How do you know when you're a Parisian? When you can pass a bakery without buying a croissant. Because you just know it won't be worth its weight in butter.
But when my favorite food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, ran the article “My 6 Favorite Croissants in Paris,” I told the family we were going on a mission.
Out in the suburbs where we live now, a croissant is hard to find. Let alone a good one. And it has been months since I've had a croissant, since I usually eat dairy-free (long story).
So off we went last Saturday to the closest of the six bakeries on C&Z's list, Des Gâteaux et du Pain. My husband was hoping to savor his pastry with a tiny French coffee. My daughter needed a restroom. I just wanted a croissant that was worth the trip, as the Michelin man might say.
What would be worth it? A croissant that isn't burnt, crushed, saggy, or greasy, and that doesn't flake all over your clothing before it gets into your mouth. A croissant that can live up to the guilt of 400 empty calories.
OK, so I'm picky, as they would say in Pittsburgh, where I learned a thing or two about pastries. While in high school, I worked as a clerk at Karhut's Bakery in Mount Oliver, and became very close with donuts, coffee cakes, and Danish. About 20 pounds too close.
We arrived at Des Gâteaux et du Pain and stopped at the window. This was no ordinary bakery. We were almost afraid to go in, as if it were Chanel or Cartier. I bravely opened the door. The pastries were arranged artfully in one case, and the cakes in another, like jewelry. The loaves of bread were tiered against a wall.
In most bakeries, there is a counter separating you from the goods. From actually seeing what you are buying. Here, you could pick them up yourself, if not for the very attentive clerks in black aprons and black gloves.
We asked for our three croissants, and what the heck, a fougasse—olive bread. I noticed how the clerk carefully set each croissant into the paper bag, so they wouldn't crush. Good sign. Because there was neither restroom or coffee, we scurried home with the goods.
Still being very French about it all, we first examined our still uncrushed designer croissants. They were an evenly baked gold and noticeably striated.
We bite into a crunch of crust that yielded into a soft springy center. No flakes! Better yet, the croissant had actual flavor, with a strong nutty wheat that didn't let itself be overwhelmed by the slightly sweet butter, just happily sandwiched. This might not be everyone's idea of a croissant, with more cake than crust.
C&Z didn't steer us wrong. This one was worth the trip, the calories, the quest. I have been to croissant heaven.
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes the blog Paris, Pittsburgh and More about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Send me a request at rose.burke89 "at" yahoo.fr.