In Search of the Perfect Pain au Chocolat

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Within the world of chocolate therein lies a plethora of sumptuous desserts–cakes, cookies, tarts, brownies, bars, mousse, fudge, and pastries. Being a chocoholic since even before birth, I have tried a great variety of these treats, both by talented professional pastry chefs and ebullient at-home bakers. While I’ve had some epic layer cakes, and some phenomenal cookies, as well as some knee-weakening brownies, amongst many other things throughout my chocolate adventures, none of these has ever made so instantly blissful as that of a perfectly made chocolate croissant.

Known as pain au chocolate in French, the chocolate croissant is a decadent twist on the buttery plain counterpart. I’m not quite sure when I had my first chocolate croissant, but I do know that it has been many years now that I have referred to them as one of my favorite chocolate desserts. Granted, I do usually eat chocolate croissants for breakfast, so it’s probably a bit of a misnomer to refer to them as a dessert. However, I would and have eaten them at any given time of day.

There are three basic qualities that I believe make a good chocolate croissant.

  1. It must have a buttery, flaky pastry. The pastry part should not be chewy, or dry, or the least bit stale.
  2. It must have a good ratio of chocolate to pastry. There must be chocolate in nearly every bite–or else it’s like “what are you doing to me?” No good.
  3. It must use real chocolate. No chocolate syrup, or some sort of “chocolate flavored” filling that is sugary and grainy. Real chocolate, preferably dark, with rich undertones reflective of a higher cacao content is necessary.

At this point, I do consider myself  a bit of a chocolate croissant connoisseur. Where ever I roam, whenever I come across a cafe or coffee shop or bakery that purvey the deliciously dainty bites, I always try to get one to taste and evaluate!

I currently have  four favorite spots in Boston for consistently good chocolate croissants. My favorite, overall, ever, though, would have to be those that I had on a trip to Europe a year and a half ago. Paris, specifically, as I had long been forewarned, makes pain au chocolat like no other. However, I shall save those tales for another day! In Boston, my favorite spots for chocolate croissants are:

  • Chocolee–23 Dartmouth St  Boston: Lee Napoli is a brilliant chocolatier and pastry chef whose dessert roots go back in Boston many years, where she has helped open some of the city’s best restaurants. Her hand-rolled croissants are the perfect texture, and contain Callebaut chocolate both inside the delicate folds as well as drizzled on top. They are best eaten slightly warmed.

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  • Crema Cafe–27 Brattle St, Cambridge: This spot is a fav with the local Harvard crowd, both professors and students alike, for their coffee, but I think their croissants are some of the closest to those that I had in Paris in terms of textures and flavor.

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  • Paradise Bakery–800 Boylston St, Boston: Granted, Paradise is not a local chain, so I surmise their chocolate croissants at any location are suitable, but these are a very hearty take on them, as the chocolate filling is mixed with mascarpone cheese. They definitely make for  a very satisfying breakfast.

 

  • Fuel–152 Chestnut Hill Ave, Boston: This spot just opened in my neighborhood (very nearly across the street) at the end of last summer, and it was not long after that I realized they do an excellent chocolate croissant. They are a bit smaller than the other choices, and even a bit more expensive than some of the others (surprising for Brighton), but they are consistently on point, in particular in regards to the pastry flavor and texture.

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As my chocolate adventures continue, I will regularly post reviews and updates about new places that I discover that offer my favorite pastry, so that my fellow chocolate lovers might also experience the joys of the perfect pain au chocolat!

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