(This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
Since opening in 2012, Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne, Australia has amassed a cult-like, global following, with celebrity devotees and customers lining up for blocks from dawn to closing to enjoy what have become known as the best croissants in the world. What started as a one-woman enterprise – with founder Kate Reid selling croissants wholesale to a handful of espresso bars in Melbourne – has grown to a bakery with five locations throughout Australia, with several more locations in the works. Riding this wave of popularity, Reid has also just released her debut cookbook, Lune: Croissants All Day, All Night (Hardie Grant Books, 2023; $40), an impressive tome that unlocks the secrets of her unique croissants, translating the techniques used at Lune in a user-friendly, detailed way for home bakers. We talked with Reid recently while she was in New York City for her book tour, asking her how her obsession with croissants began, and how she developed a formula for a croissant that has become the world’s gold standard.
What prompted your career move from your dream job of being an aerospace engineer with Formula One to co-owning a patisserie that makes the best croissants in the world?
I had wanted to work as an engineer in Formula One from about the age of 13 or 14 years old, and when I decide that I want to do something, I’m incredibly laser focused on it. So, from the moment I realized that, everything in my life became about achieving that goal. And I mean, I’m a 14-year-old with a pretty overactive imagination, and I don’t think much has changed now that I’m 40, but when you’re at high school and you go and do your week of work experience, that’s easy to do. If you want to be an accountant, you can go hang out in an office of an accountant, and maybe you’re just doing the photocopying, but at least you get to see what the environment’s like.
But Formula One is so incredibly secretive and difficult to get into, that a 14-year old can’t go and do work experience in an F1 office. And so I guess for that 10 year period where I was working towards getting a job in F1, I built up a pretty romantic picture of what my life was going to look like. And I had no illusions about it being hard work. And I mean, I love hard work, but I thought that it would be creative and collaborative and the best brains in the business really coming together and working on an exciting project that moves fast together. And the reality of working in F1 was very different from this vision that I’d built up, especially at the time that I was working at [Team] Williams, they weren’t leading the races. They were sort of mid-pack, and there’s an awful lot of pressure coming from many different directions, but in particular, the people who are paying the money, they want you up the front of the pack.
I think even though I failed miserably making croissants twice when I got back from France, I figured that if I just kept working at it, I’d get it.
So, the pressure is real, and it’s pretty negative. We worked maybe 16 or 17 hours a day. Conversation in the office was discouraged, so it was a pretty quiet, low inspiration office. I mean, my salary was something like 13,000 pounds a year. And you didn’t ask for a raise. You didn’t make noises about that because you find out pretty early on that every week about 3,000 resumes land on the desk of the HR office. So, if you don’t want it, then there’s a lot of people nipping at your heels. So, all of that culminated in me being pretty unhappy that I’d moved my whole life to the UK for this dream job, and it wasn’t translating as I’d imagined. And I developed depression, which kind of went undiagnosed, but then that manifested into an eating disorder. So rather than it being a decision to leave Formula One, I guess the decision sort of got taken out of my hands when I got down to 39 kilos.
And my partner at the time was incredibly worried about me. He got to the point where he didn’t know what to do anymore, and it was damaging our relationship, and I had no life and I wasn’t healthy. So, he called my parents and he said, “Look, I’m really worried about Kate. I think she needs to go back to Australia.” So honestly, I think if I hadn’t gotten that sick, I’m stubborn and determined enough that I might have stuck out a job that I didn’t love because I’d worked so hard to get there.
But I guess the silver lining of getting sick was that I had this completely clean slate and I got to start my life again. And the flip side of an eating disorder is that it’s torture, and it’s ironic, but all you can think about is food, because you are literally, your body is starving, and it’s just sending signals to your brain all day that it needs fuel and energy. And when you’re hungry, you don’t dream about eating lettuce, you dream about eating basically your naughty treat, and for me, my absolute vice is baked goods. So, all I could think about was decadent baked goods. And instead of eating them, I discovered that the process of baking allows you to live vicariously through the final baked good, but also procuring the ingredients and bringing together things that are inedible when they’re raw. You can’t nibble on raw flour or raw sugar, but through the science and magic of baking, when you bring these ingredients together, you create something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. And so you can live vicariously through the process of baking. But then I’d do that after a terrible day at work, and I’d take the, whatever I’d baked, a slab of brownie or cookies or a cake, I’d take it into work the next day. And at morning teatime, everyone would actually stop. And it was this one moment of community in the office where you could see how much joy it was bringing people, even if it was just that 10 minutes with a cup of tea. And I guess I started to form my love of baking through that. So, I came back to Australia and had the idea that maybe I could pursue a career in baking. And I’m pretty sure my parents thought at this point in time, “We’ve got this daughter that’s a qualified aerospace engineer who was working in Formula One, and now she’s working on the counter of a bakery just selling scones and cakes and stuff.”
