Andrea Charroin
Q&A Expert
Baking Goddess


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 and3rea@yahoo.com. 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.

Andrea Charroin
Andrea Charroin is a trained baker and pastry chef. She worked in San Francisco before she, her husband, Westley, and their two sons moved to Redding. They fell in love with Redding’s downtown and opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie.
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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Celeste White says:

    Andrea–thanks so much for the tips on making good pastry dough! I have a recipe (my mom's) that I'm pretty happy with, but this information should make it even better! I am definitely one of those former customers who still mourns the loss of Rene-Joule–not only for the delicious baked goods, but for the wonderful feeling of comraderie that existed in your bakery. It was my version of "Cheers" and I would often stop in not only for your fantastic bread or desserts but for the feeling that I had a place to hang out where everyone who worked there knew my name and was glad to see me. I hope some place like that may rise again, but in the meantime, thanks again for all that you've given to the community, and I'm glad that you're enjoying having more time with your family and not working so hard.

  2. Avatar Brandon Rogers says:

    I still proudly wear my rene-joule tee-shirt and savor my memories of the ham and cheese scone….

  3. Avatar Sal says:

    I personally miss the " Wes" sandwich. The best ever.

  4. Avatar sandi thompson says:

    Rene-Joule was my favorite "hangout" for morning coffee, croissant or a marathon bar. I, too, loved that everybody knew my name and it was like having breakfast with my family. I miss it, but know that life has moved on for your family. I love running into you around town and hearing about how you are working in the education field. Lucky us that you decided to stay in Redding; your smiling face and many contributions have made a difference. Thank you.

  5. Avatar Mike Nelson says:

    Thank you Andrea and Doni for sharing your Marathon Bar Recipe. I make them twice a month and they are my wife's breakfast at least three days a week. Yum! I had hoped you would open at a new location. Is that wish just "pie in the sky?"

  6. Avatar Tammy D says:

    Andrea,

    I would like to start a sour-dough starter and then make various breads with it. What do you recommend?

    Tammy

  7. Avatar amber asaro says:

    Mmmm the ham & cheese scone! Also, the cream of eggplant soup that Rene-Joule served from time to time was amazing. Thanks for the tips Andrea!

    -amber

  8. Avatar Jenny says:

    Andrea's Buttercups from Rene-Joule were my favorite (next to her "secret breakfast" of eggs on a bed of arugula and lemonjuice, which I just made for a friend yesterday!) Her Buttercups reminded me of a sweet version of the popovers my mother used to make. I don't have the nerve to make popovers or souffle, as my Julia-Child-loving mother did. Any hints, other than having a family that is willing to sit down immediately and eat before they deflate?

  9. Avatar Andrea Charroin says:

    Hi Everyone, Andrea here.

    Thank you for sharing such lovely memories of Rene-Joule. I miss seeing all of your beautiful faces!

    To answer a few questions, Tammy, look for my sourdough Q & A (but if you are itching to make the starter now just e-mail me) .

    Cheers!

  10. Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

    Doni here, I found the comment below from Andrea's aunt on the pot pie and memorial wreath project stories and moved it here where it belongs. (Tammy D, I liked your question about sourdough. I look forward to Andrea's answer, too.)

    6. Linda G. Lambert – December 20, 2007[Edit]

    Hello, I am Andrea’s Aunt in Oklahoma. We, too, have enjoyed her delicious recipes, but not often enough. She is just amazing at all she does, we are so proud of her and all of her accomplishments especially her dedication and love to her family. Have any of you had her Jumbalaya? It is to die for. Her Uncle Phil thinks it is the best ever. Congratulations, and good luck with the questions.

    Love from your family in Oklahoma!

  11. Avatar Andrea Charroin says:

    Hi Jenny, thanks for the question. I LOVE souffles, they are just a delight to see. A few hints for you.

    Your souffle dish needs to be heavly buttered. If you you are making a sweet souffle sprinkle in some sugar to coat the butter. Dump out any remaining sugar. If you are making a savory souffle toss in some bread crumbs like the sugar.

    Make a 'collar' out of parchment paper that goes around the souffle dish. Be sure to butter the inside. The collar creates more height, which helps when you want to show off and need to get the beautiful souffle to the table.

    Egg whites need to be SUPER SUPER STIFF. Just don't let them get grainy.

    Your oven needs to be piping HOT.

    Sadly, you really do have about 3 minutes to serve before the souffle starts to loose some air.

    Souffle aux Framboise

    (raspberry souffle)

    12 oz raspberry jam (strained)

    juice of 1/2 lemon

    5 egg whites

    1 teaspoon sugar

    1 cup fresh raspberries

    Preheat oven to 400.

    Heavily butter a 4-cup souffle dish (or small individual) Sprinkle it with sugar, tap out excess. Sprinkle the bottom of the dish with a layer of fresh raspberries. Wrap a parchment collar around your souffle mold. Set asside.

    Add lemon juice to jam. In a clean bowl, Stiffly whip the egg whites, beat in the sugar, and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold about one quarter of the egg whites into the jam mixture, then add that mixture to the remaining eggwhites. Fold them together LIGHTLY and pour into the prepared mold.

    Bake 15-20 minutes, until puffed.

    Serve immediatley with a small glass of Framboise liquer to pour into the middle of the souffle when it is placed on the table.

    Now go bake!

  12. Avatar Jessica says:

    In Praise of Andrea…what a spectacular friend she can be. When my mother was dying of cancer, Andrea would show up frequently bearing baskets of scones and other goodies, nibbled by Mom and devoured by all of us who were giving care. Andrea reinforced Mom's lifelong lesson that preparing food can be a marvelous act of love. Thanks again, Andrea.