5 Bites: Fantastic French Croissants in the East Bay

These are just a few of the magnificent croissants that will tempt you at Fournée Bakery. (Jenny Oh)

Flaky, buttery, crispy with a pillowy soft interior -- warm croissants fresh from the oven accompanied with a large bowl of café au lait are the classic components of a petit déjeuner, or a small French breakfast (although they're actually an adaptation of a Viennese pastry).

Francophiles living in the East Bay are fortunate to have several delightful French bakeries to satisfy their pastry fix, and these are worth traveling to if you live outside of the area. Let us know your favorites in the comments.

Best Breakfast-in-a-Croissant

The magnificent ham-and-cheese croissant from Fournée Bakery.
The magnificent ham-and-cheese croissant from Fournée Bakery. (Jenny Oh)

Fournée Bakery
2912 Domingo Ave. [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94705
Ph: (510) 549-9434
Hours: Tue-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 7:30am-7pm; Sun 8am-3pm; Mon 8am-7pm
Price range: $ (Pastries $10 and under)

After spending several weeks in France this summer, I helped stave off my croissant withdrawal by heading over to Fournée Bakery. They have a bountiful and magnificent buffet of picture-perfect croissants that rival what you'd find in Paris: traditional, ham-and-Manchego, roasted tomato-and-goat cheese and more (along with all of their fine breads, sandwiches, pizzas and glorious desserts). But their ham-and-egg croissant, with the meaty accoutrements baked into its center, is a truly inspired creation. It's all you need (plus coffee, of course) for a gourmet continental breakfast.

Best Croissant du Jour

Crispian Bakery's specialty croissant is guaranteed to give you a sugar high.
Crispian Bakery's specialty croissant is guaranteed to give you a sugar high. (Jenny Oh)

New to Alameda, Crispian Bakery opened up its doors this past August and offers a fine array of baked goods -- including several tantalizing croissants. While you could opt for butter, pain au chocolat, almond, or ham-and-cheese, their specialty croissant (which varies daily) is quite often their standout offering. On a recent visit, an almond-chocolate-pear confection dusted with powdered sugar was a sublime trifecta of sweet flavors.

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Crispian Bakery
1700 Park St. [Map]
Alameda, CA 94501
Ph: 510-239-4751
Hours: Tue-Sat 7am-7pm; Sun 7am-3pm; Closed Mondays
Facebook: Crispian Bakery
Twitter: @Crispian Bakery
Price range: $ (Pastries $10 and under)

Best Pain aux Raisins

The pain aux raisins (with or without almonds) from Casse-Croûte are a golden brown, butterific treat.
The pain aux raisins (with or without almonds) from Casse-Croûte are a golden brown, butterific treat. (Jenny Oh)

Richard and Lenore Denoix, the husband-and-wife owners of Casse-Croûte Bakery, pride themselves on the wide range of artisanal breads and food they produce at their Livermore establishment. Three years ago, after retiring from their previous careers and with Richard yearning for a return to his French roots, they opened the doors to their bakery. Their nearly plate-sized pain aux raisins (with or without almonds) is big enough for two, depending on how hungry you are. It's a crunchy, golden brown pastry that's oozing with loads of sugar and butter.

Casse-Croûte Bakery
50 S. Livermore Ave. [Map]
Livermore, CA 94550
Ph: (925) 455-3048
Hours: Tue-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun 8am-3pm; Closed Mondays
Facebook: Casse-Croûte Bakery
Price range: $ (Pastries $10 and under)

Best Unconventional Croissant

Starter Bakery's pretzel croissant marries the best flavors of both foods.
Starter Bakery's pretzel croissant marries the best flavors of both foods. (Jenny Oh)

While Starter Bakery doesn't have a brick-and-mortar location, their delicious pastries (such as their signature kouign amann), quiches, granola and other foodstuffs can be found at multiple retail locations throughout the Bay Area. Visit either the Grand Lake, Temescal or Montclair farmers' markets if you want to choose from a broader selection of croissants: almond, chocolate, cinnamon roll, butter, ham and cheese or spinach feta. They've also got twice-baked croissants that are heated for a bit, then sliced in half and stuffed full with extra almonds, chocolate or ham and cheese, and returned to the oven to bake some more until crispy. A recent visit to the Grand Lake farmers' market discovered a hybrid gem -- a pretzel croissant -- which married the sour tang of a pretzel with the buttery light layers of a croissant.

Starter Bakery
1552 Beach Street (Wholesale Inquiries) [Map]
Oakland, CA 94608
Ph: (510) 547-6400
Hours: Sat 9am-2pm (Grand Lake Farmers' Market); Sun 9am-1pm (Temescal and Montclair Farmers' Markets)
Facebook: Starter Bakery
Twitter: @starterbakery
Price range: $ (Pastries $10 and under)

Best Fruit-Filled Croissant

La Farine's chocolatine and "heart-healthy" apple walnut croissant.
La Farine's chocolatine and "heart-healthy" apple walnut croissant. (Jenny Oh)

With three locations in Oakland, La Farine has passed down from its founder to two subsequent generations of proprietors. The original location has been open on College Avenue since 1977 and has a loyal clientele for their morning buns and other French boulangerie items. A hand-painted sign outside that welcomes customers into their quaint storefront jokingly assures that their delectable apple walnut croissant will "keep the doctor away." If you'd like a naughtier version, try their chocolatine.

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La Farine
6323 College Ave. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94618
Ph: (510) 654-0338
Hours: Everyday 7:30am-7pm
Facebook: La Farine
Twitter: @LaFarineBakery
Price range: $ (Pastries $10 and under)

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