In addition to finding the best kouign amann in Montreal, my main mission during a recent visit was to search for some of the top croissants in the city. At first, I intended to limit my search to the Plateau area (north of downtown and east of Mont-Royal) with its many bakeries, but I quickly realized my croissant quest would have to take me a little beyond that region. After questioning friends, researching online, and asking local chefs and other industry members I met along the way, I narrowed my list to five of the most recommended places.
I judge the croissants based on four factors. For looks, I want a golden color that is as even as possible, deep without being too dark, and preferably a buttery sheen that translates to a little butter on the fingers upon touching the croissant. The crust should be crispy and caramelized but not crunchy, and flaky such that shards shear off upon biting the croissant or pulling it apart. (I want to brush crumbs off of my lap upon finishing.) The crumb should have a spiral of tissue-like layers that toes the line between airy and bready. The interior should be moist and tender but not soggy, and it should stretch when pulling the croissant apart. Finally, for flavor, the croissant should be buttery and sweet, with a slight tang and just a hint of salt.
Logistically, I couldn’t time my visits to ensure an absolutely fresh croissant at each bakery, but I don’t think this would change my choice of winner. During my visits, I got a good, immediate sense of each bakery’s croissant offering. All might be acceptable in certain pastry-deprived cities, but to this judge, Fous Desserts’ croissant was easily the standout for looks, texture, and flavor. Read on for a closer look at Fous’ croissant, as well as its four competitors.
Fous Desserts’ croissants (CN$1.60) are objects of desire. In a showroom of stunning sweets, the croissants call out with their striated lines and deep golden color.
A closer look at Fous Desserts’ croissant with its compelling striations.
Fous Desserts’ croissant was very crisp, but still pillowy soft inside, producing lots of shards with each bite or pull. It was buttery with the perfect kiss of saltiness.
Boulangerie Mr Pinchot won highest accolades at a croissant tasting by Tourisme Montréal, but I found the dark-colored croissant (CN$1.45) to be somewhat soft and doughy, and not nearly buttery or flaky enough.
Step into Mamie Clafoutis and you’re immediately barraged by displays of beautiful breads and pastries. In this context, the croissants (CN$1.45) look good, but a closer look reveals them to lack uniform color. They’re denser than the others to the point of being almost cake-like, with a crust that’s simply too soft, and overall lacking buttery flavor.
Despite a warming up (as part of the table service), the croissant (CN$1.85) at Pâtisserie Olivier Potier offered surprisingly little contrast between crumb and crust. The flavor was fine and the butter accentuated by a fair use of salt, but my plate (and lap) showed no evidence of shards after eating, indicating that the pastry simply lacked the desire flaky texture. (Note: The name has recently changed to O Plaisirs Gourmands.)
Given the quality of the sandwich I ate, Olive & Gourmando’s croissant (CN$2.50) was somewhat disappointing, especially as it’s the most expensive of the group. Buttery to the touch, the flavor hit the right notes. But the croissant was a bit dry (perhaps slightly overcooked, as evidenced by the brownness on the bottom) and failed to offer the feathery layers I found inside of Fous Desserts’ croissant.
(Originally published here at Serious Eats on July 29.)