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Aug 24, 2001 05:23 PM

Bay Bread update in Cole Valley

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I was thrilled to find Bay Bread. As mentioned by Chowhounds on earlier threads, this French bakery's products are on par with high quality bakeries in France. The update on their new location (Cole Valley - former Tassajara Bakery store)is that opening is scheduled for the beginning to mid October.

How many pastries can one Chowhound consume in half an hour? 1. Cannele - small crown shaped pastry from the Bordeaux (southwest) region of France. Baked in a special mold, it is custardy inside and carmel like outside. These are so popular that my French friends bring them back from France. 2. almond croissant - it looked a little too small and dense. I'm used to the fluffy, big croissants ready to compete in the olympics (typical American perspective). Shaking this opinion off, I ordered, I bit. Didn't walk back to the car and drive home to dine at a table. Civilization can wait. Tons of slivered almonds on top (like you'd make at home)and a flavorful almond paste. The paste was not thick like marzipan. Joy! 3. Pear brioche tart - Artfully sliced and arranged pear slices on top of brioche dough. You taste the pears without being overwhelmed with sugar.

Bay Bread had other wonderful looking breads and pastries (especially Tart Tartin, Goat cheese and fig tart), which will warrant many more visits. Current locations are 2310 Polk Street and 2325 Pine Street.

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  1. do you know if they have a location in the south bay or have plans for one?

    7 Replies
    1. re: hao

      Some grocers carry the breads.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        what about their bakes goods? my favorite bakery (amandine) closed down abruptly a couple of months ago and i've been on the search for another one. i recently tried fleur de cocoa in los gatos and they had the most amazing pain aux raisin; the raisin plump, the bread soft and moist, and best of all( for me), not overly sweet. i haven't had a chance to tried their cakes yet but have high hopes for them.

        1. re: hao

          Think you'll need to call Bay Bread for that one. Did you see the thread (link below) on bakeries on the peninsula?

          Or maybe if Pia R. finally got her cannele, she could be persuaded to deliver. (g)


      2. re: hao

        I'm unaware of south bay expansion plans at this time, but you could call them! Actually you set off a vision of a Bay Bread in every neighborhood! As common as Starbucks! Maybe we could start a franchise!

        1. re: elise h

          You are one of the most enterprising individuals I know!

          1. re: elise h

            As I was walking through the Financial District on the way to treating myself to lunch at Mangia Tutti (per Andrew Raskin), it occurred to me it might be possible to use Starbucks as a unit of measure:

            How far is it?
            Not far, only five Starbucks.

            (It's three Starbucks from my office to the Transbay Terminal, but only one Starbucks from my office to the BART station (g)).

          2. re: hao

            You can buy Bay Bread at the San Mateo Farmers Market held Saturdays at the College of San Mateo (West Hillsdale and CSM Drive). They had a wide selection of savory and sweet breads, although not as inclusive as the store on Pine Street in San Francisco. The market is open 9am-1pm. Popular breads will sell out earlier in the morning.

          3. so happy that you made it, but suprised you didn't take the overly enthusiastic review of the croque monsier (sp) to heart. i suppose that there really is a limit to what one little person can eat at one time. thank heavens you had the cannele- supreme, no?

            and thanks for the update on the opening in cole valley. i'm beginning to buy larger sized clothes in anticipation...

            1. Bummer about the mid-Oct opening date - I was hoping to write my thesis there.

              Besides that canneles, I'm nuts about their pistacchio cookies - small and densely flavored with pistacchio bits. I picked up about 5 of their cookies (cognac, espresso or coffee, pistacchio, chocolate and strawberry) from their store just off Fillmore and pistacchio was my favorite of the lot.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Limster

                i'm insane about those macaroons and have to have them put in a box to keep me out of them until i get home, it's not unheard of for me to eat 3 cognac right in a row!

              2. Here's a link to my prior rave.


                1. I'm a HUGE fan, and haven't had a decent one in California, ever!! I will have to go to this boulangerie ASAP. The only decent croissants aux amandes I've had in the US were from the Madeleine boulangerie and cafeteria chain in Houston (whith outlets all over Texas and some of the southwest). La Madeleine is tightly run by a French chef. It is what crappy chains like Boudin aspire to be.

                  I grew up in Paris, living within walking distance of about a dozen pâtisseries and would get at least four or five a week, preferably from the one place that did it best and whose almond croisants always warranted walking five additional blocks. That pâtisserie had one of the best almond croissant I've ever had, and I must have tried about 200-300 pâtisseries all over France in my lifetime. I'd get other things from other places, each had one or two items they did very well.

                  They start as stale, day old butter croissants (much like bread pudding.) Those croissants au beurre are a little bigger than the regular croissants and are rolled but baked straight, as opposed to the regular ones which are bent into crescent shapes. The day olds are stuffed with almond filling, soaked with milk and topped with almond slivers. The croissants actually taste better when they start with stale, dry croissants. I think most of the ones I've had here aren't recycled croissants, so perhaps that was one of many reasons they didn't taste quite right. Since it's a fairly elaborate process, there are a lot of variants and as such, croissants aux amandes differ greatly from one pâtisserie to another, much more so than other classics like tartes aux pommes or plain croissants. It is one of the bellweathers by which one can judge the skill of the maître pâtissier.

