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The best thing about getting my taxes finished this week —- well, aside from getting my taxes finished this week —- is that I got to visit my CPA’s offices in Gaithersburg, home of Hot Breads & Cakes, the area’s only outlet of the large Indo-French fusion chain that began more than 10 years ago in Chennai, India.
Hot Breads occupies a small, unassuming storefront in that corporate community known as Kentlands. Not The Kentlands. Just Kentlands. On the face of it —- and by the name of it —- Hot Breads doesn’t seem to hold out much promise beyond the traditional breads, pastries, and holiday cakes found at any local bakeries. But then you scan the bottom of the display case and see all these fusion snacks. They look like breakfast foods —- croissants and puff pastries, the standard big buttery explosions of dough, stuffed or otherwise —- but they’re not. These pastries come stuffed with chicken tikka and alu chili masala, the kinds of fillings most Americans would eat for breakfast only under duress.
But don’t be intimated by the apparent disconnect —- a bakery that opens early but whose display case features few traditional morning snacks and absolutely no fruit juices —- and go ahead and order these savory-oriented pastries. Then save ’em and reheat them for lunch.
The chicken tikka croissant is fusion snacking at its finest. The buttery pastry conceals a florescent-red filling of chicken-and-tomato masala, which provides just enough heat and umami to counteract and enhance the richness of the dough. The alu chili puff (pictured above) may even be better. Its thin layer of filling is a cooked-down combination of potatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, spices, and tomato gravy, which plays off the puff pastry in two terrific ways: It serves as a foil to the butter-heavy pastry, yes, but it also gives your taste buds a soft, sensual reward after busting through the crackly exterior.
How good were these two surprising sammies? They impressed me even though I heated them up in a microwave, which compromised their pristine textures, turning the croissant somewhat rubbery and taking the hard edge off the puff pastry. Frankly, I didn’t care.
Hot Breads & Cakes, 70 Market St., Gaithersburg, (301) 977-1919.