But for the first time in a long time, I was actually happy. And I mean, the process of recovery from the eating disorder was a few years. They’re incredibly hard to beat. And so I feel very lucky that I now sit here very healthy, but it was really discovering a new love for me that allowed me to overcome the eating disorder. So essentially there was no room for it in my head anymore, because I discovered this new passion that was really fulfilling me, where Formula One didn’t.
After doing a stage at one of Paris’ most celebrated boulangeries, Du Pain et des Idèes, you went home to Melbourne and tried to reproduce the croissants you made in Paris. Your results were subpar, so you made a decision to open a bakery that only made croissants. You obviously love a challenge! What obstacles did you face at the beginning, and how did you overcome them?
Well, I think when I decide that I want to do something… I never feel scared about embarking on a goal that I’ve decided I want to achieve because I mean, I’m privileged. I was born in middle class Australia. I was given a great education, and because I have all of that, I know that if I decide that I want something, if I work really hard and I research and put myself out there and get experience and become an expert in something, then why would I fail? I think we all have the ability, given the privilege that we’ve been born into that just working hard is the only way to get something. So yeah, I think even though I failed miserably making croissants twice when I got back from France, I figured that if I just kept working at it, I’d get it.
But that’s an interesting point. So, I spent a month at a boulangerie doing the stage in Paris, and I probably only learned about 10 or 20 percent of the process. But when I got back to Australia, I bought a couple of cookbooks for the home baker that included recipes for croissants. And I’m like, “Well, I’ve got the experience from Paris, and now I have a recipe in front of me. This will be easy.” But these two recipes that I tried when I was making them the dough was a bit crumbly and it was cold. And every time I tried to roll it out, it kept springing back. And I kept blaming myself. I’m like, “I’ve done something wrong here because it feels wrong,” but the person who wrote the recipe can’t be wrong because they’re the expert. But I think now with 10 years of experience of making croissants behind me, and also the experience of having written the cookbook, it wasn’t me making the mistake. It was the person who’d written the recipe not giving me the information I needed to succeed.
How are Lune croissants different from other croissants?
There are a number of technical things that logistically make it different. In Lune’s croissants, the layers are slightly fewer and fractionally thicker than a classic croissant. Not that the average punter would notice – I’m talking fractions of a millimeter thicker. When you take a bite of a classic croissant, like a million tiny little delicate flaky bits fall off. With the Lune croissant, when you take a bite, you get this delicate shatter. So, from a textural perspective, it’s a little bit crunchier on the outside, and the layers inside are slightly thicker and they just seem to hold the butter better. Also, a Lune croissant is 43 percent butter, and most classic croissants are between 25 and 33 percent. So, it’s significantly more than a normal one. And for me, a croissant should truly be a celebration of the butter. I mean, if you can’t taste the butter in a croissant, then you may as well just eat a bread roll. I wanted it to be an incredibly buttery experience, but it’s also not greasy, and the method and the temperatures and times that I figured out to proof and bake the croissants lock in the butter. So, it’s not greasy when you eat it, but it is a genuinely buttery experience. And I think the final difference in a Lune croissant to most other bakeries is that we bake fresh constantly throughout the day. So at any given point in time, if you walk into Lune, there is an oven with fresh croissants. Nothing that you are served from our fresh range will be older than 15 or 20 minutes. So it’s still warm, and that’s a really unusual experience. Most bakeries bake up everything before their doors open, and then they just progressively sell as the day goes on based on what they baked in the morning. But to get a fresh croissant is a truly special experience.
I see in your book you’ve got some recipes for desserts made with croissants – do you sell those at Lune?
