Big Little Recipes

3-Ingredient Croissant Brittle Is As Life-Changing As It Sounds

October  9, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. This time, we're changing up brittle: no nuts, no sugar boiling, no fuss.

We had already ordered our cinnamon roll, chocolate croissant, and two iced coffees—one black, one with oat milk—and swiped the credit card by the time I saw croissant brittle.

“Next time,” Justin said.

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This was late July at Sea Wolf bakery. We were eating our way around Seattle for a week and if we’ve learned anything from traveling together, it’s that success is all in the pacing. Say, skip dessert for a big breakfast, or go light on lunch for extra appetizers at dinner. Saving room for later seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Top Comment:
“If I *do have access to honest-to-goodness bakery croissants, are you saying that milk would be sufficient and the brittle would be rich enough? And, by extension, would using half and half with "real" croissants be mind blowingly awesome? Or just overkill. Because, to be true to my DNA, I have to make this decision as complicated as possible.”
— Rachel G.

And yet, weeks then months went by, and I still couldn’t stop thinking about croissant brittle. What’s better than a croissant? Croissant brittle. What’s better than brittle? Croissant brittle. I mean, even celebrated pastry chef David Lebovitz was wowed by it.

Which left me with three options: Fly back to Seattle and order the croissant brittle (low-key dramatic). Go back in time and order the croissant brittle (maybe impossible). Or make the croissant brittle I wished to see in the world.

When I was originally in touch with Sea Wolf Bakery, I asked co-owners Jesse and Kit Schumann about the recipe: “Unfortunately,” they told me, “that is a closely held family secret.” Go figure.

Photo by Julia Gartland

But then they said, “just kidding," and shared all the deets:

They developed the recipe as "an interesting way to use day-old croissants." Interesting—and, it turns out, simple. Their method: Thinly slice croissants widthwise, dunk in a milk-sugar simple syrup, then bake in a low-temp oven until caramelized and crunchy.

In other words, three ingredients: croissants, milk, and sugar. Which meant this too-good-to-be-true treat could only be one thing: a Big Little Recipe.

I got to work: bought croissants, milk, and sugar, and did just what Schumanns described. But it wasn’t quite right. The texture was on-point—super crunchy but not tacky, like all brittle should be. It lacked richness and sweetness, though. It was bland.

So I started playing around with the syrup. First, I salted it because anything that sugary needs a little salt. Next up, the ratio. A classic simple syrup is 1:1 sugar to water, hence why my first test was 1:1 sugar to milk. But it wasn’t sweet enough. So I tried 2:1 and it was too sweet. Then I tried 3:2 and it was just right.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Well, almost. The liquid ended up changing, too—from milk to half-and-half. Why? After I pinpointed the sweetness, the richness kept nagging at me. That’s when I started to wonder about a Sea Wolf croissant versus a supermarket croissant—what I was working with and, I anticipate, what most people will be working with. Bakery croissants are buttery to a fault, leaving your fingers glossy and your head dazed. Supermarket croissants aren’t like that. They’re fluffier and leaner (and, accordingly, cheaper to make). By using a richer liquid, like half-and-half, then, we end up with a richer brittle. Think of it like a glassy brittle made with no butter or cream, versus a caramely, toffee-like one.

While traditional nut brittles involve standing over the stove, boiling sugar, and using a candy thermometer, this recipe involves none of that. You just warm the half-and-half and sugar, dunk the croissant piece like French toast, and get it in the oven like a cookie. That’s it.

Way easier than flying to Seattle every time you want something to go with your coffee. Though, if you’re already there, I can’t imagine why you’re still reading this. What are you waiting for? Don’t be like me.

What’s your favorite kind of brittle? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Claudiabeth November 11, 2018
I made these this morning. They're delicious! Has anyone added cinnamon to the mixture? If so, how much would you recommend?
Emma L. November 13, 2018
So glad you enjoyed them, Claudiabeth! A few people on the recipe page noted that they added cinnamon. Here's the link to check it out:
Laura H. March 9, 2020
I added a generous sprinkle of Cajun powder sweet treat...cinnamon sugar with pure vanilla...amazing!
Cathy November 3, 2018
I am making this today...... Sounds yummy and I might have a new addiction!
Rachel G. October 18, 2018
So. If I *do have access to honest-to-goodness bakery croissants, are you saying that milk would be sufficient and the brittle would be rich enough? And, by extension, would using half and half with "real" croissants be mind blowingly awesome? Or just overkill. Because, to be true to my DNA, I have to make this decision as complicated as possible.
Emma L. October 18, 2018
Hi Rachel! Great Q—and there's no right/wrong answer. I would still go the half-and-half route because I doubt it would be "overkill" and I'd personally rather a richer than leaner brittle. (But the milk would probably work fine, too!)
BakerRB October 9, 2018
I've never heard of this, but it looks simple, delicious and interesting so I'm looking forward to trying it out. Heck, I was even interested enough to watch the video, and that's an annual event. (Yes, I'm old.) Thanks for adapting the technique to supermarket sources.
Emma L. October 10, 2018
Thanks, BakerRB! Flattered you watched the video—and hope you enjoy the brittle.