Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Evolution of the Croissant: French Toast Croissants

I have done quite a few slightly crazy things in my life, but it all seems to come out alright in the end. One of those off-the-wall decisions happened to be a move to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts for the summer before my study abroad. I worked a couple of jobs adding up to way too many hours a week. Luckily, I had one job I liked, and that was working at the Doctor's House Bed and Breakfast in Vineyard Haven. I was kind of the jack of all trades there, working on the grounds, housekeeping, some catering work, tutoring, and best of all serving and making breakfast.

My lovely boss had lived a very full life as well, being a traveler and chef herself. However, she felt a little burnt out on the whole cooking thing (something I can't even imagine...yet), so she had a proposition for me during the summer. I could cook anything I wanted and she would foot the bill, just as long as she could enjoy it as well. I was more than psyched! This was the summer where all this foodie business got started. I learned techniques in the kitchen, I had access to resources like I never had before, and I had a guide to give me great feedback. I learned a wealth of skills in just a few months, and I was happy to do the work. On top of all that, I built a great relationship with my boss, whom I am still in contact with--a relationship that was created through food, laughter, and great conversation.

I honestly think that food can make everything okay. If you are sad, whip up a batch of brownies and tell me you don't feel better. If you are out with a group of your good friends, you are usually around a table or at the bar sharing a meal. Even business knows that food makes transactions a little easier. Finally, the university knows that in order to get the students to do anything, you need to give free food (now whether it's good or not is debatable, but the average college palate is generally not that concerned with flavor).

Sharing food could quite possibly solve our world's problems, if we would only be willing to share with those we traditionally would not. I call this gastronomic diplomacy--it's going to be a thing. Traveling teaches you that sharing food with the natives is the best way to gain entrée into the society and their true culture. I could go on a diatribe about how cuisine represents the soul of people through its nourishment, but I digress (because that would take us into a near-thesis discussion).

The true purpose of this post brings me back to the Vineyard, where a delicious breakfast menu welcomes every sunny morning. My favorite and most delightful surprise was the French Toast Croissant. Yes, the evolution of a classic, turned into a fluffy cloud of eggy goodness is pure genius. This was one of my most important epiphanies in my gastronomic career--eventually leading me to a deep respect for experimentation in the kitchen. Nowadays, I feel like I only experiment, and I love having that ability. I love opening the fridge to see nearly nothing and I can still make a meal out of it--if that isn't a mark of good training, I don't know what is!

Let's stop all this chit-chat and get on to the recipe. I hope the Doctor's House won't kill me for this one :) Some notes before we start:
You can buy croissants in bulk and freeze them, this not only allows you to have french toast croissants for a whole month, it also makes for easy cutting. It is important to keep the croissant's shape and not to deflate it--so either take out a really awesome bread knife and nimble movements, or freeze and not worry about it.
Also, you can top the croissants with maple syrup or honey, both are equally delightful. I'm sure they would be lovely with preserves and fresh fruit or whipped cream. Today, I present them with the traditional maple syrup and powdered sugar.

French Toast Croissant
Recipe originally adapted from the Doctor's House on Martha's Vineyard

(they are cut in half, so one croissant makes two slices)
Milk or cream 
(depending on the decadence)
A touch of sugar

First you need to cut the croissant in half (see note above), making sure not to deflate it's flaky beauty. When your croissants are halved, set aside. Start heating a pan on the stove with butter, but don't let the butter brown, just let it get foamy. I like to use my cast iron skillet (as if I really use anything else nowadays) because the heat distribution is even and it holds heat well, so I don't have to use the fire as much.

As the pan is heating, get a mixing bowl out and combine the egg, milk or cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar. You need to beat this mixture, with a whisk if possible, in order to attain the fluffiness that you really want. The mixture should be homogenous except for the flecks of cinnamon and sugar. Then, you need to soak the croissants long enough for them to sop up the egg mixture in all the small nooks and crannies of the bread--flip and soak the outside too. I would say a rule of thumb would be an egg for every croissant, but you can stretch that with milk, or even more with cream, but I wouldn't go too far.

Because your pan is already heated to the right temperature (medium high), you can just throw the croissant halves in when you have finished sopping up the mixture. Make sure that you keep your bowl close to the stove in order to stave off catastrophe. Use a spatula to flip the croissants. Don't flip until they have reached their fluffy potential, but make sure they don't burn at the same time. If you are using an iron skillet, you don't need to keep the temperature that high, in fact you can turn it off when you're on your last piece if you want. This also goes for decent pans that hold heat, you know it if you have them.

Now the only thing you have to do is plate the beauties. You can garnish with fresh fruit, like a fanned strawberry, or you can just let them take up the whole plate and drown them in powdered sugar and syrup. Honestly, they can be eaten piping hot straight out of the pan without any dressings, but you should restrain yourself because if you are making a french toast croissant, chances are you're trying to be fancy. I made a full breakfast with a glass of orange juice, a cup of tea, a bowl of watermelon, and the super french toast croissants.

Bon appétit mes amis!

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