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Worth the Trip:
The Sticky Bun Heavyweights: Balthazar vs. Bouchon

First published in the September-October 2008 edition of Edible Manhattan

Comment | September 5, 2008 | By

A Vanilla Thrilla, with Butter, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Pecans

Ladies and gentleman, for the morning’s main event we have in this corner, the long-reigning NYC sticky bun champion, “Mr. SoHo Sweetness” himself, the incomparable Balthazar Bakery Bruiser. From his humble beginnings as head baker Paula Oland’s leftover-croissant-dough experiment he has risen to dominate the city’s morning pastry landscape. To my left, the challenger, the “Cinnamon Assassin,” the Bouchon Bakery Bomber. Spawned as a directive from Yountville Bouchon Bakery owner Thomas Keller to pastry chef Richard Capizzi to “create a moister sticky bun,” this East Coast arriviste has in a little over two years at the Time Warner Bouchon Bakery dazzled locals with his classic form. It’s time for a coffee-soaked showdown!

Round 1

The champ comes out in a confident, upright raisin-dotted stance and immediately scores with his trademark roundhouse-a formidably dense, gooey exterior balanced with a flaky center. But the challenger, despite his heft (and taunts of “Doughboy!” from the opponent’s supporters), floats like a buttercup and stings with a “B,” and after a huge uppercut earns points for his light, airy brioche body and sublime cinnamon-and-caramel one-two flavor punch.

Round 2
Tension and sugar levels mount as chants of “BUH-ter, BUH-ter” fill the room. It’s clear the champ is shaken. Bouchon matches him bite-for-bite and dominates with moister texture (his secret weapon: a lining of cooked pastry cream). Balthazar, sensing he’s in a battle for his caloric life and hoping to use his more pronounced sweetness to vanquish the challenger, makes one last attempt to cloy his opponent into submission, but nothing sticks and the ref separates the two.

Round 3
Both competitors come out looking severely diminished. It’s clear they’ve given their all-so much so that the ref decides to call off the rest of the fight. The embarrassing (but all-too predictable) reason: the judges have eaten most of each contestant and are now squabbling over the remaining pieces. The split-decision verdict: two to one Bouchon.

Balthazar Bakery, 80 Spring Street; 212-965-1785
Bouchon Bakery, Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd floor; 212-823-9366

StickyBuns.jpg

The Stats: Balthazar Bakery’s Sticky Bun          Bouchon Bakery’s Sticky Bun
Born: 1997                                                      2003 (at the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA)
Residence: 80 Spring Street, NY                            10 Columbus Circle, NY
Height: 2 inches                                                2¾ inches (with pecans)
Weight: 3¾ ounces                                            8¼ ounces
Reach: 65 wholesale accounts in the               Yountville, CA; Las Vegas, NV; and soon,
tri-state area                                         more Bouchon Bakery locations in Manhattan

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