The quintessentially flaky pastry has a circuitous origin. According to The Art of Eating, a quarterly publication for hardcore gourmands, the croissant's roots can be traced to the Turkish siege of Vienna (even then a pastry capital of Europe) in 1683. When the Turks were pushed out, the Hungarian Emperor supposedly gave Viennese bakers the go-ahead to make sweet rolls in the shape of the Turkish crescent. It took over two centuries, including early variations served at Versailles, for the croissant to evolve into the multi-layered marvel it is today.
Mediocre croissants abound in the world, even in above-average bakeries. It took some sleuthing, but I found four shops around Atlanta whose delicate, correctly made croissants I can recommend without hesitation:
You can find croissants at Alon's -- which seems to have become the official high-end, independent bakery of Atlanta -- sharing space in the crammed pastry case with their transcendental chocolate chip cookies, among other sweet and savory goodies. What their croissants lack in fragile crispness on the outside, they make up for in rich flavor and gossamer texture. Keep your eye out for the beguilingly complex and utterly delicious pistachio croissant. 1394 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-6000. www.alons.com.
Douceur de France
The first time you drive up to this little white house in an intense industrial area, you might wonder if you wrote down the wrong address. You didn't. Ring the doorbell and someone (probably Danielle Beaudet, whose chef husband Luc makes the pastries) will let you in and lead you to the pastry display. Their croissants are crackly in all the right ways. I'm particularly enamored with the almond croissant and their pain de raisin, a circular pastry made from croissant dough. 367 Glover St., Marietta. 770-425-5050. www.douceurdefrance.com.
Pastries A GoGo
If I had to pick one model croissant in the metro Atlanta area, it would be Bob Light's. He doesn't bother with a variety of flavors -- he makes plain on weekdays and adds an almond variation to the mix on the weekend. The burnished tops of his dotingly sculpted creations shatter between your teeth, and the pure taste of butter permeates your mouth. It's improbable that you'll eat just one. 250 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-373-3423. www.pastriesagogo.com.
Seekers of Atlanta's ultimate pain au chocolat, this is your holy grail. Star only makes croissants on Saturday. If you swing by around noon, they're often still warm from the oven and the intense, dark chocolate still slightly molten. You may want to call ahead and reserve one -- they disappear rapidly. I realize this is of no consequence to chocolate freaks, but their plain croissants are lovely as well. 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410. www.starprovisions.com.
Did I fail to catch a croissant? E-mail email@example.com
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