This feature originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.
Bennison’s Bakery has been a Chicago North Shore institution since 1938, earning a reputation as a popular full-line bakery that specializes in European-style pastries, cookies and custom-decorated cakes. In 1975, Jory Downer followed in his father’s footsteps to join the bakery after learning the craft from his father, Guy, and attending culinary school and classes to improve his skill, eventually achieving the rank of Certified Master Baker from the Retail Bakery Association. Jory Downer then worked diligently to not only increase the quality of the products Bennison's offers, but to win the grand prize at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris in 2005, establishing himself as one of the best bakers in the world.
In 2009, a third generation joined the bakery when Jory's son, Guy Jr. completed his studies at Southern Methodist University and the Akademie Deutsches Backerhandwerk in Weinheim, Germany, and started work at Bennison's. In 2013, the bakery family expanded once again when Jory's daughter, Jordana, graduated from the French Pastry School and joined Bennison's Cake Corner decorating cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more.
At the 2019 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), Jory Downer demonstrated the award-winning pastry that he and The Bread Bakers Guild of America Team USA produced at the 2015 event in France (the next Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie will take place Jan. 11-14 during Europain 2020 in Paris).
“I did the pastry portion of the team and tried to develop a shape I was happy with,” Downer said. “Then we did a dulce de leche crémeux that we cast in a Flexipan and popped them out and put in the center of the pastry. We added slices of fresh mango, papaya and red currents for color. The presentation is very important in France.”
Start by working the butter and dough to the same consistency. You want the dough to sheet over the butter, and then trim the dough so the butter is “pretty much to the edge.” You don’t want dough without butter. Do a four-fold and allow the dough to rest.
Cut and shape the dough to even-sized square pieces. Using a hand chisel (“because we wanted something really sharp”), cut eight slits in each square and fold the edges to the middle, creating a decorative shape like a flower.
Downer created his own tool (a washer with four nails) to hold the pattern in place during baking. Insert one of these washers with nails into the center of each pastry dough piece and then bake.
Once the pastry is cool, place a molded dulce de leche crémeux in the center of each pastry and add slices of fresh fruit on top.