Croissant: Trung Nam French Bakery

About the Store

Trung Nam French Bakery is a small bakery which opened in St Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood in 1989. The family who runs the business got the recipes from when they lived in France, and they still serve strong after more than 30 years. And they’re still cash-only.

The Croissant

The croissants sold at this bakery are medium-sized, tending towards large, with a proportionally medium peak and a slight curvature. The curvature is more pronounced on some croissants I saw in the display case. The layer seams are large, suggesting a significant rise. The coloring is a light brown, darkest on top and where they touched the pan. The croissants smell of rich butter all over (delicious!).

The exterior of the croissants here is sturdy in some ways, and flexible in others: there is a crispy outer layer which will break off into flakes, and that crispy layer stays pretty well stuck together until some force is applied. However, the layer just underneath is soft and will crush easily.

The interior of the croissants I bought displayed an airy cell structure typical to many croissants, with some larger air pockets here and there. Along with the softer exterior, croissants from this bakery would be easier to crush and thus not well suited to sandwiches. The interior smelled of both richness and yeast fermentation.

When I ate them, the croissants tasted light, airy, and rich and slightly yeasty. They did indeed crush easily, but their softness did contrast with the slight crisp on the exterior. Overall I would say they’re very pleasant to eat, and great as a snack, with a caveat (read on).

I first had the croissants here in 2020, with a friend whose opinion differed slightly from mine. I found that these croissants were nice and tasted French, but their lightness of both color and mouthfeel reminded me of mass-produced croissants; it’s hard to get a good crisp and firm texture on the outside unless you’re artisanal. My friend stated that these were the “working man’s croissants” vis-a-vis the ones from Marc Heu. I still remembered these fondly, and reviewing them in 2021 confirms my appreciation, but my friend felt they were a bit disappointing.

If you want a French-style croissant at a decent price, this place will treat you well.

Ratings & Numbers

Rating: 😀
Taste Quality: 🇫🇷
Price: $2.50 (2019), $2.75 (mid 2020), $3 (April 2021). Cash only.

Other Goods

Trung Nam has a very limited menu: plain croissants, various filled croissants (some shaped like an odd pain au chocolat), a few French/Asian cookies, their own bánh mì, and Vietnamese coffee. The filled croissants have a light glaze.

The bánh mì are pretty legit.

Links

Main page

Facebook page

Croissant: Bread & Chocolate

About the Store

Bread & Chocolate is a café, bakery, and lunch store in St Paul affiliated with Café Latte, a nearby cake bakery. I didn’t initially expect them to have croissants, but a quick search showed it was on their menu.

The Croissant

Right away I can tell these croissants are a bit different than others. Much like with those at La Boulangerie Marguerite, they have their ends curved completely inward such that the points fuse with themselves and the center. They have a medium peak and look puffy. Their color is a nice golden brown in two distinct shades: a darker golden brown on the sections that were most exposed to heat, and a lighter brown where the dough layers were eventually exposed. The layers are not very distinct; it looks like they stick to each other, or are able to bond together before the bake. The bottom has a mostly consistent darker brown coloration where the croissant touched the pan, though it goes very light where the points meet. The exterior of the croissant almost doesn’t flake much; the outermost brown layer is very flexible, though there is still a small amount of crisp.

The interior of my croissant had an airy structure that looked less open and more bready. It smelled yeasted and sweet, though lighter on the fat. The smell was veering very much towards a sweet bread rather than a viennoiserie, though there was also a smell of other sugary foods. I think the bakery’s other foods altered the smell of their croissants.

The croissant tasted slightly sweet and rich but, much like the smell, tasted less of fat and more of the fermentation quality that accompanies yeast. The aftertaste retained that quality. The croissant was definitely chewy inside and outside—the lack of rigidity on the outside not only reduced flakiness, but made it much easier to squash down and flatten.

This croissant is so-so to me, probably because it falls squarely into the “this is American” camp.

Ratings & Numbers

Rating: 😐
Taste Quality: 🇺🇸
Price: $3 (April 2021)

Other Goods

The bakery has a variety of American baked goods and a few filled variations on the croissant. As it’s a café and serves lunch, you can get a quick bite to eat or a drink quite easily.

The menu is slightly different at each location.

Links

Bread & Chocolate

Croissant: Patrick’s Bakery & Café

About the Store

Patrick’s Bakery is a store with multiple locations, first opened in 2002, which offers French and French-like fare from baked goods to meals. It has two locations right now; I remember there being more a few years ago.

The Croissant

The croissants at Patrick’s Bakery are mostly straight with a medium length, though I’d say they have the slightest curvature. They have a lower peak than other croissants I’ve seen, and I feel that their shape is more elongated and narrow. Their color is a medium-to-light brown in two distinct shades: a medium brown on the sections that were most exposed to heat, and a lighter brown where the dough layers were eventually exposed. The bottom has varying coloration going from nearly white to dark brown. Interestingly, the exterior of the croissant almost doesn’t flake; the outermost brown layer is very flexible, as I found out with the croissant I bought.

A lack of rigidity, and increased elasticity, on the outside of a croissant or other viennoiserie reminds me of packaged or supermarket-bought croissants. When you wrap bread in plastic, or you bake something a bit less or with a cheaper process, you’ll end up with a more elastic outer layer that will let you bite into it more easily, as well as let it crush it down more. It also affects the texture. A telltale sign is the ability to flatten the croissant into a thin layer of cooked dough without actually breaking it up into multiple pieces.

