Despite trying not to overindulge in ready-bought starchy carbs all too often, I do confess to a serious soft spot for pastry dough. I love the versatility of a packet of good frozen pizza dough, a roll of frozen puff pastry or a tin of croissant dough from the fridge.
And despite knowing better, I confess I often “forget” to have breakfast. I have the bad habit of diving into the daily tasks with vigor without taking the time for a proper sit down breakfast.
That’s why I really appreciate a leisurely brunch with all the trimmings at the weekend, especially when shared with good friends after a late night session of putting the world to rights.
Only one tin of croissant dough and 6 hungry guests? Not a problem with this deceptively easy Brunch Crescent It has all the ingredients of a great brunch and then some, all neatly wrapped in an impressive Tear-tAnd share to serve family-style at the table.
My version today has a true sense of La Dolce Vita with pancetta, pesto, tomatoes, red pepper and toasted pine nuts. But you can play around with the filling to taste.
The croissant dough and the scrambled eggs are the basic essentials. Other than that, let your imagination run wild: pancetta could be strips or lardons, it could be smokey bacon, diced ham or sausage, strips of gammon or prosciutto. I’ve even made this with chorizo, which is simply gorgeous too.
The pesto could be swapped for a little harissa or chilli paste, a good dollop of wholegrain mustard or even a dash of BBQ or tomato sauce.
The pepper could be courgette, some refried beans, shredded leeks, spring onion or mushrooms. The cheese could be cheddar, Gouda, mozzarella or Gruyere, basically anything that melts nicely. Shredded cooked chicken, wilted spinach, you get the picture.
Bring on the weekend!
Italian Brunch Croissant Tear-and-Share (Serves 6)
1 tin of croissant dough (for 6 croissants)
a good handful of pancetta lardons
1 small onion or banana shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
4-6 eggs (depending on size – I used large duck eggs so 4 was enough), plus 1 to egg wash
4-6 tbsp milk, cream or creme fraiche
4-6 tsp butter plus a little extra for greasing
3 tbsp pesto, homemade or shop bought
2 tomatoes or a small handful of cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced and drained from excess liquid
2 tbsp sunblush tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1-2 handfuls of grated cheese, either 1 type or a mixture
1-2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)
Some freshly chopped herbs such as parsley, basil or coriander if you have them; else add some dried herbs to the onion and red pepper as you’re frying them.
Preheat the oven to 200 C
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Fry off the pancetta without added fat until browned, but still nice and moist. Set aside, but leave any fat in the pan.
Add the onion to the pan and fry until translucent and starting to brown at the edges. Season and add the red pepper together with any dried herbs if using. Fry for another minute or so until the red pepper has started to soften. Drain and set aside.
Keep 1 egg for the egg wash , then lightly whisk together the other eggs with the milk. Season generously.
Add the butter to the pan and allow to just melt but not brown. Add the beaten eggs.
Let them sit for 10 secs or so, then gently start pushing the egg inwards and around for a few minutes until you have very soft-set scrambled eggs. They need to hold their shape, but still be flowing, as they carry on cooking after you remove them from the pan and will be cooked again inside the crescent.
Stir 2/3 of the pancetta, red pepper and onion through the scrambled egg. Stir 1/2 of the cheese through the egg mixture as well, together with the chopped sunblush tomatoes.
Cut the croissant dough into triangles along the perforations. Then cut each triangle length-ways in half again, so you have twelve long triangles.
Grease an oven tray or place a piece of silpat or greaseproof paper on top.
Arrange the dough triangles in a circle with the wide side inwards and the long peaks facing outwards. Leave a space in the middle, but slightly overlap each bottom piece. Press together gently.
Generously brush the dough with pesto, all the way up onto the spikes of the star.
Arrange the tomato slices in a ring onto the dough and top with the scrambled egg mixture. Press gently into shape.
Scatter over the remaining pancetta, onion and red pepper, then the herbs and pine nuts (if using). Finish with the remaining grated cheese (keep 1 tbsp aside).
Now carefully fold each star spike over the egg filling and tuck safely underneath the inside rim.
Beat the remaining egg with a little salt to loosen it and brush onto the crescent. Finish with a sprinkling of the last bit of cheese..
Bake for 20 mins or until cooked and golden.