Do you know? Because I sure don’t. I don’t think there is one, no matter how many articles there are trying to convince you that you may find one exemplar amongst the hundred being produced in the city daily. After my trips there this year, I’ve tried quite a few and have found that each one has some fatal flaw. Despite them all being proper French croissant au beurre, I’d still take a pastry from Almondine any day over these proper French specimens. My croissant adventures began at Du Pain et des Idees near Canal Saint Martin. The boulangerie was positively gorgeous, with idyllic images drawn outside and a country-farm house like feel on the inside. Walking in, I felt a bit of the pressure to get the order right. After all, it looked so idyllic, I thought that it must be full of people who knew what they were doing. Thankfully, the couple of people taking photos at the door reassured me that I was not the only one led here in the search of excellence instead of the closest baguette. This croissant reminded me, without hesitation of the croissant at Patisserie Claude. It had the same dense, doughy sweetness and delicious buttery flakiness. I enjoyed it, but I could tell straight away that it wouldn’t be my favorite. I hoped that my favorite would come soon. The next morning, I made a pilgrammige to Veronique Mauclerc near Parc Buttes Chaumont. After reading about the boulangerie during my trip in January, I was itching to make a trip. Since her two bakeries aren’t in the middle of Paris, I never made it. I wasn’t going to let that happen again and on Saturday morning I headed to the 19th arrondisment to get a croissant and some fancy organic quinoa bread (which was fantastic). My favorite part about this croissant — besides eating in the park while watching the joggers pass — was the caramelized outside. It was rich and sweet without being cloying. Unfortunately, that was where the good points about the pastry finished. It was quite dry, bready and without any crunch. While I would recommend a trip to Veronique Mauclerc to any foodie headed to Paris, I would highly recommend focusing on the organic, grainy breads on offer and forget about the pastries.
I didn’t feel like taking a long trip on Sunday morning, so I decided to walk to Gontran Cherrier, a boulangerie that was practically next door to my apartment. The space was huge and there were even seats in the window, should you not be able to wait until you returned home to eat your pastry. After debating whether or not to try the curry baguette, I got my croissant, whole wheat baguette sans curry and headed back home. This croissant looked familiar to me and I couldn’t figure out why. As I pulled apart a layer, feeling it rip like pull-apart bread, I realized why. They reminded of a half-batch of croissants I made once and didn’t quite manage to stretch/turn enough, giving them big, hulking layers instead of fine and delicate ones. There was a butter flavor (barely) and a crispy outside, which saved this croissant from being completely forgettable. They were, however, just a bit too close to ones that came out of my kitchen for me to recommend them without reservation. Should you go to Gontran Cherrier, and I highly recommend you do, stick with any of the breads and you will be more than thrilled. Somehow I managed to convince myself that two croissants would be an acceptable idea for Sunday. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I saw the Ispahan croissant at Pierre Herme on Rue Vaugirard, I couldn’t stop myself. Even though I found the Ispahan pastry unimpressive, I figured there’s nothing that laminated pastry can’t improve. And I was right. I absolutely loved this croissant with layers and raspberry and litchi inside. The only downside was the sickly-sweet icing and candied rose petals on top. This one is definitely a winner if you’re looking for a croissant that
can double is dessert. Finally, Monday morning arrived and my last chance to find the best croissant in Pairs. After my slightly-disappointing track record, I was nervous. Not wanting to travel far, I headed to the boulangerie that I could see from my window, Maison Laurent. I got a croissant, resisted a bread and a chausson aux pommes and stumbled back to my apartment’s tiny kitchen to eat. It was the best croissant I had in Paris. It was buttery with a crisp and flaky outside. There were delicate layers that gracefully pulled apart. The ends were caramelly. No, I wouldn’t say this is Paris’s best croissant, but it was another reminder of how the search for excellence is one of those American ideas that doesn’t exactly jive with European practices. So, what did I learn from my mini-croissant tour? The best boulangeries don’t always make the best croissants. It probably is better to get them in the morning, but always make sure you eat it right away, independent of the hour in which you choose to purchase your pastry. The last thing? There really is no such thing as a best or worst croissant in Paris. They’re all pretty gosh darn amazing. Do you enjoy finding the best of something? What do you think about taste tests?