly align when it comes to temperature of the dough, butter, and even the room temp. How quickly Durand and Rodriguez work also plays into the equation while the dough goes in and out of the fridge with periods of resting in between. The lamination process is also critical to get the croissant's flakey layers. The result, however, is surely worth the wait and the proof is plainly spelled out on the menu.
The Fourth Little Pig croissant combines a sweet and savory ham with sharp cheddar cheese which is totally acceptable for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. The Yabba-Dabba Doozy is a time machine back to Saturday morning cartoons with a Fruity Pebbles infused croissant with a sweet glaze and more pebbles crumbled on top. The Lemon Sucker Punch incorporates a lemon-infused butter with lemon cream and a lemon poppy seed glaze for a croissant truly worth waking up for.
Durand and Rodriguez said seasonal produce, flavors, and celebrations all play into the rotating menu at Pufftown.
"We focus on seasonality but we also take into consideration what sounds good right now and then we try for something a little bit different or something that people haven’t really seen before and go from there," Rodriguez said.
Aside from coming up with inventive flavors and getting the three-day bake done perfectly, the duo also ensures each croissant looks incredible.
"The first thing is making sure we have a quality croissant and then the flavor component and then the next step is how can I make this visually very appealing?" Durand said.
Rodriguez's experience working in the world of design gives Pufftown Bakehouse an extra useful aesthetic appeal.
"Because I work in interior design, I can be a little critical about what the pastries look like," she said. "I try not to be too critical but I think it’s super important to make sure they look really exciting."
Despite having the flavors and looks down, Durand and Rodriguez recently headed out on a scouting trip to Paris to dive headfirst into a hub of the laminated pastry. While the two gained inspiration on technique, shape, and flavor, they were especially impressed with the culture of the croissant.
"Pastries and croissants are straight-up everyday life there and it was cool to see how much of a culture it is," Durand said.
The Pufftown couple said they’d like to incorporate this culture into everyday life in Seattle. With their thoughtful and inventive flavors, this is certainly a culture we can get behind.
Find Pufftown Bakehouse croissants at Cortina Cafe every weekday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. located at 621 Union St. in downtown Seattle. Keep an eye on the Pufftown Bakehouse Instagram page for updates on popups and local availability.
Lauren Allain is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. See more of her work here.