Bronte Pistachio Croissants

Bronte Pistachio Paste&  Croissants

Over the past few years, there’s been a major shift in my thinking when it comes to food. I had traditionally thought that ingredients are divided to two categories, the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. Cabbage, for instance fell into the “ordinary” category, whereas saffron was obviously extra-ordinary. The extra-ordinary ingredients came across as an elitist bunch. They seemed picky, always demanding a light hand, a purity in approach, always wanting to be at center stage, the stars of the show. Lobsters screamed to be poached gently and to be flavoured only with a small amount of herb butter. Oysters cried out to be eaten “au naturelles”.  Truffles were appalled if they were mixed with too many other ingredients – shaving them simply over scrambled eggs was best. I obeyed their demands and followed a respectful, minimalist approach with these extra-ordinaries, and as correct as that approach remains, I now realise that I was giving these guys the royal treatment for the wrong reason.

These days, my approach is no longer ruled by classism. The world of food has stopped being an empire with a select few in the ruling class and has become a world of food communism where all ingredients are of the same culinary value – a classless food society where ingredients are treated equally, regardless of race or creed.

These are the facts. A truffle is no better than a potato. A prawn is no lesser a crustacean than a lobster. Saffron is no more amazing than pepper. Each of these ingredients has its place and they are all equally important. What drives us to value ingredients differently is economics – supply and demand. Obviously, truffles are in less supply than potatoes so they demand a higher price. Saffron’s monetary value is in the intense labour it needs and the landmass it requires for cultivation. As supply decreases or remains steady, high demand shifts an ingredient from the “ordinary” to the “extra-ordinary”, price-wise that is. Back in the day, sugar was one of those amazing products, highly sought after and very expensive due to the difficulty in production. Obviously, sugar is now a cheap commodity, its status is less extra-ordinary though its culinary value remains constant.

Bronte Pistachio Paste Croissants

The Pistachio Paste

Nowadays, when I judge an ingredient, I judge it based on its individual quality. Such is the case of this pistachio paste. It is a paste of Bronte pistachios, one that will make you want to believe in reincarnation, simply for another chance of coming back to Earth and having some more. Sicily is Italy’s only pistachio growing region, and the town of Bronte is where some of Sicily’s best pistachios come from. The pistachios’ distinctive flavour comes from Bronte’s mineral rich soil and distinctive climate. The pistachio trees are harvested once every two years. The work needs to be done manually due to the difficult terrain. The quality of these pistachios, coupled with the relatively small and labour intensive yield makes them a niche product, and so, high demand meets low supply and prices skyrocket.

I read about Bronte pistachio paste in David Lebovitz’s blog in 2007. I craved it ever since, but Sydney doesn’t stock any. As luck would have it, Oday, a young Lebanese boy involved in the Australian Youth Food Movement went to Terra Madre, and being the wonderful adopted younger brother that he is, he indulged me upon his return with a jar of the good stuff.

What Does it Taste Like?

I wanted to make pistachio gelato, as per David L’s recipe, but the moment I opened the jar I knew I wouldn’t be able to. The intoxicating scent of pistachios, followed by a spoonful of a most ethereal delight confirmed my initial resolve. Imagine if Nutella were made with some of the world’s best hazelnuts and finest chocolate. Now imagine Bronte pistachios instead of hazelnuts and milk instead of chocolate, and you might get a glimpse of how this beauty tastes like. Not trying to be elitist, but this paste is best enjoyed pure, by the spoonful, letting the creaminess melt in your mouth and coat your taste buds, eyes closed, the aroma of roasted pistachios filling your nose. Of course, if I had 20 jars, I’d be making pistachio gelati, face masks, body scrubs, you name it. But with only 1 in hand, I allowed myself an attempt at pistachio croissants, using only 2 tablespoons of pistachio paste.

The Croissants

Invited as a guest to a pastry class at Patisse in Waterloo, I recently learned the art of croissant making. Pastry chef Vincent Gadan, ex Guillaume, is an excellent teacher and a joy to spend 4 hours with. The class covered basic French pastry – pains au chocolate, brioches, frangiapane tarts and croissants – and we went home with a bundle of raw pastry, including the pastry I used for the croissants. The croissants I made at home turned out to be fantastic and the pistachio paste matched them exceedingly well. There are so many croissants recipes out there that I won’t put one up. I believe after my class with Vincent that pastry is one of those things that you should learn from a teacher rather than from a cook book. You need to feel the pastry, know how pliable and how thin it should be before you try making it. Otherwise, the results won’t be as great as they would otherwise be.

The Obligatory Middle-Eastern Pride

It was the Arabs, of course, that took the pistachio tree to Sicily. The Sicilian word for pistachios, frastuca, is still a clear relative to the Arabic fustuq also meaning pistachios.

15 Responses to “Bronte Pistachio Croissants”

  1. Greta article Fouad! Your passion and love for these particular pistachios is quite evident! (body scrub???…LOL!) The croissants look stunning and I bet they were worthy of a re-incarnation!
    Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul´s last [type] ..Green Eggs

  2. A pistachio body scrub and lotion? Sounds good! I wonder why no one ever did it before! The croissants look awesome, crisp and hot, I can almost smell them! Also now I want to taste that paste! Gives me another reason to go to Sicily!

