Croissants start out buttery, soft and mouthmelty, but they don’t live that way very long. Do not despair though, as Emily has ideas to resurrect your deceased pastries.
by Emily Beyda on October 2, 2012
When I lived in New York, there was a tiny Japanese bakery off Saint Mark’s place that had a great deal. If you went in before noon, they would sell you a big bag of yesterday’s baked goods for a ridiculously low price. Sometimes the bag would be filled with crispy little sourdough rolls, or a sliced half loaf of whole grain bread. Often they were trying to get rid of more fragile baked goods; buttery bits of crumbled shortbread cookies, or a slightly squashed blueberry muffins. But or me, the jackpot was a bag of beat up day old croissants, something most other customers probably considered a waste of fifty cents. After all, the joy of a really good croissant comes from the buttery freshness of it, the warm just-out-of-the-oven elasticity. And when I told my French friends about it, they were predictably horrified. “What,” they wanted to know, “Can you possibly do with a stale croissant?” As it turns out, quite a lot!
I first discovered the beauty of old croissants during a freak snowstorm in October of last year, when my roommate was out of town, the heating hadn’t yet been turned on, and my lack of proper snow boots made leaving the apartment a risky proposition at best. So I scrounged around for sustenance in the neglected corners of our pantry, making minestrone from the limp old root vegetables in the crisper, bread from the slightly damp flour on top of the fridge, and even a lovely little cake from the apples I found softening on top of our untuned piano. One of my discoveries was a bag of slightly stale supermarket croissants. I suffered through one with a cup of tea, but quickly realized that they weren’t any good on their own. So I started experimenting!
My easiest, and most unexpected, discovery was the wonder that is croissant French toast. To make it, you prepare your favorite French toast batter, which in my case includes a splash of vanilla, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and, when I’m feeling indulgent, a bit of Grand Mariner. Then halve and dunk the croissant, making sure it’s well soaked, and cook it as you would normal French toast, giving it a bit longer to cook before flipping. Served with a little bit of maple syrup (grade B please!), the result is nothing short of magical, creamy and puddinglike on the inside, with a crisp, buttery exterior. Top it off with some fresh berries, good coffee, and a few rashers of bacon and you have a breakfast that joyfully destroys even the remotest threat of a productive afternoon.
My other old croissant discovery was a little more predictable, though just as delicious as the french toast. As it turns out, torn up chunks of croissants make an ideal basis for a bread pudding dreams are made of, fluffy, rich, and light, with no hint of the sometimes stodgy nursery food depths to which the dish can sometimes fall. The recipe I used, which was a rip off of something I found in a Nigella Lawson book I had brought home from the library, is as follows:
First, figure out how many croissants you want to use, and adjust the ingredients accordingly.
Tear up the croissants and put them in a baking dish of some sort. I used a bread pan, but really, anything ovenproof is fair game. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees celcius (standard baking things temperature).
Melt 1⁄4 cup sugar (per croissant) in one tablespoon of water per croissant, stirring til things start to bubble and slowly caramelize.
Then take the caramel off the heat, and stir in 1⁄4 cup whole milk per croissant, and one beaten egg for each croissant.
Pour it over the stale croissant bits and let them soak it up like delicious little sponges before popping the delightful mess in the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Oh, and if you’ve made more than two croissants worth, do try to share!