By Clotilde Dusoulier
Photography by Stephen Devries
The French are fiercely particular about their croissants. We sent Clotilde Dusoulier, the hungry mastermind behind the Paris-based blog Chocolate & Zucchini, to peel back the flaky layers and uncover the very best the City of Lights has to offer.
The scene is a typical Paris café in early morning. A man approaches the counter in full business attire. “Un express, s’il vous plaît !” As he waits in the clang and hiss of the espresso machine, he plucks a fresh croissant from the basket on the zinc bartop and downs it in three bites, shielding his tie from the shower of buttery crumbs.
Croissants are everywhere in Paris. From the smell wafting out of bakeries’ air vents to the bulging paper bag brought in by a coworker for the first meeting of the day to little kids devouring their after-school snack, the golden, crescent-shaped treat is as much a part of the scenery as the Eiffel Tower.
But it would be naïve to imagine you can walk into a random Paris bakery and find your bliss. Made with leavened puff pastry, hovering between sweet and savory, an outstanding croissant is a true work of craftsmanship that demands the highest quality of butter and flour, well-honed skills, and a lot of time for the dough to develop its full flavor.
The result then is so good that it shuts you right up: two irresistibly crunchy tips, a crisp and lightly caramelized outer shell, a moist and creamy crumb that pulls away in fluffy strands, and a clean taste of butter. I know such dreamy croissants are out there, but who makes the best? On a weekday morning, I decide to start bright and early and hit my list of most trusted artisans.
I am so passionate about croissants that I am willing to trek out to the other side of Paris for a good one, hopping onto my bicycle and pedalling my way across the Seine and through multiple arrondissements. But I live in Montmartre, a neighborhood that’s teeming with award-winning bakeries, so this is where my quest begins.