    I agree about pastry learning. I am not a natural born “pastry” maker/baker. Obviously the thing needs lots of practice or close teaching. The process is delicate and a small mistake can create a huge difference.
    I got so happy with myself when I was able to make a simple cake and cookies. Which is ridiculous compared to cooking which always came naturally to me.
    I know for me to get to make such good looking croissants, I need a lot more practice… Way to go!

    BTW did I ever tell you I love the informative aspect of your blog?

  3. François says:

    Hi Fouad, there used to be a baker next to Clemeceau district in Beirut who made the most amazing croisants filled with zaatar and olive oil. It was a terrible delimma having to choose between them and a manouché (Manoosheh).

    Thanks for your posts, really enjoying them.

  4. Just in reply to a comment by François: I also used to patronize that baker since we live in Clemenceau: I loved, no, adored, his zaatar croissants, and to me they are the one and only; love pstachios and all, but zaatar is superior.
    My mom visited Sicily and told me it felt like an arab region in a lot of ways; wish to go.
    Your croissants look fantastic, love their golden tan and they seem so crispy.
    Never had pistachio croissants, maybe you could start a little cottage industry and selll them frozen for those of us far from you>????
    tasteofbeirut´s last [type] ..Cranberry tarte

  5. Reemski says:

    Oh, pistachios! I don’t think I would be able to control myself if presented with those croissants straight of the oven!

  6. Gareth says:

    Splendid article Fouad, I enjoyed your thoughts on food classism. I think that even the potato has been given the status elevation treatment with a explosion in the varieties available, Royal Blues Congo all very exotic. Its no longer just spud mash but Kipfler mash. I think this is a good thing, people become educated in the different varieties and their names.

    Now this pistachio paste and your croissants sound mouthwateringly special. I think that I may have to enroll in a pastry class and track down some of this divine paste that you sold me on.

  7. Hannah says:

    *swoons* I once spent a few hours in a chocolate shop in DC with the owner who was rhapsodizing about this pistachio paste. Ever since then (this was a year ago) there’s been an empty space in my heart where pistachio paste should be. I’ve tred pistachio butter here in Australia, but it just doesn’t cut it.

    Please keep savouring this by the spoonful! That’s what I did with Crema Novi, an Italian Nutella-like spread that I bought in Florence. Sometimes, spoons of nut butter are what make life worth living :)
    Hannah´s last [type] ..My Ultimate Pleasure In Poem Form With Magnum Temptation

  8. Cherine says:

    Great post!! I would love to try the pistachio paste, I bet it tastes wonderful.
    Your croissants are a work of art!!

  9. Amanda says:

    Excellent post, Fouad, but it has left me feeling a bit envious of you with your precious jar of pistachio paste!
    I’ve never made croissants and that it for the best, really. It is probably better for my hips that the only ones I would want to eat are not too accessible!

  10. Suddenly I have an image of Fouad covered in a pistachio face mask, about to apply a pistachio body scrub, with Mrs Food Blog looking on… :P But seriously, it sounds like a divine taste…. In a croissant!!

    In reply to Francois’ comment, I ate zaatar filled croissants in Dubai at the hotel and they were amazing!
    Corinne @ Gourmantic´s last [type] ..Saint and Sinner Wines- South Australia

  11. Vanille says:

    Your pains au chocolat and croissants look superb ! And what a wonderful idea to fill the croissant with a pistachio paste…

  12. Eric says:

    Your photos are really good!
    Eric´s last [type] ..Breakstones 2 Lowfat Cottage Cheese

  13. Fouad says:

    Hi guys

    Sorry it took me so long to reply! Hope you all are well :)

    Peter – I agree, I think I may have taken it too far with the body scrub thing…

    Hi Vivianne – keefek? Thanks for the encouragement! I am usually like you, a terrible baker. Give me a stove top any day, but every once in a while, the stars align and if the moon is full, a croissant may come out looking good :)

    Francois and Jouamana – I’ve never tried that particular shop. I LOVE zaatar croissants. I think the two are made for each other. It works so well doesn’t it? I will try to seek that place out when I visit next year!

    Reemski – are you as afflicted as I am with pistachios?

    Hi Gareth – thanks for visiting and for your comment. Yes, the different varieties of potato! My god! It’s so confusing, which one is waxy and which one is starchy again? Stay tuned for a post about making a pistachio paste of your own :)

    Hi Hannah. I know exactly what you mean about the space in your heart. The problem is, that space grows more when you actually try the stuff. You crave it badly. I still have a few tea spoons in the jar. Taking my time with them :)

    Marhaba Cherine. Thanks for your comment. Isn’t edible art the best kind of art? Hehehehe

    Hi Amanda, you’re coming no where near my jar, so if you’re thinking about it, don’t!

    Hello Corinne. I hope that image is not giving you nightmares :P I think someone in Sydney should make zaatar croissants, don’t you?

    Hello Vanille – thanks for taking the time to comment. The croissants tasted wonderful. I wish I had an infinite supply of that paste.

    Hello Eric – thanks

  14. chloe leclerc says:

    Please tell me where to get this pistachio paste from!! you made my mouth water!

  15. Danielle says:

    I’ve made that gelato and it is just like one you’d buy in Italy – SO GOOD! I need to find crema di pistacchio here! Or at least someone who will ship it to me for an affordable price. Or… I could just go back to Sicily… :)

Leave a Reply

*

CommentLuv badge
All rights reserved The Food Blog 2010