Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Wanderlust Librarian| A Taste of Paris in the Bay Area (Throwback Thursday)

One of the things I miss most about my time in Paris (albeit short)  are the croissants. Many people told me that there are no bad patisseries in Paris. Lizzie and I tested that theory on our first day in the City of Light. We went to a patisserie across the street from our hotel. A huge window looking into the shop betrayed its contents. Inside was a warmly lit shop with a glass case full of pastries. As the door opened, there was a soft tinkling of a bell announcing our arrival. The smell was beyond intoxicating. The sweet scent of sugar and fresh baked bread air pushed past me in a dizzy blur.

My first French delight was a Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissant) and a spot of Earl Grey tea. As I took my first bite, I was surprised at the crunch. I was accustomed to soft pastries. I savored every bit of butter, flaky, chocolaty goodness before I started my adventures in Paris. During my 3 day visit, I ingested many croissants (plain and chocolate!) and made sure to document every flavor in my brain.

Coming back to the United States, I was dismayed at my croissant choices. They were nothing like France. I longed for the cloudy mornings where the air was thick with history and charm. I wistfully looked out of my bedroom window and sighed.

That is... until I saw a show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network. A chef had talked about the Double Pain au Chocolat at a place called Tartine in San Francisco.  Did I hear this right? A DOUBLE Pain au Chocolat? I was on a new quest to find this miracle. I found it... and it did NOT disappoint. It met all of the rules on the "Proper Croissant" list. 

Here are the (non-official) rules that my friend (who studied in France for a year) and I made to designate a "Proper French Croissant" or PFC. The pictures are of Tartine Bakery's croissant that is as close to PFC I can get without hopping on a plane to Paris

1. The color: A PFC is a deep dark, striped affair. During baking, the top layer takes on a gorgeous mahogany hue. 

Stripey, crunchity, goodness

2. The bend: A lesser croissant will bend easily and let off a few flakes. A PFC will bend, but will shatter a million croissant flakes. It should make bread confetti. 
There were more flakes on my shirt and table.

3. The insides: PFCs take a long time to make. A lot of time is necessary to prep the dough with an insane amount of cold butter to make those gentle layers. When you break the croissant open, there should be folded layers of pillow soft dough.
Look how wafer thin and delicate those layers are!
I can't wait to dig in!

4. The Taste: PFCs should be buttery and rich...and crunchy. It should be like a soft piece of bread that's been buttered generously. It's satisfying to have croissant crumbs on my shirt and on the floor. It means that I enjoyed the croissant fully (and that I'll need to invest in a bib). 

I know that this is another "before" picture, but I think
that the full appreciation of the outside layers deserves
a second look. 


  1. The main character of Leslie Daniels'novel, Cleaning Nabokov's House, also appreciates a perfect croissant. I think she would agree with your list of necessary characteristics.