Honorable Mention: Bakeri ($1.50)
These tiny croissants weren't of the right size and shape to be formally considered in the tasting, but they won points for the "tender, creamy-sweet" interior and "great toasty-flake" crust, even if some found a lack of butter flavor.
14. Madeleine Patisserie ($1.85)
This charming Chelsea cafe won points for its croissants' flaky, light interior, but more than half the tasters sensed an "acidic," "tart," or "sour" taste, as if the butter weren't quite right.
13. Margo Patisserie ($2.75)
With a flaky brown and buttery crust and "a flavor that gets better the longer you chew it," this Williamsburg bakery definitely had some fans, though others found it a bit dense and bready ("more like a tasty dinner roll") and the butter seemed to have picked up a flavor that multiple tasters described as "strangely savory."
Margo Patisserie: 667 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 718-384-1212
12. La Bergamote ($2.20)
It's a looker: nicely browned shell, a flaky appearance. High points for butter flavor. But our tasters felt it was more dense than flaky inside, with a noticeable sweetness and a slightly tough crust. A great candidate for jam or Nutella slathering, but maybe not the best on its own.
11. Cannelle Patisserie ($1.60)
We'd heard this Jackson Heights patisserie recommended from all corners of the Internet, but the croissants didn't quite blow us away: they were light and elastic, with a flaky interior, but a flavor that scored low on the charts as downright bland. "I wish this tasted like butter," wrote one taster.
10. Financier ($2.00)
This small bakery chain bakes up croissants our tasters liked for their "rich, but not heavy" mouthfeel, though several wished they had "more shatter going on" and others found the taste hiding "hints of coffee--as if it were stored near the espresso machine." Croissants with coffee, we're all about, but the tastes should definitely be distinct.
Financier: Multiple Locations in NYC; www.financierpastries.com
9. Colson Patisserie ($2.25)
This Brooklyn bakery scored more highly on taste and "crispy" exterior texture than it did on the "slightly chewy," "slightly dense" interior. But it had a gorgeous "spiraly shape" and a "definite butter taste," to its credit. Might be better with jam--or in the shape of a morning bun.
8. Bouchon Bakery ($2.75)
Thomas Keller's venerable Bouchon Bakery, whose nearly every (admittedly pricey) pastry and cookie and sandwich we've eaten and savored and loved, didn't exhibit their usual mastery on the croissant front. it had a light, airy interior, the outside was "tough, like a cookie," with "no delicious flake." Others cited a "strange aftertaste," as if the butter weren't quite as pure as it should be. Points for that tough-to-get many-layered inside, but other aspects of this croissant weren't quite what we wanted.
7. Almondine Bakery ($2.15)
It's a classically French croissant you'll find at Almondine, with "light, pull-apart layers" and a crunch that's nicely crispy," but flavor-wise, it wasn't what we wished--with notes called "metallic," "funky," "meaty," and "unfortunately rancid," it seemed clear something had gone wrong with the butter. We've had great croissants from Almondine, but even a spot check the next day yielded slightly off-tasting pastries.
Almondine Bakery: DUMBO and Park Slope Locations; www.almondinebakery.com
6. Patisserie Claude ($2.00)
Patisserie Claude is to croissants as Levain is to chocolate chip cookies. What do we mean? While Levain's enormous, gooey doorstops of cookies had almost none of the characteristics we were looking for in our perfect specimen, they were so intrinsically delicious that tasters tended to throw our criteria out the window. Same thing with Claude. They're chewy and dense, a little heavy, without the feathery layers of a perfect croissant. But wow, are they buttery and satisfying.
Patisserie Claude: 187 West 4th Street, New York NY 10014 (map); 212-255-5911;
5. Balthazar ($2.75)
Often cited as one of New York's best croissants, Balthazar's pastry put in a pretty strong showing, ranking highly for a "pronounced butter flavor" and a "yummy exterior crisp." That said, it scored much lower on the inside texture, which some found "dense," others "almost tough, without the flake I was hoping for."
4. Michael Allen Desserts ($2.25)
"I want this with a big bowl of cafe au lait," wrote one taster, and the rest seemed to concur. The croissants were buttery but not greasy, with great shards and flaky inside layers. Though the middle was a bit chewy, and some found the outside a bit too browned--"not burnt, but right on the edge of burnt"--it left a very positive impression.
3. François Payard ($2.50)
This just-opened bakery from highly acclaimed François Payard had one of our top three croissants--a "feathery flaky" crust shattering to reveal a "near-perfect, tongue-melting" interior, "distinct and light." Hardly a word was said against the textbook-perfect croissant structure, and most tasters found a "sweet, buttery" flavor, though many wished it were more pronounced.
2. Petrossian ($2.75)
With a "great butter flavor" and a "satisfying flake," "perfect shatter" and "absolutely delicious" inside layers, Petrossian's croissant ranked a solid second place. Some found the interior a bit dense, but other than that, zero complaints. One taster was ready to abandon the taste test altogether: "This is my perfect croissant. Yes please. I'm going to stop now."
And the Winner... Ceci-Cela ($2.00)
Buttery, light, flaky, and all but perfect, Ceci-Cela's croissants won this taste test with the most decisive victory we've ever seen. Every single taster ranked it first or second; on an "overall satisfaction" scale of 1 to 10, averaged between all the tasters, it bested the second-place croissant by a full point and a half. Some comments: "Great butter flavor!" "Perfect flaky shatter!" "Pull-apart layers!" It's a croissant that inspired exclamation points--and it's hands-down our favorite croissant in New York.
The Innards Shot
Inside Ceci-Cela. Mmm.