We’re in the midst of a croissant renaissance. Around the world, there’s a creative embrace of the patisserie classic that hasn't been seen for a long time.
“I 100 per cent agree with that,” says Lune Croissanterie’s founder and croissant-whisperer Kate Reid. Since she opened her dedicated croissant haven in Melbourne (now with two locations), she’s witnessed the crescent’s rise from faded bake-shelf item to cult obsession.
Interestingly, Australia has been a driving force in the global revival. And while Reid would never admit it, Lune looks like ground zero. You know cruffins, the croissant-muffin hybrid so popular Woolworths also stocks a version? They’re Reid’s. A few years ago, she baked off leftover croissant dough in a muffin tin as a snack for a wholesale client. Ten minutes after she’d left, he ordered 200.
“If you have a good base pastry, you can create a whole range of products,” explains Reid. Much like pain au chocolat, brioche and danish – all part of the delectable family known as viennoiserie – croissants are made from an enriched yeasted dough. Bake it in a different shape (like the cruffin) or fry it as a doughnut (like Dominique Ansel’s viral cronut), and you have something both familiar and wildly new. “These hybrids really brought croissants back into the spotlight,” says Reid. “Bakeries then starting thinking about how they could elevate croissants in their own way.”
Which brings us to the next wave: laminated. Technically, all croissants are layered with butter, but this new generation includes different flavours – and, critically, colour – which wind through the layers like a rhythmic gymnast’s ribbon. I first saw it at Epicerie Boulud in New York, with striking red raspberry white chocolate.
Twice-baked croissants eschewing traditional almond meal arrived next (don’t hold us to the exact order). When I tried Lafayette’s desiccated coconut and banana variety, I wondered why someone hadn’t played around with this template sooner. It was revelatory. Reid apparently experienced the same lighting strike and began immediate experimentations. Her ongoing sweet trials have led to mouth-watering creations including sticky-date and brownie variations.
Stuffed croissants have been the most recent incarnation of the pastry's reinvention. Luxbite's Chu was bowled over by the reaction to his own durian-cream-filled crescents and believes savoury flavours are the next frontier. “We’ve added chorizo to our dough, laminated them with truffle butter and even put pork floss on top.”
Croissants have clearly thrived in the new world with bigger, bad-ass versions of itself, but the pure croissant has also been re-throned in the making. Search #croissant on Instagram and you'll discover over 1.7 million posts, with equal fawning over flaky interiors and croissant-tops dripping with embellishments.
Perfection, however, comes only with an Einstein-style fixation on the details. At Lune, there’s a purpose-built, temperature-controlled cube for croissant production. “In France, places were doing either bread well or croissants. That’s because they need different environments,” says Reid, who trained at Paris’ renowned Du Pain et Des Idées patisserie.
So what of France, the motherland of croissants? “It’s their national breakfast,” says Reid, who understands the country’s preservationist approach to the pastry.
“These hybrids really brought croissants back into the spotlight. Bakeries then starting thinking about how they could elevate croissants in their own way.”
In the US, UK and here in Oz, where experimentation is really afoot, croissants blur the line between breakfast and dessert, so there's more scope for adaptation.
That’s not to say the French haven’t contributed. One of the key forces in the recent croissant revival is kouign-amann, the regional pastry from Brittany, once obscure even in Paris and famously described by Dominique Ansel as a "caramelised croissant". Personally, it’s one of my top three favourite pastries of all time.
In this column, Dessert Date, I scour bakeries, patisseries and dessert joints from around the world for the hottest sweet trends, up-and-coming ingredients and game-changing pastry techniques.