We love their croissants: the plain, our second favorite in New York; their marzipan- and nut-laden pistachio croissant, perhaps even better. But there's a lot more to consider: insanely chocolatey, crispy chocolate chip cookies, this gorgeous blackberry-almond danish, and a blueberry tart whose crisp, flaky crust is nothing short of perfect.
It's not every bakery that would have us ZipCar-ing to Queens, but Cannelle has done just that. Their filled croissants are standouts, superby butterly, flaky dough amply filled with passionfruit, in one case, or ham and cheese; the raspberry muffin is all butter, like a tender muffin-shaped pound cake. Classics like a Gateau Breton and a St. Honoré, "simple and complicated at once, with bites of soft cream, custard, and the crisp butter-rich pastry," are also done perfectly.
Colson Patisserie first caught our attention with their morning bun, a croissant dough snail with a scant sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar; but since then, it's their other treats that have had us coming back. We're particulary fond of the liege waffle, with soft, elastic dough, pearls of sugar, and a perfect crust; and an actively buttery palmier that's way more than just sugar on lifeless pastry, the way so many can be.
Sure, part of the fun of visiting Patisserie Claude was Claude himself, the white-clad, grey-haired curmudgeon who fulfilled just about every French chef stereotype. But though he's gone, the bakery that carries on his name still turns out some fine baked goods: floppy, buttery croissants and (our preferred pastry) pain au chocolat, both a little unorthodox but easy to love; a silky-creamed and intensely nutty hazelnut cake; and fruit tarts with golden shortbread-like tart shells.
Patisserie Claude: 187 West 4th Street, New York NY 10014 (map); 212-255-5911
We can't write about French bakeries without pausing to nod to the best croissant in New York. But that's not all this patisserie does well; try their gorgeous plum tart, frangipane-filled pear tart, or seasonal treats like a tiny, charming Bûche de Noël.
François Payard Bakery
One of the first things we loved here was the "Papa Payard," an apple-pear-cranberry tart with crystallized sugar and pistachio; it's got a beautifully browned and particularly tasty crust. Their pastries are strong, too, including our third-favorite croissant in New York and an almond version that we like even more. The Hazelnut Roll is perfect for those who love salty-sweet desserts, the entire surface brushed with cream and studded with crushed toasted nuts; it was one of Kathy's favorite desserts of 2010.
Their croissants are excellent, their chocolate chip cookies some of our favorite in New York—but don't overlook their flaky-crusted, not-too-sweet squares of fruit tarts, superior oat streusel-topped raspberry muffins, or weekend jelly doughnuts.
Almondine Bakery: DUMBO and Park Slope Locations; www.almondinebakery.com
It's expensive, it's a little precious, but this Upper East Side bakery just creates delicious things: a silken, delicate cheesecake that's just the right balance of cheesy, sweet, and tart; a Strawberry Mille Feuille in which airy vanilla sponge cake and a full-bodied cream custard are layered with strawberries and shatter-prone puff pastry; a potent-flavored, light-textured matcha cake. Don't miss the mille crepes, either, or the gâteau aux marrons, piped with tangles of lush chestnut cream.
Desserts by Michael Allen
While not everything we've tried at this friendly Clinton Hill bakery has blown us away, their croissants (in our NYC Top 5), tarts (like this not-too-goopy, crispy-topped pecan tart) and canelés are more than good enough to have us coming back.
We love Balthazar's seasonal sweets, like the delicate, spicy-crusted linzer tart pictured here; but all year, you'll find one of the best coconut cakes in the city, with a tender and loose crumb; hearty but tender extra-buttery scones; and irresistible mini profiteroles filled with vanilla, caramel, or chocolate pastry cream.