Step aside, muffins, coffee cake, and scones. The best breakfast pastry in the world is, without a doubt, the chocolate croissant. At least, that’s my opinion, as well as PoMo managing editor Margaret Seiler’s. We both discovered our shared fondness for chocolate-stuffed laminated dough after also realizing we share the same birthday. (Shoutout to all the Capricorns!)
So one rainy Thursday, we gathered together a whole crew of chocolate croissant taste testers on a porch: me, Margaret, deputy editor Fiona McCann, and arts director Mike Novak (who also took some glamour shots of the croissants). What we looked for: even layers of flaky dough, neither too dense or bready nor too airy; a good ratio of chocolate to pastry, as well as the quality of the chocolate; a buttery-tasting dough that nails the sweet-salty balance; and layers that crackled and flaked upon biting into them. Out of a dozen contenders, these six were our picks.
We loved the audible crackliness of this croissant upon biting into it, and were pleased to find two bars of snappy bittersweet chocolate inside. The layers were fairly even, though there was one large air pocket. Our biggest gripe was the flavor of the dough, which came across a little bland; a touch of salt might have helped bring out the buttery flavor a bit more.
The chocolate-to-dough ratio was correctly dialed in here, with two bars per croissant, though we found the chocolate a touch too sweet; the layers of the dough were also even. But where’s the crackle, the flake? After slicing up the croissant for taste testing, we hardly found any crumbs on our cutting board. We also tested out Petite Provence’s chocolate almond croissant just for fun, but we weren’t huge fans of the chocolate-flavored croissant dough; the texture reminded us of a dry, chocolaty roll.
4. St. Honoré
This croissant scored solid marks across the board: even, uniform layers of dough, a shiny egg wash and crackly top, two chocolate bars (though we wouldn’t have minded if they were a little bigger), and a flavorful, buttery dough.
Visually, this was certainly the most impressive of the bunch, with chocolaty stripes running across the exterior of the croissant; they also adorn the interior like layers of a tree trunk. The layers of dough are perfectly even, with holes reminiscent of honeycomb, and you get a decent flake when cutting into the croissant. I’ve already showered this croissant with praise in Portland Monthly’s “Best Thing I Ate This Week” column, but not all of our taste testers were equally enamored. The divisive factor: the bittersweet 70 percent chocolate ganache filling. For Margaret, it reminded her too much of frosting. Said Mike: “I feel like I’m eating a pudding pop.”
This was a very good chocolate croissant in all categories: flaky dough with a nice touch of salt (though we wouldn’t have minded more butter), a good chocolate-to-dough ratio made with tasty bittersweet chocolate, the right level of airiness in the dough with even layers, and a delicate crackle upon biting into the croissant. For bonus points, we also tried Ken's mini chocolate caramel croissant, which had just a hint of added sweetness from the caramel and a single bar of chocolate (an appropriate ratio given its diminutive size). It’s not substantial enough for breakfast, but perfect for an early-afternoon pick-me-up.
This pastry powerhouse's chocolate croissant was the clear favorite. After we cut into the croissant, the über-crispy, super-shiny with egg wash top layer fell off, a beautiful crunchy plane of dough Margaret snagged for herself. Inside were two slightly melty bars of chocolate—not as dark as we usually like in a chocolate croissant, but the sweetness level works really well with the rest of the croissant. It was super airy and evenly layered throughout, and most important, the flavor of the butter really came through in the dough. Still, even our top pick didn't quite rise to the level of the ideal chocolate croissant. Darker chocolate, and more of it, please! With JinJu landing just shy, that means perfection is still out there. I guess we'll keep eating.
Did we miss your favorite chocolate croissant? Drop me a line at [email protected]