Monday, September 7, 2009

Amy's Bread vs Sarabeth's: A chocolate croissant throwdown

Dear Boo,

While I fear this isn't really a Labor Day-appropriate post, I think we can all agree that there is never an INappropriate time for a chocolate croissant. Pretty much all of life's moments are made better by a flaky, buttery, chocolatey bite of one of these.

There are a plethora of bakeries in New York from which to purchase said life-improving item, and at times the options can get overwhelming. If one is not careful, the angsting over which bakery to visit can seriously get in the way of the immediate gratification often associated with the pain au chocolat. So, the Boyfriend and I have taken some of the guesswork out of the process for you by staging a throwdown between two of the city's most venerable baking institutions. You can thank me later.

The Contenders:
In this corner on the left, we have the Manhattan Stallion, Amy's Bread! And in the right corner (?), the Butter Queen of the East, Sarabeth's!

And now for a closeup:

Note stylistic differences. Sarabeth's a neat striated package of pastry, Amy's Bread, a more freeform, double-action look. Both have two lanes of chocolate, Amy's just likes to show it off.

I appreciated the neatness of Sarabeth's but really liked seeing the chocolate right off the bat. As Ina Garten likes to remind us, it's nice to garnish a plate with one of the less visible flavors of the dish so your guests can eat with their eyes first, knowing what they're about to taste. I like surprises too, though, so I was torn. The Boyfriend was hungry.

First Bite goes to Sarabeth's:

Okay, so maybe this was a few bites in. And yes, I needed a manicure. We tried Sarabeth's first. Delicious. Chocolate was near the surface and appeared in the first taste, as it should. Pastry was more chewy than flaky, with an airy quality and not too sweet flavor. Chocolate was dark and rich. (Just how I like my men). Overall, a great product.

First bite, Amy's Bread:

Heaven. As you can see from the picture, Amy's is much, much flakier, with the top couple of crispiest bits practically separating entirely from the softer, chewier inner layers. The top and bottom also tasted much more distinctly of butter, with a nice salty hint that was a great foil to the sweet creaminess of the chocolate, which we also felt was slightly more flavorful. Amy's left that thin layer of butter grease and pastry flakes on the roof of your mouth, which is, for me, the true croissant experience.

The Verdict:
A knockout. Both the Boyfriend and I unanimously voted in favor of Amy's Bread. And yes, there was blind voting with nary a hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chad in sight (how you like that 2000 reference?). Amy's was superior in texture with the perfect balance of flaky outside, infinite layers of buttery dough, and chewy, elastic interior, whereas Sarabeth's was a bit more puffy and chewy and lacking flake. Amy's butter flavor really kicked you in the teeth, which, let's face it, aside from the chocolate, is kind of the whole point. And flavor-wise, it was rich and delicate, sweet and salty, and quite parfait, if you ask me.

Any contenders to unseat Amy's? I'm thinking Bouley Bakery might be next up, or possibly Eli's. Any others I'm missing?


The Mouse

Hungry for More? Amy's Bread just came out with a pastry and sweet-stuff cookbook so you can take some of her recipes home.


Anonymous said...

I always judge my chocolate croissant by the QUANTITY of chocolate contained therein. And I agree seeing the chocolate from a distance is very important to the experience.

OK, now I need to go out and find one.

Anonymous said...

How about Balthazars?

cathy said...

I forwarded this to my friend Sharon, who in fact, is an exiled NY-er in Davidson, NC, and who, in fact, has a career of specifically seeks the BEST CROISSANT in EVERY location she visits. Her response to you findings is that while you had best of two, you are missing the boat:
"You need to tell your friend she is missing the best croissant in NYC! Claude's Patisserie on W. 4th!! NO CONTEST!!! TRUST ME!!!!!!" Looks like you have your work cut out for you, gals.

The Mouse said...

OOh thanks for the suggestions! those are next on the list. I've also gotten the scoop on: ceci-cela, georgia's bakery (west side), and Payard (East Side)...

Anonymous said...

...forget Payard - closed, unless there's one other than the Lexington Ave shop!

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I prefer my croissants plain, but you wouldn't have to twist my arm to make me eat City Bakery's pretzel croissant. Nirvana! They also sell a lot of chocolate croissants, so you might want to add them to your taste list.

Joshua Stokes said...

Looks like somebody need a mani

Anonymous said...

I have to second L&K-Renee. The CB Chocolate Croissants are like no Chocolate Croissant you've had before. Not because they're so amazing (which they are) - but they're almost a different animal. They're much heavier and richer which seems like something you'd want to avoid with a croissant, but once you eat one or two it's a very welcome difference.

They may not be contenders for the BEST Chocolate Croissant, but they're certainly VERY different and very much worth a gander. You will not forget them or confuse them with another.

The Pretzel Croissant is also quite amazing.