There are people whose jobs require them to wake before dawn, pound cold butter and fold it into chilled dough, and then fold it, roll it, chill it, fold it, roll it, and chill it again and again until the butter is but a whisper-thin memory between weightless layers of pastry. The perfectly “laminated dough” (“laminated” with butter, that is, to avoid any “breadiness” in the pastry) is then rolled out one final time, cut into long, sharp triangles and rolled up, the pointy ends gently brought together to form the crescent. Finally, a light egg wash is applied before baking.
These are the painstaking lengths that the best bakers in Seattle go to so that you and I can experience one of life’s simplest, finest pleasures: diving into a shatteringly tender, buttery croissant. The taste and texture stop you in your tracks, eliciting approving noises. Like the passionate local bread bakers at Macrina, Grand Central and dozens of other bakeries that forever changed our definition of good bread in the 1990s, a new band of artisan bakers are opening sweet, petite artisan pastry shops in all corners of the city, making remarkably good European-style pastries.
Of course, each bakery has its specialty: Owner and pastry chef William Leaman is known for sensationally pretty, sublime desserts, macaroons and twice-baked almond croissants at Bakery Nouveau; Evan Andres’ Columbia City Bakery does rustic, crusty breads best; Honoré’s cannelles and kouign amann, handcrafted by Franz Gilbertson, are the talk of the town (more on that in a bit). But the ultimate litmus test at these pastry shops: the deceptively simple butter croissant.
Earlier this winter, I crisscrossed the city, traipsing from one Ballard bakery to another—Honoré to Cafe Besalu—one day, and then from one Madison Valley patisserie to the other—Inès to Belle Epicurean—a few days later—and to West Seattle, for those award-winners over at Bakery Nouveau—comparing the color, texture, flavor and scent of the fresh buttery croissants on offer. (Sadly missing: the pastries from chef Neil Robertson’s much-anticipated new Crumble & Flake bakery; at press time, the former Canlis and Mistral Kitchen pastry chef was set to open on Olive Way in April or early May.) Of course there were outliers: the yeasty croissants at Capitol Hill restaurant Sitka & Spruce and the impressive pastries at Le Rêve Bakery on Queen Anne.
To read all about Seattle Magazine’s picks for the best croissants in Seattle read the full story here.
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