Is it really fair to declare that one boulangerie makes the best croissant in all of Paris? Probably not. Is it fun to sample, compare and analyze in the quest to proclaim a reigning city champ? Bien sur.
So for the third American Smackdown in Paris, nine tasters—bloggers and friends, hailing from London, Australia, New Jersey and Paris, including a very special guest appearance by Carol Gillott—came together to declare whose croissant is the flakiest, airiest, most buttery and delicious in all of Paris.
What we were looking for:
A pleasant and consistent color and shape. Does it look like a French croissant? More important, is its shell crisp and flaky, leaving a giant bib of crumbs on your front side?
Filled with light, tender layers. Is it stretchy, but not doughy or overly chewy? (A byproduct of overworking the dough, pastry chef Rachel Khoo, shared in her brief but thorough overview of the two-day croissant-making process.)
On a butter scale of “not nearly enough” to “gross, give me a napkin”, it should be squarely in the middle (or a titch on the gross side). A hint of sweet or salty, according to personal preference.
Maybe it looks perfect, but doesn’t have the crispy bite that shatters crumbs everywhere. Or the inside is lovely and light, but flavorless. The croissant needs to have that certain je ne sais quoi that everything else in France does.
It was not easy coming up with the contenders to go under such scrutiny. In fact, I found it disappointing—sacrilegious, even—that the most current Best Croissant in Paris list was done by Le Figaro in 2006. While there is the official Concours du Meilleur Croissant, and plenty of bloggers who have done their own analyses, you’d think there would be a more celebrated declaration each year.
So for our purposes, I took David Lebovitz’s love for the “buttery beauties” from Au Levain du Marais; Gérard Mulot’s highly acclaimed croissants; and a third mystery contender, just to shake things up and keep it interesting.
And the results? Très surprising...
Au Levain du Marais
Surprisingly, this boulangerie fared the poorest. While the croissants received nods for “perfect form”, their flavor was “flat” and “not buttery” enough. The interior was too “dry”, “dense” and “leaves me wanting.”
Personally, I liked the smaller, tubular shape of Gérard Mulot’s croissants, but that they look more like biscuits than croissants rubbed some people the wrong way. When it came to flavor, however, they reigned supreme: “Buttery”, “very buttery”, “super buttery”—the taste is “what I expect from a croissant”.
A near upset, folks! While “quite fluffy” and “perfect form!”, these offered “no crunch”, were “flat” and “flavorless”—perhaps a bit “too uniform”? Still, nearly half the tasters were in favor of these croissants… from Monoprix.
Au final, controversy, surprise, and a little disappointment. “None of them was my perfect croissant,” as Kasia said. Perhaps the fourth American Smackdown in Paris will have to revisit this French classic…