Let’s talk breakfast. A typical Brussels breakfast is a pastry, some coffee and a cigarette. Those of you that know me know that the cigarette would never be in my repertoire but I’m pretty sure most Belgians keep it in there to stay slim after eating these pastries everyday. The majority of pastries listed here are Viennoiseries (Things of Vienna). It is a class of pastries that are made from yeast-leavened dough or puff pastry with added ingredients (like butter, cream, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, butter, and butter). Here is a short and by no means complete list of what you will find at your standard boulangerie (bread store) and/or patisserie (a boulangerie that must have a certified pastry chef on staff). And yes, I eat them all…all the time.
The humble Croissant. The typical American style croissant has nothing on these bad boys. When you bite into one of these you need your dust buster to vacuum up what these leave behind. So crunchy on the outside, so flaky, it is a giant mess but worth it.
And now for my favorite, le croissant aux amandes. This croissant is covered in toasted almonds, powdered sugar and has a thumb-width sized strip of frangipane in the middle (a mixture of butter, sugar, eggs, and ground almonds to a grainy paste consistency). I eat one of these with my coffee at least twice a week.
This is a coque huit. It can also come with little chocolate chips spread through out the custard centers. Very good but you feel REALLY guilty after eating one. At least with the croissant aux amandes I can kid myself into thinking I had some protein.
Le pain au chocolat. If you have been to this area of the woods before I pray that you have had one of these. Probably the most popular of all the chocolate pastries but it is also what I am most picky about. Some places make so-so ones, some places make ones you want to bathe in. Croissant soft pastry (thanks to the extra butter) with two sticks of dark chocolate shoved down the middle. Yes, please and thank you.
Coque au chocolat. I am having a hard time finding a good picture of a coque au chocolat, I guess I’ll have to just go get one tomorrow and take a picture! It is a pain au chocolat but is special to Belgium. The dough is crispier and rolled higher creating a lighter bread than what is on the pain au chocolat. Which means that you can eat two instead of one.
This is the pain au raisin. I don’t like it. Do you know why I don’t like it? Because they also make one of these shapes with chocolate chips. So when you walk up to the counter and you see they are out of all out of your normal favorites (happens often, especially after 9am) you see this guy, and you get all excited. Then you lean closer and …waah waah….it’s the raisin one, not the chocolate chip one. No one likes raisins in their bread. No one. That’s why they are the only things left in the case.
Oh yes. The Tortillon. Not only do you get a crunchy yet soft croissant like exterior, you get a custard inside, speckled with chocolate and a giant dark chocolate stripe on the outside. I had eaten half of mine here when I remembered that I was going to take a picture. It’s a good thing my camera was on the table because I don’t think I would have left this guy alone while I went to search. Often, you devour these things faster than you plan.
This little trigonomic gem is the chausson aux pommes, also known as the appelflap in dutch or the apple turnover in the US. The french name directly translates into The [shoe] Slipper of the Apples , because French is like that. They talk romantical about every. stinkin. thing.
Brioche bread is most famous for making the best french toast you have ever had in your life, as well as giving you a heart attack by age 40. It’s made with so much butter, you just don’t want to know (ok I give in, I will tell you. For every pound of flour, you use half a pound of butter). Brioche makes a tasty breakfast, especially when spread with nutella but it has nothing on it’s cousin.
Le Craquelin. This is a brioche loaf, that has sugar pearls placed INSIDE the dough. When you bake it the sugar melts after the bread begins to firm up so you are left with oozy pockets of melted sugar dotted around the inside. Then if that wasn’t enough, you coat the outside with a sugar syrup and throw on the sugar pearls on top. It is heaven. You know you shouldn’t eat it, but it beckons you. They also make a version of this with raisin in it. Which is a terrible and horrendous idea. Those are always left on the shelf as well. Le Craquelin goes so fast at most good bakeries that you actually have to order them in advance to get good one to take home.
Last but not least is the sad little carré blanc. Carré means square in french so I was annoyed, because it is a rectangle. Until I cut a slice and said, oh. duh. It is basic white bread but can be transformed into goodness by spreading on local honey, amazing preserves you get here, or nutella. Because nutella is good spread on anything. Even snails, I’d eat that.
Hope you enjoyed a tour of my breakfast. This coming Monday there will not be a post because I will be on an airplane with the kids on my way to meet Jason in Dubai. It’s beach time and thanks to these pastries, I can’t fit into any of my suits without a wedge. See you soon and I can’t wait to show you Dubai through our eyes.