Croissant Day is the perfect day for me to talk about my long believed conspiracy theory. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get political about this (you can draw your own conclusions), but stay with me – it’s relevant to the croissant. In fact, my theory comes from having croissants; chocolate croissants to be specific. Light, flaky bundles of dough with a layer of chocolate on the inside to give you this blissful taste of salt, sweet confectionary delight. The perfect bait for trapping us into being part a conspiracy that has infiltrated an entire industry.
The chocolate croissants I am thinking about were purchased at Au Bon Pain, the cafe and bakery. The franchise, which began and is still headquartered in Boston, is everywhere these days providing their coffee, bakery items and fresh food to hungry customers. It’s pretty good too. Fresh food and quality items. A definite upgrade from the school lunch type cafeteria food of long ago. I’ve seen Au Bon Pain in airports and in shopping centers, but I most frequently see them in the food courts of hospitals. They run the cafeterias there and anyone that’s spent anytime in a hospital as a visitor has inevitably walked through their maze of options before settling on some kind of nourishment from their kitchens. Unfortunately, I’ve spent some times in hospitals over the last few years as a visitor and being someone that gets restless on those visits, I tend to volunteer for walks to the cafeteria for food. I’d pick up coffees when they were needed the most, and would always pick up some kind of sweet as a bonus. Cookies were always a favorite, sometimes muffins, but the most popular option in those moments were always the chocolate croissant. It kind of gave you just what you needed. Not too sweet and not too savory. A perfect hybrid. Now whenever I think of chocolate croissants, I always think of Au Bon Pain and hospitals.
If you have ever had one of those days in the hospital where you are there for every meal, you start getting to know your Au Bon Pain. The back story of that is if you are at the hospital for three meals, you are having a day full of worry and stress. Your mind isn’t in the right place, but somehow you are getting messages from your brain to eat something, so you head to the cafeteria in a strange funk. You get what looks best and walk away, not even sure if you got what you really wanted. You look around and everyone else, except the hospital workers, are doing the same zombie-like walk as if they’ve never been to a place that serves food before. The workers have their own repetitive motion in the cafeteria. They know just what they want and they move more deliberately and with purpose annoyed at the lost visitors trying to figure out how to dispense their own soup. Meanwhile, the cash registers are ringing everything in. And as any conspiracy theorist will tell you, that’s where you always look – at the cash.
My theory is that the healthcare industry is owned and secretly run by Au Bon Pain. They own the hospitals. They control Big Pharma. They want our family to get sick so we can start ordering up their Teriyaki Steak Harvest Hot Wrap as we sit in waiting rooms waiting to hear some kind of news. Have you ever been at a hospital and they tell you “I’m just waiting for a consultation” from the attending doctor? They’re just waiting for Au Bon Pain clearance. They want you to grab a few more coffees before you are good enough to leave. Got a big family that likes to eat? Maybe we’ll keep Grandma overnight for observation. The whole system is a decoy to keep the pockets of Au Bon Pain lined with money. In fact, Au Bon Pain means ‘money through pain’ in French. Wake up America!
Ok, that’s just a theory. I should clarify that Au Bon Pain really means ‘with good bread’ in French, I made up that other translation. But it is something to think about, especially on croissant day. By the way, if this blog should suddenly disappear, you’ll know that they’ve gotten to me. Tell Lola I love her, and speak my name.
This afternoon I headed on over to Clements with the hopes that they would still have bakery items available. They have fresh pastries everyday but sometimes they are gone by the afternoon. Today however there was still a good selection and more importantly they had what I had come looking for: chocolate croissants. I picked up a couple and then headed on home. Lola had just made herself a cup of coffee and was delighted when I pulled out the bakery box and asked if she wanted one. She did. It was perfect timing. Had I arrived two minutes later she would have busted into the Hostess cupcakes. Now she had a bakery fresh chocolate croissant which gave her a smile. I made a cup of coffee for myself and had the perfect little break.
