The Best Croissant in Paris

croissant.jpg

Truth is, I don’t eat croissants very often for the simple reason that I don’t like to get dressed until I’ve had my morning coffee & toast. So having one is a relatively big deal for me, since croissants are only good early in the day: I refuse to eat one after 11am if I can help it. Like anything made with copious amounts of butter, they don’t get better the longer they’ve been out of a hot oven.

Although stories abound, no one quite knows who invented le croissant. It’s believe to be in an invention of the Austrians, who created a crescent-shaped pastry to oppose the Ottomans, who had invaded their country. They symbol of Turkey is a crescent, and granted, who doesn’t like to eat Turkey?

Except maybe vegetarians. So maybe croissants were invented by and/or for vegetarians?

Aha…a new theory emerges…this is how rumors get started on the internet, folks, and perhaps people will be quoting me decades later: “David Lebovitz says croissants were invented for Austrian vegetarians!”

But today, I think few would argue that the croissant is most closely associated with France and in fact, one rarely comes across a bakery in Paris that doesn’t offer their own version. If you need further proof of their proprietary alliance with French gastronomy, ask yourself when was the last time you heard the words das croissant?


A recent listing in Le Figaro to discover the ‘best’ croissant in Paris gave top nod to the buttery crescent at Pierre Hermé. Sorry Petey, but I ain’t schlepping across Paris to the rue Bonaparte to get there before 11am. And, more importantly, my local bakery has extraordinary croissants, which I would put up against any other croissant in Paris’ top honors category.

Whatever pâtisserie you visit, be sure to only ingest a true croissant au beurre, which has that unmistakable smell of deeply-toasted, caramelized-crunchy French beurre. Stay away from croissants ordinaires, which are made with margarine and are, oddly enough, usually crescent-shaped, but to the extreme.

Anyhow, I’ve been craving a croissant au beurre for a few weeks now and been vowing to myself to go out and get one in the morning. But when I wake up, with the gray winter haze peeking through the curtains, the idea of going out and facing the public has lost its appeal (no matter how much I convince myself the night before that tomorrow’s gonna be ‘the day’, which I’ve been doing for a few weeks now.)

But this weekend, I woke up determined. And it was bright and sunny, which gave me a little motivation for getting out.

Before doing anything else, I slipped on my Levis, put on a decent shirt, and made my way over to Au Levain du Marais. The woman behind the counter slipped two buttery beauties in a little waxy paper sack for me, snapped the ends closed with a deft couple of twists, and handed ‘em over. I took a deep whiff in the bag while riding up my little elevator, and when I got back inside my apartment, I changed back into my pj’s, fired up a steamy café au lait, and enjoyed each flaky, buttery bite with a creamy-yellow dab of salty French butter dotted with crunchy nuggets of fleur de sel.

Ah, the sweet life indeed…

Au Levain du Marais
28, Blvd Beaumarchais (11th)
Tél: 01 48 05 17 14
(Closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
Métro: Bastille or Chemin Vert

UPDATE: As of June 2011, Au Levain du Marais is under new ownership. The croissants have changed and are not the same as they were in the past but the one I had in October 2011 was still very good.


Related Posts and Links

Other reading on croissants: Go Ahead, Have a Croissant

Recipes at delicious:days and La Tartine Gourmand.

Pim has an interactive map for Where to find the best croissants in Paris.

There’s an exhaustive pictorial to Finding The Best Croissant In New York, over at The Wandering Eater for those stateside.

How much butter can be in a croissant?

36 comments

  • Someday I hope to have a good Croissant. So far the best I have had here was in Hong Kong several years ago and I really think it was the chocolate inside that made it acceptable. I love that you went home and put your Pj’s back on…. that is sooo something I would do!
    Nice chuckle for me! : )

  • FYI, a few days ago a group of bloggers decided to all make croissants on the same day. Here and here are a few links to their appetizing posts and recipes. You’ll find more links to the rest of the group within these posts.

    In German-speaking Switzerland they make “Gipfeli,” which are good but not the same as croissants. This makes me want to try to bake my own, though how indeed do you time your recipe so you can have them ready for breakfast without getting up at 5 am? I agree I have no use for a croissant after 11 am.

  • I think turkey is off the menu for the time being, at least over here in blighty. More croissants, less bird flu.

  • One of the few things for which I cannot forgive the Italians is what they’ve done to the croissant. It breaks your heart and leaves you in tears. When in Paris I go from someone who rarely eats breakfast to someone who eats a croissant or two every single morning.

  • I love those gorgeous ones filled with that custardy almond stuff. They are covered in icing sugar and flaked almonds. They are so goooood :) My favourite way to eat a croissant is to have it hot, with real butter mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm and lots of plum jam. Oh I want one right now ;)

  • Also this is the first time I have read about you and I don’t know who you are, but your blog is just absofrinkenlutely fabulous.