We don’t sell desserts made from croissants, but we have an experience at Lune called Lune Lab, and it’s a multi-course degustation celebrating croissants. And we have this beautiful bar that overlooks the cube, which is at that glass room in the middle of the bakery, which is our raw pastry kitchen. And you can book a seat at the bar, and we run two sessions on a Saturday and two on a Sunday, and you start with a traditional croissant that’s 10 minutes out of the oven, and then you have a savory experimental course and a sweet experimental course. So that’s more the dessert, and we change the menu every two months to reflect seasonality and local produce. So it’s kind of like the first class ticket to Lune.
Probably the top three pastries that we sell are the traditional croissant, the almond croissant, and the ham and gruyere. But I think because we sell out every day, and the more specialized flavors we make in limited quantities – because they’re just technically more difficult to make – if we could make the same quantity of them that we are making of traditional croissants, then there’s a chance that we would sell as many of them as well. So I think from a numbers game, the traditional croissant is the one we sell the most, but I think maybe the most popular because it sells out the fastest, might be the kouign-amann or the lemon curd cruffin. That’s a Lune mainstay.
Did you invent the cruffin?
Yeah, so I think it happened as a bit of an accident. It was in late 2012 when I was supplying small espresso bars in Melbourne with croissants before I had a little shopfront. One of the cafes that I would deliver to, I’d show up every morning and he’d immediately grab a croissant out of the box and eat it. And I’d think to myself, “You are taking that out of the mouth of a customer.” So one night when I was shaping the croissants, I had a bit of scrap pastry left from cutting the top and bottom of the batch off. And I thought, it’s just going in the bin at the moment. I’m just going to knot it up and drop it in a muffin tin and bake it up as a joke and have that for him in the morning instead of a croissant. I took it into him, and I think I piped a bit of Nutella into the middle of it to just make it a bit more interesting. And I dropped off the pastries and he called me 10 minutes later and he went, “That is the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten. Can I order two dozen of them for Friday? And we should call them a cruffin, like a croissant muffin. So the cruffin was born, and so sometimes it blows my mind. I started seeing them then maybe a few months later pop up in bakeries around the world. I think maybe about a year later, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse had started making cruffins, and then someone told me that they’d seen it in a supermarket in Perth on the other side of Australia, and then bakeries in Dubai were making them. And I’m thinking, “This is insane.” This all started because I was trying to use up some scrap pastry for a customer.
When you take a bite of a classic croissant, like a million tiny little delicate flaky bits fall off. With the Lune croissant, when you take a bite, you get this delicate shatter.
Tell us about the glass enclosed lab where you make your croissants – it’s pristine!
I own Lune now with my brother. He joined me about two years after I founded the business. When we moved from the small shop into our current flagship store in Melbourne, it was this giant turn-of-the-century warehouse that was empty, bigger than a basketball court, and it was way too big for what we needed at the time. Have you ever seen the movie Oceans 11? Well in the movie they get that disused warehouse down at the docks, and they build the perfect replica of a bank vault in the middle so they can practice breaking into it. So, I think we got inspired by that, because it’s a very nondescript factory warehouse in a backstreet in Fitzroy, and we’re like, “Imagine having no markings on the outside of this building, but then people peering in a window and just seeing this almost space laboratory in the center that looks nothing like a bakery, and people just thinking, wow, what is that?”
So there were theatrics as the seed of the idea, but also when we moved into that space, it’s pretty common for the raw pastry room in a bakery to be a windowless room out the back. And if you are the raw pastry chef, you might not see daylight for the entire day. And we didn’t want that. At that time, [my brother] Cam and I were doing all the raw pastry work and we’re like, “I want to be out there seeing people enjoy it.” It’s incredibly motivating. You’ve toiled for three days making this pastry, and then you see them have this blissful moment eating it and you’re like, “All our hard work has been worth it.” So we wanted to see people enjoying the pastry. We wanted to be part of the action. So that was our main motivation. But also, you can’t climate control a 400-square-meter, old warehouse. It’s near impossible. It would’ve cost us a fortune. It’s much easier to do one small room. And the final benefit of doing that glass cube is, and I think maybe this is the biggest one, it means people can see the entirety of the raw process of making a croissant.
And I think most people don’t think about it when they bite into it, the work that’s gone into it. But being able to witness the pastry chefs making them, it gives you a whole new respect and admiration for what a croissant is. And suddenly it’s not this mindless thing that you’re putting in your mouth, it’s a work of art and architecture and engineering that happens to just be delicious. So it’s very hypnotic to watch the pastry chefs working in this room. And we have a lot of people that just sit up there for a couple of hours just mesmerized by them.
