A typical French Breakfast is a coffee and croissant. They are piled in baskets on the bartops of all cafes. There are some specialty croissants out there such as chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, or almond, but I wanted to stick to the traditional croissant. When they sell coffee with your croissant it is usually called Le Petit Dejeuner, or, breakfast. I searched for the most important meal of the day with enthusiasm.
The croissant oddly enough is not of French origin, it is Austrian, brought to France in the 1800’s. Generally speaking they cost less than 2 euros. The best croissants come from a boulangerie where they are made on premises. There is a boulangerie on almost every street to supply the neighbors with their daily baguette. These traditional shops do not have tables, so you will have to find a nice little park to enjoy the treat.
I struggled to keep my weight down on the road to discovery, savoring well over 40 croissants in the process. Let’s just say I was taking one for the team. Below are my results and why they deserve attention.
In 1862, the Laduree family created their first bakery that evolved into a tearoom. Today they can be found in 21 countries and primarily known for their macaroons. Their humble croissant may be in the shadows, but shouldn’t be skipped. In this small empire that they have created, they have produced a consistently quality product, and do so with grace. The best part is that they are accessible to everyone around the world and not just Paris.
CÉDRIC GROLET OPÉRA
Named the Best Pastry Chef four years in a row, Grolet ventured out to mixed reviews opening his first namesake pastry shop near the Palais Garnier Opera House last November. He has kept his spot as Head Pastry Chef at the famous Le Meurice, a luxury 5-star hotel. He wins my award for the Flakiest croissant, but the mild butter taste left my pallet wanting more. The several distinctive layers of dough make for a visually stunning pastry. The light delight is heavy on the wallet also taking the prize for the most expensive croissant selling at 4 euros a piece.
LE MOULIN DE LA CROIX NIVERT
One can easily imagine why this croissant has won many awards including the top honor of 2017. I can’t imagine much has changed with time, once you have a good recipe you’re halfway there. This delight proves to be a very good choice with the locals who line up. Not a selfie stick in sight. It is nice to imagine living here where you have a gem around the corner to be passed frequently without a thought. Not a bad way to start your day.
LA PÂTISSERIE CYRIL LIGNAC – PAUL BERT
Tear this beautiful croissant apart and marvel at the fine dough ribbons that encase the soft buttery insides. The baker, Cyril Lignac is a Michelin star Chef that is famous for both his cookbooks and television presence. You may recognize the name from my Hot Chocolate blog, and it seems like all he touches is gold. He has several restaurants and pastry shops that make some of the best treats in town. The texture inside was a bit denser than the sponge like consistency I prefer, but the flavor way on spot. The uncountable layers reveal themselves like ribbons unwinding around your fingers ready to be devoured.
LA FABRIQUE AUX GOURMANDISES
The best winner of 2019 really shows you just how fierce competition is. The farther from the center of the city you travel, the larger the boulangeries and their kitchens are. The result is that they often have more variety of baked goods to choose from.The kitchen is open so you can watch the action. As always, I tear the end off to reveal the magic inside and am not disappointed by the nice even sponge like interior worthy of a second bite. It was well worth the effort to come all the way.
L’ARTISAN DES GOURMANDS
The next classic previously received several awards by the Boulangers du Grand Paris compétition. It’s hard to only order a croissant, since they have also won awards for their various other baked goods. I managed to stay true to the cause and not be tempted away from my croissant quest. It is a 25 mins walk to the Eiffel Tower from the charming red and white shop. There is always a line, so be sure to buy extra to avoid the wait when you realize it’s really that good. The light croissant boasts the butter you look for, but not the greasy residue. A very fine balance they have mastered well.
This humble blue shop boasts the longest history of any Patisserie in Paris dating back to 1730. Located rue Montorgueil just behind Les Halles you couldn’t ask for a more central location. The original baker, Nicolas Stohrer was appointed by King Louis XV. The small shop also makes a darn fine croissant. They know what they are doing. Light and flakey in the center of town.
On initial investigation, it can seem just like the rest, color, size all similar, but then the tear…The inside ripped gently to make a maze of layers eager to be had. This particular croissant is what I affectionately call a butter bomb and I mean that in the best way possible. It leaves a slick coating the inside of your mouth like a gentle butter wave. Not just any butter, but French butter. It delivers a masterpiece that is both light and tasty, but sadly you’ll need a napkin to wipe those fingers when you’re done licking them.
LA MAISON PICHARD
I recall walking down the street. It was a cool day with no clouds. I thought god came to me through this delightful creation and proclaimed the winner. I licked the corners of my mouth when I was done to be sure not one crumb was left behind. The flakes of each layer can actually be felt as they compress under each tender bite. The downside besides maybe the excessive butter ruining your diet, is the location which makes it challenging to pop in and try grab another. It will take 20 minutes from the center of the city by taxi to explore the depths of your commitment. I think it’s worth it.