Cronut Creator Dominique Ansel Rethinks the Breakfast Sandwich
(Bloomberg) -- Editor’s Note: As we begin leaving our home kitchens and dining out more, the weekly Lunch Break column will evolve to highlight dishes from a variety of sources: a new or reopened restaurant; a newsmaking person, place, or recipe; or, of course, a great cookbook.
Since he introduced the world to the Cronut in 2013, Dominique Ansel has lived in a sugar-dusted universe dominated by the indulgent, cream-filled donut-croissant hybrid.
Now the legendary baker is championing the croissant more directly. At Dominique Ansel Workshop, which will open on Friday, July 16, in New York’s Flatiron District, there will be eight varieties of croissants, priced from $4.50, including one stuffed with Black forest ham and fontina cheese, and topped with melted Gruyere. Expect such unconventional offerings as an olive oil croissant with a hit of confit garlic to accent the sunny flavor.
Ansel’s version of pain au chocolat consists of black and white pastry cut into precise, contrasting strips with an X-Acto knife and then filled with three pieces of chocolate, instead of the standard two, before baking. Ansel believes that seeing an exterior of chocolate signals the pastry’s flavor more directly. “I wanted something that was recognizable. You see it, and you know it’s chocolate,” he says.
Ansel has made croissants since he opened his SoHo bakery in 2011, but they are invariably outsold by the Cronut, as well as the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann), a ridiculous caramelized-butter pastry based on a traditional French snack. Ansel saw his new workshop as an opportunity to highlight a product that doesn’t get enough respect, especially from him. “A rival baker once said my croissants were so bad, that’s why I had to fry them,” says Ansel, referring to the deep-fried Cronut.
The croissant Ansel will sell at the Workshop was developed earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s made with two imported-from-France ingredients: flour from Grands Moulins de Paris and pricey Isigny Sainte Mère butter. The other key component is levain, the yeast starter that will be familiar to anyone who started a sourdough project during the pandemic; Ansel has had his for 10 years. Together, the staples combine to construct a pastry with seemingly thousands of flaky layers and a crunch that will turn heads across the street when you take a bite. “You should be able to hear the flakiness,” he says.
Because Ansel delights in experimentation, the Workshop’s menu will extend to such baked goods as a “Riz au Lait Cube,” a supersized block of laminated brioche filled with arborio rice pudding and tangy huckleberry jam, and a triangle of golden pastry with a dollop of praline and coffee in the center. The edges can get dry, so they are stuffed them with additional hazelnut cream, “like the pizza crusts you see on television,” he says.
To balance the sweets, Ansel has crafted a list of savory items, notably Le Breakfast Sandwich (recipe below). It’s a croissant, halved lengthwise and stuffed with an omelet filled with garlicky, herb-flecked boursin cheese and a sprinkling of chives. It’s not a dish the chef grew up with—he ate eggs alongside a baguette spread with boursin, which he calls “the French version of cream cheese”—but it’s one he’s perfected.
This gorgeous ode to an egg sandwich is stuffed with what looks like an unassuming omelet. Break into it, and the creamy, oozy filling is revealed in scrumptious contrast to the croissant. It’s a sandwich best eaten with your hands—although it can get messy, if not as messy as an ice cream burger.
If you’re in New York, go to the Workshop and experiment with different croissant flavors. If you’re not, try this recipe with any crisp, good quality croissant. Make it and you’ll forget that you ever might have ordered a BEC.
Tester’s note: To craft a picture-perfect sandwich, make one omelet at a time. For expediency, you can make an omelet for two and cut it in half to fill two croissants.
Le Breakfast Sandwich
Makes 4 sandwiches
8 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
One 5.2 oz. package of boursin, at room temperature
4 croissants, carefully sliced open from the top down
In a bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper.
In a small nonstick pan, melt the butter over low heat and swirl it evenly around the pan. Add one-quarter of the eggs; cook while gently stirring with a rubber spatula, until just set around the edges. When the eggs are still soft and just runny in the center, spread one-quarter of the boursin round on one half. Fold over the omelet to enclose the cheese.
Pull the sides of the croissant open, if necessary, and arrange the omelet inside. Sprinkle with chopped chives to finish.
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