|photo by Yunhee Kim|
On the morning we brought Greta home from the hospital, November 4, 2010, we went straight to our neighborhood bakery, Astor Bake Shop. I know, lots of mothers don't leave the house with their newborns until they are solidly three months old, but I was not only very hungry, but way too excited to sit at home (don't worry, she's as healthy as an ox).
I remember everything about that day: how teeny Greta was, all 7 pounds of her, in her fleecy white coat, curled into my chest; the way everyone at the bakery pointed and stared (look, a brand newborn); the way the air felt, cool and sweet and full of possibility; and, every enormously delicious morsel of my almond croissant – the first real food I had eaten for nearly 48 hours.
If you've never had the pleasure of enjoying an almond croissant, here's what you should know: they’re like manna from heaven. Though almond croissants are generally a pastry chef's trick to make day-old-croissants new again (split the croissant, spread it with almond crème and bake until golden brown and intoxicatingly fragrant), they're always my number one pick in a pastry counter. I can think of no greater food with which to end, or start, a brand new year.
A good or even amazing almond croissant is easy to come by in Paris or New York, but elsewhere, say, in the tiny upstate New York town where we're spending our New Years, you have to make your own. Believe me, it is well worth the tiny effort.
Here’s my recipe, bar none one of my favorites from Feast (p.s. if you don't have croissants, this works on day-old bread, too).
ALMOND CROISSANTS | SERVES 6
1 recipe almond cream (see below)
6 day-old croissants, halved crosswise
Skin-on sliced almonds, for sprinkling
Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide all but 1/3 cup/75 ml of the almond cream over the bottom halves of the croissants. Cover with the top halves, using your hand to flatten the croissants just slightly. Spread more almond cream over the top of the croissants with an offset spatula, leaving some of the edges bare. Sprinkle with almonds.
Bake on the prepared baking sheet until the cream is cooked through and the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes, covering the top with foil if needed to prevent overbrowning. Dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
ALMOND CREAM | aka frangipane
Almond cream, or frangipane, is a sweetened ground-almond or almond flour base for desserts, pies, tarts, and more.
1/2 cup unsalted room-temperature butter
1/2 cup unbleached sugar
1 cup ground almonds or almond flour
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons oat flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ground almonds or almond flour and beat together. Add in the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour and sea salt, scraping the bottom for any dry or unmixed bits, until the mixture is evenly fluffy and smooth.
Store in a container with an airtight lid in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. (Makes enough for 6 croissants or 6 almond toasts)
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite