Trend Watch: Croissant crazy

10 May 2023, 09:11 AM
  • Purists, look away now. These are croissants but not as we know them, says Sally-Jayne Wright
Trend Watch: Croissant crazy

At Joel Robuchon’s upmarket deli on Piccadilly, hand-dipped, cube-shaped croissants are wowing foodies. They cost up to £8 each and have amassed more than 2m views on TikTok. Wheel-shaped croissants, croiffles, cronuts and croissants wrapped around cheesy cornbread are among the curiosities to be found. Even the plain croissants at the Lockdown Bakehouse in London’s Wandsworth Town have been part-dipped in pistachio or rose icing to draw the eye.

What’s behind the croissant craze?
- free publicity when traditional pastries with a twist go viral
- affordable indulgence
- coffee shop culture
- the sweet-salty trend

We’ve seen frankfurters, Korean BBQ hot dogs and even burgers inside croissants online. Are savoury croissants a thing? 
The appetite for sweet-salty has been around a while; think salted caramel, and hamburgers on brioche buns.

Savoury croissants aren’t to everyone’s taste but they will add indulgence to your brunch menus and luxury to picnic hampers. For £9, The Brickwood Café, Balham offers croissants filled with scrambled eggs for dine-in customers. We admired the asparagus, Baron Bigod and Coppa croissant seen at Toad Bakery, Camberwell

Which sells better, sweet or savoury?
In this country, but not in Europe, plain, chocolate and almond croissants outsell savoury says Ash Hirani, baker and account director at Europastry. Classic butter croissants are their best-seller. 

Remind me about traditional croissant shapes.
In the baking industry, a straight croissant denotes a butter croissant, while crescent-shaped is with margarine. 

Should we use fresh or frozen croissants in our deli and café?
Make friends with your local artisan baker and they can help design novelty croissants for you –perhaps a black croissant for Halloween or a Dad’s croissant for Father’s Day. If you have a Polish or Italian neighbourhood baker, you can ring the changes with Polish Saint Martin’s Day croissants or sugar-coated cornetti. 

Croissants baked in-store from frozen will entice your customers with their aroma and taste fantastically fresh. Speciality Breads of Kent – whose Viennoiserie is made in France – can put you in touch with wholesalers.

We’ve had mixed results with frozen pastries. What’s the secret of perfect, fluffy croissants?
Charlotte Morcom, marketing manager at Speciality Breads, says, “A very common mistake is to bake straight from frozen.” Defrosting for 20 minutes before baking allows the butter to melt within the layers so croissants rise properly in the oven. 

Charlotte advises baking croissants for 20-25 minutes at 170-175°C until golden. She warns: “Know your oven. Too hot and frozen croissants will burn on the outside but be raw inside. Too low and the croissant will be pale and raw in the middle and flat.”

Rest pastries for 15-18 minutes after baking. Another common error is to pile them on top of each other straight from the oven so they drop and lose fluffiness.

Is there a market for frozen croissants (including vegan) for customers to bake themselves, at home?
Yes, Crosta & Mollica, Picard and Pret are among many brands available; send for samples and do a staff tasting. Smaller households find loose, frozen, morning goods very convenient which is why the Groombridge Farm Shop in Kent and many others use Fieldfare. These experts in scoop-your-own frozen goods scored one star with their All Butter croissant in the 2022 Great Taste Awards.

We get requests for gluten-free croissants. Can you help?
While Tesco’s gluten-free croissants won bronze in the 2022 Free-From Awards, they also contained over 30 different ingredients, ranging from methyl-cellulose to pea flour. As a fine food retailer you can do better. The Manna Dew Gluten-Free Bakery in Battersea is London’s first 100% gluten-free bakery and supplies mini and standard sized croissants nationwide with a shelf life of 60 days frozen from day of arrival. Made with French Escure butter, they are excellent and expensive.

How do we make the most of the trend?
- use your loyalty scheme to offer free pastries as rewards
- introduce a coffee-with-croissant meal deal
- lure customers in with big, fat, golden croissants on display but also offer smaller versions to suit all pockets
- engage customers on social media. How about a competition for favourite croissant filling? Serve the winner in-store

Any croissant trivia I should know?
Almond croissants began life as a way for bakeries to resell day-old pastries. They filled them with almond cream and sprinkled with slivered almonds before re-baking. 

Speaking of leftovers, what can we do with ours?
Join the Too-Good-To-Go scheme where, for a third of the retail cost, customers collect ‘magic bags’ of unsold goods. They pay in advance through the app and collect within a time window specified by you. Benefits include: promotion of your store on the app, increased footfall, food waste prevention and costs partly recouped. 

What’s the future of croissants?
Novelty shapes will continue because they’re cheaper than PR agencies. Baking industry professionals expect the UK market for savoury and plant-based croissants to grow. 

Consumers will continue to treat themselves to sweet buttery croissants while worrying about heart health. For that, there is Europastry’s latest creation – a frozen olive oil croissant which smells and tastes of olive oil. Purists, look away now.

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