12 Apr Making Do
It’s been a while since we shared a recipe, and with Easter just a few days away this feels like an appropriate moment. Obviously the ideal thing would be to bring out an age-old family recipe for hot cross buns, explaining how surprisingly easy they are to make and so much more delicious than anything you can buy. But this would be complete nonsense I have several times made hot cross buns, and it’s a lot of fun, but it takes about ten times longer than you would expect and the results go stale in seconds and are not really any nicer than the ones in the shops. Therefore I am sharing instead this powerful magic spell which I was given several years ago by the proprietor of the much-missed Sticky Beaks café in Cambridge, for the bringing back to life of old croissants. It feels somehow Easterish in terms of flavour (the ground almonds) and also narrative theme (resurrection of the dead.)
The great thing about this recipe for almond croissants (and recipe seems an inflated term for such a simple process, involving very little work) is that it will not only resuscitate an ancient croissant of impeccable provenance that you foolishly allowed to get stale, but it will also transform those awful spongy supermarket croissants that barely deserve the name into Real Food. On no account spend money or energy sourcing really good fresh croissants on purpose to make these: it would be a waste.
This recipe starts, appropriately, with an egg. Weigh your egg and measure out the exact same weight of caster sugar, ground almonds and very soft butter. Beat the egg, sugar, almonds and butter together to make a smooth paste. This paste, technically (and delightfully) known as frangipane, will keep for at least a week in the fridge, so it’s possible to make a batch and use it to make a croissant a day for several days.
Now take your old or otherwise unappealing croissant and slice it in half, leaving a bit of a hinge. (The croissant below is from Sainsbury’s and it came in a bargain packet of eight. I chose this one as the most photogenic specimen but its more squashed or misshapen brethren ended up being just as delicious.) Spread the inside thickly and generously with frangipane, right to the edges, then close it up.
Spread a bit more frangipane on top and then sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Put it on a baking tray and into a hottish oven, about 190 degrees centigrade, 370 Fahrenheit, or Gas Mark 5, for about ten minutes , or until the frangipane on top has browned at the edges and the flaked almonds are slightly toasted. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then sift a light dusting of icing sugar on to the top and eat immediately.
The outside of the croissant will be hot and crisp and flaky, with slightly chewy caramelised bits of browned frangipane and toasted nuts. The inside will be warm and deliciously soft and squidgy. Overall you have transformed a food of zero taste and low nutritional significance into a hand-crafted treat full of nuts and egg – which might be what a baker in Paris was thinking of when he sold my brother-in-law an almond croissant with the approving words: ‘Ah – pour la santé!’ Here we would not consider an almond croissant to be a healthy breakfast option, but the French understand these things better, there’s no doubt.
Fortified by this healthy breakfast, we’ll be spending the week printing our patterned Easter paper and then if there’s time turning that into origami Easter eggs. The prototype is below and it is the product of several hours of work and eye strain, trying to copy a video we found on Youtube. We’re definitely still on the learning curve on this project: we have photographed this prototype egg from a flattering angle and it’s all baggy on the other side. But we think it shows promise. If we master it we’ll pass the details on next year. In the meantime, we do still have a few Easter printing blocks left and you can find them in the Printing Blocks section of the shop. We’ve had so many nice messages in reply to these newsletters recently. Thank you very much. We wish you all good health and a happy Eastertide.