Would the real French croissant please stand up, because I am having trouble locating you! I want something I can tear apart and dunk in my early morning coffee, then close my eyes and think of France…
Autolyse in Braddon (and before it Cornucopia) was one of the few artisan bakeries in Canberra that could bake a passable croissant. The closure of both bakeries is still mourned by many. Recently I have been on a hunt in Canberra to see who else is making a good croissant. This particular French pastry (supposedly originated in Turkey as a ‘crescent pastry’ is richly layered with butter and rolled from a triangle of dough) came to France via Austria. A croissant can be simply described as golden and flaky, a bit salty, buttery and should melt in your mouth. A good croissant should be all about the taste, the smell, the crunch of the crust and the softness of the heart. Bakers who battle to reproduce this delectable French pastry – so beloved of the French for breakfast – blame baking difficulties on the availability of suitable flour, the fat content of Australian butter, and even the weather.
First stop was a very old favourite in the Sydney Building in Civic – the Croissant d’Or. It has been around for decades, has had more than one owner and has fought the challenges of liquidation and closure due to a fire. Their croissant was a nice size, glazed and not too crunchy, and at $2.80 the cheapest one I encountered (prices across Canberra range up to $4.00). I was starting to feel quite optimistic about my mission.
I stumbled on Le Bon Melange located in a sunny corner of Gungahlin, just behind the Town Centre by simply googling “French patisserie”. It is fairly new and this little bit of France in Gungahlin is already a great favourite with the locals. The bakery had a delicious aroma and their croissant rated well in terms of flakiness, was slightly salty and quite light. I was also very impressed with their full range of French patisseries and petits fours and will be making a return journey very soon!
Dobinson’s Bakery and Cafe is a perennial Civic favourite and serves up a large croissant that has a texture a bit more like a brioche, therefore slightly lacking the flakiness and butteriness that true Francophiles crave. However it was fresh, golden and crunchy and in the absence of the real thing, was great for dunking in coffee.
7th & Bake Patisserie and Cafe at Kingston Foreshore is busy from early morning as assorted joggers, bike riders and later the morning coffee crowd call in or sit outside on the sunny terrace. Their croissant was just a little bit dry, not particularly flaky, but it was slightly salty with a soft centre and did the job with my morning coffee and some homemade jam.
I was too late for a croissant at Ricardo’s, Jamison Centre, but I was persuaded to try an almond croissant. This pastry confection was delicious with loads of toasted almonds, a light creamy custard in the centre and quite frankly, big enough to share. Despite the distraction of the almonds and icing sugar, this was a pretty good croissant.
I was completely distracted by Ricardo’s display of cakes and I can see why it is such a popular Northside cafe too.
Silo Bakery in Kingston is a challenge on any Saturday morning, but the orderly queue was served quickly. Despite my concerns that the last of the croissants would be sold before I got to the counter, I was in luck and really pleased I could also stock up on some of Silo’s excellent walnut sourdough bread. This pastry was neither sweet nor salty. You can always tell when a croissant has been rolled traditionally from a triangle (as was Silo’s) as there is a tell-tale swirl of bread in the heart as you pull the croissant apart.
It is difficult to say which was the best or most authentic croissant. I prefer mine fairly small and buttery enough to eat without butter, but I know others who feel let down if the croissant isn’t big enough for two. The less said about those who consider cutting one in half and stuffing it with ham and cheese, the better.
There are lots of good artisan and independent bakeries that bake croissants and other delectable pastries in Canberra.
Do you have a favourite? Please share your favourite in the comments section below.