                  I actually prefer the pains au chocolat aux amandes, which are recycled pains au chocolat (refered to in the US as "chocolate croissants"). The chocolate rod inside goes very well with the almond filling.

                  OK, enough babbling, I'm off to Polk street!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: garçon

                    Thanks for the details on how these are made. La Farine makes a nut filled breakfast pastry with croissant dough that they call a Swiss Twinkie that's very good too.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Thanks for the tip, Melanie. I'll try one next time I stop by. La Farine has the best plain croissants I've had so far locally (haven't made it to Polk St. yet...)

                    2. re: garçon
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      Wow, pain au chocolat aux amandes sounds like the stuff my dreams are made of--best of both worlds! Lord knows when I'll next be in Paris, but I'll have to look for it.

                      I'm quite sure US croissants aux amandes are made, as is pain au chocolat, always with fresh dough. I don't have much experience with croissants in France, but good ones here are certainly few and far between.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Well Caitlin, you don't have to get your passport to get one. I'm pretty sure La Madeleine does them too. This chain was started by a French chef in Dallas and now has 60 outlets in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Their pastries are quite decent, about the same quality as the Nouvelle Patisserie, nearly Parisian-level quality, and far ahead of chains like Au Bon Pain and Boudin.

                        It turns out that this chef has sold out his take and left, I wonder if La Madeleine has (or will be having) some quality control issues.

                        1. re: garçon
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          Wow, now you've made me happy--I may just be in DC later this month, and I'll make a point of seeking out Le Madeleine.

                      2. re: garçon

                        I am on the edge of my fauteuil (chair) in anticipation of your Bay Bread Boulangerie croissant aux amandes report.

                        I'm deeply wishing I sampled even half of those 400 patisseries. Why is the Madeleine chain in Texas and the southwest - the connoisseurs are in California? I was jolted a bit by your description of how croissant aux amandes are made. How can they taste fresh if the dough has been through 2 lives? Regarding pain au chocolat, on my first trip to Paris, I ate several pain au chocolat each day, one from each patisserie. I remember the agony when I had to wait for the patisseries to reopen after the 2 hour mid afternoon closure. Apparently I consumed so much pain au chocolat that to this day, I cannot eat chocolate. Those pretty macarons de Paris, what is characteristic of them? At first, I thought they were macaroons (almond or coconut), but I sense they are something very different.

                        1. re: elise h

                          Sorry about the Bay Bread croissant aux amandes report, guess my dog chewed it!;) I'll try not to get sidetracked again and get to Bay Bread before their closing time soon...

                          The Madeleine chain started in Texas because Houston and Dallas were experiencing great "owl"-related economic booms in the early 80s (while the rest of the US was experiencing a recession.) There was a relatively large number of French expats, with companies like Schlumberger and Total operating there. "Dallas", the TV serie was also huge everywhere, France included, enamoring many French entrepreneurs who crossed the pond and tried to tap into that burgeoning great American market. Le Nôtre opened a large bakery in Houston (but failed as apparently the locals were more interested in chocolate-chip cookies than in his famous "operas"). Patrick Esquerre started a small bakery and restaurant in a Dallas strip mall, in front of which one of the owners of Neiman-Marcus parked his gold Mercedes, ate and got in on the action, and as they say, the rest was history. La Madeleine does many basic French baked items, but they also do cookies (and over $121 million in sales annually...) I think their progress is unstoppable; much like the killer bees, the Madeleine outlets are bound to hit California sooner or later. Pains au chocolat aux amandes have recently been spotted by gourmet entomologists in Phoenix!

                          Back to the almond croissants:
                          every croissant coming out of a Parisian oven dreams of being reincarnated as an almond croissant. The little stale carcasses of the lucky survivors are stuffed with an almond filling and rebabtized with dips in milk, then baked again to greet the new Parisian (or Phoenician) dawn feeling so fresh and so less hollow than the day before, proudly draped in a robe of almond slivers and powdered sugar, like a Parisian tiled roof after a weak snowstorm.

                          The macarons come in many colors/flavors. I guess they are meringue-based, I haven't tried any in ages, it tends to be way down on my list (just above babas au rhum)

                          1. re: garçon

                            In Bordeaux every morning we had fresh croissants split and filled with a chocolate/chestnut cream filling, painted with an chocolate glaze, and sprinkled with sliced almonds. I don't know what they called them.

                            1. re: ironmom

                              I've never seen this variant in any Parisian (or French) bakery.

                        2. re: garçon

                          this isn't really SF-related, but your mention of a delicious pain au chocolat aux amandes reminded me of a delicious one that I had in NYC, at Goupil and DeCarlo, a relatively new patisserie here. I'm not sure if they make it with day-old croissants, but they are incredibly delectable and makes my mouth water everytime... ;)

                          1. re: garçon

                            Enjoyed your post! I didn't know that the almond croissant were made from "recycled" croissants!

                            My first good almond croissant was from La Madeleine in Houston. The one (first one?) on Westheimer and Weslyan. They had great breakfast, powerful French roast coffee, and unforgettable tomato soup.....

                            Strangely enough, the La Madeleine in New Orleans's French Quarter is of a lesser quality. I visited this one 6 years after I left Houston, and so wondered if the over-all quality had gone down or if it's just the New Orleans one.(Haven't been back to Houston since)