Serious Eats: What Pastries to Eat at Honoré Artisan Bakery

20121229-235291-honore-signThe Ballard neighborhood of Seattle is lucky to have two quality bakeries. Café Besalu may have what many people deem the best croissants in the city, but at Honoré Artisan Bakery, you’ll find a variety of great pastries from Kouign Amann to seasonal fruit tarts.

Honoré has a unique style—the pastries tend to have a darker color, more crackly texture, and noticable caramelization. In fact, salt and caramel are prominent here; popular items include sea salt caramel tarts and salted caramel macarons.

The overall selection at Honoré is a little smaller than what you’ll find at Café Besalu, Bakery Nouveau, and Crumble & Flake, but the quality is high. You’ll generally find two workers to greet you at the front counter, one ready at the espresso machine, and the other to help you with your food order. One showcase focuses primarily on pastries*, while another holds more of the cakes and desserts. Macarons are a colorful favorite here.

*We’re focusing on the sweet side, but the savory items are good too, especially anything with gruyère, like leek & gruyère quiche or the onion and gruyère tart.

At first, seating seems limited to a counter that looks out the front window and some Adirondack chairs on the sidewalk. But walk the narrow hallway that goes back behind the kitchen and you’ll find a quaint courtyard that holds eight tables for two—promising when the weather is nice.

What should you eat when you stop by Honoré? Read on to see five top picks.

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The Kouign Amann ($2.45) is king at Honoré. Living up to the literal meaning of “butter cake,” this is a fairly tall version with delicious caramel layers and kissed with a perfect amount of salt. You can sit outside in your throne of an Adirondack chair and be the envy of all as you crack into your crusty pastry and admire how well butter and sugar mingle together.

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At Honoré, you’ll find different fruit danishes at different times of the year, but the Pear Danish ($2.95) is a consistent favorite, with the soft fruit contrasting the crispy pastry.

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In the seasonal department, this Wild Huckleberry Tart ($3.50) is simply irresistible. It’s gorgeous to see, like a snowy Crater Lake of “cake” beckoning a look down at what’s below. A bite starts with crisp pastry crust, then the taste of strong berries sweetened by a sprinkling powdered sugar, and finally some soothing pastry cream.

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Honoré is the first place where I found Cannelés ($2.50) in Seattle, though you’ll have to wait until about 10am for their daily appearance. These are cooked a little darker than usual on the outside, but to no ill effect as far as caramelization, with the outer shell offering nice contrast to the soft, custardy interior.

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The Croissant ($2.50) is one of the longest in town. I’m not the only one who’s noticed some inconsistency in baking results, but when they’re at their best, these croissants are quite crispy and offer nice contrast between crumb and crust.

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Inside the Croissant: lots of airy layers.

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A sign of sweet pastries inside at Honoré. Grab a coffee and a treat, then a seat at the window, in an Adirondack chair out front, or tucked away in the “secret” courtyard behind the bakery.

(Originally published at Serious Eats on January 14.)

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