On a Saturday morning visit to Croissanté, a customer in a button down, striped Oxford shirt complained out loud that a sweet bun was overpriced. Seconds later, she ordered one. Then she proceeded to pick out several other items with a barely contained surge of enthusiasm.
Part of this bakery’s charm emanates from the front counter. The dizzying array of baked goods on display casts a hypnotic spell. It’s a smorgasbord, a cornucopia of croissants, breads and deluxe desserts.
Everyone who gets close enough to order peers down to stare inside the brightly lit glass vitrine. To start, there are cruffins, financiers, tarts, mousses, cheesecakes, croque monsieurs, kouign amann, baguettes and ciabatta. Some are made with familiar ingredients such as blueberries, lemon, or apple. Others incorporate tropical fruits like mango and passionfruit. Piped creams roll across many of them in creamy rivulets. Or, they’re topped with shiny round edible baubles.
All the tables were filled with weekend brunchers when I arrived. At times, the line started to snake outside. But by the time an employee handed me my bag full of treats, a couple of tables had opened up.
Croissanté doesn’t discourage diners from lingering, but there’s a restless energy emitted by the bustling crowd trying to settle down to eat in a tight, noisy space. That restlessness might be a result of the bakery’s specialty coffee drink, an einspänner. Croissanté’s espresso lands strongly on the bitter end of the flavor spectrum, even when it’s tempered with the sweet cream that partially defines an einspänner.
To start my late breakfast, I tried a plain croissant ($4.75). As the first pastry customers see in the case, the humble croissants looked like they’d been arranged in a place of honor. Bakeries similar to Croissanté, ones that take a maximalist approach to production, often fail to make the basics edible. In this case, the croissant was perfectly crisp on the outside, remarkably tender inside, and devoid of any trace of dryness. Although Croissanté calls itself a French bakery, the precise balance of crispness and tenderness seemed to land elsewhere, beyond the confines of Gallic baking, an evolutionary advance.
A pecan cinnamon roll ($6) was less pleasing to my taste buds. Slathered in an overly sweet cream cheese frosting, the cinnamon wasn’t incorporated well enough into a rather dense and tough dough. The cube croissant ($10) is closer to a loaf of brioche but shaped into a square. Inside, the cubed layers are very fine and nearly translucent, but I missed the plain croissant’s pleasant crunch.
An elite caste of croissants, such as white sesame and honey ($5.25) or the triple chocolate ($6.50), look like the culinary equivalents of movie stars when photographed. But the strawberry iteration ($8.70) takes the cake. Essentially, it’s a croissant stuffed to bursting with whipped cream, offset with sliced strawberries. This is simply a strawberry shortcake with the biscuit banished.
To counteract the high intake and sudden rush of sugar, I considered a ham and cheese croissant ($7.90), and a danish piled high with mushrooms ($6.90) before settling on a well-seasoned muffuletta sandwich ($16).
Since opening in June, Croissanté is transcending its outward appearance as a formulaic strip mall destination, a chain in the making. The bakery is aspiring to be something more than a factory that churns out hundreds of croissants on a daily basis. The basic recipes are sound; they only falter when too much whimsy and decadence overtake them.
Croissanté, open Mon to Thurs 7:30am–5:30pm, Fri to Sun 7am–6pm, 2908 El Camino Real #100, Santa Clara. 408.564.5092. croissantebakery.com.