Edible Tastings: Croissants


Photo by Michael Piazza

A croissant is my daily breakfast of choice, so I have eaten thousands of them across (literally) five continents. One of my first tasks on arriving at a new destination is to locate the best local purveyor. Sometimes it is not an easy task—or even possible—and then I have to settle for a humble English muffin or some other substitute.

The search for the elusive croissant has led to many interesting global adventures, including in San Juan, Puerto Rico a couple of years ago. After several days of croissant-free breakfasts, my wanderings and inquiries finally led me to a French bakery/café a few miles from where I was staying. The café became my daily supplier and knew when I walked in what I wanted.

In Paris, the “chore” was to decide which among the many bakeries produced the “best” (by my standard) croissant. Of course, conversations with the bakers and shop owners always add to the pleasure of the search. My traveling companions either embrace my obsession and join in the hunt, or leave me on my own, but they always seem to enjoy the end result when I find a winning croissant!

What defines a “good” croissant? For me, it starts with the quality of the ingredients. The croissant needs to be very buttery, but not greasy. The outside needs to be dark and flaky. The inside needs to be light and airy.

Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline has taken an interesting approach with their croissants. Traditional croissant dough is used as the base for their sweet and savory breakfast items, including in their Morning Buns—a take on a sticky bun. I’ve been told many variations have come about on “slow” days when the bakers have time to get inspired and experiment.

The Traditional Plain Croissant
The bakery uses 100% grass-fed butter, which meets my standard for good flavor. The croissants are not too large and have slight curls at the ends. Crispy outside, flaky, light and airy. Perfect with a high-quality jam!

The Chocolate Croissant
Again, what makes the best croissants? The quality of the ingredients! Clear Flour uses Callebaut chocolate.

The Cheese Croissant
The cheese is Gruyère. What makes their cheese croissant different is that the cheese is integrated into the dough rather being a clump of cheese inside a plain croissant. The cheese flavors the croissant but does not overpower the buttery flavor.

The Fruit Croissant
Every week they alternate between apricot and raspberry, not overly sweet and not too much. I found the fruit croissant great when on the run with no time to bring out one’s own jam.

The Pretzel Croissant
Clear Flour’s Soft German Pretzels have been a hit ever since they started producing them. So, why not try to create the same good finish on croissant dough? Traditional German pretzels achieve their crust and flavor by being brushed with food-grade lye. So that is what Clear Flour did! I have to admit I was skeptical, but after tasting them I am a convert.

The Egg And Bacon Croissant
Not a traditional croissant shape, but still delicious. Again, rather than just putting egg and bacon into a plain croissant, this version integrates the ingredients evenly throughout the croissant. Sprinkled on top with ground pepper, it is a treat.

The Raisin Croissant
Like the savory Egg and Bacon Croissant, the raisin version is not in a traditional crescent shape. The raisins are plump thanks to being soaked in dark rum. With the addition of a little pastry cream you have a moist pastry that is good for breakfast, afternoon tea or an evening dessert.

The Almond Croissant
Housemade almond frangipane (ground almonds, butter and sugar) is used like a pastry cream, incorporating the nutty, creamy flavor without whole nuts.

The Morning Buns
Available with and without nuts, they are a lighter version of a sticky bun. Sweet, but not too sweet. Sticky, but not too sticky. What I particularly like is that the dough itself is light, not heavy and dense like most buns.

Not all varieties are produced every day, so I suggest you either stop in regularly or check the schedule on their website.

178 Thorndike St, Brookline

This recipe appeared in the Fall 2016 issue.