For the past two weeks, I’ve been searching for the best croissant. To tell you the truth, it’s been a hardship for my arteries and my wallet. I practically ate 5 pounds of butter from all of those croissants! I could imagine that my cardiologist in the future, would love me. At least I’m young that I can lower my cholesterol and triglycerides. Also, I’m thinking of abstaining from croissants for a week. I should mention before we go into the critiques, what I consider a good or possibly a great croissant.
A good croissant should be fresh (obviously), a nice golden brown color on the exterior, flaky, light, buttery but not greasy, it should have a good shatter effect (meaning, when you break apart or bite off the croissant, one can hear the crisp, brittle shattering noise from the flaky pastry), a moist, soft and chewy interior but it should not be weighed down from moisture content of butter or grease. On that note, to the list and critiques of croissants! (Of 7 establishments).
The rating system will go from 1-4.
1: It sucks
2: Not bad, not good either
4: It’s divine!
The banana chocolate croissant cost $3.50, I bought this the morning of 9/26 around 8 AM and by the time I’ve ingested this thing, it’s around 12:30 PM. So, time was probably a problem of sorts when I actually analyzed the texture of this croissant. It looks good from this photo; the multiple strata promises for good shattering effect for a croissant and a nice golden exterior When I actually cut into the croissant it was actually a little soft, there was some flakiness but no shatter effect. That’s why I’m thinking it was the time and humidity factor. The taste was good: it was banana-y and it had good dark chocolate. Just a bit disappointed in the texture.
Rating of croissant: 2.5.
The following croissants, plain and chocolate (total cost $5.65, I should’ve asked for an itemized receipt), are the ones I purchased yesterday, 10/5 around 9 AM. I was hoping that these croissants didn’t share a similar fate to the banana chocolate. I took the photos, split them, took pics again then I shared it amongst my friends of NeVAS (St. John’s art club, holla! lol.). The chocolate croissant croissant looks appetizing. A shiny, glazed, golden brown hue on the exterior. The side view show s the multiple strata of the pastry. I’m liking it so far from the looks of this. When you look at the interior shot it has the layers with great dark chocolate.
It’s flaky when I split it apart with my hands however, when a friend, Kim has tasted it, she has indicated that it is too greasy, which I have overlooked myself because I was so busy trying to take pics of other foods that I had with me. When I actually tried it myself, it is greasy – on the fingers, it’s not greasy like a mushy, grease bomb of a croissant texturally on the pallate. So, it’s not bad but Bouley had to use less of their Plugra butter. It has a great dark, bittersweet chocolate I’m tasting 72-75% Schokinag chocolate (a German chocolate company that Bouley does sell in their establishment). It’s good, not what I would call great but it’s certainly not bad at all. Rating of croissant: 3.
The plain croissant looks good; shiny golden exterior. When I broke it apart, it was crisp, it flaked like crazy, and I heard a little bit of the shatter effect! The I was absolutely happy to see and here that for a croissant, so it brought great expectations to eating this pastry. The cavernous flaky interior, moist, but a little greasy. It had good butter flavor. Not great by my standards but it’s good. Rating of croissant: 3.
Overall, I would rate this place a 3. Cost/value-wise: 2.
The next bakery would be City Bakery located near Union Square at 3 W 18th St. off of 5th Ave. I know I’ve promised Kim that I would go there with her but I’ve been here years before I’ve done this food blogging business and I will still glady go with her in the future. Anyways, I’ve went here twice, on 9/27 and on 10/2. The first visit I’ve ordered their pretzel croissant ($3.50). This croissant has its own cult of followers, if you ask anyone who’s been a patron to this place they’ll rave about the pretzel croissant. It has a great dark golden brown exterior and it looks somewhat of a pretzel because of the sesame seeds. When I pulled it apart, it was flaky, a bit crisp, a touch of grease on the fingers…not bad so a far. The interior
is very soft, moist and buttery. It’s salty like a pretzel but obviously it has the characteristics of a croissant. It’s best when it’s warm, unfortunately, I came in a bit late from the time it came out of their ovens around 11 AM. This is my favorite croissant from City Bakery. Croissant rating: 3.5.
