It’s 3 a.m. and Jonni Scott is making tomorrow’s croissants. She’s methodical, folding and rolling the dense sheet of dough and butter while she breaks down every element of what she’s doing. It’s 3 a.m. and Junction Bakery is a bright white star on a dark and quiet suburban street. It’s 3 a.m. and while Executive Pastry Chef Scott tends to the croissants, a team of four people are shaping baguettes, baking pastries, finishing pastries, mixing dough and prepping sourdough. It’s 3 a.m. and Scott hasn’t had a sip of coffee.
Later on, Scott will bring it up, explaining, “I don’t like the flavor… or the way caffeine makes me feel,” as she ricochets from station to station. In the five hours I spend at Junction Bakery, watching Scott pipe and shape and cut and mix and fold and bake, she never stops. Occasionally, she’ll take three seconds to have a sip of water and put on some chapstick (which she calls a hydration break), but she never sits down. Or leans against a table. Or checks her phone. From 3:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (and often later) Scott is a beam of pure, quiet energy. It’s an 80 hour week, but she makes it look like a breeze.
As the day goes on, she gets faster, bouncing from croissant to entremet to eclairs, but it’s still early and she’s entirely focused on croissants. Baking the french pastries is a three day process that involves an hour of work in between hours of letting the dough sit and rest.
“The best way to describe the croissant process is ‘tedious’,” Scott jokes. The dough and butter blocks (Junction uses a European brand) are prepped the evening before and spend all night resting in the fridge. When Scott comes in the next day, she wraps the butter in the dough and uses an industrial dough sheeter to stretch the block of butter and dough out. She then folds that block again and again and again and again, creating alternate layers of butter and dough. When Scott is done, the dough (which is referred to as laminated dough) will have more than 100 layers.
This morning, Scott is making two books of croissants (named after the book fold), which equals about 120 pastries. Some are wholesale and some will be on display at the front of the bakery, but despite the tedious process, this is a cake walk for her. In past jobs, she’s made six to eight books a day. “You just go on autopilot,” she says.
Once Scott has her hundred layers, the dough takes a nap. Which is exactly what I’d like to do. Instead, we start prepping the desserts at 4:30 a.m. As she begins piping delicate butterscotch eclairs, Scott admits that while she likes croissants, she prefers the creativity that comes with making desserts. Today, she plans to finish the eclairs, some pistachio entremets and her milk chocolate and salted caramel cremeux, plus she wants to finalize her special Valentine’s Day dessert recipe. She’s surrounded by a Mt. Everest sized pile of sugar and carbs on the daily, so it’s no surprise that when she’s eating sweets at home, she likes to keep it classic.
“I have at least one chocolate chip cookie every day,” she admits. The recipe she offers at Junction is called the quadruple Valrhona chocolate cookie, but it actually features five kinds of chocolate. Chef Scott is serious when it comes to her cookies.
Like the croissants, the dessert process is relatively seamless. While Scott whips up her beautiful concoctions, I nail down her schedule. After working a 16 hour day, her boyfriend (who also works as a chef in the industry) and her will go out to eat or grab takeout. Her favorite restaurants in the city include Reverie (“the prettiest food I’ve eaten in a long time,”) and Brothers & Sisters, but she’s basically a regular at Bantam King, saying, “I’ve been there at least 30 times.”
After eating, most nights Scott spends winding down and watching shows like Riverdale and The Secret Life of the American Teenager until 8 p.m. (which is the latest she can stay up and feel rested for work), but she also has a soft spot for cooking shows. She doesn’t watch anything to do with pastries or baking, but loves Ted Allen and Guy Fieri (“Take me to Flavor Town,” she jokes). Growing up, she was interested in cooking, but her mom ruled the kitchen, so instead, she fell into baking.
Scott works like a conductor, tweaking things and checking items off her to-do list. Just as she finishes finalized the decorations for her strawberry champagne mousse cake, we start talking aesthetics. Her interest in photography and Instagram hasn’t only changed the way people eat, it’s changed the way she bakes.
“Instagram holds us to a higher standard,” she says, “I tell my chefs, if you don’t want [a pastry] to get tagged on Instagram, I don’t want to see it out front.”
Around 7 a.m. the croissant dough is done resting and it’s time to shape. Scott lightly flours a wooden table and stretches the dough out. With a ruler, she marks the length of each croissant. Almond croissants are the easiest, their square shape means Scott just has the roll the dough around the cold frangipane filling. Her classic and everything flavored croissants are more complex because of their tapered shape. For those, Scott cuts the dough into equal, interlaced triangles and rolls them starting from the wide base. At the end, she’ll have a bunch of pale mini croissants that will get much bigger as they proof and bake. Any scraps of dough are thrown into a bin and used to make their glazed monkey bread.
By the end of the morning, I’m exhausted. Sitting at the front of the bakery and indulging in Scott’s desserts (plus some breakfast sandwiches) feels like a hard earned victory. While I eat and rest and eat some more (I can promise you Junctions savory options are just as good as their sweet), Scott is still working in the back. The long hours and constant standing don’t phase her. The only time she seems bothered, the one thing that annoys her day in and day out is the constant dusting of flour that covers her hands, her uniform and her shoes.
“I clean my shoes everyday,” she says, “the flour never comes out.”