Note from Doni: My earliest memory of Andrea Charroin was many years ago at the Redding Farmers Market. A line of customers waited to buy Andrea’s scones and cups of Peet’s coffee. Week after week, the line grew and customers came and clamored for Andrea’s scones that quickly sold out, in such flavors as lemon and ginger, apricot, berry and chocolate.
Over the years I interviewed and wrote about Andrea many times: from the story about the opening of her bakery, Rene-Joule Patisserie, and her profile, to a food feature about her popular Marathon Bars.
Andrea is a talented chef and baker, and when she closed her restaurant, she left scores of sad customers, many of whom can still name their favorite Andrea creations. (I still dream about a small apricot tart I ate at her restaurant once.)
Yes, Andrea can create culinary magic. But she is also an incredible human being; a devoted wife, mother, friend and tireless community advocate. She is the kind of woman who continues to quietly bring food to grieving families, months after the sympathy cards have stopped. She is the kind of woman every community needs.
Q: I can’t seem to master pie crust. Any secret tips?
Annette F. , Redding
A: This is probably the most frequently asked question this time of year. Most pie recipes you find, and they are abundant, are going to be a combination of flour, fat and water. They all have their merits. Choose one that represents what you would like in a pie crust.
The trick is to keep everything COLD. What I suggest is that you put the flour, butter, and sugar (if you are using sugar) into a bowl and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the crust. When it is time to add the ice water, add salt to the water (salt water has a lower freezing temperature and will be COLDER than regular ice water).
Handle the dough as little as possible. After you have finished making your dough, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Resting the dough assures that the flavors marry and that your dough will be easier to roll out. Rolling out the dough is a task that can be challenging. If the dough is too cold, the dough will be tough to roll out and possibly crack. If the dough is warm, it will stick and becomes a slimy mess.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Persevere and you will achieve pie dough nirvana.
As you roll, keep the dough moving, making sure there is a light dusting of flour on the table and rolling pin. With each pass of the rolling pin, I move my dough a quarter of a turn clockwise, working in a circular pattern.
Another suggestion: After you have placed your dough in the baking pan, before your beautiful pie crust is filled; put the crust in the freezer one more time for at least 30 minutes prior to baking. Freezing the crust before baking reduces the shrinkage that frequently happens.
I wish you happy baking and much success with your pie crusts!
Question: What is your favorite baking memory?
George C. , Redding
A: Thanks for asking, George! Baking evokes many memories for me. The smell of sourdough baking reminds me of cracking off the warm ends just as they come out of the oven and slathering on the butter and savoring each morsel. Baking anything with chocolate brings thoughts of my chocoholic husband rationalizing his frequent samples by helping me refine my recipes. Working with biscuit dough is a favorite activity of my boys, so those moments are always a treasure.
Also: Baking a batch of cinnamon rolls with my favorite croissant dough Christmas morning for my family Christmas gift. Eating in our jammies and watching the kids open gifts with such excitement and joy. The smell of butter and sugar is instrumental to my Christmas morning. I think I am more excited about waking up and racing to make my family their favorite goodie than the kids are to get to the treasures that Santa has left them!
Happy Holidays to you all!
I will be happy to answer all of your baking questions. Please send your question(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Andrea Charroin was a trained baker and pastry chef in San Francisco before she, her husband Westley, and their two sons moved to Redding nine years ago. After falling in love with Redding’s downtown, Andrea and Westley opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie, across from the Cascade Theatre. For the three years Rene-Joule was in business, it was renowned for making everything from scratch, using the best ingredients and keeping with a seasonal menu. To this day, Andrea is still asked about her Marathon Bars, Orange Twists and sourdough bread.