Today, we pit two strawberry croissants from two local bakeries against each other. The defending champion is Cream Pan's famous strawberry croissant ($2.30): the one thing that trumps everything else it does, a pastry that sells out by the afternoon, its best-seller, the one thing you must order if you come here at all.
You can sense the butter-infused dough was coaxed and folded through many iterations. It flakes off in crisp, crumbly sheets. The custard filling has a cool presence and the richness of egg; the sliced strawberries are perky, a bite of tart playing against the sweetness.
The strawberry croissant at Irvine's Bon Epi Patisserie ($2.75), on the other hand, is big, bulbous and puffy. And it seems like something the bakery only started offering. I've actually never seen it there before until recently.
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Though a valiant effort, Bon Epi's croissant is a different sort of treat, an entirely different subspecies. First of all, the croissant seemed to have more in common with a cream puff than a croissant. The top of the pastry flaked off, but the rest stayed in place. It also seemed more moist than crisp. The filling, piped in more artfully than Cream Pan does it, is done by star tip, but it tastes like pastry cream more than custard. The strawberries are cut thicker, and the overall girth is bigger and taller than Cream Pan's.
The victor this week remains unchanged: Cream Pan's strawberry croissant, in this reviewer's opinion, is still the champ in these parts.
Cream Pan, 600 El Camino Real, Tustin, (714) 665-8239.
Bon Epi Patisserie & Café, 2750 Alton Pkwy., Ste. 101, Irvine, (949) 251-0070.