…a Lune croissant is 43 percent butter, and most classic croissants are between 25 and 33 percent. So, it’s significantly more than a normal one. And for me, a croissant should truly be a celebration of the butter. I mean, if you can’t taste the butter in a croissant, then you may as well just eat a bread roll.
Your new book is a work of art, too! You obviously put a lot of time and effort into it, ensuring that people at home would be able to make a memorable croissant. How did you approach this process?
So I think the first thing that’s important to note is that I signed the contract just before Melbourne went into its second huge lockdown in the pandemic. Melbourne has the infamous title of being the most locked down city in the world. And in this big lockdown, my general manager at Lune made the difficult decision to send all the people that weren’t operational on a daily basis home. So I’d signed the contract and I found myself stuck in my little apartment in Fitzroy, and all I had was my kitchen. I wasn’t surrounded by a state-of-the-art pastry kitchen designed for croissants. I had a KitchenAid, a rolling pin, and a domestic oven. I’m like, “Well, you know what? If I’m going to start writing this book and recipe testing, maybe it’s good that I’m surrounded by all the same things that everyone out there that’s going to buy the book will have.” So maybe if we hadn’t been in a lockdown, and I have been at Lune, I might have cheated a bit and used the Lune kitchen, but suddenly I had had to look at it from the way everyone else will look at it. And no one’s got a pastry sheeter in their kitchen.
So I started to think about ideas for how to change the laminating technique. So incorporating the butter into the dough, because from previous experience of trying to make it from other people’s home cookbooks, I’d had trouble doing it. And I was testing and I was sort of making some headway, but I’d get to a point, typically it was the point where I was doing the final rollout and I was still having that issue with the dough springing back. So the gluten had developed so much and I’d started to beat my head against a brick wall with it, but I’d kind of cheated because I was getting the chefs at Lune to make me two kilos of dough every day so I could practice the laminating. And it finally dawned on me that I don’t think that it was my ideas for changing the laminating that was the problem. It was actually the dough itself that was the problem. And I needed to change properties of the actual croissant dough to make it easier to roll out with a rolling pin. So I went down the rabbit hole of researching pre-ferments, which we don’t use at Lune because we’ve got a pastry sheeter.
And I landed on the poolish, which is a 100 percent hydration, and adding a poolish into a dough increases the extensibility of the dough, which makes it easier to roll out. And I tried that, and the first time it worked perfectly. And all my ideas for the different way to laminate butter into the dough was starting to work. And I got this amazing end product. And because I’m an engineer, I thought, “Well, it worked once, but maybe that was potluck. I should try this a couple of times again.” So over the course of the next week, I tried it a few times, and every time I tried it, it worked perfectly. It was again, I guess a process of engineering and experimentation.
What’s next for you and Lune?
Yeah, actually very exciting things. So at the moment in Australia, we have three stores in Melbourne and two stores in Brisbane. And I think the really long awaited one, the people who live in Sydney have been shouting at us for many years, “When are we getting a Lune?” And that’s finally happening this year. So we’d signed a lease on an amazing site before the pandemic, but then that fell through over the last couple of years and we ended up finding an even better site. So that’ll be opening in the second half of the year. And then we’ve already signed the lease on a second site in Sydney as well, which will probably follow six months after that. But I think beyond that, when we have stores in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, I think myself and my brother and our other business partner, we will start to look overseas. There are good croissants in New York, but there’s nothing like a Lune croissant yet, so who knows? Well, I mean, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, so I can think of worse places to live.
Photos by Pete Dillon
A recipe for those of us who love our coffee, and are lucky enough to have access to espresso coffee at home! Every element of this twice baked incorporates lifegiving caffeine, so I’d recommend preparing these for a morning treat, otherwise you may be awake all night from the coffee and sugar high! Normally I would consider this recommendation absolute sacrilege, but a friend once told me that stashing a Mocha Twice Baked in the fridge, then serving cold slices of it with vanilla ice cream, was her guilty pleasure. I can confirm she is absolutely right.
