In addition to finding the best kouign amann in Montreal, my main mission during a recent visit was to search for some of the top croissants in the city. At first, I intended to limit my search to the Plateau area (north of downtown and east of Mont-Royal) with its many bakeries, but I quickly realized my croissant quest would have to take me a little beyond that region. After questioning friends, researching online, and asking local chefs and other industry members I met along the way, I narrowed my list to five of the most recommended places.
I judge the croissants based on four factors. For looks, I want a golden color that is as even as possible, deep without being too dark, and preferably a buttery sheen that translates to a little butter on the fingers upon touching the croissant. The crust should be crispy and caramelized but not crunchy, and flaky such that shards shear off upon biting the croissant or pulling it apart. (I want to brush crumbs off of my lap upon finishing.) The crumb should have a spiral of tissue-like layers that toes the line between airy and bready. The interior should be moist and tender but not soggy, and it should stretch when pulling the croissant apart. Finally, for flavor, the croissant should be buttery and sweet, with a slight tang and just a hint of salt.
Logistically, I couldn't time my visits to ensure an absolutely fresh croissant at each bakery, but I don't think this would change my choice of winner. During my visits, I got a good, immediate sense of each bakery's croissant offering. All might be acceptable in certain pastry-deprived cities, but to this judge, Fous Desserts' croissant was easily the standout for looks, texture, and flavor. See the slideshow above for a closer look at Fous' croissant, as well as its four competitors.