Dominque Ansel, formerly the pastry chef at Daniel (and before that, Fauchon in Paris), has branched out to open his own eponymous bakery located in Soho at 189 Spring Street (212-219-2773). In addition to the usual buttery suspects found at a French bakery (croissants, madeleines, éclairs, etc.), the pastry chef offers a selection of Northern French specialties, like thick slices of Breton cake and kouign amman. Knowing that there’s no better way to start the morning than with a jolt of sugar, we stopped by the café to check out the sweets.
We began with the kouign amman, which are best described as a cross between a croissant and a palmier. Layers of flaky dough are encased in a sugary crust that crunches between the teeth. It’s sweet but not oppressively so, and more buttery than what is probably good for us, meaning it’s a damn fine cake. Get this while you can — Ansel often sells out early.
And because no breakfast of pastries can consist of only one pastry, we immediately nabbed up a canelé, which is hands-down, without question, our favorite French pastry of all time. Like, seriously. Best described as a cake with a flan-like center but super-crunchy exterior, the canelé is bolstered with vanilla and rum and is about the most amazing thing you can ever eat. It’s imperative to get a crunchy exterior, because that means it’s fresh. And we’re happy to report that this canelé is super-crunchy and specked with vanilla beans! In truth, it’s slightly sweeter and a tad less boozy than we would have wished for, but having searched high and low for quality canelés in New York, this is pretty damn close to ideal.
And finally we nabbed some Breton sablés for the road, because why not eat as much butter as possible before noon? The cookies are simple, with a nice crumb, perfect for dunking in a cup of tea or café au lait as the case might be.
A selection of other viennoiseries and pastries are available, both for takeaway and for eating at the café. The narrow, modern space offers a few tables and a cheery, if somewhat stark, ambiance. But you’re not there for the décor. You’re there to stuff your face with baked, buttery goodness.