The browning battalion

My friend Sara Dickerman wrote a great series for The Stranger last year called Pastry Police. In it she called out local coffeeshops for serving crappy croissants, mushy muffins, and, uh, bad bearclaws. She named names. It was consumer reporting of the best and most buttery kind:

Online Coffee Company (1111 First Ave), an inviting internet cafe, sells scones that look like cow patties. Hungry Mind Cafe (717 Fourth Ave) is a groovy place with a fab newsstand and yummy Indian fried snack mixes, but its pastry case is filled with bloated, stale-tasting croissants and assembly line muffins.

I’m late to the party, but I’d like to pile on with this corollary: many bad pastries–bagels even more so–could be magically converted into okay pastries by just baking them longer.

Most arguments in cooking boil down to personal taste. You can tell me all the reasons why real maple syrup is better than high fructose corn syrup with artificial flavors, but I still like the fake stuff better.

But when it comes to underbaked goods, I’m going to maintain that this is a matter of human physiology and pale pastry can eat me. Baked stuff gets brown due to the Maillard reaction. This is a complicated chemical process that can be reduced to:

carbohydrates + protein + heat = brown color + SUPER-DELICIOUSNESS

A nearly white bagel (which is what they are selling today at the University Bookstore Cafe) will never taste as good as a golden brown bagel. For croissants, because the delectable proteins in butter are involved, the case for browning is even stronger. Pale croissants taste like buttered Wonder bread.

Do not miss out on SUPER-DELICIOUSNESS! Bake it brown, clown.

2 thoughts on “The browning battalion

  1. Neil

    YES – I totally agree. An underbaked croissant is just nasty, chewy and doughy. Might as well microwave the damn thing. This is one of the big things that make pastries in France so much better – they don’t underbake.

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