Bakery Gone Wild: The Rise Of Designer Croissants


Forgive me if I am distracted. I just read an article titled--I kid you not-- "First Doughnuts Went Haywire. Now Croissants Are Next". Now, this is just the kind of article that would catch the attention of a serious baker. In the end, the topic was one that has intrigued me for a while. See, it turns out that doughnuts and croissants are but two of the many bakery items that have gotten glamorous overhauls in recent years, thanks to social media.

Just when did bakery become more style than substance? It's hard to say, but these days, it seems that what the thing looks like is more important than what it tastes like. And, concepts and flavors have gotten increasingly complex. You know what I'm talking about. Remember back in the day when your homemade yellow cake was lopsided and frosted with a butter knife and nobody cared? Try bringing that to your kid's friend's birthday party today. You will be politely ejected.

I kid, of course. But the trend is real. Alien croissants and mutant doughnuts are everywhere, and thanks to Instagram they are hot stuff. Supermoon Bakehouse in New York City specializes in

what are lovingly referred to as "cruffins"-- a hybrid of a croissant and a muffin-- and designer croissants with intriguing names like White Ferrero Rocher V2.0, Mango Bi-Color and Banana Split Sundae Twice Baked dominate the menu. Are unusual doughnuts more your style? Their White Sesame and Saffron offering should fit the bill.

And just in case you thought that cupcakes escaped this fate, just walk into any patisserie or cupcake bakery in any major city or suburb. The Skinny Piggy in Chicago describes its Spicy Mango cake as "Mango cake spiced with guajillo pepper filled with mango puree topped with mango cream cheese frosting with a dash of guajillo pepper on top". This sounds like it might have my taste buds running for their lives.

The point, if there is one, is this: if you pay attention to the Internet you will be led to believe that mom's baked goods--the old standbys that tasted so delicious but often lacked (sellable) visual appeal--are no longer good enough. I mean, once you've had guajillo pepper added to your mango cake, how could you ever go back, right?

For those just wanting to make tasty bakery for loved ones, this apparent demand for gourmet, the new and oft outrageous, featuring complex (and often just plain weird) flavors can make it seem as if the bar has been raised so high that there is no point in even trying. Do not become discouraged. Remember something that all home bakers know: there's a difference between a croissant, muffin or doughnut made with love, and one that is made to impress. And if you think nobody can taste this difference you are wrong. Will they go to the local bakery to get a $5 cruffin when they can have your homemade blueberry muffin? Sure there is the novelty of the thing, but you know what they say--fool me once...

Trends come and go. In fact, the inevitable mutant doughnut backlash is occurring as we speak. But homemade bakery is here to stay. I leave you with one more thought: every single winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off has used either box cake mixes, pre-made doughs and/or some other shortcut. Their recipes were judged to be the best not because of the complexity of the flavors or technique, but because the bakers added ingredients and flavors that made them their own. They were made with love.

Happy baking!

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