NEW YORK—At Union Fare Bakery, which opened last week, the new croissants hit the rack and they probably would have made a croissant purist faint: red velvet croissants filled with cream cheese, crème brûlée croissants with vanilla custard inside in a crackly-shiny caramel shell, and … birthday cake croissants.
Well, I thought I was a croissant purist. I guess I’m not. These birthday cake croissants are topped with a sort of pink dust, made by grinding down the sprinkles, and are filled with cream and rainbow-colored sprinkles.
If their author, pastry chef Thiago Silva, has a knack, it’s to make supremely instagrammable pastries—for example, a cake equipped with a functioning carousel or cakes that look like champagne bottles (for you, Sofia Vergara) and a piano (happy birthday, John Legend). His children’s birthday cakes, as you can imagine, are epic. But far and away, his real talent is that he makes his creations taste delicious.
And so, when you take a bite of a birthday cake croissant, you get just the right amount of sweet—not too much—and though it might be very messy, with flakes dropping and cream dripping, it’s supremely enjoyable.
I suppose you can’t go too wrong when your croissant making starts with a huge block of butter chock-full of sprinkles, but you’d be surprised at how much experimentation it takes. “I was very hesitant when I did it,” Silva said. One type of sprinkles, for example, couldn’t stand the heat and melted.
Desserts that ride a trend for trend’s sake can misfire, as matcha sweets sometimes do. But in Silva’s hands, the matcha croissant is well-balanced, the sweetness playing nicely with a light astringency, with the mascarpone cream acting as a mellowing agent.
If you’re a fan of crème brûlée, don’t miss the crème brûlée croissant. Fragrant vanilla custard greets your taste buds once you’ve bitten through the invitingly glossy torched caramel. (Croissants range $4–$5.50, depending on which kind.)
This week, Silva is introducing cookies and cream croissants and peanut butter and jelly croissants. In the latter, the dough is laminated with peanut butter, which is no mean feat.
The cookies are sweeter, so grab a cup of coffee while you’re getting one (or two). The chocolate chip cookie is thick, with a crunchy exterior that immediately yields to a meltingly gooey inside. I’ve also watched as customers praised the white chocolate matcha cookies. They’re good (each cookie, $3.50).
Silva’s favorite is the palmier ($3.25). Pretty much everywhere else, this is a rather dense pastry, even though it’s nothing but puff pastry and sugar. But Silva folds the palmiers differently than is conventional. The result is, at first glance, a thicker looking palmier, but inside, it’s all air and lightness.
Silva is also enjoying creating desserts for Union Fare restaurant next door.
Meanwhile, though, if you go to the bakery hoping to snatch one of the croissants or cookies, go early. Last week, they were gone by noon or 1 p.m. even as Silva was trying to increase the production.
Finally, if you’re more of the savory breakfast type, you’ll have to go in even earlier to catch the pretzel bombs. Encased in a thin pretzel crust and filled with either bacon, egg, and cheese, or Swiss cheese and pastrami, they’re well worth a detour before work ($5.50).
Union Fare Bakery
7 E. 17th St. (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway)
Monday–Sunday 8 a.m.–9 p.m.