Chocolate Croissants and an Unexpected Experiment

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Oh man! The memories that chocolate croissants give me… Well, they are not good. Not good. But I used to love them. Love them and loathe them. I loathed them so much that I only recently tried one again after 25 years…

My sister is allergic to bees. Deathly allergic.

My dad is a beekeeper.

Well, you can see the problem here.

We lived in the middle of nowhere. Medical attention was about an hour away. We were armed with an Epipen and terror.

My mother was desperate. She decided to do a medical trial. My little sister (I believe she was five or six years old) would be dragged “down below.” This is what we referred to as “the city.” Any city I go to… It does not matter where. It is “down below” to me.

This drives my husband crazy.

My sister had to get a shot of bee venom every two weeks. It was to try to build up her tolerance for it (it did not work). The tears. The scared tension. The hours of driving. And the waiting. Fish swimming endlessly in the tank at the office.

It was “Groundhog’s Day” on crack.

And after the nightmare. Or during. My young memory is fuzzy. We munched on chocolate croissants. Picnic style. In the middle of the office building’s hallway. They sold them in the bakery downstairs.

Chocolate croissant. Shot. Chocolate croissant. Shot. Over and over.

I am sure my sister thinks it was much worse than I do, as she was the one waiting for the dreaded needle. And she hates needles more than I do. But after a time, I associated chocolate croissants with waiting, needles and boredom. The thought of them turned my stomach.

But I tried a chocolate croissant again in Maui.

And it was delicious.

Something about the lack of sterile air and foul nubby carpet digging into my shins made it much better.

I got an email from William Sonoma. They were offering free shipping on chocolate croissants. I had always wanted to try their croissants. Now was my chance!

I ordered them and waited.

There were no fish to look at.

A week passed. I received no shipping confirmation. Low and behold, they had shipped them randomly on a Wednesday. We were not looking for them. They got placed with some other boxes received that day. The next day, I checked the boxes. The croissants were ruined. I checked my credit card statement. They still charged me shipping! (Remember, they were supposed to have free shipping).

And I realize this was my fault as well. I should have checked the boxes, but it had almost been a week since I had ordered them. I did not know when to expect them. After two emails, they resent them. I, again, did not receive a shipment notification. But this time I was aware this might happen. They showed up randomly five days later. Luckily we were home when they came.

During this debacle, I looked online and discovered Trader Joes sells very similar croissants for a fraction of the price. Sold!

William Sonoma’s Chocolate Croissants are $39.95 for 15 plus shipping. Trader Joe’s are $3.99 for 4.

One William Sonoma Chocolate Croissant = $2.66 (I am going to pretend they honored the free shipping promo I was to receive. If you have to pay shipping, this will be more.)

One Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissant = $1

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I decided to do a comparison.

As one does.

Armed with time on my hands and a compulsion disorder, this was the natural order of things.

Here is how they compared in our house:

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Getting the croissants out of the package was different. William Sonoma’s were easy. None of the fifteen croissants in the box were stuck together. Trader Joe’s croissants were stuck together. I ended up breaking an edge off of one of the croissants as I tried to separate two. I pinched it back together and hoped for the best.

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I tucked in my sweets for the night and could not wait to see what they looked like in the morning.

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Morning came, and both sets of croissants looked relatively the same. They had risen quite a bit. I brushed them with an egg wash (since this experiment. I have made many more croissants. I recommend not brushing with egg wash. It really does not make much of a difference and it causes the croissant to fall a little) and put them in the oven to bake.

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My kids were very excited about this taste test. My teenage daughter actually got out of bed at a decent hour, on summer vacation, to be part of the experiment.

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Everyone got two small pieces of paper on their plate with the respective name of the company from which the croissant was born and half of each company’s croissant.

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Here is the verdict:

2 votes for Trader Joe’s (both children)
2 votes for William Sonoma (both adults)

William Sonoma:

The good:

1. Easy to remove from packaging
2. Prettier than the Trader Joe’s finished product
3. Flakier crust
4. Richer chocolate
5. Weird tang, that had me first voting for Trader Joe’s, but later had me craving more.

The bad:

1. Price. There was not enough of a difference in the two croissants to justify spending more for this.
2. Inconvenient. You cannot run down to the store to purchase these.
3. Did I mention the price?

Trader Joes:

The Good:

1. Price. Decent price for a good product.
2. Nice mild, slightly sweet taste
3. Convenient.
4. Small packaging. Easier to fit in freezer.
5. Did I mention the price?

The Bad:

1. Hard to separate the croissants.
2. Not pretty. The finished product was noticeably uglier than the William Sonoma version. Thus, if I was serving croissants for a special party, I would buy the William Sonoma version.
3. Not as flaky as the William Sonoma croissant.

Conclusion:

Both croissants were delicious. It was wonderful to smell them baking in the wee hours of the morning. It made our home feel like a French pastry shop. The warm, fresh croissants were such an indulgent, pleasant treat.

The products were very similar. I mean, very similar. The William Sonoma croissant had more depth of flavor. But the kids did not like this. The Trader Joe’s version was just so affordable.

