Some matters are so weighty they take a day or so to settle in the mind. Having had time to consider this question, I can now ask: how do you like your croissants, straight or curved?
A story in the Guardian on Saturday reported that Tesco is only going to sell straight croissants due to customer demand. Before we go any further into this flakily contentious territory, let’s just stop there for a moment. The mental image this suggests is of queues of customers waving banners demanding no more curved croissants, although in truth some half-baked company research will have been involved.
Years ago I managed to get a whole column out of Tesco introducing cheese that was apparently the perfect size to make cheese on toast. As a man who has made and eaten a lot of cheese on toast, as a man who could eat this glorious snack every day if that weren’t such a dietary suicide note, I was outraged by this.
Surely one of the glories of cheese on toast lies in its melty randomness, in the way that some of the cheese drips from the toast on to the grill, to be eaten later when it has set into delicious discs or salty spillages.
I even managed to unearth someone at Tesco HQ who was prepared to issue a statement defending this travesty against my favourite lunchtime treat. Thankfully, my extensive research – or a quick Google – can find no evidence that such a product still exists.
That’s one of the problems with the way food is produced nowadays, in that a supermarket such as Tesco will put effort into producing something so unnecessary.
Here’s how you make cheese on toast: you cut ill-fitting slices of cheese, nibbling as you go, and arrange these to approximately cover partially toasted bread. Then you place under a hot grill and wait for the heat to transform this into a melted, crispy slice of deliciousness. Easy and no further modification is required, although good bread and decent cheese is needed to do the job properly.
Anyway, croissants. Tesco says its customers want straight croissants to more easily spread their butter and jam. Or to more easily to ensure they have a heart attack before lunchtime; one or the other.
Putting butter on croissants is going too far, according to assorted French bakers quoted in the news story; and according to me, too. Croissants are basically butter-drenched dough in the first place, so adding further butter is unnecessary and on the greasy side of lethal, I’d say. A recipe I was given years ago contains two pounds of white bread flour and two packets of unsalted butter, along with salt, water and yeast, to make 30 croissants.
According to dietary advice found online, a croissant weighing 100g contains 406 calories, and how those six calories got in there, no one knows. I even found some Tesco dietary advice concerning croissants, and surprisingly this didn’t just say “No.”
Now I love croissants but indulge rarely. A good croissant needs to be made by a proper baker, not bought in a supermarket wrapped in film; a good croissant is crispy and falls apart in flakes, instead of being a soggy disappointment.
The best croissant for my money is an almond croissant, filled with sticky nuttiness and topped with toasted flaked almonds. Other than that, I’d say eat your croissant with a decent coffee, and nothing else.
As to their pastry profile, the word croissant originates from the crescent shape of a new moon, so curved ones seem more authentic, although straight croissants can be found in France.
Incidentally, although the French can be precious about these things, croissants in their supermarkets are just as rubbish as our own mass-produced croissants. And, incidentally times two, croissants were first created in Vienna, apparently. So they are not truly French at all.