The other croissant I had was their chocolate croissant ($2.50) for breakfast on 10/2 around 9:30 AM. It’s flaky, great color but lacking the shatter effect I’m looking for. It tasted good: the dark chocolate is on the 62% range, under 70% for sure; it buttery (not particularly greasy) and not very sweet. It’s good, but I had better. Croissant rating: 2.8.
The same day I had City Bakery’s chocolate croissant, I went to Marquet Patisserie in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; located at 221 Court St. (Warren St). I’ve asked in my favorite food forum, Chowhound.com want to sit at their tables at the time, wandered around Brooklyn and just walked back to the subway station. I ate this croissant in City , for their recommendations for a good croissant in Brooklyn, since I want to expand my horizons of food in New York City. One of them replied and suggested this place. So in hopes for a good croissant, I arrived there around 8 AM. Their baked products looked good and I ordered their plain croissant which cost $1.50. I really didn’tBakery so you can arguably say the CB’s chocolate croissant is my control of this experiment. However, I don’t know if I should’ve done that since it’s been about 1 1/2 hours since I’ve bought this croissant and it might have suffered the same fate as the banana croissant from Bouley. From the exterior, it looks fine, a golden brown hue and it looks flaky. When I pulled it apart, it was soft not crisp but it flaked a little. When I tasted it, a little bit of crunch on the teeth, the overall texture was soft a very slight crunch to the tooth. Come to think about it, the butter tasted off. I don’t like this croissant that I can’t finish it off after the second bite. Croissant rating: 1.5.
Overall: 1.5. I know it’s harsh, it can be my fault for waiting that long to eat it but I know the staleness should not be there in a croissant. I’m planning to give this place a second chance in the future and give it another whirl.
Bouchon Bakery in 10 Columbus Circle (60th St.), on the 3rd floor of this behemoth of a high end mall. Those of you who have read my blogs, know that I’ve raved this place for their baked goods but I can’t help it. Their stuff is just so good but I can’t say much for their savory products yet. I’ll save up money for it. Anyways, I’ve had their chocolate croissant and the plain on separate occasions.
The chocolate croissant ($3) I’ve tried on 10/2/06, as an afternoon snack. I know I’ve ingested 2 1/2 croissants total, for that day; it scares me too. The chocolate croissant looks beautiful. The perfect golden brown hue throughout the the exterior of the croissant, the many distinctive layers that one can see from this photo…looks very encouraging. When I cut this in half, it flaked and it had a slight shatter effect. So, that’s fine. (I would post up a pic, but it didn’t go too well.) It has many soft layers in the interior, excellent butter flavor and great Valhrona dark chocolate, about 65-72% cocoa. I like it but if you’re wondering, “Is it my favorite?” I’m saying, not really but it’s among my top choices. Croissant rating: 3.5.
Their plain croissant ($2.75) was eaten as my lunch on 10/4/06 with a small coffee, as you might have read from my previous blog. Anyways, the plain croissant is good, but it felt chilled for some reason. It still retained some crispness and flakiness. It tasted fine: good butter flavor, it’s light in texture. But it befuddles my mind, why the heck is it chilled? Now, I’m inquiring is their quality is taking a downfall. I hope not or this will take a beating in Thomas Keller’s reputation. Croissant rating: 2.5.
Overall rating for Bouchon Bakery’s croissants: 3. They have great service but lately I’m questioning their quality for the money you pay for.
Le Pain Quotidien, a Belgian mini-chain and cafe. The branch I went to was on 922 7th Ave (W 58th St). I went there on 10/3/06 by opening time at 7:30 AM, technically they opened about 7:40, but that’s another issue. Anyways, I ordered their plain croissant for $1.95 and a small coffee (which was pretty weak). The croissant has a good color, it’s a little more of a homemade look because of the lack of sheen in comparison that Bouley or Bouchon has. When I took it apart, it was very flaky and crisp, not much of a shatter effect, also not too greasy. The taste was very good, nice buttery flavor, soft, chewy texture. It’s nice.
