It may be hard to believe, but I'm going to say it: I don't really like the taste of butter. I can't really explain why I don't really like the taste of butter, but that's just the way I am. Maybe it's the greasiness and sheer heaviness that is seemingly inevitably associated with butter, but then again, I like fried foods. Or perhaps I've been scarred by my childhood, when my dad supposedly made me peanut butter and butter sandwiches for lunch every day during kindergarten. Somewhere, Paula Deen is smiling at the thought of that. Don't get me wrong, I love cookies, brownies, cakes, etc. just as much as the next person, but butter is not the dominant taste in these foods, whereas spreading a pat of butter onto, say, a piece of toast or a stack of pancakes is done to inject a heaping flavor of butter into a food. No thanks. My dislike for anything with a strong butter flavor is likely the reason why I grew up with an aversion for croissants, though to be fair, I probably never had a decent croissant in my life. Up until now, that is. After trying out some of the pastries from Balthazar Bakery, I think I am ready to accept more butter into my life than ever before.
Balthazar, a pretty popular restaurant/bistro in NYC, is well-known for its baked goods. Unbeknownst to me for the first twenty-two years of my life, Balthazar's bakery outlet is located a mere ten minutes from my home in New Jersey. I was curious to see what all of the fuss was about, and so my brother and I sampled a variety of Balthazar's baked goods on two separate occasions. And hot damn, I think I have developed a newfound appreciation for just how delicious butter can be.
Of the variety of pastries that I sampled, I think I enjoyed the Monkey Bread the most. Layers of sweet, buttery dough served as its, and many of the other pastries', base. Swirled with cinnamon sugar, the Monkey Bread captured a great balance of sweetness and richness without going overboard on either.
Another one of my favorites, the Maple-Walnut Schnecken (above), definitely errs more on the sweet side, as it is absolutely oozing with syrup. But the crunchy walnut streusel bits are revelatory. If you don't mind a bit more sweetness, this one is definitely for you.
The cinnamon roll was a bit less successful. I didn't really catch very much cinnamon flavor, and frankly, it was a bit dry and tough. Decent, but not great.
Where the Cinnamon Roll was dry and tough, the plain Croissant was remarkably fluffy and light. If this is what croissants are supposed to taste like, then this may very well have been the first true croissant that I have ever tasted. The butter flavor was present, but it didn't weigh the croissant down.
|Pain au Chcoolat|
How can I not order something with chocolate? The Pain au Chocolat was a tad more chewy than the plain Croissant, and it could have used a couple more chunks of chocolate, but all in all, it was fairly decent.
|Chausson au Pommes|
This was another one of the standouts: the Chausson au Pommes. Basically a classier version of those Pepperidge Farm apple turnovers that I used to eat every weekend, the flaky pastry was filled with a delicious, cinnamony apple filling. It was everything that an apple turnover aspires to be. And at $2.50 for a ginormous pastry, it was quite a steal.
|Oatmeal Raisin Cookie|
In addition to all of the pastries mentioned above, I tried out the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. The sprinkle of salt on the top gave the cookie a pleasant sweet-salty combination. A good cookie, but overshadowed by the pastries.
After trying out Balthazar's assorted baked goods, I have come to the realization that I don't dislike butter for its flavor, but rather for the inherent heaviness that comes with it. While buttery mashed potatoes and fried butter balls aren't my thing, properly made pastries can have the taste of butter without being overwhelmingly heavy. Balthazar turns out some great pastries, and I can thank them for my newfound fondness for buttery baked goods. I think Paula Deen just smiled again.
214 S. Dean Str.
Englewood, NJ 07631