Frozen is golden: The best croissants in Belgium come from the freezer

Frozen is golden: The best croissants in Belgium come from the freezer
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Frozen food — whether it be pizzas, pastas, or vegetables — typically have a pretty poor reputation, especially among self-proclaimed food connoisseurs. When it comes to croissant baking, however, freezing might just hold the key to culinary success.

According to conventional wisdom, croissants need approximately 15 minutes in the oven, and they should be served to customers as fresh as possible.

Chef Lars Van den Wijngaert of Bakery Larise in Machelen, East Flanders, however, realised one day that he could serve his customers more regularly with fresh — or, rather, pretty close to fresh — croissants if he instead froze his pastries after baking them for just 12 minutes. Then, when customer demand was high, he could place his semi-frozen croissants in the oven for another couple of minutes, thereby allowing him to serve his grateful customers with deliciously warm, buttery pastries at extremely short notice.

"Before we sell the croissants, we bake them for another two minutes," Van den Wijngaert told Het Nieuwsblad. "And the result is even better than if we make them in the 'classic' way. The method enhances the taste and ensures a nicer crust."

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Culinary experts agree: on the radio station MNM, celebrity chef Roger van Damme recently declared Van den Wijngaert's croissants the best in Belgium.

In addition to the fully-baked versions, the semi-frozen croissants are now available for direct purchase from Van den Wijngaert's bakery.

However, the pastry chef bristles at the suggestion that his croissants are in any way equivalent to those you would purchase in the frozen food section of your local supermarket.

"Please don't compare them to the half-baked baguettes and pistolets you find at the grocery store," Van den Wijngaert said. "Or with those rolls of canned dough that should eventually become croissants. My croissants remain an artisanal product."

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