Portuguese Croissants: Oh là là!

Denser and less flaky than their French forebearers, croissants in Portugal make a delicious snack or sandwich.

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Portuguese croissant
The croissant is considered a classic French pasty: crescent-shaped (croissant means crescent in French), flaky crust, and, if you buy it from the right patisserie, baked to a light golden brown, but not burnt on the ends.  Croissants originally came to France by way of Austria, and are believed to have arrived in Portugal in the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars.  Beyond the shape, though, Portuguese croissants and French croissants don’t have much in common.  Anymore, that is.
Portuguese croissants are made with a brioche dough, which has less butter but more sugar than French croissants, and also contains eggs.  This is what gives Portuguese croissants a cakey, golden color compared to the French version, which looks more like a crusty bread.  Brioche in general, whether croissants or in some other form, tends to be fluffy, which explains why Portuguese croissants are taller than French croissants on average.
Up until the late 19th century, French croissants were also made with a brioche dough, but today they are made with pastry dough that does not contain egg.  The Austrian kipfel, which inspired the French croissant, was considered a foreign import and so by the 20th century, the French made it their own by stripping away the croissant’s brioche-like origins.  Perhaps because the French croissant was introduced into Portugal in its brioche heyday, the Portuguese never got the memo on switching over to pastry dough.
But good riddance to non-brioche croissants, I say! Portuguese croissants, in my opinion, are more satisfying, and much better tasting.  They are sweeter and more substantial than French croissants, owing to the dense, eggy brioche, and often glazed with a simple sugar syrup.  (Eggs in Portuguese desserts is a theme here, as I’ve talked about before.)  Also, Portuguese croissants don’t typically disintegrate into a tabletop crumb warzone like French croissants.  Sure, you might need to use a napkin to hold a Portuguese croissant, otherwise your hand gets sticky.  But at least I’ve finally found a use for those dispensers of non-absorbent, wax napkins you see all over Europe.
A traditional Portuguese breakfast usually includes a simple carb, such as toast with butter, and um café, or a shot of espresso – if that; the modern working man or woman may not even eat breakfast at all –  but you can order a croissant pretty much any time of day.  Most people will get their croissants from their favorite café, and café culture in Portugal is really how you understand the Portuguese
Like pasteis de nata, since pretty much every Portuguese café sells croissants, naturally some croissants are better than others.  I look for the densest, moistest croissant I can find with a decadent glaze.  No grocery store, dry, excessively tall, artfully shaped aberrations.  The croissant should cave under the weight of its own deliciousness. 
You can find heretics serving French-style croissants in cafés aimed at tourists, but for my money, the best Portuguese croissants are found at the Paparoca da Foz café in Porto, near the riverfront.  Catch them when they’re fresh out of the oven, which isn’t too hard because they are churning out new batches constantly.  Paparoca croissants are delightful plain but if you’re more than a little peckish, order a croissant mixto, a croissant cut in half and served with slices of ham and cheese, to make a savory-sweet meal out of it. 
Croissants from Paparoca da Foz. Image source: Paparoca da Foz.
Paparoca view 1
View from Paparoca but imagine someone with photographic talent took this picture and not me.
Note that the Portuguese pronounce croissant as cro-ah-SAH, and you’ll occasionally see it spelled phonetically as croassã.  If you’re trying your hand at Portuguese but pronounce the word with a hard “r” like the French, they will ask you in English to repeat yourself.
After you order your Paparoca cro-ah-SAH, sit outside and watch people exercise as you consume a quarter of your daily calories in blissful repose.  Depending upon the size, and even if you don’t go for a croissant mixto, a Portuguese croissant will set you back around 300 calories. Oh là là!
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