Croissant rating: 2.75.
Overall Rating: 2.75. Service kind of
bad, especially on the opening time.
Financier Patisserie in 62 Stone St. (Mill Ln) in Wall Street District. It was some trek to find this place since Downtown is not exactly easy to navigate if you look at the street map of that area. I went there yesterday morning (10/5/06) at 8:30 AM. I’ve ordered a chocolate croissant, plain croissant, and other pastries that I’ll write about in the future.
The chocolate croissant ($2.10) looks great: the slight mahagony brown color, a shiny, varnish-like glaze and the visible layers of pastry. When I tore it apart, it flakes, and the interior felt soft. The problem is that I bite into it, there’s no shatter effect or crunch to the teeth and it felt cold, as in refrigerated or chilled cold. The chocolate’s good though but I would be really be happier if it was at least room temperature. What really puzzles me is that the croissant is cold and I’m eating it at 8:35 in the morning! Why? – Probably I should write scathing letters to every bakery with this problem if I’m continually facing this dilemma. Seriously, I will. Croissant rating: 2.5.
The plain croissant looks promisisng. It’s room temperature so no issues about that here. It’s flaky and crisp when I tore it apart to see the interior. During the actual tasting, it has a slight shatter effect and tastes fine. Between the two, the plain croissant prevails. Croissant rating: 3.
Overall rating: 2.8 out of 4.
Patisserie Claude located on 187 W 4th St. (near 7th Ave. South) in West Village (one of my fave nabes to eat). I went there yesterday, 10/5/06 around 9 AM. It’s a nondescript bakery where it is the runned by the fabled Croissant Nazi, owned by Claude who bakes and owns this establishment. Many patrons call him a nazi just because of his brusque, to-the-point manner but I have total respect for this old Frenchman. He’s a god of croissants; I worship him now after eating this blessed croissant.
I’ve only ordered a plain croissant ($1.50) since I’m digesting my Financier croissants and bought the Bouley croissants earlier. The plan was to eat this croissant at that moment, since many people have told me that it’s best to eat his croissants on the spot since his stuff is made fresh and also I wanted to try his croissant before publishing this blog, to know if it’s true or it’s just hype.
So, I’ve ordered the croissant, Claude was working in his kitchen, so a short Hispanic woman took my order. I kinda felt dissapointed not speaking to the man. But anyways, I took one of the very few tables in this place and begin to analyze this croissant. First of all, this croissant was still slightly warm! This is a first out of all the croissants I’ve eaten. It looks very simple and homemade for a croissant; no glaze, but great color. When I broke the croissant in two, it had was supremely flaky and the shatter effect was definetly there (it’s so loud that you think a microphone was amplifying the sound). The interior was very moist due to the butter content and it was not greasy. The taste was excellent: the butter flavor was there and I detected a hint of salt in this pastry. It was unexpected but it was a welcoming flavor; it kind of counteracts the sweetness of the butter. I’m in heaven. I would’ve bought more of Claude’s pastries like the quiche, and I saw a pastry that had a caramel top just came out of the oven, but I had to hold off because of everything else I ate and will eat around noon. So, I’ll be seeing more of Claude in the future.
Croissant rating: a very solid 4.
Overall: 4; even though it’s one croissant I’m grading this on, but if you know how to make your croissant, everything else is just butta. Croissants are difficult to make and master and I’ll tell you, this man could make one mean croissant.
To sum it up, the best croissants, in order (best to worst):
1. Patisserie Claude
2. Bouchon Bakery
3 & 4 (tied). City Bakery & Bouley Bakery
5. Financier Patisserie
6. Le Pain de Quotidien
7. Marquet Patisserie
So, hopefully I didn’t kill you with words, but I just had to let it out. I would’ve tried more places for croissants like Balthazar Bakery in SoHo, Panya Bakery (a Japanese bakery) in East Village but I don’t have time. I will go there in the future and try them but not now. I don’t think my body could take it anymore.
There’s a second part to my insane search for the best croissants. If you want to read it, click here.