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In Praise of the Tartine Croissant

Pei Nov 17, 2009 08:04 AM

I've known for years that Tartine makes great croissants, and I've eaten and given many to the croissant lovers in my life. But until this week, I'd never noticed just how much better Tartine's croissants are than the other offerings in San Francisco. Hit with an intense craving for buttery flakiness, I went to the three most obvious croissant choices:

Bay Breads. I walked into both the Polk and Fillmore branches, and I did not even bother buying a croissant at either. The top was obviously no longer flakey, it looked deflated and slightly moist. It might have been a bad day or bad timing, but two days in a row at two different branches? Disappointing.

ACME in the Ferry Building. Not bad, but not great. Smaller than I remember. Actually, a lot of their bread looks smaller than I remember, and maybe more expensive too. Is this a recent change?

Tartine. Wowsers. The price was a little higher, but we're talking under a dollar difference for a much bigger croissant. My only issue ever with Tartine croissants is that I would prefer a little less blackening on the outside, but it's a tiny price to pay for how delicious 99.9% of the croissant is. Shatteringly crisp, the crust seems to be made of a thousand layers of pastry crust. It pulls apart the way a croissant should, not in chunks but in long coils of both crust and bread. The most distinct flavor is that of fresh butter, quickly followed by a bready yeastiness and an "oveny" burnt essence. I swear, this croissant has depth of flavor. The center of the croissant was still warm when I got to it, a buttery, layered, slightly toothsome contrast to the crackly exterior. Truly the best croissant experience I've had in awhile.

So, hounds, hie thee to Tartine for a croissant, and also post your favorite croissants that I'm missing!

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Acme Bread
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

Bay Bread
2325 Pine St, San Francisco, CA 94115

  1. Melanie Wong Nov 17, 2009 09:01 AM

    I don't like the big size of Tartine's croissant. One you should try is Delanghe Patisserie.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      SteveG Nov 17, 2009 10:19 AM

      Does Delanghe bake them off throughout the morning? One thing Tartine has going in its favor is the high level of deal flow, which allows them to proof and bake croissants periodically throughout the morning. That's why it isn't unusual to get one that's still warm in the middle like Pei found.

      At the risk of hijacking the thread, the Thorough Bread & Pastry almond croissants are pretty good, and remind me of a description you gave ages ago where the almond filling leaks out and crisps at the edges, somewhat like a macaron. Thorough also slathers sweetened almond past on top, which all gets nice and brown, and skips the powdered sugar, which I've never been much of a fan of anyway. I like the almond ones so much I don't think I've ever gone for a plain.

      1. re: SteveG
        Melanie Wong Nov 17, 2009 10:36 AM

        Don't know about Delanghe's baking schedule, and it's been a while since I've been there.

        Yes, TB&P's almond croissants are wonderful.

        I'm sorry to hear the bad reports on Della Fattoria's, wasn't always so for the croissants.

        Delanghe Patisserie
        1890 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

        Thorough Bread and Pastry
        248 Church Street, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          SteveG Nov 17, 2009 10:41 AM

          I get Della Fattoria croissants once in a while, and I don't remember them lacking flakiness or being under-baked, but then again if you want a croissant, you have to go first thing. That means I usually eat it while I wait for coffee, and in an uncaffeinated state I'm not the most discerning consumer.

          One thing about Della Fattoria is they bake in a wood-fired oven. They get points for effort, and when everything works out, the product is quite unique and delicious, but things can definitely go wrong if it's extra humid or hot weather. They just don't have the whiz-bang control systems that the professional baking ovens everyone else uses have for humidity. Della Fattoria also doesn't have air conditioning, so they might have trouble with the croissant proofing once in a while during heat waves.

          Della Fattoria
          141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

          1. re: SteveG
            mrs bacon Nov 17, 2009 11:41 AM

            I'm willing to give Della Fattoria the benefit of the doubt. They probably suffered from the drive in from Petaluma. The loaf of bread that I bought that morning (and it was first thing -- before 8:00am) was also disappointing -- the crust had gone soft.

            Della Fattoria
            141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

            1. re: mrs bacon
              SteveG Nov 17, 2009 11:44 AM

              That's how some of Della Fattoria's loaves are. They use a super wet dough and the ovens run very moist, so the crust is much less crusty than is typical, but the flavor is amazing. It slices and toasts up really well, but it isn't typical bread.

              Della Fattoria
              141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

        2. re: SteveG
          Melanie Wong Dec 15, 2009 12:29 AM

          Due to this discussion, I pulled over when I spotted a parking space in front of Delanghe last week. Here's a photo of the almond and raspberry-filled croissant, twice-baked with the crispy edges where the almond paste oozes out and gets brown.

          Delanghe's raspberry & almond croissant

      2. m
        mrs bacon Nov 17, 2009 09:07 AM

        I also like the croissants at Delessio. Had an incredibly disappointing one (soft and moist) one from the Della Fattoria stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market a couple weeks ago.

        Della Fattoria
        141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

        1. farmersdaughter Nov 17, 2009 09:49 AM

          Acme has definitely downsized many of their loaves - can't say about the croissants because I haven't noticed. I noticed this a year or two ago when wheat prices were going through the roof. Still to me Acme makes a good solid croissant, very reliable, but not as flaky as I'd like. I haven't had a Tartine croissant in a long time but I do remember being very happy with the flakiness and layers but it was a little bit too dark for me as well.

          I'm with mrs bacon on Della Fattoria - I do not like the mushy, one layered croissants at all.

          Della Fattoria
          141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

          1. a
            afdawson Nov 17, 2009 11:27 AM

            If you've found Tartine's to be a bit overly brown, try Patisserie Phillippe.

            http://www.patisseriephilippe.com (I'm not sure how to insert those handy flags.


            Not sure how widely they're distributed, but I think Four Barrel has them. The only knock on them might be that they're sometimes too buttery. (That is not a complaint I am accustomed to making.)

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