Starbucks has always had crappy pastries. Their scones have always been dry; their doughnuts have always been leaden; their much-vaunted hot breakfast sandwiches taste like salty cat tongue and rubberine egg inside a miniature bedroom pillow three weeks overdue for a wash. The pastry case has always been the breakfast of last resort for bleary-eyed business travelers on autopilot, purchased in airports only because it's better than the spooge served on board the aircraft.
They've outdone themselves this time, though, with the co-option of the La Boulange name, a small chain of decent-but-nothing-special bakery-cafés in San Francisco. Starbucks bought them out for $100 million a year and a half ago, in the hopes of revitalizing their quick-service food options.
It didn't work.
Apparently, the principal problem the bean counters at Starbucks were facing was the fact that people weren't ordering enough of their pastry, and they were having to throw it out as it went stale. (Or not–don't think I've forgotten, Starbucks at 49th and 8th in Manhattan.)
I make this assumption because the "La Boulange" pastries that are now infesting my local Starbucks are so shot through with butter–which increases shelf life–that they are all leaden horror stories. You can tell they've been goosed with coagulated moo by the calorie count, which is fast approaching that of vending machine baked goods like those execrable Otis Spunkmeyer muffins. 480 calories for a doughnut that's three inches across? Give me a break.
Starbucks trumpeted their new, lower-calorie pastries when they debuted. What they didn't mention is that the serving size is considerably smaller than the old bakery. The cranberry-orange scone went from 120 grams to 110 grams and lost 70 calories in the process; the morning bun went from 110 grams to 94 grams and lost just 40 calories in the process.
The other problem with all this is that butter is solid at room temperature, and so when pastries made with it sit, they tend to get heavy. Starbucks has compensated for this by insisting that all its pastries be served re-warmed, thus melting some of the fat and fooling the purchaser into thinking he or she is receiving some extra service.
Take one of these warmed-over baked goods out of its protective wax-impregnated bag and put it on a stack of those extra-absorbent napkins they use. Wait about five minutes; any longer, and the fat will re-coagulate. Pick up the pastry and look at the nauseating film of grease that has soaked through the napkins and left on the table. Pizza is supposed to do that; cheese danishes are not.
It's disgusting. It's all disgusting. Don't be fooled. Perhaps if we all ignore it, Starbucks will put these
immortal unkillable pastries in reserve for their takeover after global thermonuclear war (which will cause the fat in the pastries to melt and render them at least marginally edible) and find a way to purchase locally produced sweets that don't need long preservation and don't highlight the horrendous, bitter burnt quality of their coffee.