Le Pain Quotidien
100 Grand Street
1131 Madison Avenue Near 84th Street
When it comes to croissants, the bigger the mess of flaky crumbs covering your floor, your table, yourself, the better. They should be light, moist and airy inside, and, of course, taste and smell of fresh butter. This much we knew. What we didn’t realize until we saw Pierre Hermé, France’s premier pastry chef, conducting a televised taste test, is how a well-made croissant should sound. “When you tear it,” he said, “it should cry.” Well, you can’t just go into any bakery—we soon discovered—and start squeezing the croissants as if they were rolls of Charmin. So we did a blind test of our own. After carefully smelling, tasting—and listening—to twelve croissants from the city’s best pastry shops, we had a clear winner: the beautifully textured croissant from Le Pain Quotidien—the very same one, coincidentally, that Hermé had picked ($1.75). It has a nice, uniformly dark caramel color, with almost burnt edges. It’s delicately crisp and leafily layered like a Farrah Fawcett hairdo on the outside, and deliciously buttery, almost cotton-candy-tender when you bite into it. To our untrained ears, the sound it makes when you tear it is more a crusty crackling than an actual whimper. But to Hermé, at least, Le Pain Quotidien’s croissant cries like a baby.