There is a thing that I have whenever I am in Paris-- a phrase I use as if I were there often, when in fact it has now been eight years, and who knows when I shall return. It is a croissant dough, wrapped in a spiral, studded with raisins, and the seams filled with baked custard. I'm sure it has a name, a simple name; it is a simple thing, a humble thing, and I usually pick (er, picked) it up at a local chain of coffee stands-- this is like having nostalgia for the bagel at 7-11. Yet it was wonderful, and as basic and ubiquitous to the French breakfast assortment as it seemed to be, I have never found its precise equivalent in North America. And I do mean North America, because I even tried in Mexico:
As I wrote then: I keep searching on this side of the Atlantic for raisin croissants filled with custard like you can find every ten feet in Paris, they're the most ordinary thing there, like a sesame bagel is here, and yet no one I know of quite gets it right in this hemisphere (including the St. Roger Abbey-- believe me, it was the first thing I checked!) This got closer than most, but it still didn't have the custard center.
Speaking of the St. Roger Abbey (has anyone been there lately?), here's theirs, which looked much closer to the real thing:
Yet alas, as I noted then: a pain aux raisins (actually raisins sec, my wife pointed out, since "raisins" are grapes)... Pretty authentic tasting, though the pain aux raisins lacked the custardy center of the ones I always buy and revere on the streets of Paris, and they were all, I suspect, day old or even two days old as the bakery nuns probably didn't work yesterday [the Solemnity of Mary].
It's the custard no one seems to get. Even Au Bon Pain had a perfectly decent croissant studded with raisins, but just glazed to a carnauba wax sheen, no custard for miles. Why doesn't anyone just make the damn things like they make them in Paris?
A few mentions of M. Henry's new bakery and food shop in the past weeks suddenly made me realize, if they're whipping out authentic brioche and so on, maybe they... so I swung by there this morning and got this:
They call it a brioche du fromage. Well, brioche rather than croissant was getting further away from the goal, but fromage, if they meant a sort of cheesy custard a la cheese danish, that could be promising... having fully documented it, I bit in.
Fromage? I tasted no fromage. Puffy brioche dough, raisins, a glaze, it tasted fine for what it was. But it was not the raisin croissant of my dreams.
My search goes on....