The interior of my croissant had an open cell structure as I would expect. It smelled very faintly yeasted and sweet, with a bit of richness, though a bit less buttery than other croissants I’ve eaten. The smell veered away from brioche and more towards bread.

The croissant tasted like… a croissant, no more, no less. It was a slightly sweet, slightly rich taste of airy dough. It indeed tasted a little bit breadier than previous croissants I’ve had, and definitely more chewy—the lack of rigidity on the outside not only reduced flakiness, but made it much easier to squash down and flatten.

I wouldn’t call this croissant low quality. The increased breadiness of the croissant, as well as its lack of flakiness, makes it very easy to eat. Another person, after biting into it, said that he could eat it all day. There was definitely work put into making the croissant the way it is, and although I wouldn’t call it high class, I would call it very good for what it is: a croissant that tastes like France that anyone can enjoy without fuss. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Ratings & Numbers

Rating: 😐
Taste Quality: 🇫🇷
Price: $3 (April 2021)

Other Goods

The bakery has a variety of goods: pains au chocolat, various other French and American pastries/baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, and a whole bunch of foods that can be eaten on the spot.

The menu is slightly different at each location.

Links

Patrick’s Bakery & Café

Croissant: Rustica Bakery

About the Store

Rustica Bakery & Cafe is, as the name implies, a bakery and coffee shop in the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area. It has two stores: one in St Louis Park, and one opened more recently in Edina. I was first brought there in 2018/19, but rediscovered it a few years later when seeking out croissants.

The Croissant

The croissants from this bakery have a straight shape with a medium peak. Their exterior is very evently browned all over; the outer flat sections and layer seams are nearly identical in color, and even the bottom isn’t much darker than the rest. There doesn’t seem to be much of a glaze, though the outside smells faintly of something. A sweet wash or egg wash, maybe? Or something with milk? I can’t quite figure it out. The croissant I bought has a flaky exterior; quite a few small flakes come off.

The interior of my croissant has a nice open cell structure. The airiness is even from the crust to the center, which makes me think they have a pretty good technique for getting it even. Or I got lucky! The inside smells slightly sweet and rich, with not much of a yeasted smell.

The croissant tastes typical, in a good way. It has a balance of sweet and rich, and a little bit of breadiness, without going too far in any direction. I do note I had a lingering aftertaste of sweetness combined with bready exterior; not unpleasant. I also note that the croissant (and the pain au chocolat that was also bought) has a slightly American quality to it. I’m not sure if it’s something about the texture, or if it’s a difference in the sweetness of the taste. Maybe it’s the butter used.

This croissant is perfectly serviceable; it tastes good on its own, but is even better with a coffee. I would say the croissants from this place are not the peak of fancy croissant-dom, but I would place them in the Enjoyable category without reservation.

Ratings & Numbers

Rating: 😀
Taste Quality: 🇫🇷/🇺🇸
Price: $3.75 (March 2021)

Other Goods

This bakery makes different kinds of buns and pastries, including pain au chocolat as well as a mixture of French-like and American sweet and/or breakfast things. They also have a few different breads, some regular, some sourdough, as well as a baguette and challah.

Interestingly, the cappuccino they serve is not massive like at some American coffee places. It’s a single size, smaller than a Starbucks small… even when they serve it to go! And that’s as it should be.

Links

Rustica Bakery

Croissant: Black Walnut Bakery

About the Store

Black Walnut Bakery is a small bakery and cafe in Minneapolis that started at a Farmers’ Market, moved to a pop-up model, and finally established a more permanent location in 2020.

The Croissant

The croissants from Black Walnut Bakery are straight with a medium-high peak. There’s a staircase effect from where the layer seams separate. I would consider them a medium size, maybe a tad on the smaller size. The ones I saw all had a beautiful medium brown exterior, tending towards the lighter side at the layer seams, and darker on the strips that were most exposed in the oven. Those strips look wonderfully crisp, and their uppermost layer does flake off into small crumbs. The bottom of the croissant is a bit darker from touching the pan. Overall I find these croissants very attractive. I especially appreciate how each layer shows up clearly on the outside at their seam.

With the croissants I bought, the interior has an airy cell structure as I would expect; one croissant had a slightly tighter structure than the other, but I think that’s just normal variation for a bread product, and didn’t affect flavor or texture significantly. The interior does not feel dry. It smells slightly yeasted, slightly sweet, and rich with butter, with an interesting darker burnt note.

The croissants I bought today tasted sufficiently light and airy, not particularly sweet, but definitely allowing me to taste the butter. The outside was soft enough with the right amount of crisp. Interestingly, the slightly burnt note I mentioned previously was tastable every time I had a bit of the exterior, and I liked it. It’s not as if the croissant is overdone, but more that it has its own personality, like a pizza crust from a wood fired oven. I’m not sure whether I would call that extra note a French or American characteristic of the viennoiserie, but hey, I’ll gladly take it.

Ratings & Numbers

Rating: 😀
Taste Quality: 🇫🇷/🇺🇸
Price: $3.25 (March 2021)

Other Goods

Black walnut has various other breakfast pastries, a few breads, cakes, cookies… trending more to the French-inspired side. Their pain au chocolat was legit though.

Links

Black Walnut Bakery