If you've never tried making croissants at home, maybe you should, just once. The operation of making laminated dough (dough and butter layered, rolled out and layered some more, and some more) is at once both very simple and maddeningly complex, like building a tiny house, or a few dozen of them, the components of which can melt when you touch them. Such a morning in the kitchen might be fun, and it might give you a greater appreciation for the pastry chefs and bakers who make these excellent pastries, of which there are, thankfully, not a few in this town.
A consideration of the beautiful mechanics and geology of laminated dough is also helpful in this Era of the Cronut, since once you think about the basics, you might question the wisdom of throwing all that into a deep-fryer. For purists, a perfectly-made croissant is an utterly classic pastry that needs nothing but a demitasse of espresso to accompany it. A bit of Valhrona or some almond paste, sure. But please God, keep it away from the medieval vats of oil. Turn the page for 10 of the best.
10. Sweet Butter Kitchen:
On weekend mornings, you'll find Leslie Danelian's Sherman Oaks bakery and cafe by the crowds milling between the chairs and tables set up along the Ventura Blvd. sidewalks and in the converted outdoor patio between the shop's cozy marketplace (chocolates, cookbooks, olives) and the kitchen. It's in that kitchen that the bakers make the many baked goods and pastries, including the stellar croissants, flaky and intensely buttery, with the kind of happy layering that makes them a joy to dismantle. Order a coffee and get in line. 13824 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-788-2832.
9. Milo & Olive:
Since Zoe Nathan centralized her baking operation at Milo & Olive, the pizzeria-restaurant-bakery-epicenter a few miles away from Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon and Sweet Rose, the other of the restaurants she owns and operates with her husband Josh Loeb, it's not so much that the pastries and baked goods are better -- they get better? -- but that you know where to park your car. Nathan has a way with dough, be it bread dough or laminated dough, and her croissants are glorious examples of the genre, either plain, ham-and-cheese or Valrhona. Maybe get the Valhrona. 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-453-6776.
The Brentwood Country Mart has long been perhaps Brentwood's best oasis, particularly in the morning, when you can wander through Jeff Cerciello's exceedingly pretty market-bakery-restaurant, order a fantastic pastry and a coffee, and maybe wait for Tom Hanks to show up for the same. With or without famous people, FarmShop is a destination spot for breakfast, not least for their outstanding croissants, bowls of them, crisp and golden and trailing crumbs as soon as you break into them. 225 26th St., Brentwood; 310-566-2400.