January 22, 2014 10:52:17 AM
Jan Swoope - email@example.com
Who doesn't love a warm, fresh croissant right out of the oven? Some may say it's the best thing to come out of France. I would argue that there is the matter of the Statue of Liberty, Maurice Chevalier and Gilles Marini. That aside, we can love the flaky pastry even more on Jan. 30 -- National Croissant Day. We might even explore a few ways to use the buttery indulgence in ways we hadn't thought of before.
First things first
When it comes to a fine croissant, it's all about the layers. The yeast-leavened dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet in a technique called laminating. The process results in the sumptuous, signature texture.
You can make your own croissants, of course. Although, after researching recipes, I'm thinking I'd rather be sent to work in a rice paddy. No, seriously. They actually don't require a ream of specialized knowledge or a counter-full of expensive kitchen gadgets. The ingredients are simple: basically, flour, water, milk, sugar, unsalted butter, yeast, egg. What is needed is time, focus and a good technique. The initial results may leave something to be desired, but when you're finally looking at a puffy, fragrant, golden pastry you made yourself, the reward (so I'm told) is worth it.
May I recommend the site weekendbakery.com, which offers a good how-to video as well as an insightful log about their own croissant experiences? (Topping their list of advice, by the way, is to make the pastries when the weather is nice and cool, or at least make sure your surroundings are 68 degrees or a bit lower. Their recipe of choice is from Jeffrey Hamelman of Fine Cooking.)
For the rest of us, our croissants will more than likely have to come from the grocery stores. I couldn't find a commercial bakery in the Golden Triangle that makes them.
This culinary symbol of France was once traditionally eaten only at breakfast. But things changed in the 1970s with the advent of fast food, according to Alan Davidson of the Oxford Companion to Food. In an effort to stem the burgeoning popularity of the good ole American-style hamburger, the French created croissanteries, small eateries that served croissant sandwiches at breakfast and lunch.
We've since filled croissants with everything from strawberries to feta cheese and spinach. We love them stuffed with chicken salad, or sizzling with cheese oozing over the sides. We fill the mini versions with sausage or crab and serve them as appetizers, or we bake the dough with chocolate inside for a luxurious treat.
But, croissants can be a recipe ingredient themselves. They can go sweet or savory -- from a bread pudding trifle to a bacon and chive strata (layered casserole). Read on for those recipes and a change of pace. (And there's a smoked salmon salad recipe, just begging for a big croissant.) Thank the French on Jan. 30, s'il vous plait. And, naturally, bon appetit.
CHOCOLATE CROISSANT BREAD PUDDING TRIFLE
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes (50 minutes active)
Makes 4-6 servings
6 chocolate croissants, very coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 (6-ounce) box butterscotch pudding, cooked according to package directions
4 bananas, sliced
4 snicker bars, chopped fine
1 (12-ounce) container whipped topping
(Source: Katie Joel, foodnetwork.com)
BACON AND CHIVE CROISSANT STRATA
Makes 6-8 servings
8 cups cubed croissant pieces
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
4 pieces of bacon, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
SMOKED SALMON SALAD
4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (regular or light)
1 tablespoon plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 croissant, halved lengthwise
3 to 4 thin slices cucumber, optional
2 to 3 thin slices avocado, optional
(Source: "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches," by Susan Russo; via styleathome.com)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.