One of my more vainglorious pursuits is that of finding good croissants outside of France. Living in Spain, this is not easy as Spanish croissants generally suck. A sordid mixing of pork fat and lesser flours, the result in most bakeries isn’t palatable and thus I’m always with an eye to the random forn de pa in an attempt to discover what might actually be considered a good croissant. More often than not, I’m usually picking up industrial croissants from Auchan in Perpignan, France that not only cost 25% of what they do in Spain, but are fucking delicious, even if frozen and then re-heated in the toaster–patent pending on that business.
That said, some bakeries in Barcelona do indeed have pretty tasty breads and by and large tasty croissants so I present a revisiting of these locations which can be more miss than hit, but still, okay.
Oriol Balaguer is a well known baker and he opened up this very, very cute shop in my old neighborhood of Mercat del Born. While nicely decorated, I’m not a fan of the dim as a candle staff nor the auto-payment change machine thing which just makes for a very impersonal touch in an otherwise well thought out space. The croissants? Despite being voted the “best butter croissants in Spain” I have my serious doubts as to their butter content. They leave a slight film on the roof of my mouth which always tells me that there’s some pork fat in there. They’re decent overall, but cost 1.60€ which is pricey (even for San Francisco) but the biggest bitch slap is that they’re the size of a fly shit. If I wanted mini pork fat croissants, I could just go to a Chinese baker and pay 5% of what Oriol is demanding. Thus, I pass.
I really, really love Baluard’s breads. Their pa de Barceloneta is essentially sourdough like you’d find in San Francisco and it’s really tasty despite the fact that being able to buy it cool is as rare as not finding that one girl who works at the place to be the least bit awake and not seeming like she’s been at the discotheque until 04:00 the night before. That said, their croissants are good and reasonable in price. I happen to like the white chocolate ones the best because apparently I’m something of a pijo bitch, but I’m okay with that because I’m fancy like that. The only thing that’s weird is that the normal croissants are kinda yellow like someone thought, “Shit, what is the croissant lacking? More egg!” This neither adds nor detracts from the overall croissantery but it does mean that they garner either a yes or a pass depending on my mood and how much bread I’ve over committed to.
I started going to Hofmann years ago because it is one of the finer pastry shops in Barcelona–so much so that I don’t even hold being in the Born against it. Meticulously made, all of their pastries are excellent. There’s this one rather dim girl who is generally at the counter and can’t walk and chew gum at the same time which makes my life miserable, but I put up with her as I wants me some goodness. The coulants are good. The kouign-amann are also good if a bit pricey. But what are the best are the croissants. Light, flaky, excellent when re-heated, I can’t help but think that they’re 100% butter because they’re really and truly, the best. I will always pick up one or two of the normal ones when popping through the area.
The only thing to note is that while their plain croissants have become well known, they’ve branched out in to many flavored versions that are hit and miss. The gerds (raspberry) I quite like. Festucs (pistachio) I find kinda gross and the same goes for the chocolate. Mango can be hit and miss depending on the day but as of late it’s had a weird metallic aspect to it that I don’t care for. The crema catalana is similar to the chocolate in that it’s just too much and I pass. The marscarpone on the other hand is something to behold. I might recommend to split it between two as it’s insanely rich and potent because jesus it’s good and this comes from a true croissant purist.