Today, everyone in Spain is snacking on the roscón de reyes, the original king cake. It's most similar to a hamburger bun, although typically a bit drier. Many are filled with whipped cream, often the kind that leaves an aftertaste and a yucky film on the roof of your mouth, while others have pastry cream or no filling at all. With the lightest of glazes on top and some candied fruit pieces that lay discarded on the side of the box when all is said and done, it's safe to say the roscón is an... interesting tradition.
This morning at my house, however, we have forgone the hamburger bun cake thing for one of God's Blessings to The World: almond croissants, or how do you say, croissants aux amandes. My first introduction to this amazing pastry was in Birmingham, Ala.'s premiere bakery, Continental Bakery, making fresh sourdough wayyyy before it was cool. It was billed as an 'almond croissant', and I alternated eating it with the cherry scones, never giving much thought as to how exactly it was made.
Fortunately for you, I consider it my Epiphany day duty to share the recipe for these beauties. Literally, this may be my favorite morning pastry ever—at least right up there with a perfect scone.
This pastry came about as a clever way to reuse old croissants, instead of tossing them. I take particular satisfaction from this recipe knowing that this time it was the French who decided to take something elegant and traditional and stuff it with butter and sugar, instead of us Americans.
Day-old croissants are coated in a syrup that allows them to bake again without burning, giving the almond cream inside the chance to set. They are quite simple to make when you use store-bought croissants as a base; just make sure you buy top-quality, butter croissants. The moist filling soaks through the layers of croissant and results in what is pretty much the best baked good almost ever. If you've never had these, you will die when you bite into the moist, flaky, almond-y layers. If you have had them, you will rejoice at how easily this recipe comes together. Oh my, you need to make this now.
Croissants aux amandes are so forgiving and kind, that you can assemble and bake beforehand and give them a light toast before serving (or not). Basically, they may be the perfect food. read on for tips and recipe.
Keys to the perfect croissant aux amandes
- quality ingredients: As with many baked goods in this day and age, your sugar, butter, flour, almond meal, etc is going to make something good without necessarily having to be expensive, organic, or top of the line. However, as this recipe is a derivation from an already-baked good, you can guess what we really want to splash out on here—the croissant. Get the best you can find.
- be generous: because this isn't diet food. Slather on that almond cream...you won't regret it later.
- leave it in the oven: Don't remove the croissants too soon...the crispy top and edges are most desirable!
- experiment: once you've satiated your appetite for "plain" almond croissants, move on by adding chocolate, or orange zest to the filling and Grand Marnier to the syrup...have fun!
croissants aux amandes
- 90 mL water
- 65 g sugar
- 50 g almond flour
- pinch salt
- 50 g butter, diced
- 1 egg
- 3 croissants
Bring the water and 15g of sugar to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a shallow bowl. Cool.
Preheat the oven to 375ºC.
Mix the remaining sugar, almond flour, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and mix until well blended. Add the egg and mix until creamy.
Take your croissants and slice them in half along the equator (horizontally, like for a sandwich). Spread the bottom half with 2-3 Tbsp of the almond filling. Dip the top half in the cooled sugar mixture, allowing to coat until very moist. Place the top on the bottom, and spread a bit more almond filling on the top. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.
Repeat with remaining croissants. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack and dust with powdered sugar.