CW: swearing

Google says that a synonym, or near synonym, for frustration is feeling thwarted. The word is a tremendous descriptor of my current emotional state. While frustration conjures images of steam billowing from ears or that red-faced emoji, thwarted belongs to a whole different world. In my mind, the words ‘bequeath,’ ‘charcuterie,’ and ‘thus’ are also in this universe: all are whimsically unnecessary. ‘Bequeath’ is a posh way of saying ‘give’; ‘charcuterie’ is a plate with snacks on, and ‘thus’ means that my essay has not reached the word count quite yet. Whimsical unnecessariness is precisely my current state—because I have decided to make croissants.

In my opinion, making croissants should be the final test before becoming a doctor, teacher, or any other high-stress job that involves dealing with the public. A croissant will throw at you every challenge that life (by which I mean BBC Good Food or Sally’s Baking Addiction) has to offer. You may be thinking that this is a slight exaggeration, but I have several credentials that make me an expert in frustration. I have given out golf clubs to fathers in long shorts with big pockets at the Center Parcs golf course. I have learnt to deal with the consequences of handing them a slightly bent club or letting them in on time instead of early. I have shown my grandma how to print a Word Document on her pre-war printer, and explained to my grandad that the reason why his phone may be a little slow is because he hasn’t closed a tab in 8 years. I have even studied for exams whilst my mum teaches violin, to primary school kids, directly below my bedroom.

To top it off (if you couldn’t tell by my use of the word ‘bequeath’) I do an English degree. It does involve a fair amount of whimsy, but it is not quite the same as making croissants, and thus I cannot ‘bequeath’ it the same status. Doing an English degree makes me feel academic and wise, making it a serious business. Crafting a croissant, in short, does not.

While croissanting is nothing but pain, stress, and overall seriousness, the lexicon around a croissant is nothing but whimsy, mocking you until the fuckers are in the oven. To begin with, every recipe (unless you have decided to use the ‘ruff-tuff’ method, like an imbecile) involves ‘laminating’ the dough with a sheet of butter. Which is a ridiculous word. A better word would be ‘overlay,’ which has no connotations of plastic-covered paper or wood flooring. Even the verb form of ‘sandwich,’ which has an element of joy because it relates to a tasty treat, would be preferable to ‘laminate.’ I can only assume ‘laminate’ was chosen based on its higher number of syllables, making bakers sound learned when discussing croissant-related procedure.

In order to laminate a dough, one must craft a sheet of butter, a task hard enough when butter is not a material well suited to the form of a sheet. Heaven help you if you have a kitchen warmer than the Arctic Tundra or, indeed, colder than the Arctic Tundra, because this will stop your butter melting into your dough, preventing those magical, flaky layers from forming. To make matters worse, some recipes (The Flavour Bender’s recipe, for example) use the French terms. I can cope with ‘bain-marie,’ in part because ‘pan of hot water being heated gently with a bowl in it so you can melt something slowly without burning it and you can add things without having to take it out and put it back in the microwave’ is a mouthful. Also, it implies that you are putting Marie in the bath. However, this does not give Mr Flavour Bender an excuse to call a butter sheet a ‘tourrage,’ or a dough a ‘detrempe.’ I can excuse such pathological whimsy in a whimsical situation. Charcuterie is not just a funny word, but it also describes a plate combining a multitude of pretty snacks, which only requires a stress-free simple assemblage. That quaintness, playfulness and joy excuses ‘charcuterie.’ But with regard to the anguish involved with making croissants, ‘tourrage’ is ridiculing. It is like replacing Stonehenge with an Iceland: totally inappropriate.

Once you have become used to the initial shock of the word ‘laminate,’ you must then repeat the process of lamination three times, taking at least a half-hour interval in the fridge between each lamination, so good luck if you have any kind of afternoon plans. After this, you must shape the croissants. No, they will not be uniform. Yes, you may have to Google what ‘isosceles’ means. Once these flaky horrors have entered the oven, you will wash up your rolling pin, glance at the oven to see sad, wet lumps of dough. Your lamination has failed you. Your flaccid pastry sits in a pool of butter. Your ancestors, Mary Berry and Mr Bender, laugh. You weep. Despite your best efforts, you have been thwarted.

Now then, the million-dollar question. Why am I making croissants? The answer to this is that I have been told to read Paradise Lost, which is very long and difficult, and unfortunately reading it is not making me feel academic or wise. My solution to this is croissants. There is nothing like the feeling of defeat when I attempt these buttery monsters to heighten my need for academic validation, which will subsequently fuel my reading of this godforsaken poem. On top of this, making croissants stimulates my brain constantly, because I can never escape looming defeat when embarking on the process. This pressure, I believe, applies itself more generally to my brain, and really, the proof is in the pudding. I am making croissants as we speak. I have also written this, been swimming, and started Paradise Lost. However, the moral of the story is not to make croissants. By all means, have a go, you might even be good at it. I would suggest, though, that everyone needs to find their own croissant. Everyone could do with a good thwarting.

I shall now return to my third lamination. – recommended. – recommended if you don’t mind reading a recipe the length of the aforementioned Paradise Lost. – not recommended (French words).