A Baker's Wife vs. Sarah Jane's Bakery: The chocolate croissant crucible
Brian Legate Chocolate Croissant
For many people over the age of eleven, the holidays feel less like a cheerful sleigh ride and more like a grueling biathlon where disappointment lurks at every turn. It can be tough to believe in the restorative power of holiday cheer: The long lines and the punishing weather, the endless bundling and unbundling and the fastidious holiday decorating, and the inevitable arrival and overstaying of fruitcake and relatives take their toll.
To survive, everyone needs a stress-eating escape hatch -- the one sure thing to turn to when it all gets to be too much. Might we suggest a chocolate croissant? It's the perfect complement to a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and a good one is sure to cure whatever ails you whenever this season of light feels a like glimpse into the abyss.
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Amy Dahlin A Baker's Wife chocolate croissant
Both A Baker's Wife Pastry Shop and Sarah Jane's Bakery are set up to showcase their product. There are no sleek faux-marble tabletops for those looking to sip cappuccinos, peck at petit fours, and while away the hours on their laptops. Hell, in Sarah Jane's there aren't even any places to sit. (A Baker's Wife has a few spots inside.) But hungry customers at both places can luxuriate in a magical bakery smell and childhood memories of wide-eyed perusals of the goodies behind the glass case.
Neither of our contenders fits in with the new strain of Minnesota patisseries that chef up fussy, "decadent" pastries to health-conscious, calorie-counting professionals and their pretentiously named kids. No, this week we're looking at two old-fashioned Midwestern bakeries turning out great donuts, breads, and bars for the endomorphs, the big-boned, and the gloriously thick. And since A Baker's Wife and Sarah Jane's are already renowned for their top-quality donuts, this fight already feels like Ali/Frazier III.
Round one: The pastry
Buttery or flaky, crunchy or soft? The pastry doughs from these two places serve different tastes. A Baker's Wife offers a crunchy shell and buttery leaves of pastry inside. This rich but not too sweet croissant stands strongly on its own. Sarah Jane's croissant is soft and flaky all the way through, yet it seems to call for a hot beverage to accompany it. A Baker's Wife gets the edge here because of the contrasting textures they achieve.