DTX Best of 2013
Flaking out

A food critic's quest to find the best croissant in Dallas

Thanks to climate, geography and who settled here first, Dallas doesn't have a tradition of great baked goods. Until La Madeleine came along, you could hardly find croissants at all.

We still don't have it figured out, but the arrival of Empire Baking Co. in 1992, with its crusty breads and flaky croissants, changed everything. It has become a baking behemoth, supplying hundreds of restaurants and hotels with bakery goods. Yet, despite its mega-production, Empire still puts out what is the best croissant in Dallas.

This plain butter croissant is a little misshapen, but it has a golden, flaky, buttery shell.

The interior of Empire's plain butter croissant shows a good "honeycomb" structure, with plenty of air holes to make the pastry light. Too many air holes, maybe. And some of those holes are a bit too big.

That made the buttery flavor less prominent, and that was sad. This particular specimen also lacked a perfect crisp exterior shell. But it's still our top croissant in town.

Whole Foods' baked goods are made by Village Baking Co. Being the healthy-ish store, Whole Foods offers not only plain croissants, but also a whole wheat version.

The difficulty with whole-wheat baked goods is that they're often heavy. But this croissant was an exception to that rule. The wheat did add a solidness, but it seemed to meld with the butter, rather than weighing down the croissant.

This was also beautifully formed, with an impeccable appearance. It was our second-favorite croissant.

Whole Foods' whole wheat croissant was as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside. Whole wheat makes bread chewier, but this had a slight shell that offered some mild contrast between the crisp outside and the doughier inside.

The interior had a good honeycomb that moved in a subtle circular swirl — that's ideal. The wheat flour added a little sweetness.

Samantha Rush first opened Rush Patisserie in Deep Ellum in 2007, then moved to Oak Cliff three years ago. She does nice work; her croissants are compact and well-made.

This plain croissant had a well-formed exterior with a dark color — almost (but not quite) on the verge of too dark. That gave the outside a pleasing crispness. It was our third-favorite croissant.

The interior of Rush Patisserie's croissant was perfect, with visible strata formed by the layering of flour and butter, plenty of air holes but not too big in size, and an admirable circular swirl. The texture was nicely doughy, and the flavor was buttery and sweet.

Village Baking Co.'s plain croissant was a sorry specimen, with a sadly misshapen appearance and an overly buttery shell. Some patisseries form their croissants into "logs" rather than crescents. But even if that were the intent here, the lumpy, bumpy result, with a sinkhole in the center and bulbous ends, can't have been intentional.

All that butter did give it a nice crispness. This came in at No. 4 on our list.

The inside of this plain croissant by Village Baking was dominated by a large air pocket, with a flat, bready base on the bottom, rather than the soft, chewy layers and air holes that are desirable. This croissant was probably too warm when it went in the oven.

Eatzi's plain croissant was so puffed up, it looks like a mutant. The exterior was sloppily formed, which may seem superficial but it affects the flavor and texture too.

The outside was crisp in some spots, but overall it felt light, almost underweight. The egg wash was the only thing that gave it a nice browness; otherwise, it looked too pale.

Eatzi's croissant came in at No. 5.

The inside of Eatzi's croissant shows a buoyant honeycomb but the air holes were too large, making for a croissant whose overall weight was so light and airy that it felt inconsequential. Ideally, you want an interplay between the lightness of the air pockets and the heaviness of the flour and butter. There was insufficient contrast between the inside and the outside.

Main Street Baking Co. in Richardson had a forlorn croissant that looked only marginally better than what you'd get at a supermarket. The outside had uneven spots, and the color was uniform and dull.

The strange thing is that, a few years ago, the Dallas Morning News did a "Best Croissant" story and crowned Main Street's croissant the best in Dallas. Maybe that's part of why we have a croissant problem.

Main Street Baking Co.'s croissant had a flattened, heavy, doughy texture, with a gaping air pocket and an interior that didn't seem fully baked. The inside was chewy and stiff, and there was little contrast in texture.

This thing probably sat out too long before it went into the oven. It was our least favorite croissant.