You know, our mothers were experts at reinventing food, sometimes giving original dishes more half-lives than uranium. Maybe all mothers acquire this skill somewhere along the way because it beats the alternative of having to make yet another trip to the grocery store.
Even though they are experts, American mothers did not invent this particular wheel. It’s a cross-cultural custom, designed to save families and family-run businesses some hard-earned money. Where do you think pain perdu, otherwise known as French toast, came from? Probably from some exhausted mom staring a big, fat loaf of stale bread while her chickens clucked in the yard outside the door. Bread, eggs, milk. Something that’s just as good as, or better than the original.
I started thinking about this the other night because my husband and our friend, William, were unknowingly heading into a big disappointment. Our favorite 24-hour bakery is known for its twice-baked croissants, and they both had their hearts set on one.
Unfortunately, apparently other late night snackers had also had the same craving and the bakery was out of them. Now, when you see one of these twice-baked croissant, you might do a double-take. Because, nestled among the glistening tarts and flaky, delicate palmiers and perfectly molded truffles, twice-baked croissants look like a messy, lumpy mistake. Don’t be fooled, you really can’t judge these by their covers, which are usually covered with an almond cream that has been caramalized by its time in the oven.
The two men grudingly settled on another choice that night. But perhaps this Sunday, I’ll whip up a batch of twice-baked croissants at home. Why not take a basic item, load it with sugar and butter and get twice the pleasure from it?
Why not, indeed.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup almond slices
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond paste, cut in pieces
5 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. almond extract
8 stale croissants (just leave them out on a plate overnight)
You can make the syrup and almond cream a day ahead and refrigerate them until you’re ready to assemble.
For the syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir and simmer one minute. Remove from heat, add orange juice and then vanilla.
For the almond cream, put almonds and 2 Tbsp. of the sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add almond paste and pulse until finely chopped again. Place the butter, remaining sugar, and the almond paste mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat about three minutes. The mixture should be fluffy. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and almond extract. While the mixer is going, slowly pour the egg into the almond mixture. Chill the almond cream for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Cut croissants in half. Brush both cut sides with the orange syrup. Mound about 2 Tbsp. of the almond cream on bottom halves. Close the croissants and spread about 1 Tbsp. of the almond cream on top of each one. Bake 20-25 minutes, let cool slightly and dust with confectioners sugar.