The croissant from Knead Patisserie

Mission Local’s weekly column holding Mission cooks, bakers and bartenders to a higher standard – perfection.

It was only as a woman d’un certain âge, as the French say, that I fell hard for croissants. As an impoverished student in France years ago, I was perfectly content with baguettes. But later in life, during a visit to Paris, it happened. I found myself sneaking out early each morning to search the boulangeries for the lightest, flakiest, most delicate croissant.

Tartine should be able to make these. As loyal readers of Perfect (or Not ) know, Chad Robertson makes perfect bread. The transcendent quality of his loaves (would it be blasphemous to call him the Jesus of bread making?) inspired this column.

But even Robertson is human. And not French. Voilà.

Croissants from Tartine and one of its competitors, Knead Patisserie, are supersized. In the interests of science, your faithful reporter whipped out her tape measure to take stock. While it is hard to make comparisons—I would probably have been deported if I’d tried the same thing in Paris—it was clear that both bakeries are pandering to Americans’ love of big helpings.

Tartine’s are lovely and crispy on the outside. Knead’s are crunchy, and excellent conveyances for marmalade or jam. But pull away the crust and in both bakeries’ croissants you’ll find lumps—often doughy lumps that look like they can be squashed into a ball of, yes, fat.

I swallowed hard, and wrapped the tape measure around my waist. Just as I thought! Bon appétit? No!  

That’s how you can tell these croissants aren’t perfect. Perfect croissants, as every Frenchwoman can attest, have no calories.

Anybody have a candidate for the perfect local croissant?

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I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

I provide editing support for Mission Local from New York, about 2500 miles away from SFO. (I just looked it up.) This allows me to retain my journalistic objectivity and fussy adherence to East Coast standards of punctuation. I got involved with Mission Local a few years ago through Lydia, whom I met in the early 1980s at The New York Times, where I was a business reporter. Since then I've been in and out of journalism and nonprofits, and have also tried my hand at fiction. A couple of years ago I contributed Mission Local's first fiction series, a comic novel called Love in the Middle Ages.

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  1. My vote is Venga Empanadas on Valencia between 16th/15th.

    They make my preferred style of a spanish croissant… less crispy with a slight sweet glaze and equally sinful.

    Actually all their food is great!

  2. Sandbox Bakery’s croissants are the best. Maybe Bernal is in the Mission, maybe not, but they are the best in the entire Bay Area. Definitely not super-sized, they have the perfect balance of toasty crunchy on the outside with buttery moisture inside.

    Honorable mention to Craftsman and Wolves. A touch less buttery perhaps? But lovely croissants.

    1. I agree the Craftsman and Wolves croissants are nearly perfect. The croissants at Sightglass Coffee in the Mission, which are sourced from Neighbor Bakehouse, are also in that narrow range of acceptable croissantness.

      1. I am on my way! I have also gotten a tip about the croissants at La Reyna and Sandbox. So much eating to do! Thank you, Lydia

  3. How cool – I was going to write “Venga Empanadas” as my vote too – and then someone else had it here! It’s true. They’re my favorite. Sweeter, kind of lemon-y and just divine. Best kept Mission croissant secret is now out! : )

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