Posted by Tegan O'Neill
What a luxury it is to have Mrs. London's in Saratoga Springs. The storefront looks like a Valentine's Day card come to life. Every detail has been tweaked to appeal to the eye. I cannot help but feel a pang of guilt gazing at all of the beautiful pastries. They look as if someone had to make each one, individually in its own little convection oven. They are too perfect to have been made in large batches.
Surely, Mrs. London's has the highest quality pastries for miles around. To taste one of the Almond Croissants is to taste French royalty. The addition of almond to an already sweet, rich pastry makes for a delicacy fit for a king. Its crust can be pinched off as if it were a doily made of the thinnest paper. Then, once you get to the meat of the croissant, it becomes thick and chewy - almost cake-like. A layer of almond paste provides a silver lining to this already optimistic cloud of butter. The almond flavor is the croissant's defining quality.
Other items of splendor include the Currant Cream Scone and the unassuming yet completely marvelous Brittany, otherwise known as a Kouign Aman. The Currant Cream Scone tastes like a dream come true. The first bite is cool and creamy. It then drifts into a delicious realm of starchiness. Each bite is inexplicably both moist and floury - a balance than only a magician in the kitchen can strike. It looks, tastes and feels like a scone and is almost completely free of distracting elements like nuts or - God forbid - icing. The buttons of currants add a pop of textural contrast here and there, as well as a little flavorful zing for good measure.
Whereas the Almond Croissant is a show-stopper in the display case, the Brittany is more like the scone in that it looks relatively simple. I would not have chosen it from the array of pastries had I not earlier been informed of its merits. I think I was so surprised by the Brittany, because it was so artless. To understand the Brittany, think of the most buttery croissant you have ever had, then subtract all of the air, which usually puffs up the pastry. What you are left with tastes like a croissant but more intense. In one bite, you get the flavor of a croissant multiplied by 10. It is also markedly less messy to eat. It does not flake all over the place. Rather, it stays in its little elephant ear twist.
A less heavy, more airy selection is the Kugelhoph: a sweet, raisin-laden yeast bread. This hot air balloon-looking pastry is mostly all pomp. The inside of the Kugelhoph pulls apart like cotton candy, but the fun stops there. Tear apart its sugar-encrusted outer casing and you will discover the inside offers nothing more than a slight poof of bread, which tastes like brioche but a bit sweeter and lighter. Its taste plays second fiddle to the taste of the raisins. The flavor of the actual bread is so dainty that it is hardly discernible.
Known for its pastries, Mrs. London's also offers delicious hot chocolate, but I would not call it a beverage. It is better suited to the category of dessert. The hot chocolate is essentially a chocolate bar in liquid form. It is decadence at its finest. As for the type of chocolate used, it tastes somewhere between milk and dark. It is rich enough to pass as dark, but melted into warm milk. The hot chocolate is richer than it is thick, but imbibed alongside pastries, a drink any thicker would be too much to handle. As it stands already, the hot chocolate is an over-indulgent treat.
Not only is the quality of pastries at Mrs. London's a cut above the rest, but so too is the level of professionalism exhibited by the staff. It is encouraging when those working on the other side of the counter are knowledgeable about what they are selling and seem to adore the product that they place into the hands of the customer. Put it all together - the d??cor, the service, the pastries - and you have an exceptional boulangerie.
To read more of Tegan O'Neill's outings visit her blog.