Eating a croissant is almost a religious experience. The ingredient list is surprisingly simple, namely butter and dough, yet they combine to create a multilayered, multifaceted miracle. And we have a good group going in Phoenix. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, sometimes spiked with chocolate and even hit with a blowtorch, these croissants are the finest, flakiest, and most formidable in the Valley.
Check out these righteous pastries that’ll have you tapping up the crumbs with your fingers and declaring holy devotion.
Proof BreadMultiple Locations
Proof Bread’s pain au chocolate breaks some major croissant rules. For starters, instead of regular dough, they're made from sourdough. Before you scrunch up your face, this is not the sour sourdough of supermarkets, but a subtle and sophisticated recipe with a slight hint of sourness — the likes of which husband-and-wife owners Jonathan Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid have spent two years perfecting. Is there chocolate in every bite? Heck yeah. Not one, but two chocolate batons are wrapped into each croissant, and instead of keeping it all contained within the dough, you can sneak-peek the chocolate from the side, along with the flaky, cascading layers. The tappable top, which protects the soft, airy center, is finished off with a light dusting of powdered sugar for a sweet creation that’s entirely its own.
Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen and Bakery1526 East McDowell Road
Lindsey Magee, the owner of Ollie Vaughn’s in Coronado, is a croissant genius. She bakes up a buttery, flaky variety with an exceptionally crisp outer crust, all caramel-colored and shell-like, with an impossibly airy, melt-in-your-mouth center. What’s the secret to its light, layered flakiness? Magee swears by hand-laminating the dough, meaning instead of a mechanical sheeter doing the work, it’s a butter-on-dough-on-butter labor of love — high-fat unsalted butter with 80 percent fat, that is — all rolled by hand every single day. But the real secret is in the flour processing and the folding, a hush-hush technique, which turns out a shatteringly flaky croissant with layers of buttery splendor.
Essence Bakery Café3830 East Indian School Road
Thanks to Essence Bakery, you don’t have to go all the way to Paris to get an authentic French croissant. Owner and chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos trained in France for 20 years, learning from master baker Jean-Louis Clément. The result: croissants that deliver the fine balance of crunch and chew, whether biting into the butter croissant, a classic creation complete with caramel-colored striations on the outside and a cloud-like inside; the chocolate croissant, a venerable vixen that houses double chocolate amid its paper-thin layers; or the pistachio croissant, a mountain of coiled croissant dough infused with frangipane, a velvety almond cream, and topped with chopped pistachio nuts. All magnifique!
Lux Central4400 North Central Avenue
To put it simply, Lux's morning bun is the bomb. To put it not-so-simply, it’s croissant dough, expertly laminated by the skilled hands of owner and baker Katie Calahan or baker Audrey LaSalle to create all those delicate, flaky layers, too many to count. Then it’s twisted and turned just so, and finished with fine sugar spiked with just the right zing of orange zest, to take it from damn good to divine. Each bite is a texture trip, an exercise in composition and contrasts, so you simultaneously get sweet, crispy, chewy, billowy, buttery, and zesty with each pull-apart mouthful. Yes, it may look all delicate and dainty, almost like a viennoiserie rose, but it’s easy to devour — maybe even mandatory.
La Belle VieMultiple Locations
La Belle Vie has a loyal following. Fans line up at farmers' markets hoping to be one of the lucky few to score a croissant. French-Swiss baker Nathas Kraus makes 700 per week, and they routinely sell out. The making is a three-day affair that hinges on a fine balance of temperatures (butter that’s cold, but not too cold) and techniques (laminating dough is no easy feat). What results are croissants that push the boundaries of shape and taste. Think sugar-crusted “rhino” croissants stuffed with caramel Baileys, crown-like kouign amanns (pronounced kween ah-mon) that come in flavors like apricot and apple, and pur beurre croissants that live up to their buttery name.
Lior The Baker10953 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, #105, Scottsdale
The almond croissant at Lior The Baker in north Scottsdale isn’t just any almond croissant; it’s an event. It starts when you walk into the north Scottsdale bakery, a cozy spot off Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard made cozier by the smell of chocolate and challah bread and a greeting from Lior Ben-Shushan himself, who runs the bakery with his wife, Lily. The thing is bear-claw big, a bold and billowy adventure, all flaky and studded with slivered almonds and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Yet tucked inside is a sweet almond filling that simultaneously keeps the whole thing together and squeezes out with each bite. In short, it’s a marvel of dough meets butter meets almond joy.
Merci French Café & Patisserie7620 East Indian School Road, #103, Scottsdale
Merci French Café & Patisserie in Scottsdale does the impossible — they turn raisins into a reason to eat croissants. As in the raisin croissant. Granted, the dried fruit doesn’t have the chutzpah of chocolate or the elevated vibe of almonds, but done right — and by done right, we mean done by chef-owner Duc Liao, who hails from France — raisins become a croissant raison d'être. Dotted with raisins, the fluffy swirls of spiral croissant dough are also woven with velvety almond cream and dipped in rum glaze, for a magnificent, glistening finish. Don’t wait until lunch or they’ll be gone.
Squarz Bakery & CaféMultiple Locations
Squarz might be most known for its savory hand pies, but the croissant menu is long and lusty. We’re talking croissant incarnations like triple chocolate, lemon, vegan coconut berry, caramel, cinnamon roll, each baked then heated up for a hot-out-of-the-oven, just-for-you creation. They also have a chocolate Oreo croissant stuffed with a creamy filling and a colorful cosmic croissant that looks like confetti on crack. But the headliner here is the creme brulee, a mind-blowing mash-up that brilliantly melds the buttery, flakiness of a croissant with the creamy, caramelized richness of creme brulee. It’s even finished with a blow torch for a heavenly hybrid so rich and decadent, it makes you wonder why there aren’t more creme brulee croissants out there.
Zinqué4712 North Goldwater Boulevard, #110, Scottsdale
The Parisian-style bistro and wine bar Zinqué offers some impressive daily-made croissants. You’ve got your classic order, with all those light and flaky layers, available by 7 a.m. each day. There’s also a chocolate croissant, a chocolate-filled treat with a crisp, golden exterior. Finally, for fans of savory pastries, the prosciutto and gruyère croissant — a hefty, meat-and-cheese option ideal for brunch on the patio or those on the go.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on December 3, 2019. It was updated on January 30, 2021.
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