Yield: 6 croissants
Espresso Hazelnut Frangipane
- 200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 200 g superfine granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 30 g espresso (1 shot)
- 100 g natural almond meal
- 100 g hazelnut meal
- Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to beat and waiting until each one is incorporated fully before adding the next, then add the espresso and beat until incorporated.
- Mix in the natural almond meal and hazelnut meal. Scrape the bowl down well and give it a final mix by hand to ensure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Transfer the frangipane into a piping bag fitted with a size 11 star nozzle.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 250 g dark chocolate buttons
- 37.5 g unsalted butter
- 18 g liquid glucose
- 175 g heavy cream
- Put the chocolate, butter and glucose in a heatproof bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the cream until just below boiling point. I recommend watching the cream, as it comes to the boil quickly!
- Pour the cream over the prepared ingredients in the heatproof bowl and whisk until the mixture has a smooth and glossy consistency.
Coffee Crème Patisserie
- 300 g milk
- 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 30 g (1 shot) espresso
- 50 g superfine granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 10 g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 10 g cornstarch, sifted
- Heat the milk, vanilla and espresso in a saucepan to just below boiling point, taking care to not allow a skin to form.
- Meanwhile, put the superfine sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk well to combine, until the mixture is pale and light. Whisk in the all-purpose flour and cornstarch and whisk well again to combine.
- When the milk is just about to boil, pour the milk gradually into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate. Now pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pan. Whisk the mixture continually over a medium heat until it begins to boil, and carry on whisking for about 3 minutes on the boil, until the crème pâtissière reaches a nice thick consistency.
- Take off the heat and pour into a clean bowl. Place cling film over the surface of the crème pâtissière to prevent a skin from forming, then store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Just before assembling the mocha twice bakeds, take the coffee crème pâtissière from the fridge, remove the cling film, and loosen with a whisk. Fill a piping bag with the custard and transfer the remaining into a sealed container and reserve in the fridge.
- Transfer the room-temperature chocolate ganache into a piping bag. It is important that the ganache has been allowed to firm up a little as you want it to hold its shape when piped.
Espresso Sugar Syrup
- 500 g water
- 220 g superfine granulated sugar
- 60 g (2 shots) espresso
- Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then bring the syrup to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the espresso.
Coffee Icing Drizzle
- 500 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 30 g (1 shot) espresso
- 1 teaspoon milk (optional)
- Mix all the ingredients together until thick, but still runny enough to drizzle. If it is too thick, add a teaspoon of milk, whisk in the milk and check the consistency again. Once you are happy with the ‘drizzle factor’ of the icing, immediately transfer it into a disposable piping bag.
Assembling, Baking and Finishing
- 6 day-old croissants
- Confectioners’ sugar
- 180 g chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (180°C) with fan and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Using a large serrated knife, cut the croissants in half. Brush the cut side of both halves of each croissant generously with the warm espresso sugar syrup. Pipe a generous wiggle of espresso hazelnut frangipane on the bottom half of each croissant.
- Cut a small hole in the tip of the chocolate ganache piping bag (3 to 4 mm), then pipe a squiggle of ganache on top of the frangipane. Repeat for each of the 6 croissant bases.
- Now cut a slightly bigger hole (5 to 6 mm) in the tip of the coffee crème pâtissière piping bag and pipe one long seam, end to end, along the base of each croissant, on top of the squiggle of chocolate ganache. Repeat for each of the 6 croissant bases.
- Replace the top half of each croissant, cupping your hand and gently securing each top. Finish each croissant off by piping a seam of espresso hazelnut frangipane across the top, then press a handful of chopped hazelnuts into the frangipane seam.
- Place the prepared croissants on the lined baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the frangipane inside is set. Unlike other twice bakeds, because the Mocha incorporates both chocolate ganache and coffee crème pat inside the croissant, checking to see if the frangipane is baked by carefully lifting the lid of the croissant will not be an accurate test, as we have introduced more moisture to the filling. If you have baked any of the previous twice baked recipes, apply the same baking time for the Mocha that was required for them.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Finally, cut a tiny hole in the tip of the coffee icing drizzle piping bag and, zigzagging back and forth over the croissant, drizzle the coffee icing across the top of the Mocha Twice Baked. Wait only as long as it takes for the coffee icing drizzle to set before serving, perhaps paired with a flat white?
Excerpted with permission from Lune by Kate Reid published by Hardie Grant Books, February 2023, RRP $40.00 Hardcover.