Wait.. what? Aren’t almond croissants a breakfast item? I know I know.. this blog is supposed to be about desserts and/or design and here I am doing a recipe on breakfast. Aileen’s losing it.
Well I loooove almond croissants, my family begs for them, my friends love them and just about anyone I’ve had try them will always ask me to bring them to the next get together. They’re crispy and buttery on the outside with a creamy filling in the middle.
And I eat them for dessert. So there. Happy? I know I am. =)
There’s a well-known bakery here in Sacramento that bakes almond croissants as a weekend specialty. Once I tried them, I was hooked. What’s even more dangerous is I actually worked at this bakery and because I had such easy access, I purchased a bunch of them almost every weekend. I took boxes of them home so often that if my co-workers saw me with a bakery box, they just assumed it was filled with almond croissants.
Unfortunately, this is my last week at the bakery.
Long story short, almost 2 months ago my doctor strongly suggested I consider a career change and give up my beloved job as a full-time cake decorator. My wrists and hands were damaged from the 40+ hours a week of abuse I put it through between kneading buckets of stiff fondant, hand sculpting dozens of flowers, and icing racks of cakes – every single week. I either give it up or I can undergo steroid shots (Ouch!) and quite possibly surgery (Yikes!!) with no guarantees.
After careful consideration and discussion with Ryan (the hubby), we both decided it would be best for me to rest my wrist and stay at home with our 2 young girls (hopefully with rest I would be able to hold a pencil or an eating utensil without pain again – Do you know how embarrassing it is to be at a restaurant and realize after ordering a steak that you can’t even cut it yourself? So then you have to turn to your husband and discretely ask him to cut it for you while moving the plate closer to your 2 year old so no one thinks he’s actually cutting your steak for you.. Yep, that happened.. more than once – hangs head down in shame).
So sadly I’m leaving the bakery, but I will always remember, among many other things, the delicious almond croissants.
Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I figured I’d try my hand at making those croissants I love so much so I won’t have to drive 25 minutes each way to get one.
The first few recipes I tried were delicious, but didn’t have the same creamy filling I was after, regardless of how much filling I put. I finally decided to ask one of the bakers (before my last day and the secret was lost to me forever!).
You see, we have a really good bearclaw at the bakery that had the same flavor profile as the almond croissants I made using the almond cream, so I asked the bakers what made the croissants filling creamy while the bearclaw wasn’t…
Almond Custard. They mixed pastry cream (custard) with the almond cream (the bear claw filling)!
I obviously couldn’t get the recipe as it’s a scratch bakery and the recipes are proprietary, (and if I did, it would be scaled to make 2 1/2 gallon buckets at a time!), BUT.. now I was headed in a clearer direction. I ended up combining a variety of recipes and techniques to come up with my own recipe and it’s delicious if I do say so myself.
So back to the nitty-gritty. I find it best to use day old croissants, simply because fresh ones are too soft and the flaky layers will collapse from the syrup and custard and become soggy.. yuck.
Think of french toast.. best to use day old bread so the custard mixture can absorb without the bread falling apart, right? Same concept.
Now for this recipe, because the croissants are so incredibly rich, I like to use small to medium pre-baked butter croissants in the bakery section of the grocery store. (I’m still working on trying to perfect the art of the french croissant from scratch and I’ll be sure to let you all know when I do!) I find that if I use the larger croissants, I can’t stop myself from eating the whole thing.
Ask any of my family members. They all insisted they just wanted to try a little bite… and without realizing it, finished the whole thing. Just ask my sister or my mother-in-law or my cousin.. well you get the point.
I’m sure I’ve bored you to death with my stories or worse, I’ve probably built these puppies up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread..and now I’m hoping you won’t be disappointed.
- 12 small to medium or 8 large day old butter croissants
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- Powdered Sugar
For the Almond Syrup
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons almond flour/meal
For the Almond Cream
- 1 cup almond flour/meal
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
For the Pastry Cream
- ¾ cup whole milk or half and half
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- dash salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
- Prepare the Almond Syrup
Place the ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and 2 tablespoons almond flour/meal into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from heat and let steep while you prepare the almond cream and pastry cream.
Prepare the Almond Cream
- Combine the 1 cup almond flour/meal, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, ½ cup sugar in your mixer bowl and mix on lowest speed until combined and any almond flour/meal lumps are gone.
- Add butter and increase speed to medium until mixed well.
- Add eggs and mix on high speed until creamy and the almond cream has lightened in color. Leave almond cream in mixer bowl.
Prepare the Pastry Cream
- First set up an ice bath using a medium bowl over a larger bowl full of ice. Place a fine mesh strainer over the medium bowl.
- Place the ¾ cup milk or half and half in a medium saucepan over low heat until steaming (no bubbles should appear yet).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, dash of salt, 2 egg yolks, and 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract) until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
- Add about ½ cup of the heated milk to egg mixture and whisk until no more lumps exist.
Return milk/egg mixture back to saucepan and begin stirring with the whisk. Stir constantly to prevent burning and lumps from forming.
- When mixture has thickened to pudding consistency, transfer pastry cream to strainer and push gently through to remove any bits of curdled egg in your pastry cream.
- Stir the pastry cream in the bowl over the ice bath to cool the pastry cream down. Once it is cool to the touch, transfer to mixer bowl containing almond cream.
Create the Almond Custard (Frangipane)
- Mix the almond cream and custard together on medium-low speed until well combined.
Assemble the almond croissants.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Slice croissants in half and brush almond syrup generously over the cut sides of each croissant half (top and bottom).
- Spread a generous amount of almond custard on the bottom half of each croissant then top with other half.
- Spread more almond custard on top and sprinkle a generous amount of sliced almonds on top. Press almonds into custard to secure.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending on size.
- Dust tops with powdered sugar.
- For best flavor, serve slightly warm.
I have successfully prepared these croissants ahead of time, individually wrapped in foil, and placed them in the freezer to bake at a later time. I just take them out of the freezer and place in refrigerator the night before then bake them in the morning.
Alternatively, you can prepare all the croissants the recipe makes, bake what you would like (say 2), and refrigerate (up to 3 days) or freeze (up to 2 weeks) the rest for a later time.
So I want to know.. how did it turn out for you? I’d love to hear some feedback!