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Today: You didn't think croissants could get better, did you? They can.
A croissant -- a good one, in its prime -- is a perfect bundle of food.
Not a balanced or complete food, mind you, like quinoa or goji berries or the symbiosis of beans and rice -- don't be silly! But a flawless spiral of textures and warm scents and good butter. That sort of perfect. It doesn't need to be threaded with chocolate or ham and gruyere, but those give us excuses to eat more croissants, so that's fine.
But even within a few hours, they lose their luster, and become the thing you seek in desperation, when you've missed lunch, or you're running with bag in hand to catch a train, or a barista is staring you down and you're feeling weak. You resort to the lonely croissant by the register, even though you know it will be a faded shell of what it once was.
Why? Sure, they make a mean French toast, but there's an even simpler way, as Raij explains it, "to revive a dead croissant and make it even better than on day one."
It's called Croissants a la Plancha (or Plantxa) and you'll find it in bars and cafés across Spain. It's essentially yesterday's abandoned croissant, split, griddled in butter, and served for breakfast with marmalade and a cortado (which is like a baby latte).
When you expose the once-spongy, breathing middles of a croissant, you get a delicate web of pastry that takes very well to toasting on a hot surface. The spindly edges and corners get crackly, like a sfogliatelle just out of the oven, while everything below the surface warms and softens.
"I first had it at a coffee shop in Bilbao," Raij told me. "And thought it was so vainglorious to add even more butter to a croissant and then grill it and serve it with marmalade." Her version steps it up even more with the addition of a honey butter speckled with vanilla seeds (or vanilla caviar, as Raij calls it) -- smoothing the bitter edge of marmalade with sweet, floral vibes.
So yes, more butter. But I first heard about this breakfast of champions from our Assistant Editor Marian Bull, who also spent a month in India last year doing yoga. So I don't want to hear any excuses about this not being part of a healthy lifestyle. You can have it all.
Alex Raij's Croissants a la Plancha
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 tablespoon local honey
1/2 vanilla bean
1 croissant, split (day old is fine)
Orange marmalade, for serving
Powdered sugar, for serving
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom, except Alex Raij by George Billard via Glutton for Life
The Genius Recipes cookbook is here! (Well, almost.) The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites -- all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It'll be on shelves in April, but you can pre-order your copy now.