At the beginning of my search for the perfect croissant in Bristol, I had a strong love for the DIY version of croissant eating. Instead of eating them out at the cafe, I would go out early on Sunday morning, buy my pastry and walk back to my house through the empty streets. Sounds a bit strange — after all, isn’t part of the joy of Sunday morning breakfast eating outside? — but empty Bristol on Sunday morning is gorgeous. It was one of the few times when my house was blissfully quite and peaceful and the cafes in Bristol (the first ones I went to) have little to no ambiance. Right now, sitting here in Italy with a gorgeous blue sky outside and a cup of lavazza (don’t judge, I got it for free) made from an Italian moka, I feel a deep nostalgia for that time.
Needless to say, I haven’t been much of the DIY cornetto breakfast-er. Until a trip to visit family in Trieste presented me with the perfect opportunity to take on this challenge. I was staying with my grandmother’s sister (relationship name, anyone?) who didn’t exactly share my breakfast style. She was a fan of the caffelatte and a bit of toast. The first morning I was with her, I had a grand old time dipping grilled bread with nutella into my coffee (one of my new favorite things. would be even better with this stuff) and eating the Jiff peanut butter my grandmother had clearly brought over from America (funny thing? my other grandmother also stocks Jiff peanut butter). On my second, Sunday morning, however, I knew that I needed to indulge in my weekly “brioche”. Luckily, she wanted to go out to get some fresh bread and buy the paper. I joined her on the quick-as-lightening walk to the pasticceria.
She lives in the centre of town in an area that allows you to indulge every single dream you’ve ever had about living in Europe. The accordian players, the people running around, the gentle noises, perfect windows and bakeries selling freshly baked bread on Sunday morning. The bakery we went to was small, idyllic and redolent with sugar, yeast and butter. It was all I could do not to jump around out of my skin, bella figura, Emilia. Bella figura.
Before getting the bread, she asked if there was anything I wanted to try and it was all I could do not to yell brioche. She seemed to think that I would be much happier trying the bombole filled with pastry cream, or perhaps a cookie covered in powdered sugar. When it was clear that my middle name is croissant, she ordered two (along with some classic italian white spongey bread) to go. Carrying them back to her apartment in a paper bag on a slightly drizzly Sunday morning was, essentially, my version of heaven.
They were still slightly warm when she took them out of the bag. She made me a bit of coffee in her moka pot, effortlessly getting perfect results by eschewing every single rule about making moka coffee that I’ve ever learnt. Taking out her lovely plates that looked like something from a colonial revivalist collection you might buy on QVC (no seriously, these plates were amazing), she arranged a little breakfast buffet with bread, peanut butter, nutella and those two brioches. I think she thought I was capable of eating both of them. Unfortunately, I’m not.
They were warm with a crackly crust that was infused with sugar and that citrus-y flavor. Inside they had layers that verged on doughy, but were still soft and pliable like a good croissant. There was a distinct separation between the inside and the outside. The butter was discernable because of the warmth. It was the best cornetto I’ve eaten in Italy. It was the best breakfast experience that I’ve had thus far in Italy.
Am I going to start going more DIY with my cornetto breakfasts? Perhaps. Taking your pastry home allows you to control your experience and adds that other layer that you can’t get outside. You can make your own coffee as you like it, you can take as much time as you’d like and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you should it the pastry with your hands or like a sandwich, wrapped up in a napkin. Eating in cafes, however, you get to take part in a social experience, even when eating alone. Maybe the key here is balance. There needs to be a balance between the weeks when I go out and the weeks when I stay in. Walking along the streets of Pavia, I see plenty of little bakeries that are offering gorgeous brioche — probably better than what you’ll find in a proper bar — but without seating area. I’ll just have to start making an Italian breakfast for myself. And I think I might finally be okay with that.
Do you prefer to take your weekend breakfasts at home or outside? What’s your favorite weekend treat?