Croissants. The classic viennoiserie that every boulangerie should aspire to be proud of their own. Be it in France, Singapore, or anywhere else, the croissant can be representative of how much the chefs in the kitchens respect their products. It is not extremely difficult to make a decent one by hand, but to craft the best takes years, if not forever. While the typical neighbourhood boulangerie might have fallen to the temptation of using factory-made, frozen croissants, there are plenty more chefs who take pride in making their own, and some from scratch.
The croissant is made with feuilletée. It is a type of dough made from layering the détrempe (the water dough), with butter. The butter is wrapped in the détrempe, rolled out, folded, rolled out, and folded again and so on. It takes effort and time, having to let the dough rest every two turns. In the end, the layers of dough and butter work in some miraculous symphony, along with yeast, to give a golden, flaky and buttery crescent. It also comes in many variations, filled with almond paste, glaced with chocolate or re-interpret it entirely with candied rose petals and rose pâte.
Following the despair over my sense of taste, I have decided to compare two croissants. Putting aside the grandiose debate about relativity in all things, standards of food are relative. It is easy to tell which is a good croissant from the perfunctory ones, but it’s not the case, at least for my untrained palate, to the distinguish the good from the better, and then the best. I had one from Des Gâteaux et du Pain, and the other from Moulin de la Vierge. Both are familiar names in the Parisien boulangerie scene, so I had guessed to start from these.
The croissant from Des Gâteaux had a darker caramelized exterior, evenly coloured. The fine layers were very obvious, and the flakes followed the shape of the layers. It had that essential aroma of a rich butter which lingers between your fingers from touch. On the other hand (not literally), the crust was dismal. It did look like a croissant, but the unexciting layering on the outside seemed bleak in comparison to the Des Gâteaux croissant. The worst thing was the patchy flakes that didn’t seem very appetizing. Though it smells good, it has a more plain frangance missing the butter aroma. If I had only my nose to rely on, I would choose the Des Gâteaux croissant any day.
Before putting them into my stomach where they truly belong, I “dissected” the croissants to study the cross-sections, as I previously did with plant specimens in biology class. What made the croissant from Des Gâteaux amazing was that it was airy, yet it has structure. When I placed a little pressure on the top of both croissants, the Des Gâteaux croissant didn’t flatten, only to bounce up firmly.
The Moulin croissant, in contrast, could be flatten easily. So I when I took a bite on each of them, both were light and moist, but the Moulin croissant didn’t feel as airy as the Des Gâteaux one. I’m not sure how they managed to have something so firm yet so moist at the same time. To add on to that, the flakes on the Des Gâteaux were consistently crunchy, while the patchy flakes of the Moulin croissant didn’t fare that well. Needless to say, the one that had the smell of rich butter, tasted so much better. To put the final nail to the coffin for the Moulin croissant, the underside had a slight burnt taste. It was perfect for Des Gâteaux.
I have placed one croissant so high up on the podium, and the other in a coffin. To be fair, both are decent and they taste much better than the average croissant back home in Singapore, and perhaps in Paris too. The Moulin croissant, though lacking in the butter taste, hits off well with its moist and light texture – perhaps a better choice for the health-conscious who prefer less fats. As for me, I could never resist the smell of the buttery croissant from Des Gâteaux et Du Pain. I will taste more croissants from elsewhere, and till then, this croissant will retain the throne on my palate.