  • Aaaah, there’s nothing like a good croissant to start my day off well. But as you say, it has to be the Real Deal made with like three week’s worth of your saturated fat allowance (and then eaten with proper salty butter!). There are all kinds of abominations out there – the low-fat croissant (what’s the point!) and I’ve even seen the toaster croissant that’s flattened and ready to get squished into a toaster – just plain wrong. You have to get just the right balance between flakiness on the outside and chewiness on the inside in order to have that moment of morning epiphany. Lucky you, spending all day nibbling on croissants while preying (sic!) at the Notre Dame ;-) You rampant croissant predator you…

  • You cannot even imagine the nostalgia I get from your posts….when I was a student in Tours, I used to walk past no fewer than six bakeries on the 25-minute walk to class. Every morning, I would sample either a pain aux raisins, pain au chocolat or a croissant. They were so incredible.

    Il y a peu qui se compare a un croissant parfait…

  • This would be a good time for readers to nominate other sources for great croissants in Paris. Poujauran, 7eme.

  • I adore a good croissant. In New York my favorite one comes from Ceci Cela bakery. It’s buttery, light, and chewy inside, but the outside isn’t so crispy that it shatters all over my face and forces me to spend all breakfast licking up the crumbs.

    The last time I saw “croissant” used in German, it was something along the lines of:

    “Sie ist dumm wie ein croissant.”

    (She’s dumb as a croissant.) Points for humor, anyway!

  • Hi Dave!
    Thanks for featuring my exhaustive list of croissants in NYC on your blog. It’s an honor. :)

    Oh, I actually agree with you on eating a croissant after 11 AM. The croissant loses its integrity in texture and sometimes the flavor, too.

    Tina (a.k.a. The Wandering Eater)

  • I made a stab at baking them when I lived in New Mexico. I had the marble slab and could keep the butter cold enough to make a respectable, if imperfect version of them. Now that I live in San Diego, I reserve them for the occasional breakfast out. I think they taste better that way!

  • Boy howdy…you make me miss Paris something awful! I think perhaps there shoudl be a croissant delivery service so you don’t actually have to venture out. although I applaud the putting back on of the pajamas, it would be so much nicer if someone brought them right to you!

  • Dear David,

    So I am assuming that this means those lucky souls, like my mother and myself, who are coming for your choclate tour of Paris in May will be greeted each morning by your smiling face delivering our fresh croissants au beurre with fresh French salted butter? Which PJs go best with croissants in Paris?

    Think about it. There could be some Rechutti chocolates in it for you… or even a s’mores kit. ;)

    Sincerely,
    Lisa (and mother, Lynn)

  • Wow! You always have so many comments–I don’t know how you keep up with them!
    I love your Parisian blog. I’ve been to Paris twice, and it was amazing. The croissants are amazing, too. Avec cafe au lait….c’est magnifique!

  • David, I like the vision of you praying for salvation at Notre Dame.

    I like to get dressed first, too.

  • Hi David,
    I’m in the UK at the moment and it’s so difficult to find a decent croissant au beurre. So this post is pure torture to me…
    Hopefully, I have a jar of marmalade :)

    Love
    – fanny

  • I’ve never been to France so I don’t really know what ‘real’ French croissant tastes like. But I always enjoy the ones that I get at the local French baker (who is actually chinese). I hope that made sense. By the way, strict vegans do not eat croissants as they have butter in them.

    Also, I just found your blog and I like your sense of humor. Keep them coming.

  • you know, i think you just unearthed the reason why I never cared for croissant

    “Like anything made with copious amounts of butter, they don’t get better the longer they’ve been out of a hot oven.”

    Say true. Or I have yet to find a decent one in Jakarta, they all tasted the same to me.

  • Not having been to France in over 20 years….the best croissant I’ve had, recently, was at Wynn Las Vegas. I have no doubt their chefs are direct from Paris.

    Closer to home, that being L.A…..the best croissants, in my opinion, are at a place called “Paris Pastry” in Westwood. Their croissants usually sell out by 10-11:00 am, so you have to get there early. However, the nice thing is, they sell their puff pastry dough, and you can just pop that in your own oven at home.

    Of course, my piddling oven is not the good commercial/convection kind, which is part of the secret.

    Also, “Vie De France” in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa CA…. has direct-from-the-oven real French croissants every morning. They make a great, authentic French bread, too.

    Other than those places, everything else is blah, as far as I’m concerned.

    Peace, Maxine

  • LOL – I must confess that I am apalled that you don’t rush out every morning for fresh croissants. What sort of standards are you setting ;-)

    We’re living in Paris for a year (we’ve done this before), and EVERY morning one of my first tasks is to trot off to the bakery and buy our breakfast bread/croissants.

    But I’m too lazy (far, far too lazy) to get back into PJs before chowing down on my breakfast!

  • mmm, croissants… you make me so jealous sometimes!

    now, i’d like for you to settle a major point of dissension for me, if you can. i have had MANY arguments about this (i won’t say on which side, for fear of embarrassing myself). if you are an american living in america, is there a correct way to pronounce “croissant”? or, in other words, are you a poseur if you pronounce it “cwa-sohn”?