Clements Market makes a great croissant (I’m pretty sure they make them there). Flaky, soft and fresh. I’ve never had their chocolate version before but it too was delicious. It had the same flaky, sweet dough and a delicious chocolate center that was the perfect balance. It could be the perfect pastry. A croissant is made from a dough usually using a ratio of three parts butter to ten parts flour. When the pastries bake, the butter makes little pockets of steam in the dough, which creates the layers that give a croissant its unmistakable flakiness.* I’m not sure why chocolate croissants are rectangular and not the patented crescent shape of a typical croissant, but no matter, it’s an upgrade from an already wonderful pastry. Big fans here.
For dinner, I wanted to feature the croissant again but the only options I could find would be to either make a sandwich with one or to make a type of french toast using croissants. I felt like I had made a croissant sandwich not too long ago (which was fantastic) and I had just made pancakes, so I didn’t want to serve up a repeat. Then as I looked at my Facebook feed which is filling up with recipes for the Big Game, I realized that I knew of a perfectly good use of the croissant for such occasions, and that’s what I would make. I had picked up a package of crescent rolls earlier in the day, so I had all I needed. Ok, Ok, I know. A crescent roll is not a croissant. It merely shaped as one. It’s a completely different product. I know this. But I will say the popularity of the croissant in the US coincides with the introduction of the crescent roll. Completely different, but the crescent roll got the average Joe used to seeing moon-shaped pastry. It’s part of the story, I think, and that’s why I gave myself permission to celebrate with it on croissant day.
I was going to make pigs in a blanket. I have a slight history with pigs in a blanket during Super Bowl Week. Back in 1987 when I was Freshman in college and the Giants were playing the Bills for the championship, it was a pretty big game. Everyone was watching the game in their dorm rooms. My friend Tom and I decided to make some food for the occasion and thought pigs in a blanket would be a fun (this was before Super Bowl food was such a phenomenon). The game was on in my friends room, so we took three toaster ovens into my dorm room as a make shift kitchen to make the pigs in a blanket. We had started the party early and were already feeling pretty good when it came time to make the food. In fact, while we were cooking, we were talking to each other like the Swedish Chef throughout the whole process. We rolled up the hot dogs into the crescent rolls, put them in the ovens and then turned them on. Then the power went out. Then the shouts started coming, most notably from Zeke (not his real name, but a giant brute of a soul who was the captain of the baseball team). We did what anyone with a conscious would do in that situation and ran to the other dorm room and acted innocent. We had blown the power for the whole wing of our building. Thankfully it came back on within minutes, but it was almost a scene. I think we were eventually able to make the pigs in a blanket, but just used one toaster oven at a time. Lesson learned. The rest gets kind of blurry. I remember we played a drinking game where you had to drink if they mentioned your player’s name during the broadcast. I had Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.
I was using a big version of pigs in a blanket using full-size hot dogs. I cut a slit down the middle of each hot dog and stuffed it with cheese. I then rolled it up into the crescent roll dough and then brushed it with some egg wash. It went into the oven for about 20 minutes. When they came out, they were golden brown with cheese ever so melting out of the dogs. A little bit of perfection. When I served it to Lola, she was a little bit stunned. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Was she insulted? Was she grossed out? In fact, she was delighted. Pigs in a blanket were always a forbidden fruit for her growing up, although something she always wanted. She was genuinely excited for these.
And they were delicious too. No, not something you would want to eat every night, but every now and then, a delicious treat. It’s not exactly like eating a hot dog in a bun. It’s different. It’s the lightness of the fresh dough and how it surrounds the hot dog. The hot dogs were good too (Boar’s Head) – cooked perfectly. I think that the hot dog cooks into the roll too so the blanket starts tasting like the pig. This should be on your menu for the big game (here’s the recipe from Pillsbury).
All in all, I say that was a pretty good croissant day. It brought me sweetness, flakiness, savoriness and deliciousness. That’s quite a pastry. I’ll always be intrigued by the possibilities of a good croissant and the joy it can bring you. We’ve had some good memories together. Maybe some scary ones too. But we’ll keep meeting each other because croissants bring smiles and good tastes to our life which is what we all need (and just the way Au Bon Pain wants it). #Resist
*Info from LuckyPeach.com
Next Up: National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day