Since this experiment, I have purchased many more Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants. The package is small in the freezer. They continue to be hard to separate. This can lead to some imperfect croissants. However, it is still a wonderful product. It seems so special to have something that takes a bit of time to eat for breakfast. We do not eat these all of the time (perhaps once a month). But when we do, the house is filled with excitement. And delicious smells.

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Have you tried these bake at home pastries? What did you think?

* P.S. My giveaway for a $25 World Market gift card ends Monday night. Please do not forget to enter!

15 thoughts on “Chocolate Croissants and an Unexpected Experiment

  1. I’ve only ever made the Trader Joe’s version, and while they are hard to separate, they’ve tended to look as good or better than the Williams Sonoma ones in your pictures. Plus they taste better than any chocolate croissants you’d buy in a bakery chain!

    • Hi Jamie! Thanks for commenting!

      I have made all of the William Sonoma croissants now and probably eight packages of Trader Joe’s since I first wrote this post. I wanted to make sure the observations were correct. For us, they ended up holding true to all points. I agree that the Trader Joe’s version can look pretty. I think they need two hours longer rising time than stated. But because so many of my croissants end up with broken edges, I have to give the pretty award to William Sonoma.

      Do you have a secret to not getting broken croissants? I really need it. It almost makes me cry every time it happens. Do you leave them on the counter before you separate? Please tell! I want my croissants to be pretty, too.

      Have a great Saturday!

      Jenni

      • Hi Jenni!

        The rising time might be longer than stated on the packaging, but since I tend to let mine rise in the oven overnight anyway, I haven’t noticed 🙂

        To separate them, I use a butter knife run that’s been run under hot water and wedge it in between the two stuck together, repeating down the length of the croissants. It’s a bit of work, but this has been a successful approach for me.

        Here’s hoping to cheap, pretty croissants in your future!

      • You are a genius. I am so going to try this. Thank you for that tip! I might have to do an update if it works or me! I cannot wait to try it!

        Jenni

  2. I am literally drooling. Chocolate croissants are my absolute favorite treat. It never occurred to me to cook them at home!!!! I will be hitting trader joes today. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

    • Oh good! I went there yesterday and they were all sold out! Bummer! The secret is out. Of course, being the hoarder that I am I still have three packages in my freezer. But I was running low. ; )

      Oooh! I hope you get some. Don’t forget to put them out overnight. I have found they look much prettier and rise more if left out one-two hours longer than the directions say.

      Tell me what you think after you make them!

      Jenni

  3. Awesome post Jenni! It is interesting the mental associations we make with food. Chocolate croissants luckily do not make me think of the doctor. Now I want a chocolate croissant.

    It made me smile to read your teenager got out of bed “early” to help. My mom could get us kids up “early” by heating Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the oven.

    • Thank you so much! Yes, it is funny how food and certain smells bring back memories. I love that your mom would reheat the krispie kremes in the oven. What a great idea!

      I have been cooking all morning (preparing dinner and lemon bars). It is noon here and my teenager just wandered down the hall for the first time. Sleep is essential! ; ). I wish I could sleep like that! : )

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Jenni

      • Lemon bars are one of my favorites. Trader Joe’s was swamped so I didn’t get to try their chocolate croissants BUT I did try Immaculate Baking’s new chocolate rolls from Whole Foods. Do NOT try them, I cannot be held responsible. They were AMAZING. I will be getting them again. I may or may not have eaten more than the recommended serving size. Also, have you seen J. Crew Factory’s bulldog with bow tee?

      • Okay! Is Whole Foods the same as Sprouts or Roots? Because I do not think we have a Whole Foods here, but I wonder if those stores would care that treat? Because all you had to say is “chocolate.” I am so in. Thanks for the heads up! I am starving today! : )

        Have a great evening!

        Jenni

  4. Yum! Now I need to go to Trader Joes. Disneyland has some yummy chocolate croissants, too, at the Mary Poppins themed cafe on Main Street. They also have the BEST grilled cheese sandwich and tomato basil soup there. The. Best. Ever.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that! I am a Disneylandholic. We have passes. There is absolutely nothing like it. That is our favorite place to eat when we go to the park (I also like the chicken skewers at the Bengal BBQ). But I had no idea about the chocolate croissants or the soup and sandwich. I am bummed they got rid of my tuna sandwich on a croissant many years ago. It was my favorite.

      Thanks for the tip! I really appreciate it!

      I hope your weekend is magical!

      Jenni

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  6. This was a fun read. I’m a huge fan of Williams Sonoma’s croissants; I alway make sure I have plenty durning the holidays. Since I usually order them the first week of November, I’ve never had the melting issue you encountered.

    I’ve never had Trader Joes’ croissants, but have always been curious on how they’d match up to Williams Sonoma’s croissants. Thanks for answering that question for me!

    • Thank you so much. I actually want to revise this post. It is a bit dated. Since writing it, Trader Joe’s has changed their packaging and their croissants are so easy to remove and cook. They are definitely my favorite. In fact, funny enough, I made eight of them for breakfast this morning. You should definitely try them. They are such a great treat for such a great price. One of my favorite things!

      Have a happy week!

      Jenni

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