  • Hi David. Pretty funny. I have been meaning for awhile to get your opinion on who made the best croissant in Paris. Several yrs ago, I made my first trip to Paris. Besides trying to just immerse myself into the community, I was on a mission to do my own search for the best baguette and croissant in Paris (ignoring the rivaling ref books at that time). I quickly learned to order the baguettes traditionale and my croissants au beurre. I am fortunate to have some great bakeries in the Bay Area (Yes, SF), but they’re not the same as in Paris. One of my favorite place to get my croissants was at Tout au beurre (spelling?). And yes, I too was a snob– buying my baked goods at certain times of the day knowing when they were made.

    Thanks for reminding me of the good times that I had walking all over Paris w/ my mission.

  • Mmmmmmmm…….I haven’t had a croissant is _so_ long!!!! They’re never worth the calories sadly…

    We’ll be in Nice this summer….think I can get a decent croissant there???? Hope so cuz I’m gonna have to eat some!! :)

  • austrian vegetarian is an oxymoron, i am sure. when i have vegetarian friends visiting, dining out is virtually impossible, as they keep serving spinach dumplings with a ham sauce or soup made with beef stock…
    i love my croissant as well. on my last trip to brittany, despite being everything but a morning person, i used to drive to the nearest bakery every morning (a different village every day, as they don’t get enough custom anymore) but the quality, sadly, was actually better at the supermarket – they seem to not make proper croissants anymore, i bet the big cities are different, but in the boonies, you’re better off making your own!

  • After reading this post…I’m going to have to have a Croissant for breakfast tomorrow…..this comes after a cookie for dessert today and a promise that i’ll be good tomorrow *sigh*

    David Lebovitz who do you think you are distracting me from being good! shame on you! Oh yea..you’re the guy who’s blog i can’t stop reading. Shame on me!

  • David,

    According to Larousse Gastronomique:

    “Croissant…This delicious pastry originated in Budapest in 1686, when the Turks were besieging the city. To reach the centre of the town, they dug underground passages. Bakers, working during the night, heard the noise made by the Turks and gave the alarm. The assailants were repulsed and the bakers who had saved the city were granted the privilege of making a special pastry which had to take the form of a crescent in memory of the emblem on the Ottoman flag.”
    —Larousse Gastronomique, Jenifer Harvey Lang, editor [Crown:New York] 1988 (p. 338)

    Truth? Fiction? Hopefully, a bit of both. P.S. I am apparently incapable of creating paragraph breaks. Please forgive me.

  • I was reminiscing in my mind about our hourlong auto trek together across Paris to try the “best” croissant according to a recent survey, with J &C. This had to be 6 or more years ago. When we finally got there they had closed early for their interval. We phoned and begged to be let in having traveled so far. You were embarrassed. The remaining croissants were past their prime. Pity. You did like the “financiers” though. We asked why he didn’t advertise and he said. “Why? I would then not have enough for my regular customers”
    I think the best croissant in Paris is the one you can get in your slippers with bed head and sweat pants over your PJ’s.

  • Cher David, this article contains a common error – it’s means it is. “But when I wake up, with the grey winter haze peeking through the curtains, the idea of going out and facing the public has lost it’s appeal (no matter how much I convince myself the night before that tomorrow’s gonna be ‘the day’, which I’ve been doing for a few weeks now.)” Watch out for that slippery slide!

    Thanks! -dl

  • Seriously? Who is so full of himself (or herself) that he would make a comment like that on an individual’s personal food blog? It’s not as if David has ever proclaimed himself to be a strict grammarian. Lighten up folks.

    Ahem, anyway, I came looking for croissant recipes today, so, merci for the links to DD & Tartine Gourmand.

  • Check out this video on Croissants by Gregory Gourreau at Payard Patisserie at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He makes the Best Croissants.

  • David,

    Hate to bother you but… do you happen to know whether ‘Au Levain du Marais’ once existed on the Rue de Turennes in the Marais? Many years ago, my hubby and I stopped in there and continue to remember the taste of their croissants, their walnut bread etc. In fact, on that trip we asked the taxi driver (who was taking us to CDG)to make an out-of-the-way detour for our morning croissants.

    We love your blog — please never stop. your desire for the best of everything is FABULOUS

    Thanks, Helene Glass

  • Hi Helene: The bakery changed hands and the one on the rue de Turennes has changed names. Au Levain du Marais still exists nearby, on the boulevard Beaumarchais and while the croissants are still good, the baguettes are perhaps better purchased elsewhere.

  • After having lived in Paris for a year, the quest has been to find the best croissant in Los Angeles. Hands down, Susina Bakery on Beverly takes the honors. They are so buttery flaky that you know you’ve sunk deep in sin at the first bite. Add chocolate – or spinach or ham and cheese… it’s all you can do not to sleep on their door step. It’s not Paris, but it makes living in LA possible.

  • Sorry, David, but the Levain du Marais on bv. Beaumarchais also changed hands. It was my favorite, too, among those close to me, but now the croissants are just ok.

    I haven’t found any great croissants around Bastille or St. Paul.

  • Hi Randy; Yes, they did change hands and the bread isn’t as good as it used to be. (I think I’ve written about that elsewhere.) However once in a while I go grab a croissant and I still think they’re pretty good. Although like anything that’s handmade, they can really vary.