Pastries, pastries everywhere, but disappointing donuts: La Baguette Bakery in Pilsen

25 Jun

We are traditionally wary of Mexican bakeries, or panaderias, because they often don’t have donuts (we painfully struck out Artemio’s only a few weeks ago).  If they do have donuts, they’re often of a dryer, breadier nature than we prefer.

Nevertheless, after striking out at Rolling Donuts & Coffee in Bridgeport (it no longer exists), we found ourselves at La Baguette Bakery in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.  Upon entering, we were immediately impressed by the rows and rows of baked goods.  After sizing up the situation and determining that they did, in fact, have donuts, we decided to try them.  We also got a few Bonus Mexican Pastries to taste, too.

Here’s what we found:

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Donut #1: Sugar

Coffee Girl: This donut was mild, in a pleasant way.  The bready dough was light and gently sweet, while a coating of granulated sugar provided a congenial touch of sweetness and interest.  A nice, easy-going companion for a rich cup of coffee.

Donut Boy: A nice crunch from the ample coating of granulated sugar and a distinctly sweet taste to the dough.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this donut.  Much breadier and dryer than we’re used to, but it tasted fresh, implying that the dough’s consistency was something that had been worked at and not simply brought about by its sitting around.

Donuts #2 & #3:

Sugared Filled Puff & Long John

Coffee Girl: While I’m not usually a fan of custard filling, I’ve sampled enough in the course of my Donut-Eating Career to appreciate the difference in this custard.  Compared to its American counterparts, it was creamier and a tad sweeter, which worked well with a dough that was lighter and blander than I’m used to.

Donut Boy: I liked the custard inside these donuts, although I could have used more of it.  Its moist, silky texture helped balance out the relatively dry dough.  That, combined with the crunchy coating of these two donuts made them a pleasure to chew.

Donut #4: Choc. Frosted Custard-Filled

Coffee Girl: The chocolate frosting here was quite different than most chocolate frostings I have discovered atop donuts.  Closer, perhaps, to the chocolate frosting at Dinkel’s which, you’ll recall, I found to be on the bitter side.  La Baguette’s frosting tasted darker and less sweet than I have come to expect.  This worked well in this particular donut combination, with the extra sweetness of the custard filling and the granulated sugar coating.

Donut Boy: There was definitely a distinct flavor to La Baguette’s chocolate frosting.  It reminded me a lot of simple chocolate cake frosting.  Indeed, the rest of this pastry reminded me a lot of a piece of chocolate cake, although the custard (same as in donuts #2 & #3) was a nice twist.  Here, too, the custard helped compensate for the dryer, breadier dough.

Donut #5: Choc. Frosted Yeast

Coffee Girl: Here, La Baguette’s unique-tasting (at least to my experience) chocolate frosting was not a plus.  This donut was like a story missing its last chapter or a joke with no punchline — bland dough, not-quite-sweet frosting, and you’re done.

Donut Boy: Without the custard, this donut was noticeably dryer.  Sill pretty fresh-tasting, but not as enjoyable.  On its own, the chocolate frosting came across as almost bitter.  I suspect it is best experienced in tandem with some of La Baguette’s custard filling (see donut #4).

Donuts #6 & #7:

Vanilla Frosted and “Pink” Frosted

Coffee Girl: Okay, hit me over the head and call me stupid, but these donuts totally baffled and frustrated me.  Are you not donuts?  Are you not supposed to taste good?  So we had gotten used to the dough and called it pleasant; we had been introduced to the chocolate frosting and called ourselves inexperienced; but we’re sorry, we are Professional Donuteers, and we must draw the line somewhere.  What is it with these frostings?  I’m sorry, but they were ghastly.  Thin and acrid-tasting, with a distinct chemical after-taste that was remarkably hard to shake.

Donut Boy: I don’t want to spend too much time talking about these.  Really, really gross.  Both frostings proved cloyingly sweet, and the dough (I’m not exaggerating here) had the consistency of a loaf of French bread.  I knew after half a bite I did not want these donuts anywhere near my taste buds.  Avoid!

Bonus Pastry #1

Donut Boy: A flaky, buttery shell of dough encased copious amounts of custard filling.  The dough itself was pretty gentle on the taste buds, but the custard came in and delivered the Flavor Points.  For me, this pastry was more about texture than flavor.

Bonus Pastry #2

Coffee Girl: My favorite of the day, this pastry was all about crunch, with a bonus touch of chocolate.  Have you ever had those chocolate-dipped potato chips?  Well those are much better, but, again, by this time I was grateful for small favors.  The pastry was very light, almost like a croissant pretzel, and coursely ground granulated sugar atop chocolate frosting added a welcome touch of sweetness.

Donut Boy: This pastry crackled as we pulled it apart.  Very interesting, almost flavorless dough, made more interesting by the light coating of chocolate frosting and the sprinkling of large granules of sugar on top.  Like eating chocolate-flavored pita chips.  Very light on the tongue, almost ethereal.  Intriguing!

Bonus Pastry #3

Coffee Girl: Nice, but then by this time I was so grateful for anything that overcame, even for a moment, the chemical aftertaste of the frosted donuts that my judgment may have been compromised.  The cake dough was pleasantly flavorful and relatively moist.  The overall combination of the dough with the thin layer of custard and the heavy coating of powdered sugar produced a happy combination, rather like a romantic comedy after a horror movie.

Donut Boy: We may never know exactly what this pastry is called or who first thought of it.  As you can see from the above picture, it consists of two half-sphere pastries glued together by frosting to form a sphere.  An outside coating of powdered sugar gives the impression of a sort of Mexican Snowball.  I really liked this pastry.  Easily the moistest one of the morning, it reminded me of a powdered sugar donut mixed with a cupcake.  The frosting on the inside was a nice touch.  Overall, a lot of flavor going on.  I would certainly get this again.

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Dear Readers, we’re not going to say, “We told you so,” but we encountered pretty much exactly what we expected at La Baguette, in terms of donuts.  Pretty dry.  Bready.  We’re glad that we have now sampled their goods and can, for your benefit, offer this final opinion: If you like donuts, look elsewhere.

However, if you’re not in the mood for donuts or you feel like trying something a little different, La Baguette is definitely worth checking out.  Our favorite pastries ended up being the ones we bought at the last second on a whim because they looked interesting.  If we were to ever return, we’d probably just try other Mexican pastries and avoid the donuts entirely.

Ultimately, though, the choice is yours.

Until next week, Donut Eaters!

-CG&DB

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