Mini-Croissants Are Just One Part of an Entire Pastry Movement
Whether tiny, purple, or filled with cream, the croissant is more popular than ever.
What happens when an American and a Parisian are stuck quarantining inside a one-bedroom New York apartment for over a year? They take the pastry world by storm, naturally.
Even before opening their brick-and-mortar storefront, L’appartement 4F, Ashley and Gautier Coiffard accidentally found themselves involved in a croissant renaissance (croissanaissance?), as bake shops across the country continued experimenting with ways to take the beloved French pastry to new heights of flavor. For some, that means injecting croissants with ingredients representative of their unique culinary heritage, but for them, that meant playing with scale.
“When we first launched I thought, ‘I don’t know this is going to be a real thing, because I can't force people to buy our bread,’ and then two years later we’re opening this space,” Ashley says. “We started selling on June 13, 2020, and we actually didn’t start making the mini-croissant cereal until we were thinking of raising money for our storefront.”
Just over two years ago, the couple’s journey began with a search for a quality loaf of bread in their Brooklyn neighborhood. When that journey spelled fruitless, they turned inwards and began baking at home, turning out loaves of classic French baguette and buttery croissants within sniffing distance of their bed.
Thanks to Gautier’s allegiance to traditional French pastry, it took some real persuasion on Ashley’s part to try something that some French pastry chefs might actually consider “sacrilegious” to the craft—creating fun new takes on classics, namely with the creation of their now-iconic, TikTok-famous mini-croissant cereal.
“One day, after months of begging, I came home and he was just there, rolling mini croissants,” she says. “He decided to put his own spin on the idea, rolling our dough out really thin and then dehydrating the croissants for several hours. Our first rendition had cinnamon sugar on top, but we thought they kind of looked like chicken nuggets, so he changed it out for a clear cinnamon syrup.”
Thanks to Ashley trusting her instincts, and Gautier finally yielding to her call for tiny pastry, their first viral product was born. It helped them launch a successful Kickstarter as an investor incentive at 50 dollars a pop, and definitely generated some media scrutiny that helped put their name on the map, for better or worse.
These mini flavor bombs are on seemingly perpetual backorder for now, but every morning hungry patrons line up on Montague Street to find fresh raspberry pain au chocolats made exclusively with French chocolate, as well savory everything but the bagel croissants (those also took some persuading by Ashley). Next on the docket? Pistachio rose croissants that pay homage to her Persian heritage.
“The croissant cereal requires a lot of time and labor, and we really don’t want to outsource. Plus, our staff is really overwhelmed with the success of the actual big croissants, so I don’t want to be like, ‘Okay guys, now let’s stay up all night and make tiny ones,” Ashley jokes.
But L’Appartement 4F isn’t the only bakery that’s begun churning out inventive spins on the flaky pastry. In Chicago, one baker is using them as a vessel for sharing her culinary heritage. A trained chemist who has conducted research on the Maillard reaction (the fancy scientific term for the browning of food), Mirachelle Anselmo also worked at a patisserie while in college, and began baking more seriously at home during the pandemic.
Anselmo’s crowning achievement is a croissant that incorporates the flavors, and vibrant purple hue, of ube—a yam used often in Filipino baking and cooking. After two years of painstaking trial and error, Anselmo has finally begun selling them at Chicago’s Four Letter Word Coffee a few days of the week, and has since branched out to create even more Asian-inspired croissants, with delicious ingredients from pandan to furikake.
“It was an absolute fever dream to think I could develop an ube croissant, filled with ube halaya,” she wrote on Instagram. “That dream has now become reality, and that reality tastes really good.”
A short jaunt across the city from Anselmo, another Chicago baker with Filipino heritage has also been pushing the boundaries of what people associate a croissant to be. Genie Kwon, a native of New Orleans, has been experimenting with a gamut of savory flavors in the pastry kitchen of Michelin-rated Kasama, named after the Tagalog word that represents the phrase “to be included.” There, Kwon has created a black truffle croissant that represents just one dish in its new 13-course dinner tasting menu, each of which is meant to introduce the flavors of Filipino cuisine to diners in elevated and unexpected ways.
In the case of Kwon’s savory dessert, diners can find croissant pastry stuffed with creamy Délice de Bourgogne cheese and truffle paste, then topped with rock sugar and honey. Finally, black truffles are shaved fresh at the table.
Of course, this is not all to say that there haven’t been bakeshops iterating on the croissant for some time now. The wacky, beautiful croissant creations at Supermoon Bakehouse in New York City have been revered for years, still drawing a line of people out the door for a chance to get their hands on an ever-changing menu, which might include anything from a Strawberry Balsamic & Chocolate Croissant to one stuffed with fresh blueberries, plum jam, and almond cream.
For years, Angelenos have been flocking to artisanal bakery and cafe Gjusta for its Baklava Croissants, and in San Francisco they can’t get enough of the Everything Bagel Croissants at Neighbor Bakehouse that are filled with savory scallion cream cheese. In Nashville, Brightside Bakeshop’s Oatmeal Cream Pie Croissants are the most popular gal in town on Sundays.
“Sacrilegious” or not, playful takes on the classic croissant are here to stay, as this emerging class of pandemic bakers are here to prove. Whether turning up or down the scale on their flaky creations, or using them as a means of sharing the flavors of their culture, we’re here for every buttery, flaky bite.