Sorry for being AWOL. Recent events sort of prompted me to take a few weeks off from cooking. Sad, sad, I know, since it’s something that I truly enjoy. I came back to Chicago from Thanksgiving at home with enough food to feed a small one-many army (that army being myself), and so it was unnecessary to overload my fridge with food that I wasn’t going to have the time, or really the inclination to eat (I mean, Thanksgiving leftovers? They come around once a year!) Not only that, I skipped town for a few days and wouldn’t be home. My friend Orange got married last weekend (yay!) so I was in Orlando for her wedding. After that, Tomato and I hit up the Happiest Place on Earth for a few days. With me growing up in Florida and her in California, neither one of us need much convincing or an excuse to get us to do a weekend Walt Disney World jaunt. With all the fun being had, I didn’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. Also, up next is Spain, and there’s no need to rush Spain.
Instead, I’m taking you on another at-home food field trip, this time to Belgium for some croissants. While thought to be mostly of French origin, with Belgium being so close to France, it’s no surprise that croissants can be found just as easily in Belgium as chocolate and waffles. The common element all any traditional European bread crafters’s methodology is time. By understanding the science behind the technique and ingredients and really respecting the process, the baker creates not merely a pastry, but, forgive me if I’m being overly dramatic, a work of art. One such artist can be found at Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. Hendricks and his wife came over from Belgium and set up shop, so I’d say they have street cred to be hawking their wares. It’s a teeny, tiny store; I’m sure passed by many, but actually noticed by few.
I first came upon this little gem while taking part in one of Chicago’s Chocolate Tour (fun stuff, by the way). On the tour, we got a behind the scenes glimpse of the work it takes to make all of Hendrickx’s fabulous creations. Hendrickx explained to us that the process he uses to make his croissants from scratch, take 18 hours of kneading, resting, folding, baking, etc. Yup, 18 HOURS. That’s ridiculous, but in the end, totally worth it. You can taste the love in every bit of anything that comes out of the oven. The quality of ingredients is apparent and probably the reason why it only takes one of these rich croissants to feel satisfied. No wonder French (or Belgian) women don’t get fat…a small bit of the best, rather than a whole lot of the mediocre. Another delicacy of note is the white chocolate pearl sugar bread, which I suspect is the real reason we went into this shop (chocolate tour, after all). Not only is this sweet bread stuffed with white chocolate, but it’s topped with that pearl sugar I was telling you about that Hendrickx has imported straight from Belgium.** I wish there was a way to pass on the hypnotizing smell through the internet. Just imagine the best bread smell you’ve ever smelled…and then quadruple it. If you’re ever in downtown, you have to stop by. For anyone visiting, it’s conveniently located right by most of the downtown hotels, so no excuses!
Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafters:
100 East Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60611
**Of course the week after I made the Belgian waffles my mom found Belgian pearl sugar at her grocery strore and bought me some. So, if you have a Meijer, check there. If not, just don’t be lazy like I was and check your local grocery stores.**