All it took was one trip to the mall and we were pretty much instantly best friends. Over the years we have had a shared love of many things – namely flared jeans and a questionable taste (debatable!) in music and now that we are older and wiser our shared affection of things has grown to include good IPA and red lipstick and a high level of connoisseurship in the freshly-made buttery croissant department.
Given that croissants rank high on the meter of happy things about life, I knew that including them was a must when celebrating the dessert portion of her recent birthday. So I put my baking fairy hat on and spent a few weeks brainstorming how I could elevate the humble breakfast pastry into a festive birthday dessert.
My first idea was to buy a few dozen croissants and fashion them into a towering layer cake à la croquembouche but then I put myself in check. That would have been too crazy. I needed to scale it back a bit, so next I thought maybe the simpler route would be better.
Perhaps just one croissant with a festively appropriate candle in the middle but as I played that scenario over in my head, it seemed like it wouldn’t quite come off as funny as I wanted and could even maybe be a little lonely for that one poor croissant. That idea got scrapped.
I have never made croissants from scratch (they have long been on my list!) so I toyed with giving homemade croissant-making a go. Since it would be the first time obviously the gift would be that they would have been made in her honor but what kind of a present is that – like oh I wanted to try making croissants just this once and I know your love of croissants so…haaaappy birthday to YOU??!!?…
I finally settled on putting Seattle’s best croissants into cupcakes. All the beauty of the the breakfast pastry but in party-ready cupcake form. You can’t really go wrong with baking already baked butter and flour into almond-scented cupcakes and glazing them with chocolate ganache, but these little beauties were the perfect way to celebrate a birthday and fourteen years (and counting!) of friendship.
Chocolate-Glazed Croissant Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
For the croissant cupcakes:
1 cup (125 grams) flour
2/3 cup (135 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (40 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
two croissants, use the best quality you can find (day-old is fine and this a great way to use up any leftovers!)
For the chocolate glaze:
1 cup (175 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter, softened
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (88 ml) half and half (or heavy cream)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar, optional
pinch of salt
Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325 and line a muffin tin with 12 liners. Set aside. Cut off the crispy ends of the croissants (this will be your garnish!) and chop them very finely. Transfer to a little bowl and set aside. Roughly chop the remaining croissants (you should have about 2 cups when chopped) and set aside while you prepare the batter.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to fully incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles sand.
Measure the buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup, add the egg and extracts, and whisk well until smooth. Pour the liquid into the flour mixture – and using a rubber spatula and several quick strokes – stir to just combine. Fold in the chopped croissant pieces. Be careful not to overmix.
Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool.
Make the glaze: In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, whisk the powdered sugar (if using) into the half and half (or heavy cream) and heat until just warm and small bubbles are beginning to form around the edges of the pan. Pour the warm liquid over the chocolate mixture, set stand for a minute or two, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Spoon the glaze over the cupcakes and sprinkle each with a pinch of the reserved finely-chopped croissant.