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Can We Please Let Croissants Be Croissants?

The latest croissant trends too often result in dense, greasy pastry

Three circular pastries with glaze dripping down them lined up on a wooden board
Who cares if they stand on end!
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

When New York City restaurant Lafayette sent me a box of their viral Supreme pastries last year, I felt like I had cheated. These were the pastries people had waited on line hours for (something I, having lived through the Cronut, refuse to do), clamoring for the admittedly beautiful rounds of pastry swirls topped with an evocative drip of ganache. The pastry has been featured on television, swept TikTok, and basically launched a croissant craze. But lucky me, I had four showing up directly to my apartment. These are the perks of being a food writer, I beamed to myself.

But upon first bite, something felt off. The Fibonacci beauty of the laminated eddy gave way to what tasted like pure butter streaked with wet paper. There was crispiness certainly, but the croissant was also heavy and dense, such that I gave up about a third of the way through. Taste is subjective of course, but I found myself getting angrier and angrier at the design of the pastry, and at every subsequent croissant trend I’ve seen. There’s the triangular onigiri croissant (the onioissant, which I do not want to say out loud), the cube croissant, and the croissant with cookie dough smashed on top. In each iteration, I ask myself, why use croissant dough if you’re not going to let it shine? It looks cool, but at what cost?

I’m no pastry chef, but after taking one (1) croissant making class with my mom this winter, here is my understanding of how laminated dough works. The signature texture of croissants is created by layering butter in between the dough, and folding it over and over until you have hundreds of tiny layers. When baked, the water in the butter steams out, forcing apart the dough and creating those airy, flaky sheets.

But perfectly cylindrical and cube croissants are made in tight molds, which at a certain point prevent these layers from expanding the way they would if left unencumbered on a sheet pan. This frequently has a few negative effects. While the layers look cool pressed into neat sides and edges, the lack of space between them means the steam coming off the butter has nowhere to go. Often, this method results in a denser, greasier pastry, the opposite of what croissants should be at their best — buttery but still light, with lots of space between the layers. The same thing happens when bakers try to do too much to croissants by piling, say, heavy cookie dough on top — the layers are prevented from expanding.

The whole point of these trends is playing with texture and visuals. (And there are of course versions of laminated pastry that require molds, like the kouign amann, but crucially, the mold is just around the sides, allowing the layered pastry to burst from the top instead of being trapped like they’re wearing pants two sizes too small.) Done well, these pastries do have the ability to offer light layers and a satisfying buttery crunch. And even if they don’t meet that brief, if you like the denser, slicker pastry that results from a lot of these molds, there are clearly many people who agree with you.

But I’m ready for the day when taste and texture take precedence over visuals. Or at the very least, the day when people who want a dense pastry do not turn to croissant dough. Danishes are right there!